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?


Protest Inside the Corporate Castles and Behind the Government Walls

New Orleans   If you ever wondered whether mass protests bring social change or just more miles on your wrist FitBit, the evidence of the protests’ impact whether the Women’s March or the mass airport actions around the Trump travel ban are now everywhere including inside corporate castles and behind the walls of government throughout the country.

Perhaps there were no surprises that some of the hipper set of tech companies were quickly forced to get in formation with the protests. More than 127 of them joined the Amicus brief in arguments to the Appeals Court to freeze the ban. Many were caught in a double bind between their employees and the fact they depend on easy entry of foreigner labor for a portion of their best-and-brightest talent. But, other tech companies, less cutting edge and more mainstream, are feeling the heat as well. Almost 1000 “verified” IBM employees signed a petition to their CEO demanding that the company refuse any contract that would restrict American rights and liberties. Several young women who were part of a new acquisition by Cisco began a similar petition, and women seemed to be leading many of these inside challenges.

This is not an isolated phenomenon. More than 1000 State Department workers had earlier signed a “dissent” cable around concerns around the travel ban and the diminishment of core American values. Justice Department officials jumped on their swords on the same issue.

Five members of the Super Bowl winning New England Patriots have said they will not be traveling to the White House for the ceremonial photo op, because they do not feel welcome. Steph Curry, the NBA MVP for the last two years, and a spokesman for the Under Armour athletic wear company said he would walk away from a multi-million dollar contract with the company until the CEO backtracked from his overzealous comments seeming to give a blanket endorsement to Trump. Steve Kerr, his coach at the Golden State Warriors, said essentially that these are times of protest when players need to speak out.

Other companies from Wall Street to Main Street are hunkering down and caught between crazy at the White House and concerns expressed in employee meetings, emails, and local watering holes. Workers are scrubbing social media posts and going encrypted for conversations because of concern about increased surveillance in the new era.

This is what social change looks like. Long hair on the street and suddenly even CEOs have hair over their ears and collars. Pantsuits and low heels start showing up and ties are left at home. Those who were always quiet realize that threats to home, family, community, and country are real enough that silence is no longer acceptable.

When protest leaps over the walls and goes viral, popping up everywhere and anywhere, a tipping point may be reached where the forces of change can’t be stopped and there is a culture shift that legitimizes all protest. When all Americans believe they now have to protect American’s values and reputation, no government is secure.