The recent problems in Charlottesville and Berkeley got us thinking about how we can have protests and counter protests with each having their say without the shadow of violence being cast over all. Remember, we have a constitutional right to freedom of assembly. Maybe some simple commonsense rules could allow both sides to actually get their message out without interruption. Let’s say Group A applies for a Rally Permit for a public location such as a park. Opposition Group B upon finding out about A’s permitted rally also apply for a rally permit. (If one group needs a permit then both do as equal treatment is a must.) How should the Governing entity proceed?
- Which Group has preference? Group A had the permit first and is entitled to a hold their rally in peace at the permitted location. Group B must go elsewhere.
- Where? A different location a safe distance away.
- How would the distance be determined? The very minimum distance allowed would be simply if Group A can hear can hear anything from Group B, B is too close. If Group B can drown out what Group A has to say then they have a veto over A’s free speech. Think of the Verizon guy asking “can you hear me now.” If A can hear B, the latter is too close.
- Is their any circumstance where a member of group B could attend Group A’s rally? If Group A allows for a Q & A session some of Group B with legitimate questions should be allowed but only if Group B reciprocates at their rally. Even then the questions should be respectful but the questioner should be allowed a followup just as in press conferences. Free speech should foster a dialogue between opposing points of view and this would encourage it. If B’s rally has no Q &A, none of their members would be allowed to attend A’s rally and visa versa.
- What else? You can’t have a Rally if people aren’t allowed arrive and leave safely. Safe corridors to the rally location are essential. They should be made clear to all and enforced.
- Can we divorce ourselves from using our own likes and dislikes in decision-making and planning? Think of group A as fervent dogs lovers and Group B as equally fervent cat lovers. That might help in arriving at balance.
How would these simple rules have contributed to a better outcomes in Charlottesville and Berkeley? The Virginia city was on the right track in issuing the initial rally permit at the affected park. Permitting the opposing group at a different location was right on. Unfortunately, the city then improperly tried to switch initial permit holders rally location. (We know it was improper because the court said so). This diversion might have delayed needed planing. The city and rally goers had established the location of entry corridors to the park, but in the event it all fell apart. By not keeping the entry corridors clear of the opposing group, those with the park permit were forced to enter in the midst of the opposition. Were the opposition in their permitted area or were they encroaching on the area of the rally goers? Not only could they be heard but were close enough to do battle with attending the permitted rally. By violating two of our rules, they lost control of the situation with dire consequences. The city had some right inclinations but failed to follow through.
Berkeley seems to have failed on every level. Apparently it denied a group a permit to hold a rally, citing the possibility of violence. If the city had granted other groups rally permits for the same location in the past, this has everything backwards. We assume the city didn’t originally deny a permit to the because the group itself was planning violence, so the threatened violence then would be coming from an opposing group (or groups). Did this group (or groups) also have a permit? If not why even consider them other than as a possible illegal and dangerous gathering? Instead Berkeley gave this group (or groups) a veto over a perfectly legal Constitutional assembly. Have the city authorities ever read the Constitution? Giving in to the illegal only encourages more illegal actions. It is not surprising then that a few supporters of the original rally were set upon and beaten by the some of the empowered opposition. The City reaped what it sowed by not adhering to the Constitution, our recommended rules or common sense.
Somehow generally intelligent people in government allow themselves to swayed by what they personally think of the groups involved. This flies in the face of their sworn duty to uphold the law. In these cases the law happens to be the Constitution. Here is where thinking cats & dogs comes in. Surely no sensible government would favor dogs over cats or visa versa. Ask how do we fulfill our legal obligations to both the cat and dog advocates? Then act appropriatly. Our rules would keep these ardent pet people in the proper bounds. Dump the value judgments and proceed in a way that obeys the Constitution. Berkeley’s leaders now face each day wondering when they’ll face an expensive embarrassing Constitutional lawsuit while suffering widespread disapproval.
These principles might also apply to a private property rally even where Constitutional constraints don’t apply. For instance, places of higher learning just might avoid a lot of turbulence if they would just think of Cat and Dog advocates and act accordingly. By letting their own judgement of the participants color their decisions they end up looking like the opposite of a place of higher learning. Some already have ignored the commonsense and have found themselves in well-earned no-win situations accompanied by horrible publicity for their institutions. Simple rules everyone understands could have avoided this pain and would do so in the future. Contemplate with the proper balance. Think Cats and Dogs.
We aren’t negative on all recent government actions in controlling large gatherings. Phoenix handled the Presidents rally in that city as we;ll as could be expected. Rally goers were able to attend, enduring nothing worse than some taunts from the opposition while the actual words expounded at the rally were heard unimpeded. Only later after the rally was over and the attendees had mostly disbursed were some water bottles and rocks were thrown from the opposition at the police. We know this because we watched compilation of videos on the a local radio stations website, KTAR.com. One can clearly see projectiles tossed from the opposition in the direction of the officers. Rather than let things escalate, the police using tear gas and pepper balls cleared the area. A major problem with serious injuries was avoided while each group was able to make their statements.
Also heard on the Videos were people among the opposition telling the projectile throwers to stop. An attempt at self policing by those that came to protest peacefully, they apparently realized the violence would harm their cause. Later, at a city council meeting a young mother complained the police in their clearing action traumatized her 9 yr old child. Now what a nine year old was doing there a 10pm we’ll never really know, but we doubt knowing there would be violence she would’ve brought her child.. As it happenned both of them becamehuman shields for the lawless? Unfortunately, given present-day rally outcomes she should have been aware of the dangers. Even among dog or cat aficionados there are over-the-top people Most people want to be heard in peace and are willing to hear out the other side, but they have to control those for their own reasons would reflect badly on them and their cause. Adhering to our rules would help. Perhaps those applying for the permits should be aware of vulnerabilities and plan accordingly. So would thinking in terms of Cats and Dogs.