As a left-wing activist who sometimes tries to provide a dissenting viewpoint at conservative rallies, I have sometimes felt as if I were taking my life in my hands.
I don’t think I do anything particularly provocative. I am not a shouter. I do not go in for insults or verbal confrontation. It could be some people are put off by my long hair and slovenly appearance, but that is no excuse for violence. I am just exercising my free speech rights.
For example, in '96 there was a pro-police, anti-immigrant rally in Riverside. (A carload of undocumented workers had been beaten up by sheriff’s deputies.) I went there to protest police brutality and two people attacked us and I got a gashed elbow that lasted for a month.
In '99 there were huge demonstrations in Orange County because one Vietnamese man had had the temerity to express support of the current Vietnamese government. People who went to express a different viewpoint, including Vietnam veterans, got the shit kicked out of them. I didn’t go that time–everybody was too scared to drive down there. (Same sort of thing in Miami during the Elian crisis.)
Currently, there are weekly demonstrations at the Federal Building about the disputed election thing. A friend tells me that the Republican protesters, who are by far the majority these days, have taken to pushing people around, including little kids. That is really disgusting.
Not to mention the orchestrated Miami-Dade riot that changed the course of American history. Yes, some people did get shoved and roughed-up there.
I definitely do not believe beating up the opposition is just “something that hjappens,” like an American tradition or a natural law. Liberals and mild socialists do NOT get violent when conservative dissidents try to infiltrate their rallies.
For instance, at the very FIRST post-election Federal Building rally, which was nearly all liberal or leftist “Count Every Vote” protesters, there was a lone young man supporting Bush. He was verbally harrassed, made fun of, and argued with, but nobody touched him. (And he attracted a disproportionate share of the media coverage.)
Is this type of thuggish behavior a particular characteristic of the right-wing mindset? Yes, I think it is.