Freedom of speech is a right all Americans have but what happens when it conflicts with another person’s freedom? Is one more important than the other?
These questions have been brought to light throughout the heated presidential election this year. Protestors have rioted in the streets and blockaded candidates from getting to their designated location for speeches. In addition, fights have broken out between different groups with opposing political ideology. Just over the weekend it happened in our own backyard in Burlingame, CA where Donald J. Trump was scheduled to give a speech at the California Republican Convention at the Hyatt Regency. However, he arrived late to the event and Trump supporters questioned whether he would even make it at all because hundreds of protestors demonstrated their right to free speech and blockaded the roads in order to prevent Trump from gaining access to the main entrance of the hotel.
Trump has been forced to cancel events in the past due in part to security concerns over rowdy protestors and fear that fights would break out between the pro and anti-Trump attendees. However, this time he was determined not to be deterred and ordered his motorcade to pull over to the side of the road where his large entourage and security team could escort him through a back entrance. Media outlets provided coverage of his elaborate journey, which played out in real time for all of America to see. The entrance seemed more like something you would see in a movie or an episode of House of Cards rather than real life, but now these events are becoming a part of everyday life. A new normality is being established in America that includes violent protests, blockades and ultimately a clash between individuals’ freedom of speech. It has gotten to the point where law enforcement has had to continually intervene in order to maintain some sort of organization amongst the chaos. Should protestors be able to take it this far? It is a tricky question because the United States would not be what it is today without the first amendment but the actions of a number of protestors has posed a threat to law abiding citizens, activists, politicians and law enforcement officials.
Many of the remarks Mr. Trump has made have offended numerous people and have caused complete outrage, however, this does not mean one needs to resort to violence or blockading roads because these actions seriously impact the lives of many innocent civilians. There are other ways to demonstrate peacefully that allows their voices to be heard while the other side can still exercise its rights as well. We live in a country where everyone has a right to their own opinion and this has been proven by the more extreme candidates that have gained traction on both sides of the political aisle including: Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. However, the difference is if you go to a Trump rally you are risking your own safety. Chris Conway, a Trump supporter, experienced this first hand when he was “kicked, punched, and spit on” just for wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat at the rally in Burlingame on Friday (CNN). These events do not occur at Bernie Sanders speeches even though there is a sizable portion of the population that does not favor his socialist policies. Why is it is that he can freely express his views without much opposition while the Republican front-runner cannot? Opponents to Trump might argue that this is the only way to be heard but violence is never the answer. During tough times Americans must remember why this country is so great and it is because we have laws such as the first amendment, which means that everyone has the freedom to say what they want to say. Individuals with opposing views would not need to infringe on each other’s right if there was more respect for the process. GOP chairman for Siskiyou Country, Richard Marshall talked about the protestors on Friday by saying “I think it’s unfortunate they don’t want to have freedom of speech for everybody and want to have it all for themselves” (CNN). As Americans, let’s prove him wrong and make sure this does not become our new reality.
LoBianco, Tom, Jeremy Diamond, and Ashley Killough. “Demonstrators Storm California GOP Convention to Protest Trump.” CNN. Cable News Network, 30 Apr. 2016. Web. 02 May 2016.