The right to redress of grievances

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“Congress shall make no law…abridging freedom of speech…or the right of the people to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

These are the words of the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights proposed by Congress on Sept. 25, 1789 and ratified by three-fourths of the states on Dec. 15, 1791.

Again, we must applaud the framers for their vision of incorporating rights of individual citizens to be protected from encroachment by the government. During the past 230 years, Americans have lived free within the parameters of the law until the administration of Donald J. Trump.

We must recognize that America has an extensive line of abuses, relative to African-Americans, as well as others, to live free and equal in a free society. The line of abuses of this president is even longer. Those Americans who continue to support Donald Trump, make excuses for his ineptness, call petitioners race-baiters, desiring to have America for themselves only and will go to any length to get it their way, are playing a very dangerous game of putting our free society at risk.

To say that workers cannot petition on the job is an error. How can workers point out unfairness and/or mistreatment or constitutional violations of those in charge? When the president weighed in on taking a knee during the national anthem, he elevated the lone act of Colin Kaepernick to epic proportions.

Now most professional athletes are protesting. They are protesting that extensive line of abuses and denials of African-Americans in this country, including the illegal killing of their sons and daughters at the hand of the state. When these killings are mitigated in the courts and result in no legal consequences, that is abuse. How many does it take for the conservatives, the Trump supporters and others to realize this is just not normal? It is wrong and people have decided to oppose it.

Donald Trump says this is not about race. “I did not say anything about race.” He also said, “I’m not begrudging anybody.”

There are 30 NFL teams with at least 10 African-Americans who are multi-millionaires. Add that to the NBA numbers and you have a great deal of financial power. That is too much power for African-American males in Trump’s eyes and those of his supporters. So, should they be fired for petitioning? Hell no.

This issue is not about the flag and it is not about the military. African-Americans are still joining, fighting and dying for this nation in numbers greater than their population numbers.

On a personal note, I had a brother drafted in the United States Marine Corps in 1967 while in college. He served in Vietnam and marched from Saigon to near the DMZ to free the Khe Sanh military base which had been taken over by the opposition. His forces took the base back and got inside to hold it. While inside fighting, his time in the military ran out, but he did not leave. He stayed and continued fighting until the Corps had accomplished the mission.

I am glad and proud to have him as a part of my family. African-Americans act for the country in time of need regardless of their treatment. For the most part, we salute the flag and stand for the national anthem, but don’t tell us Trump was advocating patriotism when you know darn well this nation does not practice patriotism. It just demands that African-Americans practice it and those proposing such get angry when we refuse.

Perhaps Trump was passionately influenced by the racially charged atmosphere where he was speaking.

After all, it was Selma, Alabama where petitioners were beaten down by state troopers at the Edmond Pettus Bridge. It was Selma where Sheriff Jim Clark beat Fred Shutttlesworth each time he led potential voters to register. It was Birmingham, Alabama where Eugene Bull Conner turned the fire hoses on children. It was Anniston, Alabama where the freedom riders’ bus was fireboomed and when they fled the bus, they were beaten down by whites and James Reed lost his life.

I bet President Trump knew all this information and he exploded on race. I don’t think he can walk this one back. So, I am not apologizing for any of America’s abuse. God knows it is time to stand.

The president covered other topics of importance to Americans. He “hit” Sen. John McCain, an American military hero, who he disrespects time and time again while asking us to respect the military. Trump cannot see the paradox. He called the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “Little Rocket Man” and said he would not be there long. Where is Trump taking America?

I must ask: What has Donald J. Trump done for America? Using Charlottesville, Virginia, he has stoked the flames of the racial divide in America. His campaign for Sen. Luther Strange shows his willingness to have an extreme right-wing administration. Using disrespectful rhetoric, he has brought us to the brink of nuclear war. Using his position as president of the United States, he trashed the fragile race relations that existed in America.

George Leach is a Wilson resident and former teacher with a keen interest in local, state and national politics who serves as political action chairman of the NAACP’s Wilson branch.