I am fascinated by the now infamous tweet from the Raleigh Police Department that stated: “protesting is a non-essential activity.” It’s certainly a terrible look, particularly coming from a law enforcement agency. After all, police and law enforcement officials take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. If there is any legal maneuvering on the pushback to the Reopen NC rally in downtown Raleigh on April 14, I’d suspect it will be good news for First Amendment advocates.
It sounds like governors are already allowing wide latitude for protestors. Gov. Mike DeWine in Ohio is assisting in the health and safety of those protesting against his executive orders and actions related to the coronavirus. When we talk about something that is essential, it’s essential that the government protect inherent rights. Thomas Jefferson says as much in the Declaration of Independence, reminding us that governments are implemented to secure our natural rights. John Adams put it more succinctly: “Liberties are not the grants of princes and parliaments.” What can’t be given can’t be taken away. Jefferson even goes on to say that it is the right to abolish governments that do so. Do you know what the Declaration does? It puts the tyrants on notice.
At any rate, there should be a unified understanding that inherent rights are protected during a crisis. It’s reasonable for lawmakers to take measures to protect the public health but not to trample on the Bill of Rights, or cite governmental decrees over and against natural rights. During a crisis, every reasonable accommodation must be made to secure the rights of the people.
I think there is a push to make the protests for reopening North Carolina a pro-Cooper or anti-Cooper agenda too. North Carolina political reporter Andy Specht at WRAL essentially hinted that pushback against Cooper is not widespread given that a newly released Civitas poll gives him sky-high marks for handling the crisis. Ultimately though, who cares? There is plenty of time for partisan politics to sort itself out. The government has responsibilities at this time too, and as mentioned, none remain as important as securing rights. That’s forever immaterial to Gov. Cooper’s political fortunes or popularity.
People are often motivated by their passions. This is why we see some Democrats and even many in the news media suddenly rediscover the tenets of federalism. Certainly, some on the right want to leverage the closures to go after Gov. Cooper.
I made the point that only a highly politicized culture could see a revival of federalism while simultaneously seeing a decline in inherent rights. In a highly politicized era like this one, picking and choosing from the Consitution for one’s own selfish political ambition or power grab is an all too common occurrence.
At least one protestor I spoke with said she was there to protest infringements on religious liberty and her presence downtown wasn’t aimed at anti-Gov. Roy Cooper sentiment. It’s possible this may not be the most common sentiment behind the protests, but I suspect it’s more common than the political ideologues see it. It’s essential that we never lose sight of that in a frenzy.
Citizens of North Carolina know we have a great state motto. They may be unfamiliar with another good one down in Alabama: Audemus jura nostra defendere or “We dare defend our rights.”