KERRY HUBARTT COLUMN: Is opposition becoming a gateway to violence?

Kerry Hubartt

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) initiated a troubling movement toward incivility in June when the congresswoman called on supporters to publicly harass members of President Trump’s administration.

Both Democrats and Republicans denounced her inflammatory rhetoric when she told a rally in Los Angeles, “You tell them they’re not welcomed anymore, anywhere,” and “if you see anybody from that cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd. And you push back on them. … The people are going to turn on them, they’re going to protest, they’re going to absolutely harass them …”

Then we heard about White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders being asked by the owner to leave a restaurant because of her work at the White House, and quietly doing so with the rest of her family.

But such calls for the abandonment of civility have accelerated with the apparent encouragement of hostility by former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and former Attorney General Eric Holder.

During an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour broadcast last week, former First Lady Clinton declared that the left “cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about.”

Also last week in a campaign swing in Georgia, Holder, President Obama’s former attorney general, made reference to former first lady Michelle Obama’s 2016 slogan, “When they go low, we go high.” Then he said, “No, no. When they go low, we kick ’em. That’s what this new Democratic Party is about.”

So it shouldn’t be surprising that pro-life organizations are among those who are receiving the brunt of this call to arms among those who fundamentally disagree with their cause. Recent incidents of hostility against them call attention to the troubling trend of some people on the left resorting to physical assault upon those they violently oppose.

A video by the pro-life group Created Equal shows an Indiana University student in Bloomington stealing and vandalizing signs on campus on Oct. 4. Thomas Metcalf, 21, who is a member of the Young Democratic Socialists of America and Black Lives Matter, has been charged with disorderly conduct, vandalism and larceny-theft.

Created Equal is an organization from Columbus, Ohio, that has been in Fort Wayne several times to engage students in sidewalk conversations about abortion, spurred by signs they display that show pictures of aborted fetuses.

The video allegedly shows Metcalf stealing several of the pro-life group’s signs and putting them in a car. A pro-life advocate approaches and removes the signs from the car. Then the man identified as Metcalf returns and spray-paints several other signs while yelling profanities at the pro-lifers.

“When leaders of the political left from Eric Holder to Corey Booker to Hillary Clinton are making statements that liberals should not be civil in dealing with whom they disagree,” Created Equal President Mark Harrington wrote last week, “it follows that abortion activists like Metcalf are going to take those words to heart and act upon them. The over-heated rhetoric beginning with the response to President Trump’s election to the confirmation hearings of Judge Brett Kavanaugh have reached an alarming level. It figures that we are being attacked on college campuses. Thankfully in this case, no one got harmed, but unless abortion advocates call for civility, I don’t know how long that is going to last.”

In another incident on Oct. 6 a Canadian abortion activist was caught on video assaulting a female pro-life advocate with a roundhouse kick in Toronto. Jordan Hunt, 26, was released on bond after police arrested him on eight counts of assault and seven counts of criminal mischief.

The woman, Campaign Life Coalition Youth Coordinator Marie-Claire Bissonnette, was kicked as she was recording her conversation with Hunt. The video went viral. Bissonnette said Hunt also defaced several of their signs and scribbled on several pro-lifers’ clothes

Campaign Life Coalition, Created Equal and other pro-life groups promote and attempt to practice civility in these confrontations. Their goal is to engage the public in reasonable discussions about their positions, not to fight fire with fire.

Bissonnette, as an example, in a Twitter post asked people to pray for Hunt. My prayer is that we all join in pushing the nation toward civility through the biblical imperative, “Love your neighbor.”

Kerry Hubartt is former editor of The News-Sentinel.