Craig from San Francisco asks – “I’ve read several articles saying that some of the same “alt-right” groups that protested last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia are staging rallies in San Francisco and Berkeley this weekend. Can’t these rallies be stopped?”
Greg from Castro Valley writes: “Chris, I read that some protestors are suing President Trump because they were beat up at one of his campaign rallies last year. All he did was give a speech. He didn’t hit anyone. How can President Trump be sued?”
Greg, the President is subject to the laws of the United States, including the civil law, just like any other person in our society.
David from Albany writes: “Chris, I am strongly opposed to President Donald Trump. I’ve been highly critical of him on social media. Friends of mine have told me I need to be careful what I say, cautioning to tone down my anti-Trump comments. Can’t I express my views on the President as I see fit?”
David, yes you can. What makes America great is that, as expressed by President Abraham Lincoln, we have a government of the People, by the People, and for the People. Under the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution it is our right to speak out and peacefully assemble in protest to the government.
This week’s question comes from Zaid in Fremont: “Donald Trump denigrates and incites violence against Muslim Americans including threatening to make them all register. He speaks of nuking the Middle East. Trump even offered to pay the legal bills for anyone that attacks protestors at his rallies. Isn’t this hate speech? Is Trump responsible in any way when someone acts on his threats or statements and attacks a protester?”
Thank you Zaid for your timely and important questions.
I remember that not long after 9/11, then President George W. Bush sought to combat a spike in hate crimes against Muslim Americans by visiting a mosque and declaring, “America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country.” The President added, “And they need to be treated with respect. In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.”
Matt G. from San Francisco asks: “I’ve been following the 2016 Presidential election process, both parties, all candidates. I have heard candidates say that protestors at their rallies are trampling on the First Amendment free speech rights of their supporters who also attend those rallies. Doesn’t the First Amendment also protect an individual’s right to protest?”
The short answer is yes, it does. Recently people have misinterpreted the right to express themselves however they want to politically as the right to do so without being subjected to anyone who disagrees with them or holds differing opinions. The right to free speech is sacred in this country. But so is the right to protest, one of the significant motivations behind having First Amendment protections in the first place.