Are fanatic protesters killing civil discourse?

Nov. 8, 2016 will go down in history as the day the political underworld met its match. Donald Trump had defied all conventional wisdom — bypassing the Washington establishment, mainstream media, and the Clinton political dynasty. His election was like an atomic bomb blowing up Washington.

Many of those who voted for Hillary Clinton were devastated. Videos circulated the Internet showing people crying for days about Trump’s victory; in fact, those videos still dwell in our social media pages today. Many feared the world was coming to an end.

However, the strong, emotional repulsion against our new president took a troubling turn over the next few months. The anger manifested itself into energy fueled by hatred. Trump haters rallied, vowing to do everything they could to destroy him and anyone who was even mildly associated with him.

Across the country, a group that called themselves “Indivisible” started showing up at events where conservative lawmakers were holding town halls and forums. Even here in central Virginia, Indivisible began to activate local groups.

For example, last spring, Rep. Dave Brat held a town hall meeting in a church to answer questions from constituents. Across the street, people peacefully protested; but once inside, the atmosphere became much more hostile. Indivisible members disrupted the event by booing the introductory speaker, a pastor, as he prayed for peace.

For 90 minutes straight, people shouted and yelled at the congressman, preventing others from hearing the questions or his answers. Women walked around dropping f-bombs, videotaping people in an attempt to intimidate. The Dave Brat haters were anything but civil.

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As president of The Middle Resolution, a political action committee based in Mechanicsville, I experienced this hostility first hand.

In March, The Middle Resolution hosted its quarterly meeting for members in a local community room. Before the event, six protestors arrived and proceeded to shove their camera phones in members’ and guests’ faces as they entered the room.

I attempted to cordially introduce myself, but they unjustifiably responded with, “We don’t shake hands or talk with Nazi sympathizers.” I thought to myself, “What?! Who in the world do you think we are? We don’t stand for such beliefs, nor do we ‘sympathize’ with them.”

These women continued to intimidate guests by filming them, following them into the restrooms, and yelling at them as they left our meeting. Four local legislators reported on the recent General Assembly session and these women called them “Nazis” as they left the building. Again, anything but peaceful — and certainly not civil!

Just last month, The Middle Resolution hosted an event with 200-plus guests in downtown Richmond. A dozen protesters picketed outside the venue. They remained peaceful until they noticed the guest speaker, Dr. Sebastian Gorka, a former strategist and deputy assistant to President Trump, arrive in his car. While at a stoplight, a protester approached his window and began belligerently yelling that he wasn’t “welcome in Richmond.” This type of behavior is about intimidation, not civility.

Another protester tried to enter the building to disrupt the event, but security personnel respectfully asked him to leave the premises. Not to be deterred, he proceeded to report on Twitter that our guests were “proudly wearing Nazi symbols and pins!” This is an outright lie. It is frightening to see how hatred distorts the truth.

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President Obama once said that “when our discourse has become so sharply polarized — at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do — it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.”

President Obama was exactly right. It is important that everyone take a deep breath and become part of the solution, not fuel the problem.

http://www.richmond.com/opinion/their-opinion/guest-columnists/craig-disesa-are-fanatic-protesters-killing-civil-discourse/article_d3caa47f-ceb4-5358-8f06-c33ddfe5d2e6.html