Standing Up for Free Speech Is Not a Threat to Free Speech
Last night, in Chicago, activists did the right thing for democracy
Of all the many disturbing things about Donald Trump, his glorification of political violence may be the worst. Again and again, he has encouraged his followers to respond to peaceful protests with brutal force. The Intercept (3/11/16) had a good compilation of Trump’s encouragement of attacks against those who dare to speak out against him:
- “See, in the good old days this doesn’t happen, because they used to treat them very, very rough. And when they protested once, you know, they would not do it again so easily…. They get away with murder because we’ve become weak.”
- “I love the old days — you know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks.”
- “You see, in the good old days, law enforcement acted a lot quicker than this, a lot quicker. In the good old days, they’d rip him out of that seat so fast. But today, everybody’s politically correct. Our country’s going to hell with being politically correct.”
Rachel Maddow on MSNBC (3/11/16) presented a video compilation of Trump’s routine incitement to violence:
And Trump’s followers are clearly listening to their leader’s exhortations. Slate publishes a running list of violent events at Trump rallies—including attacks on journalists as well as protesters. After one protester was punched, kicked and reportedly choked at a November 2015 rally in Birmingham, Alabama, Trump’s response was, “Maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.” One Trump supporter who viciously elbowed a African-American protester in the face—and was later indicted for the assault—boasted to Inside Edition (3/10/16), “The next time we see him, we might have to kill him.”
The idea that a political movement should respond to criticism with violent attacks is not compatible with a democratic society. There’s no incongruity in Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke’s endorsement of Trump; what Trump is celebrating is the Klan’s strategy of suppressing dissent through terror.
When peaceful protests are met with violence, as they have been again and again at Trump’s mass meetings, protesters have a choice between giving in to intimidation and staying away, or showing up in numbers large enough so that they cannot be suppressed. Last night, in Chicago, activists made the latter choice. It was the right thing to do for democracy.