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AVAILABLE EXPERT - Protests and violence in American politics

Monday, March 21, 2016

Queen’s University professor emeritus Geoffrey Smith is available to comment on the ongoing issue of violence and protests at Donald Trump rallies. Mr. Trump’s campaign has attracted both strong supporters and detractors, who have clashed in a number of high-profile violent incidents such as those at a cancelled rally in Chicago on March 12 and in Tuscon over the weekend.

“The recent acts of violence at Donald Trump campaign rallies indicate both the lack of civility in the current Republican Party campaign, and the prevalence of violence in American political history,” says Dr. Smith.  “Rules regarding incitement to riot are problematic--most are local and state in nature--and there is no real way to prevent through legal means such incitement.” 

Dr. Smith says that current American political culture is charged with verbal violence, with Mr. Trump leading the way.  Dr. Smith points to the 1968 presidential campaign of George Wallace and the similarities between Mr. Trump and Mr. Wallace, as an example of previous campaigns in American political culture that were charged with verbal violence.

“The structure and choreography of contemporary Republican rallies, based as they are on arguments about moral and cultural virtue and vice, have a built in tendency to raise temperatures to the boiling point,” says Dr. Smith.  “Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Wallace touched similar buttons, such as race, class, patriotism, the meaning of "Americanism," and the like.”

Dr. Smith is a retired professor, cross-appointed to the Queen’s University Department of History and the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies. He taught Conspiracy and Dissent in American History for more than 30 years at Queen's and courses in social and cultural history that considered violence, among other things, “as American as apple pie”.

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