Jan 20, 2017 Peaceful dissent must eclipse the inaugural violence and police must exercise restraint
Today was the eight presidential inauguration since I moved to the capital area for law school. I have attended none of them. For all his faults, Jimmy Carter’s inauguration I would have attended — and I stayed home from school to watch it on television before we had YouTube instant replays — because of his stronger devotion than other presidents to human rights, using caution before unholstering our arsenals, and honest and decent government.
When I woke up this morning, I resolved not to blog about the inauguration or Donald Trump. I have blogged my main piece about Trump, Hillary Clinton’s being a military hawk and no prize, and my voting in the primary for Bernie Sanders more out of revulsion for Hillary than any love of Bernie.
Various mindfulness teachers offered a peaceful and mindful alternative to being upset over Trump’s occupancy of the White House, with Lama Surya Das reminding us to start with cultivating our inner peace, meditation retreats and group sitting opportunities (see here, here and here). Had I not been so busy working hither and yon today in the courthouse and jail across the street, I would have loved to have joined them, but the taijiquan did the trick, together with my remembering always to keep my eyes on the prize in every battle, and with my batteries recharged every time I watch this great saloon defense scene by David Carradine in the Kung Fu television pilot, where he gets no more angry at his racist attacker than at an avalanche. He simply neutralizes his unawakened attacker.
Now I write about the inauguration because I am saddened that this is the first inauguration in my three decades in the capital area when I have heard about violent protest, including rock/brick throwing at police (and here a bottle after the police used mace), vandalism of business windows near my first law firm (three blocks from the White House) and a torched limousine, setting fires and putting fires onto the street, and blocking people’s rightful path at numerous entry points of the inauguration. At least around 100 were arrested; I do not know how many of those were simply demonstrating peacefully or simply present and still peaceful. The District of Columbia Superior Court and United States District Court for the District of Columbia now will handle bond hearings for the arrested, and set trial dates. All the defendants are entitled to their full Constitutional protections and access to effective assistance of trial counsel.
When challenged with violence and vandalism, law enforcement are all the more tested not to use excessive force, and not to let their fears and even anger get the best of them. Video caught police throwing Washington Post journalist Dalton Bennett to the ground, seemingly for no good reason. What police misconduct did video not catch?
Police used flash bangs and pepper spray, hopefully with restraint, and hopefully restraining themselves at all times.
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees robust free expression rights, with peaceful dissent against the government and its leaders at the very core of First Amendment rights. Trump has consistently been a polarizing figure starting from the Republican primary, and the nationwide protests today were to be expected, at least at the peaceful, non-vandalistic level that does not block the path of Trump supporters nor of those wanting to attend the inauguration.
Those who did not simply protest peacefully have their own agenda, sadly.
My office and home are in Virginia, fifteen miles from the White House. Tomorrow starts the weekend, and the Women’s March on Washington, which is open to men as well. Hopefully tomorrow will bring a fresh start to counteract today’s beginning of four years of the surreal, brought on by a combination of the choice of those who voted, and the lack of enough resolve by those who opposed Trump to make sure they voted and to urge and help others to do the same. Tomorrow, the violence and vandalism likely will subside (update– see here on the uplifting and peaceful Women’s March on Washington) — at least by Trump opponents — hopefully for good.