Fairness Matters…Even with Donald Trump
23 March 2016
I am approaching being fully convinced that treating all people fairly is not the strong-suit of most politicians, the media, or a good many American citizens. This fact is demonstrated in the responses to conflicts between supporters and protesters at Donald Trump rallies. Media reports are replete with charges that Trump creates an atmosphere where violence is encouraged and found acceptable.
I am not a Trump supporter. However, I do believe totally in treating all people fairly. I disagree with his tactics and what appears to be his overall strategy in this presidential quest. The bothersome tactics include but are not limited to his foul language, verbal personal attacks on others, and speaking in generalities. The overall strategy seems to be one of addressing the public’s anger in ways that excite and attract loyalty, but demonstrates no likelihood of productivity. In spite of these objections, I stand solidly in support of fair treatment for Trump. Without reservation, I hold that he is not being treated fairly.
As a starting point, consider what happened at Trump’s rally in Fayetteville, NC on 9 March 2016. Various media reports indicate that Rakeem Jones, a 26 year-old black male, was protesting inside the venue. His conduct led to sheriff’s deputies leading him out of the coliseum. As they were escorting Jones up the inside steps, John Franklin McGraw, a 78 year-old white male, walked from his seat and hit Jones in the face. Media reports abound that focus on the conduct of the deputies in that they did not immediately arrest McGraw. Even more widespread from media, all 2016 presidential candidates (Republicans and Democrats), political leaders, and many citizens is the absolute contention that Trump is responsible for this incident and similar ones at some of his other rallies. The case is made that he creates an atmosphere that invites this kind of behavior. I have not seen that any responsibility is placed on Rakeem Jones, the protester.
A Trump rally scheduled for 11 March in Chicago was cancelled due to public safety concerns but drew Fayetteville-type responses. That is, claims that people were prepared for violence and disorder because Trump inspires this behavior. Even though the rally was cancelled, there were still scuffles between protesters and Trump supporters.
That is some of the background. Now on to why I hold that Donald Trump is being treated unfairly when he is held almost solely responsible for the clashes at his rallies. Start with the matter of free speech. The 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states:
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.
Addressing the “freedom of speech” portion of the 1st Amendment, writer and speaker Chad Kent says:
Most of the examples that people like to use to justify limits on free speech – yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, libel laws, slander – have nothing to do with limiting your ability to speak your mind. Those laws don’t put limits on your rights. They prevent you from violating the rights of others. There is a big difference.
The 1st Amendment looked at in light of what Kent writes leads me to conclude Trump is not limiting the rights of others to speak, but his right to free speech is being limited. Those who want to hear him are also having their free speech rights limited and in Chicago totally denied.
Michael Futch, reporter with the Fayetteville Observer, wrote about the incident at Trump’s rally in our city. The title was “Protester punched while being escorted from Trump rally.” Futch attributes the following to Rakeem Jones:
He said he didn’t go to the rally to protest but as a “social experiment” with a diverse group of four friends. Jones said the woman who was with the group started getting loud once Trump began to address the audience. “Our friend was talking along the lines of, ‘Trump is disgusting.’ That was her opinion, and she was saying it out loud,” he said. “People around us were like, ‘Ya’ll need to shut up.’ Then it got to the point where the police were called in and escorted us out.
That was Fayetteville. Now to Chicago. Jeremy Diamond and Theodore Schleifer write about what happened after cancellation of the Chicago rally was announced. The article is “In Depth: Trump supporters, protesters clash.”
Several fistfights between Trump supporters and protesters could be seen after the announcement, as a large contingent of Chicago police officers moved in to restore order. Supporters of Trump still inside chanted “We want Trump” after the event was canceled. Protesters, meanwhile, shouted “We shut s*** down” and “We stumped Trump.”
Beyond all that is said above about limiting or denying free speech, reporting from many sources indicate there is an organized effort to prevent Donald Trump from speaking at rallies. The effort to shut him down is real and I hold it is unfair, maybe illegal.
The conduct of protesters also endangers Trump and his supporters. Given that there is legal provision for not allowing protesters into a Trump rally, an appropriate official should explain why that authority is not being used. The applicable act is summarized below:
Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011 [sic] – Amends the federal criminal code to revise the prohibition against entering restricted federal buildings or grounds to impose criminal penalties on anyone who knowingly enters any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority. Defines “restricted buildings or grounds” as a posted, cordoned off, or otherwise restricted area of: (1) the White House or its grounds or the Vice President’s official residence or its grounds, (2) a building or grounds where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting, or (3) a building or grounds so restricted due to a special event of national significance.
Since Donald Trump has Secret Service protection, not using this provision seems unfair, even unsafe, to Trump and his supporters.
In Michael Futch’s article mentioned earlier, note where the Fayetteville protester says he didn’t go to the rally to protest but as a “social experiment” with a diverse group of four friends. I have seen nothing in any reporting where Jones was asked to explain his “social experiment.” Given that his experiment ended as it did, he should have to explain the goal and make-up of this exercise. People who want to prevent recurrence of this kind of incident would be helped by the information. Is anybody asking? No! Just blame Trump. Fair to Trump? No!
And how about the 78 year-old man who hit Jones. Is anybody seriously working to understand why he did it? Two statements are repeatedly attributed to McGraw: (1) Liked “clocking the hell out of that big mouth;” (2) “Next time, we might have to kill him.” In Ferguson and Baltimore, when people roamed the streets burning and looting, there was tremendous effort to understand why. I see absolutely no effort to determine why a 78 year-old man would do what this man did. The immediate conclusion is that he was just caught up in this violence-producing atmosphere created by Donald Trump. Fair to Trump? No!
Dealing fairly with Donald Trump in this matter of physical confrontations at his rallies requires identification of causes and forthright actions to address those causes. This will not happen because American society dispenses fairness according to an unfair formula. In short, that formula requires conduct that Donald Trump seems to have no intention of delivering. High on the listing of conduct “Do nots” is not challenging the political status quo so rigorously maintained by career politicians. Republicans and this nation are going to pay a very costly price if this unfair treatment of Donald Trump continues. Don’t believe it…check the primary results from 15 March.