Cook: The GOP Clearly Supports Peaceful Assembly and Law and Order
By Robert Cook
With the outbreak of protests with pockets of rioters and looters after the brutal death of George Floyd, most news coverage pits President Trump and the GOP against peaceful protesters. ABC and CNBC cited the President’s use of the words “overwhelming force” and “domination,” and his photo-op in front of St. John’s church, to paint him in opposition to those outraged over the death of George Floyd.
However, an examination of the very statement the news outlets picked from in conjunction with the rhetoric from national and local GOP leadership shows that President Trump and the GOP have been painstakingly clear from day one that they support peaceful protests.
President Trump on June 1st started with a statement about George Floyd and peaceful protesters.
“All Americans were rightly sickened and revolted by the brutal death of George Floyd. My administration is fully committed that, for George and his family, justice will be served. He will not have died in vain. But we cannot allow the righteous cries and peaceful protesters to be drowned out by an angry mob. The biggest victims of the rioting are peace-loving citizens in our poorest communities, and as their President, I will fight to keep them safe. I will fight to protect you. I am your President of law and order, and an ally of all peaceful protesters.”
Afterwards, he took a strong stance against illegal action, violent riots, and looters of the various buildings and businesses in Minneapolis. He called for law and order and equated it as the basis for a free society to function. “America is founded upon the rule of law. It is the foundation of our prosperity, our freedom, and our very way of life. But where there is no law, there is no opportunity. Where there is no justice, there is no liberty. Where there is no safety, there is no future.”
This support for peaceful civil action coupled with advocacy for law and order echo’s Abraham Lincoln’s Lyceum address given in 1838. In this speech, Lincoln responded to a series of lynchings in Missouri and Mississippi calling for reverence for the law and cautioning against people taking the law into their own hands through violence:
“When men take it in their heads today, to hang gamblers, or burn murderers, they should recollect, that, in the confusion usually attending such transactions, they will be as likely to hang or burn someone who is neither a gambler nor a murderer as one who is; and that, acting upon the example they set, the mob of tomorrow, may, and probably will, hang or burn some of them by the very same mistake. And not only so; the innocent … alike with the guilty, fall victims to the ravages of mob law; and thus it goes on, step by step, till all the walls erected for the defense of the persons and property of individuals, are trodden down, and disregarded … the lawless in spirit, are encouraged to become lawless in practice; and having been used to no restraint, but dread of punishment, they thus become, absolutely unrestrained.–
Having ever regarded Government as their deadliest bane, they make a jubilee of the suspension of its operations; and pray for nothing so much, as its total annihilation. While, on the other hand, good men … become tired of, and disgusted with, a Government that offers them no protection; and are not much averse to a change in which they imagine they have nothing to lose. Thus, then, by the operation of this mobocractic spirit … the strongest bulwark of any Government, and particularly of those constituted like ours, may effectually be broken down and destroyed — I mean the attachment of the People. Whenever this effect shall be produced among us…this Government cannot last.”
Tolerating violent action that infringes on the people’s rights and liberties is the recipe for ending the American spirit. Lincoln said that the United States would never fall from foreign invasion, but rather from “political suicide” sprouting from a passion-fueled disregard for the law. Lincoln ends this speech encouraging peace and logical action stating, “Passion has helped us; but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy. Reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason, must furnish all the materials for our future support and defense.”
President Trump, in his statement, has strove for the same thing. With his condemnation of the death of George Floyd and support for peaceful protests, he notices there is a logical and reasonable argument for people to be outraged. However, in no case is it acceptable to resort to violence and infringe others’ inalienable rights in response.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Virginia House of Representatives member Ben Cline have both taken similar perspectives. McConnell cited the “killings of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Breonna Taylor in … Louisville” as legitimate reasons for peaceful protest, but cautioned, “Violence does not make our streets safer. Injustice does not promote justice. Destruction does not build a better society. We will only be able to chart the future we want if we do it together.”
Congressman Cline stated, “We all condemn the killing of George Floyd. But we must also stand together and reject those who would use these peaceful protests to pursue their radical agendas of violence and destruction. [On June 1st], President Trump correctly identified the Rule of Law as the foundation of our very way of life. Failure to maintain law and order will only result in the further spreading of grief and loss in communities across our Nation.”
There is no question the GOP is with the peaceful protesters. Ensuring that the United States upholds its ideals of inalienable rights, endowed by our creator, of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness includes the right to peaceable assembly and holding government officials and law enforcement accountable for their actions. It also includes standing against mob violence and passion fueled rioting. Vigilantism, like government, bureaucratic, and law enforcement corruption, is a threat to our inalienable rights, the foundation of our country, and everything that makes it great.
Robert Cook is a candidate for Presidential Elector in the 6th Republican Congressional District. He received his MA in Government and Political Communication from Johns Hopkins University, and is a secondary History and Government teacher, who has been involved with the GOP since he joined the Rockbridge Area Republican Committee in high school.