Free Speech and Violence

Note: This post is not from Jennet Kirkpatrick. I’m posting it for a student who had some technological difficulties.


Was this a fair and accurate way for the Arizona Republic to report President Trump’s rally in Phoenix with the subsequent violence that followed? I think not. I was not at the rally, but I followed the coverage from all 3 of our local networks on TV. The reporting from the local networks were considerably different, but they all showed what I considered an exemplary example of how political support and protest should be conducted. I viewed in “live time” thousands of pro-Trump and never-Trump citizens gather and make it clear what their feelings were. Much of the coverage showed the President speaking, then to the audience, and then showed what was happening outside the convention center.

The people at the Convention Center were vociferous but had peaceful declarations of different political ideologies. The majority of the signs were tasteful with most of them most advocating love, and some actually clever and humorous. However the problem area was a couple blocks away. There was not nearly as large of a crowd, but were predominantly ‘Anti-Trumpers’. The signage more hateful; not as clever but seemingly peaceful. The Phoenix Police Department appeared to be well organized and doing a good job of crowd control at both sites. then A few antagonists (some wearing masks even) started trying to insight violence.

Unfortunately they succeeded and the police reacted, as they were instructed. They used nonlethal measures (tear gas and pepper spray) to disburse the entire crowd, in order to prevent serious personal and property damage. As is often the case, there were non-violent protesters who were affected, many had no idea what the police actions were in reaction to. I saw some standing with their hands in the air yelling “don’t shoot”, when there had been no display of firearms by the police. I even saw others attempting to cause physical harm to the law enforcement personnel by hurling objects at them.

Given what we have witnessed in other protests gone bad, I feel this outcome was very favorable. Emerson urged followers to be non-conformists and to not to be hesitant to voice your objections. He recognized that your actions can be misunderstood, whether it be peaceful or violent. Many of the news outlets focused on the relative small sample of violence. In the AZ Republic’s case using the front page to show the police department looking like storm troopers marching toward an apparently innocent lone individual, and not showing any of those individuals initiating violence. I found no pictures showing the large crowds behaving properly. I did not see any pictures of so called Antifi members dressed in black clothing who came prepared with gas masks seemingly knowing they could provoke law enforcement to use tear gas.

This appeared to be yet another tactic of the mainstream media, in this case the Arizona Republic, to sell more newspapers. By focussing on the anarchists and there by giving them the attention and stage that they seek, greatly diminished the overwhelming numbers of citizens who attended the rally to exercise their rights to free speech.

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5 Responses to Free Speech and Violence

  1. Pete says:

    The Phoenix Police department released security footage of the pre and post rally violence. It would
    appear that the majority of the anti Trump protesters were attempting to get those bent on violence to leave, I could hear chants of ‘please go home’ and ‘peaceful protest’ directed at dressed in black agitators. It was clear that non-police tear gas canisters were being thrown at law enforcement before they had they had even put their masks on. I saw the front line of police stand there when full water bottles were thrown at them while they just stood their ground allowing others to protect citizens on both sides of the streets.I contend that the news coverage was more about sensationalism than accurate reporting and therefor continued to give the self identified Antifi exactly the platform they were seeking.

  2. Kevin says:

    Its one thing to protest and have your voice heard that’s what partaking in the political process is all about, however, one needs to make an informed decision about what constitutes peace assembly and outright violent intolerant acts against political opponents. The anarchists have more of a destroy current societal structure with there own version of America mindset. While both Left-wing and Right-wing groups protest and defend the President, the violence is meant to stifle true protests against current political powers. The anarchist must not mistaken someone disagreeing with their views as being intolerant.

  3. Daniel Rubio says:

    I agree that the media definitely played up the violence there. I was in the crowd at the protest and I agree it was mostly peaceful. Towards the end, as I was leaving, things turned ugly. Anarchist protestors definitely appeared with the intention of inciting violence and threw bottles, rocks, and even fireworks at police until they responded with tear gas to disperse the crowd (which I felt was a very reasonable response given the spiraling situation). But overall, I found the police to have done a good job handling the situation. To me, the protest represents a major flaw in civic republican thought: It is hard to build the nation has a community if we resort to base tactics such as yelling and violence towards each other. It seems much of our political discourse these days has revolves around provoking a reaction from the other sides base. The media (as shown by your example) exacerbates this situation. There’s always a lot of talk about a left or right-wing bias in mainstream media, but I tend to think the bias leans towards spectacle and controversy; a bias towards selling ads if you will. This isn’t to downplay actual political leanings of media outlets, but I think much of the problems that prevent us from having a more civic republican approach to politics right now stem from a media and social predilection towards controversy. Everyone loves drama and it sells, but it does not make for a functional democracy when the incentives are as perverse as they are now.

  4. Landon says:

    As you said in your blog there are multiple sides to a story and a majority of the time the story that gets covered is attempting to make one of the sides look like the bad guy or potentially draw in a bigger crowd. A political rally is always something that will have two different groups of strong supporters. With freedom of speech technically anyone can say anything but some people act on what is being said because they do not know how to handle their emotions. Also like you mentioned the police were just doing there job and trying to do crowd control but now a days in media a most of the time people are assuming that the authorities are abusing power. Obviously in situations like rallies they have exact orders that they need to follow because it’s a different kind of circumstance and should be treated differently. The closing paragraph was perfect and concluded everything point that needed to be mentioned.

  5. samiomais says:

    I find it interesting how like you, I also took issue with the Arizona Republic’s front page reporting of the Phoenix Trump protests, but for a very different reason. The first thing that grabbed my attention was the headline “Violence Erupts,” which I felt was very misleading, as my examination of the evidence lead me to conclude that the Police unjustifiably initiated violence against the protesters. In contrast, you focused on the picture beneath the headline, which you interpreted as depicting the police in a negative way, who you felt had actually done a good job.

    So I saw bias against the protesters, while you saw bias against the police. We both critically analyzed the media’s reporting, but arrived at very different conclusions.

    Although I can’t prove it, I suspect that if someone wanted to explain how and why we came to different conclusions, despite looking at the same sources, they would attribute it to our pre-conceived political biases. This can be a reminder of the importance of being aware of one’s own biases, and how not cross-referencing our analysis of something (in this case, a newspaper’s front page) with others can cause us to mistaken our personal, ideologically-tinted interpretation for fact.

    Anyways, thanks for the post, I enjoyed learning your perspective.

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