Kansas City, Missouri erupted in chaos Saturday when police pepper sprayed protesters outside a rally where Donald Trump was speaking. More than 200 people gathered in the streets to protest the Presidential candidate.
Video from witnesses show peaceful protesters congregating on the sidewalk, lawfully obeying orders. A few moments later, multiple officers deploy blasts of pepper spray onto the unsuspecting crowd.
— Chris (@stokith) March 13, 2016
In a statement on Twitter, the KCPD police chief admitted his officers proactively sprayed protesters out of fear the gathering could grow into a riot. However, to prevent a riot, one might argue that you should NOT do anything to insight people into irrational rage, like pepper spraying them.
KCPD Police Chief admits that the police "proactively" pepper sprayed an entire crowd of innocent people. pic.twitter.com/X8kEXLI8zs
— TC (@tchop__StL) March 13, 2016
This came just a day after Friday’s intense anti-Trump protests in Chicago forced the Presidential candidate to cancel his scheduled rally there. Approximately 1,000 people flooded the streets of Chicago, successfully shutting down the area around the UIC Pavilion where Trump was going to speak. At the protests, police reportedly injured multiple protesters, severely beating one man with a baton, leaving him bloodied, and arrested at least five.
Trump took to twitter to claim the shut down of his protest was a first amendment violation.
The organized group of people, many of them thugs, who shut down our First Amendment rights in Chicago, have totally energized America!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 12, 2016
However, the first amendment, and in fact the entire constitution, protects people only from infringements by the government, not private citizens.
As First Amendment Attorney Samuel Cohen explained to FilmTheCops, “The First Amendment safeguards various individual rights, including freedom of speech and peaceable assembly, from governmental interference; the first amendment rights of a political figure simply cannot be violated by the protests of private citizens, unless those protests are somehow procured by the government.”
What likely is a violation of the first amendment, is the now regularly violent police response to protests at Trump rallies, including the pepper-spraying, baton-striking, and arresting mentioned above – all acts by government agents which interfere with people expressing their first amendment right to free speech and to peaceably gather.
The Chicago police even appear to have violated the constitutional right to freedom of the press while policing the Trump rally in Chicago, arresting CBS reporter Sopan Deb.
Earlier in the week, police also notably ignored a white Trump supporter punching a Black Lives Matter activist in the face, and arrested the Black Lives Matter activist, also likely violating his right:
Help me identify the racist Trump supporter who repeatedly punched this protestor in the face last night.
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) March 10, 2016
Meanwhile inside Trump’s Missouri rally, protesters heckled Donald Trump as he berated them and pepped the crowd. Trump claimed the protesters were violating him and his community, telling supporters, “We’re going to take our country back from these people. These are bad, bad people.”
In an attempt to appease his critics, Trump repeatedly told police to handle the protesters “gently” and told the crowd, “We don’t want to hurt the protesters. Be very gentle when you take them out, very, very gentle. Don’t hurt the person. See, I’m a nonviolent person, did you know that about me?”
But immediately after, Trump bragged about how he would have loved to fight the guy who rushed the stage at his rally in Dayton, Ohio earlier that day saying “I would have been out there fighting folks. I don’t know if I would have done well, but I would have been ‘boom, boom, boom.’”
Trump’s attempts to alleviate the turbulence at his rallies seem disingenuous given his history of inciting calls to violence on the campaign trail. Yet, he continues to paint those who disrupt his rallies as violent agitators who are enemies of free speech while simultaneously encouraging his supporters to physically attack them.
(Additional reporting by Keegan Stephan)