Violence and Speech Suppression Are Not the Answer!


Donald Trump’s blunt communication style and bombastic manner have ignited negative responses from both the right and the left. People are terrified that the billionaire business man, who is currently the front-runner in the Republican Primary, could actually win the nomination and successfully go against the presumed Democrat candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the 2016 general election. The idea of a Trump presidency is so offensive to some people that they have taken to drafting angry blogs, protesting at political events and making declarations that they will abdicate their US citizenship on day one of a Trump administration. As US citizens, they have a right to express their opinion and their anger peacefully.  If they don’t like Donald Trump, they don’t have to vote for him.

However, these  individuals do not have the right to physically interfere with the Trump campaign or for that matter any campaign. Over the last few days, angry protesters created havoc at Trump events in Missouri.   This situation further heated up on Friday March 12 with protesters in Chicago instigating such an incendiary atmosphere in advance of a scheduled Trump rally that the Trump campaign cancelled the rally fearing for the safety of the candidate and rally participants. Four people were charged in the Chicago incident.  On Saturday, when Trump was campaigning just outside Dayton, the situation achieved a new level of danger when a protester rushed Trump on the stage. The Secret Service jumped into action to remove the protester, 22 year old Thomas Dimassimo, who was later charged with two misdemeanors.   Apparently, Dimassimo, a former child actor, has had a recent history of inciting violence including leading an anti-racism protest at Wright State University in April 2015 where he is a student. Footage from the protest shows Dimassimo dragging an American flag and stomping on it. Dimassimo, an avid supporter of Democrat presidential candidate Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders on social media, also participated in Black Lives Matter protests in Georgia last summer. Dimassimo who has now proven to have some ISIS affinity, also sent out this tweet in advance of the protest ‘I’ve had about all I can take from the violent trump ralliers (sic) Saturday I’m (sic) going to check my people and spit on their false king.”

One would think that after a situation like this, all of the presidential candidates would come forward with public statements supporting free speech and decrying violence at political rallies and other events. That does not appear to be the case. Trump went on the talk show circuit blaming Bernie Sanders’s supporters for the violence saying “Many of these people come from Bernie.”  Trump also sent out the following tweet “Bernie Sanders is lying when he says his disrupters aren’t told to go to my events. Be careful Bernie, or my supporters will go to yours!’ Sanders for his part accused Trump of creating a toxic environment and of lying.   Trump’s Republican competitors were not much better.  Texas Senator Ted Cruz said that it is wrong for protesters to try to shut down Trump rallies but “in any campaign, responsibility starts at the top. And it is not beneficial when you have a presidential candidates like Donald Trump telling his supporters, “Punch that guy in the face.”  Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who is facing Trump in what will be for Rubio a make or break Florida primary on March 15, told ABC’s “This Week”, “There are people out there that listen to this stuff and we don’t know how they are going to react. …He keeps putting this stuff out there. We’re going to have an ugly scene here: we already have seen these ugly scenes.”

This entire situation is very disturbing. Candidates for elected office from both the right and the left have a right to hold rallies for their campaigns without fearing for their lives. Obviously, this is one of the reasons why they are provided with Secret Service protection. We live in a free country where we are all entitled to have different opinions regarding politics, religion, life style etc.  However, for political candidates, the role of free speech is essential. Our elected officials, candidates for office, and others with a megaphone need to proactively defend our right to free speech. Protesters also have a right to free speech and their “peaceful” protest in an inherent delivery of that right. The mistake here is that the other candidates are essentially blaming Trump for the violent protests at his rallies. And Trump for his part has not helped the situation by counterpunching that his supporters would create disruptions at other candidates’ rallies.  Every candidate takes the risk every day that some individual  will show up at his event and try to create a disruption, shut the event down or incite violence. Last year, Black Lives Matter supporters disrupted the rallies of both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. However, if we start routinely cancelling events because of safety concerns for the candidate or the participants or we start blaming the candidates for the protests at their events, we risk creating a slippery slope where we will see our liberties eroding one by one. This is not the America which our forefathers created.