Guns Have No Place at a Protests

White Nationalists in full military gear in Charlottesville  Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

New Orleans    Let’s spend a minute looking for some silver lining in the dark clouds that have arisen from the horror of Charlottesville before moving to the harder questions.

Cities have sprung into action in Nashville, Jacksonville (Florida), Annapolis (Maryland), and Lexington (Kentucky) to move forward on removing controversial Confederate statuary. In Durham, North Carolina, one-hundred protesters tied a rope around a statute of an unnamed Confederate solider and toppled it, Sadam-style. Rallies have been canceled at Texas A&M.

World leaders have come together to condemn the hate and violence of right-wing extremists. Republicans and Democrats across the aisle have joined in their condemnation of these groups. Attorney-General Sessions labeled them terrorists.

That’s about it for the silver lining, since a lot of the rest is still clouds, as well as some thunderstorms, including the pouting and petulant Trump, pulled back to the White House to make a seemingly begrudging statement of condemnation several days late. He then, as usual, showed his true colors by Twitter-tacking the African-American head of the Merck drug company for having the good sense and courage to resign for one of his showboat, do-nothing advisory committees.

I’ve got to admit as horrible as all of this has been and as disturbing as the pictures from Charlottesville have seemed, I’m most unsettled seeing all of the prominent displays of guns and assault weapons. Open carry law, permits, whatever, guns have no place at a demonstration, especially one like this. There’s a time bomb ticking before we will have to read – or worse, witness – some hothead, on one side or another, who believes he is being threatened, and claims he has to “defend” himself or herself, and starts firing. People will die.

It wasn’t so long ago when the police in Dallas were quoted publicly on this very problem. When someone went rouge and began killing police there last year in the wake of a Black Lives Matter protest, the Chief and other Dallas department spokespeople who where interviewed talked openly about how difficult it was to respond when they had to sort out who were the friendlies versus the baddies since so many were carrying guns.

In Charlottesville the police are coming in for criticism for essentially letting the two sides seemingly “fight it out,” rather than preemptively separating all sides, which they did in the New Orleans statue removal dispute very effectively, or stepping in more aggressively to stop the outbreak. I wonder if all of the guns were a factor. Photos in the newspapers yesterday showed demonstrators wearing full combat gear and arms. Today’s papers had pictures of the an antifa or antifascist group also strapped down with assault weapons. Cornell West was quoted crediting them in providing safe passage for himself and other ministers when the antifa created a perimeter for their exit. Were police tactics influenced by the display of gun play on all sides?

Who knows, but I know one thing for sure. Guns have no place in protests. The mere presence of guns is chilling and restricts the participation of citizens on all sides. A permit to carry should not include public demonstrations of any kind. Police need to be charged to disarm, to lock, and to unload. This is a tragedy waiting to happen, and demands action now. The second amendment does not trump freedom of speech and assembly when the gun is weaponized and not symbolic.

How is this not common sense?


White Supremacists Shall Not Rise Again

White supremacists carry torches on the grounds of the University of Virginia/ Alejandro Alvarez/News2Share via REUTERS

New Orleans    What kind of social media dog whistle sent out the call? What made the white supremacists and various groups of the alt-right think that somehow Charlottesville, Virginia was the place to make their play? Was this an effort to make a stand or take a big step up in enemy territory?

Charlottesville is a smallish, liberal university town. It’s where people in Virginia have gone to embrace diversity, not to run from it. The community organization, Virginia Organizing, is headquartered there. The Thomas Jefferson designed University of Virginia has it’s home campus here. The county went for Clinton in 2016 with 60% to only 34% for Trump.

Let’s be clear. This isn’t about Confederate statuary. What had been Lee Park had already been named Emancipation Park. This was a fight already fought and lost.

This was all about making a statement because the white-right calculated that they are in ascendancy and wanted to take another tactical step up the ladder to claim a place legitimizing their version of hate and identity-politics gone wild. The call was out. Observers called this the largest white supremacists public rally in recent memory. And, why?

Whether you support or oppose him, there’s really no way to get around the fact that they have been emboldened by Donald Trump and his presidency. His lame, limp-wristed, two-handed response blaming everyone for violence, that was clearly provoked and implemented by the supremacists and their supporters, including the weaponized car attack which has killed one protester and injured almost twenty others, can’t be papered over, or perhaps the better word is “whitewashed,” by additional revisions by the White House communications team or his daughter. President Trump didn’t wrong foot his answer. It’s pretty clear he said what was on his mind, and his mind was wrongheaded on this core issue of racism completely.

When Attorney-General Jeff Sessions, well-known Alabama racial apologist and whiter-than-white and down with the cause it seems himself, understands that Charlottesville is serious enough that he issues a statement saying the Justice Department is mobilizing to prosecute civil rights violations there, then no one should have needed a weatherman to understand how the wind was blowing. Speaker Ryan called the events “repugnant.” Some understood their cherished, and often abused, “rule of law” was threatened. Yet, President Trump can’t buy a clue when it comes to understanding racism, anti-Semitism, and the litany of alt-right protests on display.

Was this Steve Bannon, his chief strategist? Heck, I even think Bannon and his Breitbart crowd are smarter than to show their true selves so starkly.

This Trump reality reveal is past politics. He has shown his vacuous core beliefs here, and it is frightening because they are dark and divisive.

Charlottesville needs to be a turning point for all of us, and Trump needs to alter his course. Immediately.