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June 27 2018

Linda Sarsour Invokes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Justify Harassment of Trump Officials

by Patrice Lee Onwuka

Women’s March co-founder Linda Sarsour seems to join Rep. Maxine Waters in advocating for uncivil behavior (such as harassment and worse) as a means to express their objection to current policies. But how can she justify invoking Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words as a rationale for these latest tactics?

Speaking to an MSNBC host, Sarsour calls out Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer for trying to reign in the out-of-control harassment of officials in the Trump Administration.

Following incidents of Trump staff harassment and Waters' speech over the weekend, congressional Democratic leadership has been trying to quell this incivility that could lead to violence.

During a discussion with Chris Hayes on the topic of civil disobedience and political violence, Sarsour said:

“I’m an organizer and activist, I engage in civil disobedience like twenty times a year. Dr. Martin Luther king warned us about people like Chuck Schumer. He said it wasn’t the Ku Klux Klan or white citizen counselors who were the obstacles towards justice, it was the people calling for quote civility and people that were telling us when to protest and what time and how to protest.”

No one is arguing that those who oppose the administration’s immigration policies don’t have a right to express their disagreement, but the Left is veering from anger to a militancy that inspires confrontation and potentially - perhaps eventually - violence.

That is what Senator Schumer may be guarding against when he gave a tongue lashing to Waters on a floor vote yesterday, saying:

“I strongly disagree with those who advocate harassing folks if they don't agree with you. If you disagree with a politician, organize your fellow citizens to action and vote them out of office. But no one should call for the harassment of political opponents. That's not right. That's not American."

Schumer didn’t tell Waters, Sarsour, or anyone else what to say, or when and how to say. In fact, he gives them a solution: organize and vote.

I doubt Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would endorse harassment and the kind of “protests” that they are inviting. Silently boycotting public transit and silent sit-ins at lunch counters are different than shouting and violating the personal space of individuals.

King was the champion for non-violent protest and in a 1968 speech, King condemned rioting while also condemning the economic and social conditions that spurred the riots in his community. He noted:

“Now I wanted to say something about the fact that we have lived over these last two or three summers with agony and we have seen our cities going up in flames. And I would be the first to say that I am still committed to militant, powerful, massive, non­-violence as the most potent weapon in grappling with the problem from a direct action point of view. I'm absolutely convinced that a riot merely intensifies the fears of the white community while relieving the guilt. And I feel that we must always work with an effective, powerful weapon and method that brings about tangible results. But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.

Dr. King condemned that conditions that drove people to riot, but he also condemned the riots. He wasn’t advocating for violence or the kind of incivility that Waters is calling for. If Sarsour is inspired by Dr. King’s words, she should take them all to heart.

Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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