Tiki Torches Torch Race Relations in Rowdy Riot
August 22, 2017
On Saturday, Aug.12, violence broke out in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia. It began with a group of white supremacists, Neo-Nazis, and members of the Ku Klux Klan protesting against the removal of a Confederate monument. However, their protest was counter-protested by those in support of the statue’s removal, due to the fact that it represented a pro-slavery ideology, racism and anti-semitic views. The protests came to a climax when a 20-year-old man named James Alex Fields crashed a car into the mob of protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Hayes and injuring 19 other people. It should also be known that throughout the protests, many small skirmishes broke out between the two groups of protesters, more often instigated by the anti-Nazi protesters. And while the ideology of the alt-right protesters is not shared by or condoned by most, it is well within their right to protest as they did, up to a point.
“I think everyone has a right to protest whatever they believe, I don’t think that sometimes protests are done correctly, and sometimes they become very violent, and although I don’t agree with their ideology, you have to be tolerant of everybody,” senior Paula Marroquin said.
In this case, the protesters became unprotected by their rights to protest when they became violent. “Freedom of speech, of the press, of association, of assembly and petition- this set of guarantees, protected by the First Amendment, comprises what we refer to as freedom of expression,” states the ACLU. In addition, the Huffington Post states that freedom of expression is only to be limited when the expression incites violence, which means that the protests carried out by the Neo-Nazis were protected by the law, but the protests against them were not. Although the Neo-Nazi protests were hateful and anger-filled, they did not commit acts of violence, while what has become known as the “alt-left” did. To clarify, the alt-left is usually described as a group of people who feel “threatened” by or hateful of the alt-right. Such hatefulness leads the alt-left to commit acts of violence against the alt-right. The most notable organization in this group is the anti-fascist organization aptly named Antifa. On many occasions, they have had members incarcerated for committing acts of violence against others- most notably Eric Clanton, who was arrested for hitting people in the head with a bike lock at an anti-Trump rally in Berkeley. In essence, while the alt-right carries the racist and bigoted views, the alt-left is responsible for the majority of the violence. This is largely due to the fact that they see themselves as protectors of those that the Neo-Nazis hate, like Jewish and black people, and as with many cases of a protector-perceived aggressor relationship, violence is common.
“I support the alt-right’s right to gather, but I don’t support their right to incite to violence,” sophomore Joaquin Bierman said.
Despite the alt-left being responsible for most of the violence, the alt-right is more likely to be seen as the more violent group. Their viewpoints are viewed as racist, many are in support of the actions of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party and they are in general the more “hateful” group. For that reason, some people may say that the actions of the alt-right were unlawful and those of the alt-left were lawful.
The reality is to the contrary. When putting aside personal beliefs and biases, it can be seen that the alt-right’s protests are lawful, protected under the law, and should, therefore, be allowed to continue for as long as anyone wants to peacefully continue them. On the other hand, the alt-left’s counter-protests are often violent and therefore unprotected under freedom of expression.
However, in the case that the counter-protests become peaceful, they will fully be protected by law. With peace perhaps the two groups will be more likely to reach peaceful and productive agreements or compromises that would greatly help our fractured nation.