Opinion - Setting the Record Straight on Recent Presidential Protests
Today, thousands of people assembled in streets around the world to protest the presidency of Donald J. Trump for the fourth straight day in a row.
While the vast majority of the protests have been peaceful, spurts of violence have drawn the attention of the media. Reports of protesters throwing rocks and bottles at police in Santa Ana, stories of property destruction in Oregon, and a video of a physical attack against a Trump supporter in Chicago are a few examples of the recorded violent reactions to Trump’s election.
President-elect Trump responded to the demonstrations by tweeting: "Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!"
Trump’s supporters also perceive these protests as “unfair” because they claim there were no riots following Obama’s election.
According to conservatives on social media, “Republicans have jobs and responsibilities” and therefore couldn’t engage in civil disobedience to voice their discontent with the 2008 and 2012 elections. With this perception of the Obama elections and subsequent claims of “ Republican acceptance,” Trump supporters are now demanding the same “fairness” for Donald J. Trump’s presidency, “We sat through do nothing politics for 8 years, the least they can do is go shut up and sit in the corner for 8 themselves,” on Trump supporter explained.
However, these perceptions do not reflect what actually followed the election of our country’s first black president, much less the difference between why people are protesting Donald J. Trump’s presidency as compared to Barack Obama’s presidency.
Obama’s election in 2008 was preceded and followed by violent attacks and property destruction targeted against minorities.
Kaylon Johnson, an African American campaign worker for Obama, was physically assaulted for wearing an Obama T-shirt in Louisiana following the 2008 election. The three white male attackers shouted “Fuck Obama!” and “Nigger president!” as they broke Johnson’s nose and fractured his eye-socket, requiring surgery.
More frequently, Obama’s presidency was marked by effigies of our first black president hanging from nooses across the country, for example in Kentucky, Washington State, and Maine, or being burned around the world. What Trump supporters fail to remember is that following Obama’s election, property was destroyed across the country, for example in Pennsylvania, Texas, and North Carolina, and a predominately black church was torched in Massachusetts.
In 2008, anti-Obama protesters lashed out against minorities because of their discontentment with a black man being voted into the office of president for the first time in our nation’s history. Conversely, in 2016, anti-Trump protesters are holding mostly peaceful demonstrations because of their discontentment with a man, who has ostracized minorities, being voted into the office of president.
And while anti-Trump protesters have engaged in mostly peaceful demonstrations against the president-elect, pro-Trump supporters have been responsible for a wave of attacks against Muslims, Latinos, blacks, and the LGBT community.
According to Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center civil rights group, there haven’t been “such a rash of hate crimes in the United States since Barack Obama was elected America’s first black president in 2008.” Muslim women are reporting having their hijabs ripped from their heads, while immigrant children are being bullied. Trump’s name and slogan, “Make America Great Again,” are being found alongside swastikas and anti-minority messages in graffiti around the nation.
Ultimately, demonstrators are not protesting Trump because he is Republican. They aren’t protesting him because he is a white male. These protests are because of the bigotry his campaign has emboldened and the fear of discrimination his presidency has the capacity to perpetuate.
Mehlman-Orozco holds a Ph.D. in criminology, law and society from George Mason University, with an expertise in human trafficking. She currently serves as a human trafficking expert witness for criminal cases and her book, “Hidden in Plain Sight: America's Slaves of the New Millennium.” Follow her on Twitter @MehlmanOrozco
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