Bob Lotane: Protest is in our DNA

People raising fist with unfocused background in a pacifist prot
Lexington and Concord? Protest, violent protest. Yet, without them, we might still be a jewel in the British Empire.

Although nearly three decades old, the Federalist Society is the hot new toy with which many Republicans and Libertarians want to be associated.

Central to Federalists’ beliefs on the law and public policy is originalism, where interpretation of the Constitution maintains that statements in the Constitution must be interpreted based on the original understanding of the drafters at ratification.

Basically, what was the original intent of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America?

Candidates for appointment to judicial seats in Florida all have to be vetted by the Judicial Nominating Commission which is stacked with Federalist Society members.

That is why House Bill 1, the “Combating Violence, Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act,” appears so out-of-step with contemporary GOP thought in Florida.

The act takes perfectly good laws which prosecute property destruction, assault on a civilian or police officer, or granting bail and enhances them, severely.

Even King Henry VIII would blush at the selective enforcement and punishment this act unleashes. Did we not stage a revolution to rid ourselves of this type of feudal nonsense?

What next, a Privy Council?

It is not hard to imagine that as the Act was being unveiled James Madison, whose silhouette is the logo of the Federalist Society, shuddered in his grave. Thomas Jefferson closed his eyes even tighter, and Benjamin Franklin shook his head in disgust.

The Founding Fathers did not politely ask King George III to leave the colonies and then pulled up chairs to sit down and write the Constitution. The Constitution was written after decades of bitter, violent, deadly, destructive protests.

State leaders justified this anti-protest act as being about “safety.” Did they not remember Mr. Franklin’s original intent when he said, “Those who give up essential liberty to gain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety?”

Samuel Adams’ Sons of Liberty protests against the Stamp Act in 1765 smeared their enemy’s homes with dung, smashed windows, tarred and feathered Imperial agents, and they were just getting warmed up.

Asked by the House of Commons in 1766 for his opinion on sending Royal troops to quell aggressive Bostonians, Franklin said, “They will not find a rebellion; they may indeed make one.”

Historian Stacy Schiff entitled her recent opinion piece in The New York Times, ‘The Boston Tea Party Was More Than That. It Was a Riot.’ And so it was: Lawless destruction of what was an incredibly valuable cargo. Thousands watched from the docks, but nobody talked.

Lexington and Concord? Protest, violent protest. Yet, without them, we might still be a jewel in the British Empire.

What should we make of founder Thomas Jefferson’s admonitions, “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty,” and “If a law is unjust a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so?”

And years after the founding Abraham Lincoln said, “To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.”

To promulgate enhanced penalties to intimidate Floridians exercising their First Amendment rights to peaceably assemble is, dare I say it, un-American.

Legislators, please honor the founders by dropping this proposal.

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Bob Lotane served as Press Secretary to Florida’s Insurance Commissioner and to the Chief Financial Officer. He works with a number of charities in the Big Bend. He can be reached at [email protected]

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