“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
-First Amendment - United States Constitution
In the era of false equivalency, it should not be surprising that television's talking heads have tried to place equal blame on victims of Trump-inspired violence. It is no surprise that Fox’s Greta Van Susteren stated without any proof that the rally in Chicago was canceled because “a few protesters who looked like a few anti-Trump supporters, went up there and caused problems.” However, it is bewildering that when Trump states on MSNBC that “some of these protestors are dangerous people...extremely dangerous, extremely physical” and host Chris Matthews does not even ask for an example of this violence. Certainly, the example Trump gave of a protester “jumping up and down for 15 minutes” did not rise to the level of “violence or potential violence.”
Trump rallies are public events. If someone wants to counter the message being spread at these events without disrupting them, the first amendment gives them the right to do so. Unfortunately, there are numerous examples where this has not been the case as Trump marches towards becoming the Republican nominee. For example, in January, “a Muslim woman wearing a hijab was escorted out of Donald Trump’s campaign event...by police after she stood up in silent protest during Trump’s speech.” In February, “about 30 black students who were standing silently at the top of the bleachers at Donald Trump’s rally here Monday night were escorted out by security officials before the presidential candidate began speaking.” In Chicago, the candidate had not even taken the stage, so it is clear that none of the protesters were guilty of interrupting him.
There have been those who have taken their actions further by engaging in civil disobedience and actively disrupted Trump’s speeches. A protest is also a form of speech and should not be impinged on by the government. While law enforcement does have the right to remove these protestors from the event, they also have an obligation to prevent them from being harmed. Trump fan John McGraw should have been immediately arrested after he sucker-punched a protester. White supremacist Matthew Heimbach and Korean War veteran Alvin Bamberger have both publicly acknowledged assaulting a protester but have yet to be held legally accountable for their actions. This purposeful inaction by law enforcement serves to impede speech by encouraging violence against protesters and should not be tolerated in a democratic society.
Last summer, Trump called Bernie Sanders “weak” for giving up the microphone when confronted by Black Lives Matter protesters and vowed that he would never let this happen at his rallies by saying “I don’t know if I’ll do the fighting myself, or if other people will, but that was a disgrace.” His fans have followed his lead, but when confronted with actual reality, the reality star caved and canceled his rally rather than confront those who disagree with his vision for America. When a protester got too close to the stage at an Ohio rally, the self-proclaimed alpha male did not confront him directly; he cowered behind his Secret Service detail. The Wizard has been exposed behind the curtain, but it remains doubtful that his fans will stop clicking their heels in the belief that he can “make America great again.”