Don’t bet on it.
One of the questions surrounding Donald Trump recently is whether or not he is responsible for the violence that surrounds his rallies. An event in Chicago had to be cancelled, and reports of supporters attacking protesters have become more frequent of late. Now comes a report that authorities in Fayetteville, North Carolina, are considering whether or not to charge Trump with inciting violence.
— WRAL NEWS in NC (@WRAL) March 14, 2016
From the story linked in the tweet:
Last week, Trump visited Concord and Fayetteville in rallies that attracted thousands of attendees. During the rally in Fayetteville, a protester was assaulted as he was escorted from Crown Coliseum by police. A Linden man was later charged in the incident, and Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office investigators said Monday that they are considering filing a charge of inciting a riot against Trump.
The Fayetteville incident preceded an even uglier scene at a Trump rally in Chicago. He canceled an event planned for Saturday evening after supporters and protesters who packed a hall at the University of Illinois at Chicago clashed.
However, The Daily Beast is reporting that the WRAL story is untrue.
According to Sgt. Sean Swain, a department spokesman, Sheriff Kevin J. Joyce appeared on a local radio show earlier Monday and was asked whether the department had looked into applying the state’s riot laws against Trump—it was something “they had looked at,” Joyce reportedly said. However, Swain told The Daily Beast, Trump’s actions ultimately did not fit the statute. “We would have made the charges by now” if that were the case, the spokesman added.
The problem here is two-fold:
- If it happens, this will result in more press for Trump, good and bad, and will be seen as an attack on his freedom of speech.
- It will open up a whole new can of worms regarding Trump’s supporters, because the media will definitely talk about Brandenburg v. Ohio, a Supreme Court First Amendment case that involved the KKK.
It’s very unlikely that anyone can prove Trump is inciting violence, based on video currently available. However, that doesn’t mean we aren’t very far away from someone trying in the near future. This question doesn’t pop up in an interview in a vaccum, after all.