Jimmy Lohman :
Trump rallies: The case for silent protest

This is not about ‘freedom of speech.’ It is about proper tactics for confronting an enormous evil.

Trump Rally Protest in Chicago sm

Chaos at Trump rally at UIC Pavilion, Chicago, March 11, 2016, after announcement that Donald Trump was postponing his appearance. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

By Jimmy Lohman | The Rag Blog | March 15, 2016

It is a mistake to shout down Trump and disrupt his rallies. Outside the rallies, anything goes: as we used to chant, “The streets belong to the people.” But inside, opposition to the horrific specter of Trumpism is best served by silent protest.

Trump is no longer just a “threat.” He has transformed the political landscape by galvanizing a massive national constituency that thrives on racial hatred, sham phobias, and nationalistic mania. Of course, confronting Trump’s neofascist tidal wave is a moral imperative, but his ascendancy also creates the opportunity for an even greater groundswell for a progressive forward-seeking alternative. The attractiveness of that alternative runs the risk of being undermined by protest actions that alienate the average American or in any way play into the aspiring Fuhrer’s hand.

Comparisons to early Hitler rallies are not far-fetched. There is no difference. The passionate compulsion to engage in mortal combat with Trumpism is natural and understandable. But shouting matches and scuffles at Trump rallies are not the way to win the hearts and minds of America’s great middle. On the contrary, they disserve the competing and exciting promise of leading this country in a new and better direction. Indeed, violence by Trump worshippers has already been contorted into a vilification of MoveOn.org, Black Lives Matter, and the Sanders campaign.

Occupying Trump in silent protest rather than disruptiveness is now a matter of utmost urgency.

Occupying Trump in silent protest rather than disruptiveness is now a matter of utmost urgency. Events are unfolding on an hourly basis and anti-Trump activists of all persuasions need to unite around strategies that are reasoned, intelligent, and not counterproductive. There are several reasons that the confines of Trump rallies are not the place to duke it out:

  1. Anti-protest cops and Trumpite goons have no ground whatsoever for removing protesters; they have no choice but to grin and bear every imaginable sign, written slogan, or gesture directed at the podium.
  2. Not engaging in physical interactions with volatile Trumpies insulates protesters from the blame game over who is responsible for violent confrontations.
  3. Silent protest defuses the tendency to condemn the protesters for interfering with “the rights” of Trumpies who, however misguidedly, stood in line for hours to listen to hateful demagoguery.
  4. Disruptive tactics invite and legitimize the same conduct by Trump supporters at the rallies of other candidates.

As a child of the 60’s protest era, I understand the passion that motivates us to put our bodies on the line and tempts us to incite violent overreaction. Violence by police and racists has often served to advance the cause of protesters — from firehoses and snarling dogs to angry men in “Make America Great Again” hats. In 1968, as a high school senior I demonstrated outside Madison Square Garden during a George Wallace rally and was chased by baton-waving NYPD on horses. The police bore the brunt of adverse publicity. But I differentiate taking to the streets from trying to shut down an opposition event.

This is not about “freedom of speech.” It is about proper tactics for confronting an enormous evil and, at the same time, moving the country in a progressive direction. True, the First Amendment does not regulate private conduct. It prohibits the government from suppressing free expression, in particular speech that is critical of the government or perceived by it as a threat. Trump and his followers have no constitutional right not to be shouted down and protesters have every “right” to do the shouting.

For now, there are many vehicles for fighting the Trump scourge in the media, the streets, and inside his rallies. For now, mass silent protest at his rallies is the heroism that is called for. But when and if, God forbid, Trump ever holds public office, I will be there shouting at him at the top of my lungs.

[Jimmy Lohman is a musician and human rights lawyer in Austin.]

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20 Responses to Jimmy Lohman :
Trump rallies: The case for silent protest

  1. Namjodh Singh says:

    I’m afraid in this respect the author is wrong: many people have been removed from Trump rallies for silently protesting. They have had their signs ripped apart and been verbally abused. Silent protest is no effective counter to Trump, his goons, or his supporters.

    The media will continue to give him all the access he needs to get HIS message across. Unfortunately, only when massive groups of united people disrupt and thwart his rallies as they did in Chicago does the “message” get challenged. Though the media fails to do its job of reporting on the reasons WHY people gathered to disrupt his rally in Chicago at least the message is getting out that there are obviously some people out there who have a problem with Trump.

  2. Why are you protesting at all?
    Why not spend that time promoting the candidate you like, promote their accomplishments and their abilities?
    The contrast could not be more illuminating.

    Trump supports show up to learn, to spread their optimism to others, to show support for their candidate to be “for” something. Liberals/Progressives and Anarchists show up to silence those whom they disagree with.

    I know you think voters on the right are stupid. But perhaps they are juuussttt barely smart enough to have figured out that the left is where hate is praised, racism is birthed, and where intolerance is glorified.

    Honestly, if the folks who try to disrupt a Trump event with tens of thousands of Trump supporters, would instead go to a Hillary event, she could have more then the measly 50 or so people who usually attend one of her rallies 🙂

    – Lance

    • “Trump supports [sic] show up to learn…to show support for their candidate to be ‘for’ something.”

      What is Trump for, o ye trolling brother Lance? “Elect me and I’ll make everything better so quick your head will spin.”

      I admire your rebel spirit and you’re smart, but to be honest — you are not THAT smart.

  3. I am not that smart. And thats just fine … I dont measure my self-value in terms of “smartness”

    What is Trump for:
    How about this Michael …. A foreign policy that projects a light footprint in the world and a renewed focus on domestic concerns. You know .. the Hope and Chains that Obumbler promised back in 2008. How did that Nobel Peace prize winning version of global reconciliation and peaceful coexistence go? It didnt. Obama turned out to be just another war hawk who preferred to kill with drones so there was no nightly news footage to stain his “legacy”. And Hillary has a bigger pair than “W” does when it comes to blowing up non-white peoples around the world.

    What is Trump for? How about impeding the rush to offshore more jobs to foreign sweatshops.

    Trump is me .. with Billions. I never fit into the progressive class warfare, open borders view of the world. I never fit into the neocon vision of global hegemony. I suspect that Trump reflects the views of a huge swath of Americans that feel left out of both parties and with no voice in our government. They may not be able to express it as elegantly as I just did, but they get it, they know it even if they cant fully express it. That is why his support is so passionate and able to spread so quickly.

    There are many things about him personally and politically I find abhorrent. This is true of many of the other people I know who support him. But when the house is burning down, you dont ask the fireman if he is a nice man, you are just glad he showed up.

    The more that Billery and her team attempt to point out his faults, the more apparent it will be that the choice is between more of her PC Washington lies or Trump’s faults. That is an easy slam dunk for Trump.

    – Lance

    • I don’t care to address your infantile name-calling: Obumbler, Billary, etc. (You, elegant?) You are clearly free to post whatever you want on this blog. I’ve agreed with you at times and you make some good points above. (And I loathe the DHS.) But do you think you change anyone’s mind here? You come here and leave angry, snide jibes, instead of reasonably stating your case and possibly changing someone’s mind. I haven’t taken a poll, but I doubt your combative style makes any difference on this blog. If you dig bleating into dead air, bleat away.

      As for “impeding the rush to offshore jobs” or “being against the neocon vision of global hegemony” or disliking Obama and Hillary, virtually everyone who reads this site would probably agree with you. There’s a guy named Bernie Sanders who believes in the same things, but he doesn’t order vocal opponents “roughed up,” he doesn’t insult women and he’s not a billionaire motivated by greed and vanity when he’s not politicking.

      Your inability to communicate your message is why, in my opinion, you have shown thus far that you are not that smart.

      • Thanks Micheal.
        I never expect to change anyone’s mind. I just assumed that without me, your hands would be sore from patting each other on the back and a different point of view might cause your (collective you) neurons to fire a little faster.

        I suggest you go back into the archives and read the terns that Rag Bloggers have leveled at Rush, Alex, Tea Partier’s, and anyone on the right who still likes their God and guns. You will find plenty of snide jibes. But its ok it seems, when its an inside conversation. Forgive me if I find your complaint a little disingenuous.

        But, I am always open to criticism and observation. I will keep my wording less colorful. (Thorne will like that I am sure) As for the anger, its genuine. And I am just one of tens of millions. They cant all express why they are so angry, but they are and with good reason.They just need a little direction.

        • Lance — Just to make it clear. Your participation is welcome and appreciated. Your comments stimulate discussion — and none of our ideas should go unchallenged. –Thorne

          • Thorne, I am grateful for the past activists and revolutionaries who lead to this amazing blog. I may disagree with much of the positions the authors and commentors make, but I always appreciate their passion, intelligence and thought provoking articles. I too have made some world view changes since I came here based in no small part to the thoughts and ideas of the Rag Blog contributors.Life is a journey.

            – Lance

        • Oy vay iz mir.

          Re-read my post carefully, Lance. I didn’t suggest you don’t post here — I even said I agree with much you wrote, nor did I insist that you change your language. I simply doubted that you change a single mind with it. A famous man once said: “Do what thou wilt is the whole under the law.” (Of course, he was a Satanist, but it’s still a killer line.)

          In addition to the love and votes of millions of Americans, Trump has inspired a lot of worry because he’s part-populist, part-authoritarian and largely blank slate as potential president. I understand that many Americans are alienated — some of us on the left have been alienated since 1980. But there’s no excuse for racism — none. And no excuse for the strongman stagecraft that Trump indulges. So come on here and laud Trump, but expect strong responses.

          • I think what mystifies me is your motivation. I wouldn’t go onto the National Review website and share my opinion with Buckleyites — it would be pointless. But again – do your thang.

  4. Jimmy Lohman says:

    Lance, buddy — One thing I just don’t get about Trumpism is this belief, as you put it, that “the house is [suddenly] burning down”[under the black president]

    Also, I’m curious what you find abhorrent about him politically. Evidently his own outsourcing to China doesn’t faze you because you buy his excuse that he only does it because it’s advantageous tax-wise. Yet he insists he would bludgeon other companies that do exactly what he does (pet peeves Carrier, Nabisco — he most own stock in their competitors) into submission. Even you should be smart enough to see the hypocrisy.

    But, racism trumps hypocrisy. Trumpism is racist and only a racist would disagree.

    • Jimmy. thank you for your comment. I guess its my White Privilege that is causing me to be a racist. And since I cant stop being white and living off the exploitation of my past generations,I will just make peace with being what passes today for a racist.

      Besides, the term is used so often (and transparently so) these days as a weapon, that its lost a lot of its power. Everyone is a racist who doesnt agree with the BLM crowd. I should know, i was invited into a group discussion by one of the local leadership and i made it a week before my pointing out that THEIR call for boycotts of white businesses, their call for social media attacks on those who challenged them, made THEM racists. Oh well. SSDD.

      Trump is flawed and guilty as charged. But Washington is far worse. Is he a con man because of trump University? Probably. But i pay into Social Security and they take my investment and loose about $60B a year. But if I protest and withhold that money, I go to jail. Did anyone of note on Wall Street go to jail for their criminal activity in 2005-8? Nope. They were in the club and were protected.

      He promotes violence you say. Well he is certainly on the fringe of that. But perhaps you could check with the people in Ukraine, Libya and Syria to see if they feel like Washington promotes violence at the end of a smart bomb.

      Whatever accusations you make towards him, his supporters will see that Washington does 1000 time more. Its not a contest between unicorns and rainbows and Donald Trump.

    • Despite his flaws, he WILL accomplish a couple important things. 1) an end to open borders and uncontrolled immigration. 2) adjustments to trade policies that are harmful to the middle class.

      Since both democrats and republicans are in favor of open borders and one sided trade deals, there arent a lot of options. If Trump can change the direction of the country on just those two issues in the next 4 years, it will be worth putting up with the stupid crap he will say and do along the way.

      We dont get to pick our revolutionaries.

      – Lance

      • “Trump WILL accomplish…etc”. I’m voting for Bernie and I don’t know if HE can accomplish what HE says. What makes you so sure Trump can?

        And we do too get to pick our revolutionaries. For me and millions more, it’s Bernie Sanders.

      • Kass says:

        Lance, for the record, Bernie is strongly against TPP and has been consistently against one-sided trade deals.

  5. Kass says:

    Lance, for the record, Bernie is strongly against TPP and has been consistently opposed to one- sided trade deals.

  6. Thanks Michael.
    Passions run high on these issues. Debate is spirited. Its part of our nature to defend our ideas.

    Its simple for me. Obama has checked out, he no longer cares. Bernie cares, but can you imagine him staring down Putin or an ISIS brigade in a crisis? He was put in his place and relegated to spectator by a couple of angry BLM activists. He won’t even go after Hillary on her most vulnerable points. He has the cahones of a snail and that does not make for a great leader. Hillary is just pure evil, the embodiment of everything wrong with Washington. Trump is a buffoon, but he has passion (and we both just experienced how passion can lead to behaving badly) .. so he is human like us. And I think he genuinely cares, even with all his flaws. So, he seems to be the best hope at breaking some furniture and turning over some tables in DC.And honestly, that is more than the others offer. It may be foolish to be satisfied with that, but its the reality I find myself in.

    – Lance

  7. Extremist2TheDHS says:

    Just a comment to follow up on this story. The recent protests in ABQ at the Trump rally have proved invaluable.

    I have distributed talking points to my teams that help them use these riots to convince Trump Skeptics that he is right about immigration.

    Trump said that some of the people who crossed into the US illegally are good people. Some of these good people are found at the Trump rallies. They may be a supporter, or they may be protesting silently, in a way that respects the rights of others to hear the message they came for.

    Trump said that some of the people who crossed into the US illegally are criminals and thugs. And the behavior of those who burn the US flag, raise the Mexican flag, and cause fights and disruption ARE thugs.

    So if Trump was right in his assessment of the problem with unchecked immigration, then he is right about The Wall and he is right about many other things.

    Thank you so much to the activists that riot at these events. You are the best Trump recruitment tool that I know of. You prove Donald is right over and over again. For each Hispanic that decides not to vote for Trump, there are dozens of others who reach the conclusion out he IS the right candidate for this time.

    Muchas Gracias thugs. 🙂

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