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Democracy is Threatened

I am still in disbelief.

It has been two days since a mob of over 300 protesters attacked a group of 30 Neo-Nazi demonstrators, who had a permit to hold a rally in Sacramento, and not a single political leader I am aware of has condemned this attack on free speech. Neither has anyone, of which I am aware, in the nonviolence movement attacked or even commented on this use of violence to silence a group’s right to express their views.

Yes, the groups holding the demonstration, The Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP), and a Skinhead group are racist, hate-filled, and led (from afar, not at the rally) by a well-known White Supremacist, who has himself used violence to stop others from demonstrating. But our constitution does not guarantee free speech only for good guys, only for messages we agree with, only for nice messages.

From the silence by our politicians, political candidates and community leaders, the consensus seems to be that, if the majority believes a group’s message doesn’t deserve to be heard, then it is fine to use any means necessary, including violence, to keep them silent.

Even the media has been complicit. CNN’s report of the event focused less on what actually happened than on the background of the TWP leader and his history of agitating for White “rights” and against minorities at his university. A Los Angeles Times in-depth report on the “new faces of white extremism,” also focused on the TWP and Skinhead groups and the evils of their message. The implication from these media reports is that the demonstrators themselves, in addition to being malevolent, were responsible, because of their views, for whatever attacks were directed toward them.

This is not the way the United States of America stands up for freedom.

We have seen violence before during this election cycle. Anti-Trump demonstrators at Trump rallies have been manhandled and assaulted (one of the more publicized incidents involved Matthew Heimbach, the leader of TWP, assaulting a Black Lives Matter demonstrator). Donald Trump failed to condemn such assaults. Anti-Trump protestors have attacked supporters at Trump rallies in Chicago, Costa Mesa and Burbank. I am an anti-Trump, Bernie Sanders supporter, who will vote for Hillary, but I am  as appalled by both Sanders and Clinton as I was by Trump for  pointing no fingers at the violent protesters in these instances and instead blaming Trump’s rhetoric for the violence directed against attendees at this rallies.

If the majority prohibits minorities, even ugly, racist, hate-mongering minorities from expressing their views, then we have mob rule, not democracy. If such minorities convinced enough others to follow their views, then democracy would also be threatened, but in our country, the method of combating viewpoints is to express counter viewpoints, not to use violence to prohibit views from being expressed.

I vehemently disagree with the viewpoint of the spokesperson for By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), the group which organized the anti-Neo-Nazi protest in Sacramento and led the attack on the those who were demonstrating. She proudly expressed her glee at having chased away the Neo-Nazi demonstrators and not allowing them to stage their rally. I agree with all of BAMN’s attitudes regarding the necessity of guarding and enhancing the rights of minorities, particularly at universities, where they have been involved in supporting Affirmative Action. I do not agree with any of TWP’s views. But BAMN’s methods in Sacramento (and on some previous occasions) are not OK.

You cannot secure your own rights by violating those of others. Emotions may run high in the political arena and on societal issues, but when those with the most numbers use their numbers and violent means to silence others, our nation loses a freedom that countless people have fought for and defended. That fight needs to continue.

I am still waiting for our leaders and political candidates to stand up for the right to free speech, because losing that right is a grave threat to our democracy.

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