Protesters: It’s called a permit


On Tuesday, our nation went to the polls and elected Donald J. Trump, president. This was the culmination of over 18 months of the most divisive, corrosive presidential campaign in American history. For 18 months, Americans have been bombarded by a 24-hour continuous election cycle on the news, protests at rallies, commercials and mailers leading to an election day that Americans on both sides of the aisle couldn’t wait to get over with. While we all sought the return of some sense of normality, it appears that thousands of youths didn’t get the message, and took to the streets in protests the very next day.

{mosads}Following the election, those dissatisfied with the outcome took to the streets. The truth is, most of the protesters interviewed by local news sources identified themselves as college students, which makes me wonder if they passed their prerequisite middle and high school government classes before taking to the streets. If this sounds harsh, I apologize, but our veterans have fought and died for the last 240 years so that Americans can voice their opinion in the most effective way possible – by voting for their leaders. This vote was held less than 24 hours before the protests commenced, and the protesters are angry with the choice the majority of their fellow countrymen made. Instead of respecting this process and their neighbors’ views, they went on social media and decided to protest in our streets without a permit.

In addressing these protests on social media, I was greeted with a barrage of social justice warriors who stated it was their first amendment right to protest. While this statement in and of itself is true, the gatherings were taking over and marching on streets and public spaces in some of America’s largest cities. This is not covered under the first amendment without first obtaining a permit. None of the protests in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Seattle were permitted. Therefore, these gatherings were unlawful. For those thinking “does it matter if they were peaceful?”, the answer is in considering the objective of the protests and their impact to the community. 

Think about the protests that occurred in “battleground states”. Many of the big cities in these states were in the “rust belt”, so many of their citizens are working class and crime is abnormally high. The people in these cities, like many Americans struggle to make ends meet while balancing work and family. These citizens have been subject to a constant stream of motorcades and special events that have negatively impacted traffic in their areas. Philadelphia, for example, had suffered its tenth transit strike, daily motorcade, rallies and protests in the span of just the last week. The protesters taking to the streets against President-elect Trump fancy themselves as champions of the poor, minorities, and the downtrodden, but then stage an unlawful march down Broad street in the evening rush hour on the one day where people planned to get home on time to their families. 

Now consider this; when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was the presumptive front-runner for the GOP nomination at the beginning of the campaign, his Presidential hopes were dashed by the “bridgegate” scandal in where his aides intentionally marred traffic on the George Washington Bridge. These aides have since been convicted of crimes linked to this scandal, which was brought to bear because of public safety concerns rising from the increased traffic in the area. However, the last two years have seen a dramatic increase in unlawful, un-permitted protests on city streets. Whether these protests are anti-Trump, Black Lives Matter, or for other issues, many of them were not legally permitted. The same principles apply as Ambulances can’t get through and tough neighborhoods are robbed of valuable police resources that are sent to monitor these protests.

Even more concerning is the tone and reasoning for these protests. President Obama himself said “The peaceful transition of power is one of the hallmarks of our democracy” and even Hillary Clinton called her supporters to optimistically see what happens and come together as a nation. Regardless of our nation’s democratic leaders calling for unity, thousands hit the streets representing a myriad of social identity interests from immigration to women’s rights to LGBTQ rights chanting “Not our President”. 

Eight years ago, I recall watching Barack Obama get elected President. I did not vote for him, having reservations with his inexperience and connections to the unethical Daley political machine in Chicago. However, as an American who went to school and worked in public service, I told everyone I was with to give him a chance and see what happens. There were no protests, marches, or chants. We did what Americans do within the law and when the majority of Americans had issue with his policies, we took to the polls and elected checks and balances in the midterm elections. 

This was not done the day after Trump took office. A protester in Los Angeles called for violence in the media, stating “people must die to make a change” before yelling “Stop separating our families, he’s [Trump] breaking up our families”. First, as he hasn’t even been inaugurated yet, he hasn’t separated any families yet. Second, it is illegal to take to the streets in an unlawful protest and call for violence. As someone who has had the unfortunate duty of standing guard with the D.C. Metropolitan Police during a KKK rally through a predominantly African American city I can say with legal and moral standing that if the tables were turned, there would be a justified law enforcement response to these unlawful protests.  

The truth is, these protests are a direct result of a lack of negative consequences. Since the police shooting in Ferguson, MO, members of loose social justice movements online have seen little to no arrests or prosecutions for unlawful protests. Furthermore, these protests show even more alarming cultural phenomena in where the protesters are taking to the streets with no clear goal or demand in mind. The election was a day before, and the votes are clear that the candidate the protesters voted for lost. What is the goal of protesting? He hasn’t taken office yet, nor has he done anything worthy of impeachment; so he can’t be removed. He hasn’t created public policy based on his caustic campaign rhetoric (yet), so there’s no law or executive order to repeal. Therefore, protesters see it fit to unlawfully paralyze America’s cities at rush hour because they are dealing with a political loss. Losing, however, is part of growing up. It teaches you to improve for the next time. It is ironic that the generation widely reflected when looking at these protesters is the same that grew up in schools that are awarding trophies to all participants, and limits traditional methods of competition. Therefore, these protesters need to learn to deal with their loss by taking a deep breath and having the patience to see what President-elect Trump does with our government (vs. what he said in his campaign), and if he doesn’t perform acceptably to them, they can organize and legislate accordingly; starting in two years with the midterm elections.

Again, if permits are not applied for, these protests are unlawful. However, my sources inside the NYPD, New Orleans, Seattle and Philadelphia Police Departments tell me that the Mayors’ offices of their cities are instructing the police not to clear streets and make arrests, for reasons relating to ‘political optics’. In looking at ‘political optics’, however, how do you think it looks when cities that are all run by Democratic Mayors are allowing these protests to grow and become more dangerous for their cities. Regardless of the politics behind the enforcement of these laws, it is imperative for our leaders to do so and enforce negative consequences to these unlawful protests. 

Mannes is a national subject matter expert in public safety and regular contributor to The Hill. He serves as a member of the Pierce College Criminal Justice Studies Advisory Board in Philadelphia and is a Governor on the Executive Board of InfraGard, the FBI-coordinated public-private partnership for critical infrastructure protection. Follow him on Twitter @PublicSafetySME


The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.





Tags Barack Obama Black Lives Matter campaign Donald Trump Election Hillary Clinton Protests
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