The most contentious presidential election in U.S. history is over. On Saturday, November 7, 2020, a full four days after Election Day, Joe Biden was officially declared the new president-elect.
But unlike past elections, the dust is far from settled. Constantly heightening tension due to social injustice, the COVID-19 pandemic, and rampant rumors and accusations of election fraud are all contributing to the reality that our current “political road rage” shows no signs of slowing.
The election can be considered very successful in one aspect – voters turned out in the highest numbers in over a century. But the two main camps are more hateful toward one another than they’ve been in decades.
Most of the time, voters who disagree with the other party will simply voice their opposition without resorting to violence or destruction. That has not been the case over the past four years.
True political anger is at an all-time high, with traditional yard signs being vandalized with curse words, threats or even fire. For example, someone distributed flyers likening Joe Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, to Adolf Hitler.
Studies are finding that negativity towards the opposition is outweighing positive feelings toward one’s own candidate.
Peaceful protests over hot-button issues like the police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have morphed into violent riots all over the country. People unhappy with mask mandates in public places due to the pandemic have resorted to attacking store employees. Hackers made millions of robocalls before election day, urging people to forego voting in person.
A 28-year-old protester was shot to death by an angry driver back in July during a protest in Austin. Texas is just one of the many states where protests have turned deadly.
Protestors outside of polling places, particularly in areas where the vote has taken days to count, like Philadelphia and Detroit, have been clashing during election day and every day since. President Trump’s calls to expose “illegal ballots” and “voter fraud” have emboldened his supporters into angry shouting matches with Biden supporters.
While a relatively small percentage of protests has resulted in injury or death, more and more participants have been showing up armed. Various arrests have been made in connection with attempts to attack convention centers and other public places.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott and other lawmakers have introduced various criminal legislation to discourage those who “hijack peaceful protests.” However, these efforts, along with similar proposals all over the country, are still awaiting approval from the state legislature.
How To Safely Support A Cause
You may be wondering how to exercise your right to gather peacefully to support a cause. You can take several precautions to ensure your safety, whether you want to participate or just be vigilant when out and about.
Coordinate with your neighbors and community members – know who you can call for help if necessary. Know where the closest clinic or hospital is and have a game plan to get there if things turn ugly. Make sure the organizers of your protest obtain the proper permits for your area.
Be proactive about keeping your feelings in check, so they don’t spill into dangerous hate. Experts suggest setting limits on how much political news you take in each day and keeping notifications from sites like Twitter to a minimum.
If you do protest, feel free to take video or photographs while you do, but only if you’re on public property. Privately owned businesses or residences can have you fined or arrested for video or photography.
If you’re confronted by someone who is becoming visibly angry or threatening violence, try your best to ignore them. If you engage and argue or try to fight back, you’re giving law enforcement more reason to see you as a threat.
There is a set of laws and standards police officers in Texas and all over the country must comply with when it comes to public protests. You cannot be questioned unless you’re detained for probable cause. While you can be patted down for suspicion of having a weapon, you don’t have to consent to anything further unless they specifically detain you.
Even after you’ve been detained, you aren’t obligated to go with the police unless you’re actually under arrest, at which point you should ask for a lawyer immediately.
Police brutality is a very real issue in this country. There is always the chance that an officer will resort to physical intimidation beyond legal limits during a high-tension situation such as a protest.
If you participate in a protest or are swept up into one and believe that police have violated your rights, you can file a complaint with the police department as well as the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union).
At The Cochran Firm Texas, we genuinely care about your rights to peacefully protest without fear of retribution. Our experienced team can help you or your loved ones if you think you’ve been treated unfairly by law enforcement. Contact us anytime or give us a call at 800-843-3476 for a free consultation.
Larry oversees the firm’s Mass Torts, Criminal, Employment and Civil Rights practice areas as well as leads our community involvement efforts. While Larry is active daily in Mass Tort litigation he continues to play a role in client communications, and those cases that involve everyday folks. He is an active coach in youth sports and sits on a number of diverse community stakeholder entities. Between growing up in Duval County Florida and Harris County Texas (3rd Ward, Acers Homes, Greenspoint) and raising his kids in rural Texas, Larry has gained an appreciation for those who struggle for a sense of fairness. From the client in Urban America seeking to be heard to the small town Rural American wanting fairness, it all resonates with Larry's need and desire to fight for them.