It’s now literally illegal to protest at a Trump rally. Demonstrators against the Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump are now finding their First Amendment rights violated. Simply protesting where Trump’s bigoted supporters come together to pat each other on the back for their leader’s vitriolic hate speeches, is considered a crime.
Normally, a protester could be “trespassed” from private events and property, if they refused to leave the premises. Of course, simply being on private property, opened to the public is not trespassing. One has to be informed that they are not welcome there, and they then have to refuse to leave.
One could not, for instance, be charged with trespassing for stepping foot on someone’s front yard. But if they refuse to leave after being told to, then that is the normative understanding of trespassing.
As such, protesters often plan to get “trespassed” from Trump rallies, which under normal circumstances in American law should not be regarded as a criminal offense, provided they leave when directed to leave by security or law enforcement.
But Trump has taunted protestors for being other ethnicities or religions, and has kicked people out for simply standing there with Islamic headcovering or the like, even if they didn’t say a word, or otherwise violate the rules set down by the place where the event was being hosted.
For example, at a recent Trump rally at Valdosta State University in Georgia a group of African American students was ejected before the rally even began, even though they had not said a word. Just their mere presence – being black – was enough to constitute “illegal protest.”
The Trump campaign lied and said they didn’t tell police to remove the African American students, but a video recorded by a witness proved that was a lie. The campaign asked law enforcement to remove the students from the building, even though they hadn’t said a word.
“All I know is, the Trump staff has asked—they’re the ones that rented the building today…and they’ve asked that you be removed from the property,” an officer can be heard saying in the video.
One woman asks why they were singled out, and the officer replies, “I don’t know; the staff called us.”
In an open letter, Dr. Cecil P. Staton, the interim president of the University, said informed us that “current federal law (H.R. 347) does not allow for protesting of any type in an area under protection by the Secret Service.”
It sounds insane, but as the Intercept points out, he’s 100% correct:
“When the federal law on trespass was quietly amended—it is a crime, punishable by up to a year in prison, to “knowingly impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions” in locations guarded by the Secret Service, including places where individuals under Secret Service protection are temporarily located—the revised statute made it “easier for the government to criminalize protest.”
Trump was assigned Secret Service protection back in November. That means if you protest at his rallies, even if you haven’t broken any specific law, it is now a crime punishable by imprisonment.
The government claims that “Freedom of Speech” does not apply – not because of private property – but because a demonstrator is “knowingly impeding or disrupting the orderly conduct” of an “official function.”
Unless and until his Secret Service protection is revoked, simply protesting – even silently – at his functions, is a crime that could get you locked up.
The question now is, what are we going to do about this brazen violation of the Constitution and our First Amendment rights?
(Article by M. David)