Trump still entitled to freedom of speech

Royal Purple Staff Opinion

March 29, 2016

Donald Trump is scheduled to roll through Janesville on Tuesday afternoon and following suit with his previous rallies around the country, protests against the billionaire real estate tycoon are set to take place in response.

As of Monday morning, a Facebook event titled “Janesville Trump Protest” recorded more than 1,200 people pledged to be outside the Janesville Conference Center in protest, with another 2,200 “interested” in attending.

It’s no secret the Royal Purple does not endorse Trump. After all, the man has said we need to “open up libel laws” so that he can more easily sue the press and “win lots of money” (and we haven’t exactly said kind things about him). But setting all that aside, we want to make something explicitly clear to students and anyone else who plans on protesting Trump’s event: he is just as entitled to his freedom of speech as anyone else.

Even if you find the man’s policies to be racist, sexist, misogynistic, bigoted – even downright abhorrent – he should still be allowed to speak and share his opinions and policies with whomever he chooses, and his supporters are entitled to hear him speak also. That’s the marketplace of ideas; it’s what our First Amendment is founded on.

Trump can go on and on about torturing terrorists, monitoring predominantly Muslim neighborhoods and building a giant wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and he should be able to do so without the fear or threat of violence. At the end of the day, they’re just ideas, and they’ll have to compete against other progressive and conservative notions.

We as a society then have the power to choose which ideas are best, and our elected representatives are supposed to implement them as policy. But we should never be intent on or content with silencing someone simply because we disagree with them. That’s one of the most un-American actions we could possibly partake in.

Take what happened earlier this month, for example. Trump had to cancel an event at the University of Illinois at Chicago because of security concerns after violent skirmishes between tens of thousands of protestors and supporters broke out in downtown Chicago. CNN reported that protestors chanted “We stopped Trump” after the event was cancelled.

While some protestors celebrated the cancellation as a victory, the silencing of a political speech should be lamented by all political parties as a gross step in the wrong direction for the freedom of speech and our country. We sincerely hope the same does not occur in Janesville.

Even though Trump seems intent on reducing the First Amendment rights of journalists, we’ll gladly stand up for his. Because whenever political discourse is threatened by violence, everyone loses. Put it this way: if no one stands up for Trump’s right to free speech now, someone might come for ours as well.

And it’s not as if Trump is absolved of all blame for violent reactions to his events. After all, this is a man who has a history of inciting violence against dissenters at his speeches and rallies. Earlier this month, at a rally in Warren, Michigan, Trump said about one protestor, “Yeah, get him out. Try not to hurt him. If you do, I’ll defend you in court, don’t worry about it.”

This presidential race is being plagued by a mob mentality on both sides of the political spectrum that threatens to undermine the democratic principles that this country was founded on – principles that both parties claim to love and support.

Trump and his supporters think they can transcend political correctness and dispel protestors and America’s problems with force. And on the other end, protestors assume Trump and his supporters don’t deserve a voice because they disagree with them.

The preservation of political discourse should be exigent to both sides, and we hope those ideals are reflected in Janesville this week.

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