The Violence in Charlottesville
The violence in Charlottesville was avoidable, it happened because law enforcement failed to maintain the peace. “Unite the Right” had planned a protest event several months in advance and applied for permits for their protest. The permits were applied for on May 30, 2017 with the stated purpose to voice their opposition to the city’s decision to rename Lee Park to Emancipation Park and to remove a statue of General Robert E. Lee.
On June 5, 2017 the City of Charlottesville renamed two parks Lee Park became Emancipation Park and Jackson Park (named after Stonewall Jackson) to Justice Park. These parks are within two blocks of each other in Charlottesville.
On June 13, 2017, the permits were approved for the demonstration on August 12, 2017. Unite the Right may have a message that many others see as ugly or even hateful, but our Constitution guarantees them the right to stand in a public square and shout what they believe in. We don’t have to agree with them but we do have to support their right to say it. When we fail to protect their right to free speech we put our own right to free speech in jeopardy.
The First Amendment doesn’t only protect the speech that we all agree with, but it also protects the speech that most of us strongly disagree with. I don’t have the right to turn off your access to free speech because I don’t agree with your speech, but you can’t turn off my access to free speech because you don’t agree with my speech. Speech regardless of content is protected. Hate speech is protected.
Every time it’s been challenged the Supreme Court has upheld that we all have freedom of speech even if the speech is considered hateful by most who hear the speech. Content is irrelevant, we all have the right to speak our minds.
Unite the Right applied for a permit and the permit was approved; they legally met to express their opinion in Emancipation Park that was formerly known as Lee Park. The topics to be discussed were irrelevant, the Constitution guaranteed their assembly and speech.
The group called Antifa also showed up and their intention was to protest the content of Unite the Right. This group did not apply for a permit and they did not intend to provide a counter argument to the message delivered by Unite the Right. They came to disrupt and shut down the message they disagreed with. The Constitution guarantees their right to assemble but the City of Charlottesville requires a permit for that assembly. The permit informs the city of the need for city services to support the assembly. Law Enforcement, Sanitation, even the Fire Department needs to be aware of public gatherings so they can provide the services that are required.
It’s important that we summarize where we are at this point. Unite the Right was prepared to meet and protest the name changes of parks and the removal of a statue and to share what many believe is the hateful messages that that group believes in. All of that was legal and proper.
Antifa decided to show up and disrupt a legal gathering because they disagree with the message. This is not right on several levels. First off Unite the Right has the right to speak a hateful message if they choose to and Antifa does not have the right to infringe on the rights of others.
Local Law Enforcement had an obligation to keep the peace, but they failed. Unite the Right had a permit to assemble and exercise their freedom of Speech, but they were denied their constitutional right to free speech because local law enforcement failed to protect them from those who chose violence, Antifa. The counter protestors from Antifa do not have the right to shout down someone else’s free speech, but they did, and that choice led to violence. I believe that the violence started with Antifa and then escalated as Unite the Right met violence with more violence, but the details of this violence are less critical than the fact that the violence occurred.
Adequate numbers of law enforcement resources were present, but they were not effective at keeping the peace. Law enforcement knew that Unite the Right was holding a demonstration, and they had to know Antifa was going to be aggressive toward the message that they don’t agree with. Law enforcement should have kept the groups separate; that’s how you maintain the peace, you keep two groups who are filled with hate away from each other.
Law enforcement failed to keep the peace, but we aren’t sure why; it could have been that leadership in the state didn’t want to anger the Antifa and agreed with their opposition to the message that Unite the Right wanted to send. It could have been that law enforcement was just incompetent and had no idea how to maintain the peace. It could also have been the result of the Ferguson Effect; which is law enforcement being reluctant to enforce the law because of fear that politicians will not support their efforts after the fact. Nationwide there has been a significant drop in engagement of law enforcement with the public because political support is weak. Individual police officers are afraid the actions they take will not be supported by police leadership or politicians.
Regardless of why law enforcement failed, the failure led to an escalation of violence until a supporter of Unite the Right killed one and injured sixteen.
A second summary of this story shows that Unite the Right had permits to protest and they were prepared to voice their message in a law-abiding time and place. Antifa came in and initiated violence to stop Unite the Right from voicing their message. Both sides engaged the other with escalating violence until one side went too far and caused a death and serious injuries.
Law enforcement failed to maintain the peace. Local and state government intervened before the event by declaring it an unlawful assembly before the original protest after approving the permits. This infringed the right freedom of speech that the Constitution guarantees all of us. Local and state government should have intervened and prevented Antifia from assembling near Unite the Right. We may hate their speech but we must respect their freedom of speech; law enforcement had an obligation to protect their rights but didn’t.
I’m disappointed in President Trump because he didn’t speak clearly on this subject. He never endorsed the beliefs that Unite the Right espoused, and he never clearly defended their first amendment right to freedom of speech. The media and the republicans are all condemning him because he didn’t denounce their hate message strong enough to satisfy their sense of right and wrong. His sin is not agreeing with the message of a group who has an ugly message, his sin appears to be that his sense of outrage wasn’t strong enough.
The victims in this story are clearly the woman who was killed and those who were injured, but President Trump isn’t at fault for the violence. State and local government and law enforcement are solely at fault for allowing the violence to occur when it was clearly avoidable. We the people have given authority to our local and state governments specifically to keep the peace. We all have the right to free speech, we all have the right to gather and assemble with like-minded people, none of us have the right to shut down speech we don’t agree with.
President Trump placed blame on both sides and he was right to do so, but he should have condemned law enforcement for failing to maintain the peace. Competent law enforcement would have avoided the conflict and saved the life that was lost.
Hate speech is still protected speech, we must remember that, none of us can determine what is allowed and what is not allowed that leads to censorship.
Had law enforcement done the job properly the gathering would have been small, the ugly speeches would have gone with very little notice and no one would have been injured.
Had law enforcement done their job, Antifa would have gathered without a permit and been dispersed and segregated from the lawful assembly of Unite the Right. Their message away from Unite the Right may or may not have gotten much attention, but there would not have been any conflict and there would not have been a death and multiple injuries.
Keep in mind we are condemning the president because we are unhappy with the intensity of his outrage of the hate speech that Untie the Right has to right to share in public.
Also keep in mind Republicans who could have supported the Constitution and helped the president clarify his message failed to rise to the occasion, they condemned the president because they are intimidated by the media and their own lack integrity. They should have helped the president highlight that the freedom of speech is a freedom we all have even when we don’t like the message. It’s more important to defend an ugly message than it is to defend a pleasant message, because that’s how strong our freedoms are.
This tragedy is the result of poor, weak, incompetent local and state government. They failed to maintain the peace that they were obligated to maintain.
The public outrage is the result of the media’s hatred of President Trump and their desire to make him look small and incompetent. Unless you read carefully and unless you look very hard the average citizen believes that President Trump agrees with the hate messages that Unite the Right speaks. The President condemned the message in no uncertain terms, but unless you dig deep that’s not the impression you get from the media.
The President placed blame on both sides; Unite the Right and Antifa, because they engaged in violence against each other, and he was right to do so. It’s my opinion that the President did not condemn local and state governments and law enforcement as strongly as he should have because they failed to maintain the peace. That is the most significant failure of this event. State and local government failed to keep the peace as they are required to do.
I blame everyone involved because no one is standing up for and defending the Constitution. Unite the Right enjoys as much freedom as I do, they have the right to speak hatred and bigotry all day every day.
We have become too politically correct that we are focusing on the content that we don’t agree with and ignoring the freedom that we are all guaranteed. President didn’t do as good a job of communicating that message as well as he should have and members of his staff have done a poor job of keeping him on the narrow message trail they want him on, but no one has focused on the Constitution. We all enjoy the freedoms that are guaranteed. The presidents team should have helped him articulate that message clearly, because the media will only condemn him for anything he says.
The republicans who failed to identify the freedoms that Unite the Right have and were denied are despicable puppets of the media and not servants of the people they represent. Their lack of integrity disgusts me and reminds me why Donald Trump won the election. Politicians are slimy and disgusting.