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Trump’s Assault On the First Amendment Takes Root In Public Louisiana High School

In a tweet, Shaun King shared a chilling announcement from a public high school principle in Louisiana. It’s the first indication that Trump’s attack on the first amendment is taking root.

CNN’s Keith Boykin responded with a tweet that summarizes the very thing that makes this a first amendment issue.

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In her piece about Paul Ryan’s use of his power to attack NFL players for taking a knee, Sarah Jones noted that the first amendment is about protecting the right of citizens to express themselves – without fear of coercion or punishment from the government.

The fact that this is a public high school means the principle is violating his students civil rights.

Just a brief side point. The fact that students’ civil rights are not as well protected in private schools just might be a factor in Trump et al’s desire to destroy the public school system in favor of private schools.

Getting back to Trump. Had he intimidated NFL owners and through them players with threats of boycotts while he was a candidate, as repugnant as it is, he was within his rights as a citizen.

However, regardless of Trump’s rhetoric about swamps and “forgotten Americans” “very fine people who are Nazis” etc. demanding that football players be punished for expressing their views has a different meaning because he is the president of the United States. As much as Trump may long for the days where he can go to a rally and court the white power vote, he isn’t just another agitating white supremacist anymore.

That doesn’t change if he’s speaking at a rally, selling hats, tweeting, or anything else. He is president during every minute of every day and he doesn’t have the luxury of compartmentalizing his presidential comments from his private rabble-rouser comments.

Boycott threats, statements that players should be fired for taking a knee take on a very different meaning when such statements are made by the president, or anyone else in a government position.

That includes the principles of public high schools, who announce they will throw students off the football team if they take a knee.

This also proves that contrary to Trump’s claims that this about respect for the flag, the anthem and for veteran, this is very much about the first amendment. This is very much about scaring people into silence, just as DHS’s demands to surveil all social media by immigrants, permanent residents and naturalized citizens is about scaring them into silence.

The combination of these policies tells us that how little Trump understands about the first amendment. It also shows how dangerous someone with that degree of ignorance about this or any other section of the constitution is when they hold positions of power.

As much as it is about attacking the first amendment, one cannot ignore the fact that this is also about silencing dissent on the very real epidemic of police brutality and killings of predominantly black people. Most of them are young men, and boys.

I call this an epidemic because the numbers are staggering. In the year since Colin Kaepernick started his protest, 233 black Americans were killed by the hands of police.

This does not mean all police are bad. And, some cases, are more clear cut than others. However, this is an outrageous number – one that should concern and outrage all of us. This isn’t about respecting a flag, or standing during the National Anthem.
Black people are dying at the hands of our police. This isn’t about what Republicans reduce to “identity politics.” This is about the sort of policing that happens in our country. This is about the reality that when black parents have “the talk” with their children, it’s about how to survive an encounter with a police officer. It’s about parents fearing their child won’t come home from school one day. This is about people fearing for their lives every time they encounter someone whose job it is to serve and protect – everyone, not just people with the Republican Party’s politically correct skin color.

All of us owe our fellow Americans support when they take a knee. In fact, we should join them.

Injustice doesn’t go away and we enable it when we remain silent.

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