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Protest is a proud tradition, violent protest isn't

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By Holly Audette
Columnist

Monday, March 20, 2017

We are now a nation, it seems, that accepts and even encourages threats, violence and general lack of consideration for others in the name of free expression and “rights.”

We have all watched incident after incident of destruction of property and assault during protests against police. You couldn’t turn on the television without graphic images flooding into your home. North Carolina made national headlines last year with the violent protests in Charlotte that required then Gov. Pat McCrory to declare a state of emergency and send National Guard troops. Windows were smashed, stores looted, a man was shot and 82 people ages 16-58 were arrested. The city was disrupted for a week.

But this wasn’t the first rioting involving violence like this. In 2009 in Oakland, California violence erupted over the Oscar Grant shooting. Then there was 2011 and the numerous incidents during the Occupy Wall Street protests.

Los Angeles and Oakland again saw violence, including assaults on innocent people and the press, following the acquittal of George Zimmerman. Ferguson, Missouri was burned by angry residents, as was Baltimore, Maryland in 2015.

During the presidential race, a Trump rally in Chicago had to be canceled because of security concerns. Also, Trump’s supporters were attacked at a rally in San Jose where CNN reported one arrest.

Riots in Milwaukee, Wisconsin followed a shooting by a black police officer of an armed black man. The violence included the burning of police cars, a gas station and a bank, as well as attacks on journalists and police officers.

Here is how Reuters described the violence during the presidential inauguration in January:

“Black-clad activists among hundreds of demonstrators protesting Donald Trump's swearing-in on Friday clashed with police a few blocks from the White House, in an outburst of violence rare for an inauguration.

“At least 217 people were arrested in the melees, police said. ...

“In the violence, knots of activists in black clothes and masks threw rocks and bottles at officers wearing riot gear, who responded with volleys of tear gas and stun grenades as a helicopter hovered low overhead.

“At one flash-point, a protester hurled an object through the passenger window of a police van, which sped away in reverse as demonstrators cheered. Earlier, activists used chunks of pavement and baseball bats to shatter the windows of a Bank of America branch and a McDonald's outlet, all symbols of American capitalism.

“Multiple vehicles were set on fire, including a black limousine. A knot of people dragged garbage cans into a street a few blocks from the White House and set them ablaze, later throwing a red cap bearing Trump's ‘Make America Great Again’ campaign slogan into the flames.

“Police said six officers were injured in scuffles with protesters. ...

“Trump supporter Ryan Shiring, 21, stood nervously with a group of friends near a pile of smoldering trash cans.

‘We thought there would be protests but we didn't expect violence,’ said Shiring, a college student from Hartford, Connecticut. "We were hoping for a completely peaceful transfer of power.’”

In California at a college campus in Berkeley, rioters threatened, burned and vandalized property on campus to protest an invited speaker at the school. They caused more than $100,000 worth of damages according to school officials. No one was arrested even though the destruction continued off campus into downtown Berkeley.

After President Trump’s election, The Daily Mail reported on tweets involving threats of violence against the new president and vice president:

*“So who’s going to assassinate Trump at his inauguration?” one Twitter user demanded to know.

*”I just pray that the first (racial slur) who tries to assassinate Donald Trump don’t miss,” another added.

*One joked: “My mom is talking about assassinate donald trump. watch out guy my white suburban mother is coming for you.”

Some also called for the death of Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

*”If trump wins pls dont assassinate him without getting mike pence first because his (expletive) is (expletive) crazy,” one user tweeted.

Then there was the allowed Twitter trend, “Rape Melania,” after a sign saying the same was help by a protester outside the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Recently trespassers and vandals caused property destruction at a Trump golf course and hotel because they oppose the president. Rap artist Bow Wow threatened to, “pimp out” the first lady and make her, “work for us” when he didn’t like the president’s response to rapper Snoop Dog who made a video showing him put a gun to the head of a Trump characterization.

It’s hard to imagine how we accept this response in a supposedly civilized nation. While protesting is a proud tradition in our country, there should be no pride in these kinds of actions. Persuasion requires skill — sadly lacking, exercised or required anymore.

Holly Audette is a small-business owner active in political and civic causes.

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