First, I would like to take a quick moment to thank Chicago for taking the brunt of the bad behavior news coverage away from St. Louis Friday. I think we have been the lead story in the national news quite enough lately.
There were some seemingly minor clashes and tussles at Donald Trump’s St. Louis rally, which were overshadowed by more severe confrontations and ultimate cancelling of Trump’s rally in Chicago Friday evening.
I have seen snippets of boorish behavior on all sides; candidates, supporters, protestors and police. I cherish first amendment rights, including free speech, and nearest and dearest to my heart as a Mizzou journalism graduate, freedom of the press.
I would urge supporters of individual candidates to simply walk past and ignore protestors lined up outside of your rally destination, those who disagree with your ideals. There is no such thing as a one-sided conflict.
Things get more interesting as we wander inside rally venues. Leslie Kendrick, a University of Virginia law professor and a legal expert on free speech issues, stated on NPR that these political meetings are considered private functions, therefore disruptors can be removed for disturbing and interfering with the rally, but not for what they say. I believe the punching, pushing and manhandling of said protestors by rally attendees, police officers and security are separate issues.
I firmly support the protestors’ rights to gather outside of the venues. Heck, supporters go ahead and retort, if you want. But no one is going to change his or her mind by being shouted at, I assure you.
Protestors inside, I have a little less support for you, simply because you want your message to be heard, but you don’t want to allow opposing views. If you support freedom of speech, you must support it for all, even if that means allowing what you personally consider objectionable speech. Remember, just because you disagree with someone, doesn’t give you the right to stifle them. If you don’t want to hear the message, don’t attend the function.
I am reminded of the wonderful, peaceful demonstration that Mizzou students staged a few years ago when the Westboro Baptist Church group organized a protest against football player Michael Sam’s announcement of his sexual orientation. The students simply and quietly, without shouting or violence, formed a line, with their backs to the rabble-rousers, and made their point. I translated this to mean, “Sure, you can say it, we’re not interested or listening.”
I am heartened to see so many people participating in the political process and passionate about the future of our country. I wonder, though, how many are registered to vote, and how many will show up at the polls, where their voices will actually be heard.
If these protestors are ideologically against Trump, the logical conclusion is that they would support either Clinton or Sanders. I have heard some shouting “Bernie! Bernie!” as they were being dragged away. But although the Republicans are experiencing record turnouts in the primaries, Democratic participation is tanking, with double digit drops over previous election years.
Turnout for presidential elections usually runs in the mid-50% of eligible voters. The lowest turnout is for the 18-24 age group.
My advice, go ahead and shout, if you want. It doesn’t change anything, but I support your right to do just that. But if you really want to make a difference, VOTE. Yes, the way we elect our president is not as clear-cut as it should be, and we know the elected president is not always the popular vote winner. But it is our system, unless there is a movement to change it.
I contend that local elections, with statistically the lowest turnout, are the most important. City council, school boards, mayors, that is what will most affect our daily lives. Voting is a privilege, an obligation, and the best way to make your voice heard.
I also think we should ask ourselves why the protests and violence seem to surround the Donald Trump campaign more than any others? It seems to me, if you keep goading and asking for a fight, you will get one.