Trump lawyers claim citizens have ‘no right’ to protest at campaign rallies
The constitution affords protesters “no right” to express dissenting views at the campaign rally of a political candidate they oppose, Donald Trump’s lawyers argued in a legal filing Thursday. By this logic, the protesters suing Trump for inciting violence at his rallies were actually interfering with Trump’s first amendment right to organize a campaign rally and “choose the contents of [its] own message.” Because that makes sense.
The filing is the Trump administration’s latest attempt to evade liability for assault and battery at a Louisville campaign rally in 2016. Three victims sued the Trump fans responsible, along with Trump for inciting the violence. The white nationalists behind the attacks also submitted court filings arguing that Trump incited their actions.
Trump’s legal team originally claimed that his command to the Louisville crowd to “Get ‘em out of here,” in reference to protesters, was directed at security, and that Trump was not subject to liability for “negligently” speaking at his own rally. A Louisville district court judge rejected the argument, so now the president’s attorneys are attacking the protesters’ right to attend the rally in the first place.
“Like any other private assembly to achieve ideological goals, political campaigns have a core First Amendment right to associate for the purpose of expressing a particular message, which necessarily includes the right to ‘exclu[de] . . . views [that] [a]re at odds with positions [the campaign] espouse[s].’ … Of course, protestors have their own First Amendment right to express dissenting views, but they have no right to do so as part of the campaign rally of the political candidates they oppose. Indeed, forcing the ‘private organizers’ of a political rally to accept everyone ‘who wish[es] to join in with some expressive demonstration of their own’ would ‘violate the fundamental rule of protection under the First Amendment, that a speaker has the autonomy to choose the content of his own message.'”
Did you get that? Expressing dissent at a political campaign rally violates the candidate’s right to organize an event completely free of dissent. In turn, violence against protesters doesn’t interfere with protesters’ free speech because those protections doesn’t extend within the bounds of a campaign rally they’re not allowed to protest. It’s a creative and sinister recipe for criminalizing political opposition and formally flattening campaign events into sites of spectacle rather than discourse.
There’s a name for that type of government. It’s on the tip of my tongue…
[h/t: Politico | photo: Getty]