Scott Tibbs

Hoosier Review, September 6th, 2004

Back to Opinion page

Reactions to the Republican National Convention

The Republican National Convention has drawn its share of reactions, some good and some not so good. It is encouraging to see people participating in the democratic process by exercising their First Amendment rights, even if they are protesting my party's convention. Hopefully the interest in protesting this year will be followed by increased voter turnout in November.

However, not all of the reactions have been encouraging. Some of the protests have been marred by incivility and violence. According to the Associated Press, "a protester attacked a plainclothes detective on a scooter, knocking him unconscious". The officer "was in serious condition Tuesday with serious facial trauma", according to the AP. This was not the only act of violence by anti-Bush protesters. In a less serious incident, one protester punched a Republican supporter in the head inside the convention.

This is unacceptable and inexcusable. If this thug is caught, he must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. There is no reason for this kind of violence to be part of a legitimate protest. But more was expected. Activists protesting the convention had designated Tuesday as a day for "civil disobedience", including "vandalism aimed at the offices of corporations with links to the Bush family or the Republican Party".

A "Critical Mass" bike ride turned ugly before the convention started when New York police arrested 264 riders for blocking traffic. The bike riders created an unsafe situation when ambulances could not get through because of the cyclists.

Bloomington has experience with "Critical Mass" bike rides, including a 2001 incident where a "Critical Mass" activist attacked Bloomington police officer Cory Grass and pinned him underneath the bicycle the officer was riding, according to the Herald-Times. Others were arrested during that protest for blocking traffic.

Activists also did "extensive damage" to a golf course where Republican delegates were going to play, causing $6000 worth of damage. What does this solve? How does destruction of private property advance a political cause or help spread a political message? Answer: It doesn't.

John Kerry and others (including the editorial board of the New York Times) have repeatedly called on President Bush to "denounce" the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth for their attacks on Kerry's record as a soldier in Vietnam. The ads of the SBVFT have led some to call for more strict restrictions on the political speech of so-called "527" groups.

If the Swift Boat ads merit a condemnation from the President, should not the actions of violent thugs merit a condemnation from Senator Kerry? Kerry should send a clear message that violence is unacceptable in politics, and endorse punishing these thugs to the fullest extent of the law. If Kerry wants to be the leader of the free world, this is a stand he must take. With our troops fighting a War on Terror, politically motivated violence must not be tolerated domestically or internationally.

In other convention news, the Libertarian Party chided the Republicans for the cost of putting on the convention, suggesting the GOP reimburse the taxpayers for it.

I disagree with the Libertarians' criticism of the cost of security for the convention. Law enforcement is obligated to provide safety for Republican delegates, speakers and others, especially the President. If some of the "protesters" in New York did not act like thugs, there would not be a need for as much security. Furthermore, there is a benefit to the city from having people come in and spend money on food, lodging and other things that defrays the cost of security.

But in terms of financing the convention itself, the Libertarians are right. The same criticisms, of course, also apply to the Democratic Party, which also came under fire from the Libertarians for their use of taxpayer money to fund their convention. Taxpayer money is basically being used to fund two weeklong campaign commercials, not true "conventions" because the nominees were decided months ago.

Both political parties can raise more than enough money to pay for their conventions themselves without asking for a handout from the taxpayers. Four years from now, I hope the parties will agree to do just that. Just as important, I hope the inevitable protests at the two conventions do not include the violence that has marred the 2004 conventions. Civility in the streets and civility toward the taxpayers is not too much to ask.