Last Friday, two groups of protesters clashed in Glens Falls over their politics.
That is their constitutional right, no matter how unseemly their behavior.
It wasn’t the first time these two groups clashed, and with another rally scheduled Saturday, we suspect it won’t be the last.
Our country has a long and sometimes violent history of political protest, and sadly, that has often led to fatalities, including one in Charlottesville, Virginia, two years ago.
We are hoping that will not be the case here, but recent observations lead us to believe it could.
If you think we are being melodramatic with our own coverage, we take this excerpt from the lead of the Albany Times-Union’s story about last Friday’s events:
“Two mundane political demonstrations devolved into a tense, profanity-laced powder keg when they literally came face to face Friday outside U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik’s Glens Falls office.”
A powder keg. It was ugly.
After a previous incident between these two groups—one protesting Rep. Elise Stefanik’s stands on the issues, the other showing support for President Trump—we suggested that all but the smallest demonstrations be banned from the five-corner intersection at the center of downtown Glens Falls because of the distraction to motorists.
City Park, which is just around the corner, is a better alternative. That’s where the anti-Stefanik group started its demonstration last week.
We also suggested that the city consider a permit process for any future rallies so the location of these events could be controlled. Both sides objected, and the only visible action the city has taken is to place barriers around the five-way intersection.
We fear this is not going to be enough.
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We have heard no discussion on this concern from the mayor or any member of the Common Council. That is long overdue.
We are big believers in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It not only guarantees our right to print, but in the same breath guarantees citizens’ rights to “peaceably” assemble.
The key distinction is “peaceably.”
That is a big concern after hearing reports of the profanities repeatedly screamed by the pro-Trump group last week.
We understand that our country is divided politically and that can often get ugly. We again appeal to all sides for civil discourse. There is no reason not to act like mature adults.
After last weekend’s confrontation downtown, seven members of the anti-Stefanik group sent a letter to Glens Falls Mayor Dan Hall and Chief of Police Tony Lydon, describing the events that took place and their concerns for the group’s safety.
The group subsequently met with the mayor and police chief, looking for solutions to make the rallies safer. They suggested banning flag poles used to hoist banners, using barriers to separate the two groups and urging the police to enforce disorderly conduct statutes.
We’re not sure if that will be enough, especially after the pro-Trump group thanked a group from Utica for taking part in their rally. The size and intensity of these rallies appear to be increasing. We wonder if the Glens Falls Police needs to have a greater presence at these events. Perhaps the Warren County Sheriff’s Office could help out.
Both the city and the police are in a sticky situation. They should never interfere with anyone’s freedom of speech, or right to protest, but these confrontations are escalating.
We found this quote from musician Gerard Way—“Say what you want, but you never say it with violence.”
These demonstrations bring attention to the political divide in this country and the concerns on both sides of the issue. The fact that it has reached the streets of Hometown, USA tells us something.