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  • Writer's pictureCanniget A. Witness

Okay, Donald Trump Does Not Understand How the First Amendment Works

It's hard to even know where to begin, so I'll begin by saying something I wish I didn't have to: the President of the United States has, once again, said something so awful, you almost can't believe he said it. Until you remember who he is, and then you think, 'Well, of course he said it. This is Donald Trump we're talking about.' But some part of you is still shocked because the President of the United States said it, and we usually don't elect people to that office who say such awful, awful things.

So we all know how this began. George Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minnesota on Monday. While taking Floyd into custody, the arresting officer knelt on the back of Floyd's neck while Floyd was lying face down. The police officer knelt there for almost nine minutes. All the while, Floyd was not resisting. But Floyd was telling the officer that he could not breathe. The pressure against Floyd's neck was so strong, and went on for such a long time, that Floyd ultimately suffocated to death.

Understandably, people were outraged about yet another black man dying while in police custody, so some people went out to protest. Some of the protests turned violent, and during the melee, some of the protesters clashed with police.

So why was George Floyd being arrested in the first place, you might ask? He was caught trying to pay for something using a fake twenty dollar bill. I have no idea if he knew the twenty was fake or not. What I do know is that someone called the cops when he tried to use it. I also know that I have a white female friend who was once in a similar situation. She also tried to use a fake twenty dollar bill to pay for something. She did not know it was fake. So what happened to her? The clerk apologized to her, showed her that the twenty was fake, and said that if my friend took it to her bank, they would destroy the fake twenty and give her a real one. The clerk then apologized again, accepted other cash from my friend, bagged her stuff, and thanked her for not getting upset. Welcome to America, folks.

Why is anyone surprised when there are violent protests after yet another black man dies while in police custody? Do we really expect people to call the authorities and invite them over for tea?

So what did our president do when George Floyd was killed? Did he acknowledge that people had a right to be outraged? Did he call for police to stop killing unarmed black men? Of course not. He's Donald Trump. He was concerned with a few protesters who were clashing with police in Minneapolis, and decided to tweet about it. He called them thugs, and offered to call in the National Guard. Then he said that, "when the looting starts, the shooting starts."

Trump later claimed to not know that he was using a phrase made famous by a racist Miami police chief named Walter Headley. Trump said he had heard the phrase for many years, and did not know where it came from. I don't know. I certainly don't think that Trump is a deep thinker. But if it is just a coincidence that Trump was quoting a racist Miami police chief, it's an awfully convenient one.

According to professor Clarence Lusane of Howard University, " [Headley] had a long history of bigotry against the black community. The NAACP and other black organizations had for years complained about the treatment of the black community by Miami police." Professor Lusane said that, "[d]uring a 1967 hearing about what Headley planned to do to handle what he called crime, thugs and threats from young people, he issued this statement that the reason that Miami had not had any riots up to that point, was because of the message he had sent out that, 'when the looting starts, the shooting starts'." Headley of course meant that the cops would be the ones doing the shooting.

So when Trump used that statement in his tweet, it sure as hell sounded as though he was going to send in the National Guard to shoot at protesters.

A lot of people agreed, so they complained to Twitter. Twitter responded by placing a warning label above Trump's tweet, saying that it violated their policy of glorifying violence. Twitter did not remove Trump's tweet, however, because they felt that it was important for people to see it, since he is our president.

Okay, so this is where Trump showed us that he does not understand how the First Amendment works. When the Framers were trying to convince people in colonial America to accept a Constitution, and allow for a central federal government to form, they wrote these articles that have since been called the Federalist Papers. I read them when I was in college. (I doubt that Trump read them, or much of anything else while he was in college, based on how much he has fought to keep his college grades from being released. I would not fight the release of my grades, because my grades were good. Just sayin'.) Anyway, Federalist 10 deals with free speech. It says that the best thing we can do about speech we don't like is to use more speech. So if two people have a disagreement, they can have a discussion about it. And if Trump wants to say horrible things on Twitter, then Twitter has the right to place a warning label above his statements. Twitter can respond to Trump's speech with their own speech. That is how the First Amendment works.

But Trump doesn't understand that. He thinks that the First Amendment applies only to him, not his critics. So he issued an executive order that would make it easier for people to sue Twitter for the content people post on their platform. This move was ironic, since Trump benefits from the current law that shields Twitter from lawsuits over user content. Twitter has allowed Trump to lie and bully people with impunity. Under Trump's executive order, Twitter would have to monitor his account more closely, and would probably have to take some of his tweets down. But that's probably never going to happen, because this executive order is sure to be challenged in the courts, and a court will almost certainly strike it down as violating the First Amendment.

Okay, so what do we do now? We could join in on the protests, but I'm not sure I would advise it, given the fact that we are still in the middle of a pandemic. Angry people in crowds aren't really thinking about social distancing. So we could call our local officials and ask what they are doing to prevent killings of this kind in the future. You could call your mayor, your governor, your county representatives, and your city council members. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, so the more of their constituents tell them that they want something done to stop police brutality, the better.

The rapper, Killer Mike, gave some suggestions during his interview with Stephen Colbert on June 2, 2020. You should watch this interview. It's on you tube. Killer Mike suggested that people donate their time and money to some wonderful organizations who are doing the grass roots, day to day work of working toward racial equality. Here they are: Movement for Black Lives, Next Level Boys' Academy, New Georgia Project, Live Free, and the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. Here are some links, and the name of one website, because for some reason I couldn't make it become a link:

And I don't know about you, but I would much rather get involved in a campaign than simply go to a protest. I mean, protests are fine, but campaigns are more targeted, and have a specific end goal in mind. So I decided to support Joe Biden's campaign. You could do the same. You could throw him a couple of bucks, make some phone calls for him, or send some postcards on his behalf. And all of those things could be done safely from your couch.

Here's a link:

Stay safe, wash your hands, and for God's sake, vote Trump out in November!

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1 Comment

Martin Olson
Martin Olson
Jun 13, 2020

I really like your writing. Your blogs are filled with interesting information I never knew about. Great work, and thanks!

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