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  • awertheimer

Opinion: this is it

Note: The following article is an opinion piece. The beliefs expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other faculty, staff, or students at Olivet College or WOCR, other than the author. The author welcomes any civilized response, be it posted in the comments below, in a separate article, or via other means, so long as that response is respectful and follows the Olivet College Compact. Again, this is my opinion, not the opinion of Olivet College or any other faculty, staff, or students.

The president used police to restrict the First Amendment rights of Americans.

The president used police to restrict the First Amendment rights of Americans.

The president used police to restrict the First Amendment rights of Americans.

I really do not know of any other way to describe what happened in Washington D.C. two days ago. Peaceful protesters were gathered in front of St. John's church on Monday to protest police brutality and the murder of George Floyd. Police descended on them before the local curfew went into effect and fired flashbangs and tear gas into the crowd. Let me emphasize that these protestors were peaceful. They did not riot, they did not throw bottles, they did not attack police. Unless you believe that all of the journalists, protestors, and clergy members are lying, then you must accept the fact that the president ordered police to attack unarmed, peaceful protesters.

Why did he do this you ask? Because he wanted to stand in front of the church--the so called Church of Presidents--and hold a Bible up for the cameras. For a photo-op. He used violence to clear out lawful protesters for a photo-op. He didn't pray. He didn't go inside. This was purely cosmetic. Religion should have no place in politics, period. But, even if you believed that Trump is a true Christian, here is your proof otherwise. He doesn't care about religion or God or the clergy. He cares about looking good. He tear gassed clergy members to hold a Bible in front of a church. The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, Mariann E. Budde, said that church officials were not informed of the visit, and she denounced Trump's use of the Bible as a prop.

While Trump's willingness to fake spiritual piety is deplorable, it is the secondary issue here. It does not matter that the police warned the protestors three times. These people were peacefully demonstrating, and were driven from the area with flashbangs and tear gas so that the president could have photos taken. The president used police to restrict the First Amendment rights of Americans, so it is important to take a second to review those rights.

The First Amendment reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

These people were peaceably assembling and petitioning the government for a redress of grievances. And the president had them forcibly stopped. This is happening everywhere. Peaceful college students are being tased and pulled from their car, journalists are being targeted by police for reporting on the protests, and police are ramming cars into protestors.

There are people taking advantage of the demonstrations to incite violence, but the majority of participants are peaceful. In some cases, such as the people in front of St John's, the police attack totally peaceful protestors. Not mostly, not kind of, but totally peaceful protestors. And, frankly, the police do not have the right to attack peaceful demonstrators because some people are violent. The police have a hard job, and I respect them for it. I want every officer to come home safe. The majority of officers do their jobs well. But enough abuse their power so as to require addressing. Some officers have handled these protests correctly, such as Flint's Sheriff Chris Swanson, who took off his riot gear, set down his baton, and marched with the protestors. No one got hurt. There was no violence. That is a good police officer. There are others, and I believe they are the majority. But there are too many on the opposite end of the spectrum to ignore.

Here it is laid bare: Black Americans are being killed by police in this country, and the murderers are not being punished. Racism has not disappeared in America, it has hidden itself. The police are not all to blame here. We have a society that values black lives less than white lives. It is an invisible racism that comes out in subconscious bias and prejudice. None of us are immune, and until we admit that this is the truth, then nothing will change. This racism is reflected in the police department, and because these officers carry guns, the encounters turn deadly. Until we change the society, we will continue to have tragedy. Which brings me to Black Lives Matter.

Black Lives Matter. Not All Lives Matter, because obviously they do. It is a pretty sad day in America where our bar is set so low that we have to recognize that all lives matter. Everyone can agree with that. The implication of Black Lives Matter is that there is a 'too' at the end. Black Lives Matter, Too. They don't matter more than white lives, and vice versa. All Lives Matter implies that the Black Lives Matter movement is arguing that black lives matter more than white lives. They don't. They are equal. But until we start acting like that is the truth, the Black Lives Matter movement should, will, and must persist. All Lives Matter is cowardly. It refuses to face the facts. Black people are being disproportionately murdered by police officers and vigilantes, so it seems it is necessary to point out that Black Lives Matter. Understood? Good.

We should be able to say all of this outside, peacefully. And people are trying. But the police have continually escalated the protests into violence.

This is it.

This is the turning point for democracy in this country. The police will not let us exercise our right to peaceably assemble and petition the Government for a redress of grievances. The president wants to "dominate" the streets.

Are you listening?! Are you listening?!

This is totalitarian rule. You want to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave? This is what it takes. Telling the police we will not allow them to murder our fellow Americans. But it seems that we cannot do that. These attacks by the police have escalated, with the egregious violation of the First Amendment in front of St. John's being just the latest atrocity.

You really believe this is nothing?

You really believe this is all blown out of proportion?

You really think Trump is defending you?

Maybe you can tell yourself that for now. But this is what dictatorships look like. The inability to criticize the police and the government. The president using military force to quell peaceful protests.

Maybe you believe he is protecting your rights. But every night before you go to sleep, think about what you are saying. Think about the ideas you are supporting:

"I am fine with the president using the police to restrict the First Amendment rights of Americans."

"Black Lives Do Not Matter."

"I am fine with the president using the police to restrict the First Amendment rights of Americans."

"Black Lives Do Not Matter."

"I am fine with the president using the police to restrict the First Amendment rights of Americans."

"Black Lives Do Not Matter."



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