So let me say what I think should be obvious. As much as I think Trump is an unacceptable choice for President, and as much as I question the wisdom (and integrity) of a large portion of his supporters, I do not think they should be subject to physical violence for supporting Trump, or for attending a Trump rally. The end. That is not the way politics is done in a democracy. Even if people are marching in a literal KKK rally, they have the right to not be assaulted.
However, let’s not indulge the fantasy that Trump supporters are completely passive victims of a liberal conspiracy to physically intimidate them from exercising their constitutional rights. See, in a Democracy, people also have the right to peacefully protest Donald Trump rallies. That right includes the right to say things that are offensive to Trump supporters (just the same way that Trump’s comments offend the protesters). The right to free assembly and free speech is a two way street. And by far the largest share of the physical violence that has erupted during this campaign season has been instigated by Trump supporters and directed at nonviolent protesters.
For instance, a couple weeks ago in San Diego, before the ugly San Jose scene (for which the San Jose PD bears no small amount of blame), Trump supporters were caught on film pepper spraying non violent protesters. You can see from this video that the protester in question is exchanging words with a Trump supporter in a non violent fashion. The crowd shifts and the protester trips and falls to the ground. Two Trump supporters pull out their pepper spray and began indiscriminately pepper spraying everyone on the “protester” side of the line.
Or, a few weeks ago, when this protester, who you can clearly see is not using violence, threats, or intimidation at all, was attacked by Trump supporters at a Trump rally:
— Kate Seckinger (@KateSeckinger) April 11, 2016
Or this protester, peacefully holding up a protest sign (and actually leaving the venue) who was sucker punched and kicked by a Trump supporter:
Or who can forget this Trump supporter who sucker punched a protester in the face while the protester was being escorted out of a North Carolina rally by police:
Or when Trump supporters pushed this nonviolent protester to the ground, and punched and kicked him:
— Jeremy Diamond (@JDiamond1) November 21, 2015
The list, really, could go on and on.
And where do you suppose that Trump supporters might have gotten the idea that behaving this way was okay?
The scene in San Jose was ugly and inexcusable. The protesters at Trump rallies have clearly gone too far in a number of instances and no one deserves to be assaulted for attending a Trump rally.
But this is a two way street. If the Trumpkins are going to loudly demand that everyone respect their exercise of their First Amendment rights (and they should!) then they should be equally loud at denouncing the behavior of those on their own side who have crossed this line with the protesters who are exercising their first amendment rights.
Not only is this not happening, so far as I can tell, but Trump himself refuses any and all calls to encourage his own supporters to be more peaceful and respectful of non-violent protesters, in fact, he repeatedly does the opposite.
This is a horrible election, and there’s plenty of blame to go around for the increasing chaos at Trump rallies. Some of that lands on Trump himself.