Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Fringe conservative activists attack peaceful protesters in Capitol

What I'm about to write isn't a characterization of every conservative. I have plenty of right-wing friends whom I have much respect for, whom I consider outstanding citizens despite our disagreements.

But there is a growing fringe element within the conservative wing of American politics that believes itself above the law, and justifies violent actions through their righteous believes in their supposed "superiority." Sadly, this fringe element isn't just happening in places far away, but in our own backyard as well.

On June 21, the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice organized its Solidarity Sing-Along, as it had done every day since February when the protests against Gov. Walker began. Emphasizing citizen activism through peaceful means, the group had never caused any harm to anyone, aside from annoying a few legislators within the Capitol.

But some gun rights activists, there that day in support of the State Assembly's passage of concealed carry, apparently didn't appreciate the group's peaceful message. Instead, they took it upon themselves to disturb the singers.

The conservative demonstrators draped their "Don't Tread On Me" flag over the heads of singers, "[hiting] several of the singers in the head as they attempted to raise the banner over their backs." Former State Sen. Dave Zien (who had his leg amputated earlier this year due to a motorcycle accident) used his wheelchair to roll over the personal belongings of the singers, yelling "WALKER FOR PRESIDENT!" while doing so.

But perhaps most disturbing was what happened next. When one peaceful protester attempted to removed the "Don't Tread On Me" flag from his person, pulling it away from the flag-bearer while doing so, the response of the gun rights protester was incredibly vile: he punched the peaceful singer in the face, chipping a tooth in the process.

These conservative activists, who acted in violent ways within the People's House (in response to people singing, for Pete's sake!), are also the most ardent supporters of allowing concealed carry within the Capitol. Heaven only knows what would have happened had they had their guns on them during this event. I personally hope that the character of these people, in spite of their lewd behavior, is better than that, that they wouldn't have resorted to such violent intimidation -- but I also never expected anything like the events of yesterday to have occurred either.

Violence or intimidation through the threat of violence is never acceptable in political discourse. But the fringe elements of the conservative movement are proving that they disagree with that sentiment, that they have a right to intimidate and even cause bodily harm to others.

Such bully tactics should be rejected, both in our Capitol Building and elsewhere. These actions aren't simply immoral, but un-American as well, seeing as their main goal is the suppression of ideas. A free exchange of beliefs -- even those we may vehemently disagree with -- should never be suppressed, in this or any other fashion.

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