BY STEVE DELANEY
Guthrie County Times Vadette
I don’t get it. The right of the people “peaceably to assemble and petition their government for a redress of grievances” is part of our national fabric. I think it’s important enough that I print it on our page each week. Nowhere is there fine print that includes rioting, looting, arson. But that’s what consumed our television screens last weekend.
I was in Iowa City for something quite different on Saturday, but there were two simultaneous events taking place within a couple miles of each other – an irony to me.
Those familiar with Iowa City and the University of Iowa campus know the Pentacrest is essentially the gathering spot for rallies. Peaceful rallies. When I was a student is was the time when Iranians took Americans hostage in Tehran. There were almost daily rallies on the Pentacrest. Peaceful ones.
And Saturday there was a peaceful rally on the lawn in front of the historic old capitol building, conducted in the wake of the senseless killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis just days earlier.
Authorities cordoned off the first block of Clinton Street in front of the Pentacrest, anticipating a good-sized crowd. And that’s what they got. Organizers Lujayn Hamad, 18, and Rameen Hamad, 20, said they wanted to create a safe space for people to express their grievances with police violence and create a dialogue. And that’s what they got.
We drove by as my daughter, Hannah, and I took my son, Connor, to the other side of the Iowa River where we dropped him off at the Iowa National Guard Armory so he could begin his assignment as a member of the guard’s Ironman Battalion.
Hundreds of family members were there to say goodbye to our citizen soldiers as they prepare to leave for the Middle East for more than a year.
The send-off was more of a drop-off.
After the drop off, we assembled along a street near the Iowa recreation facilities to wave goodbye as two buses filled with guard members followed an escort led by more than 200 motorcycles, police and state patrol vehicles, and fire trucks from the area.
We left afterward to head out of town, which took us past the Pentacrest. By then, the streets were reopened, and you couldn’t tell there was a large crowd there just an hour prior conducting a rally.
I came back to Guthrie Center while my daughter headed back to her apartment in Milwaukee.
I no sooner got in the door when my phone buzzed. It was her. Protests in downtown Milwaukee near her apartment were taking place. The city had imposed a curfew. The governor had summoned Wisconsin National Guard troops to keep order.
Her boyfriend’s parents live north of Milwaukee in Saukville. They called her and encouraged her to spend the night there, which she did.
Citizen soldiers from Iowa, including my son, will train and eventually leave for foreign soil to, among other things, protect the right to “peaceably assemble and petition our government for a redress of grievances” on our soil.
The founding fathers thought it so important that this be a government of the people – not tyrants or dictators – that they put the power of governing to the people. And it was of utmost importance to them that the guiding document started with select freedoms upon which Congress can do nothing about.
There are five freedoms in the First Amendment, but for me those five aren’t the most important words of the amendment. To me, the most important words are the first five – “Congress shall make no law. . .”
There’s no ambiguity in those five words. Translated: Don’t even think about it Congress.
If you want to effect change, you don’t do it by setting fires and stealing big-screen televisions and destroying and defacing private property. Lawlessness won’t impart change for the better. It’s not what the founders intended to protect when they crafted that magnificent document.
What we’re seeing isn’t what the First Amendment intended.
What we’re seeing isn’t why young men and women sign up and serve.
Steve Delaney, former editor-publisher of The Hawk Eye in Burlington, is owner/editor/publisher of the Guthrie County Times Vedette.