ALEX AMENTA / NEWS TEAM
Two weeks ago, six journalists were arrested, on felony charges of rioting, as they covered the violent protests on inauguration day. They had proper press passes and identified themselves as journalists to the police; they were arrested in the mass round-up of those believed to be involved in the protests. This isn’t to say that the arresting officers had explicit orders from Trump himself to arrest these journalists for covering the side of the news he’d rather not hear about- nor were there any executive orders delivered to state prosecutors by Trump or his aids to “punish” journalists for reporting about the violent protest, or for being believed to be involved in the riots. In fact, Alexander Rubinstein, Jack Keller, Matthew Hopard, and Evan Engel all had the felony charges dropped against them “after a review of evidence presented to us by law enforcement”, William Miller told the Guardian. Unfortunately, as the article continues, “Shay Horse, an independent photojournalist, and Aaron Cantú, a freelance journalist and activist – remain charged with felony rioting, according to court records.”
Arresting journalists is not beneath the world’s cruelest dictators; President Erdogan of Turkey, the New York Times reports, jailed 120 journalists back in November for publishing articles that disagree with his policies. Just because these journalists were detained doesn’t mean Trump aims to erode freedom of press in the U.S. Despite his promise to “’open up’ libel laws to make suing the media easier”, as The Washington Post puts it, it’s common knowledge that enacting such action would require a repealing of our most treasured American value: the right to free speech. Even in ‘post-Trump America’, it would be hard for him to accomplish this with checks and balances in effect- the supreme court is still the final say whether any executive order is constitutional.
Trump did just pass a seemingly unconstitutional Muslim ban, barring immigrants from nine major Muslim countries. This ban was appealed by a federal Judge of the U.S. District, Senior Judge James Robart. The unconstitutional policies that Trump may try to enact will be met with resistance from top level law-makers, even Republican appointed ones such as Judge James Robart. Despite Robart’s credibility as a judge and his responsibility to uphold the tenets of the constitution, Trump tweeted in response “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!”
When the president of one of the most powerful nations on the planet disagrees with the Constitution and those that try to uphold, spewing illogical banter as fact, there is danger. It’s clear in the midst of illogical half-truths, or, dare I say, “alternative facts”, that there lie a political and social climate ripe for human rights abuses, suppression of speech, and, possibly, another invasion of the Middle East. Uncle Sam loves keeping his war machine well-oiled, and a xenophobic Trump administration is a perfect Petri-dish to cultivate some pungent hate and anger towards a specific group of people. All the while, continuing to get away with locking up journalists that disagree.