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What To Do When Trump Supporters Threaten To Kill

Here is what Trump’s followers are doing right now:
In Virginia two guys with guns show up outside a democrat’s office to protest Hillary saying, “We’re not a threat to anybody, the only threat is ignorance, and ignorance breeds fear.”   Another Trump guy calls for a bloody coup and hopes someone shoots Hillary.

In the space between the extremes of, “OMG, he could win this thing!” and “He will never win!” there is now a discussion of what Trump’s followers will do post election. That’s good. We need to be prepared for their “It was rigged!” screams.  But we also need to talk about what WE will do right now.

When Lou Dobbs published the phone number of Jessica Leeds, the 74-year-old former traveling businesswoman who accused Donald Trump of sexually assaulting her, I told my friends that I hope the secret service, the FBI and local law enforcement will be keeping an eye on all communications she receives.  I want her to be safe, but I also want to see a story about her threats being tracked, people identified and arrests being made before the election.

I want CNN and Fox to report on these arrests to their watchers, because they each helped make the threats happen.  I want arrests to happen before the election so they won’t be written off as Hillary’s “goons” arresting these people as payback. Directives to find and arrest people will be coming from our currently appointed justice department. Maybe the people who are behind the arrests of the Bundy people could lead. (Of course there will still be cries about Obama’s “goons,” FEMA camps and black helicopters, but whatever.)

Actually what should happen is that GOP politicians should demand the end of violent threats. They should demand that law enforcement take threats seriously. Then they should help ensure the threateners are tracked, exposed and arrested. If they are found guilty after a trial there should be appropriate punishment.   The GOP leaders need to say, “You threaten anyone with violence, and it’s a true threat, WE will take your guns, not Obama, not Hillary, but us, your elected Republican leaders, because we don’t do that in America.”

The GOP leaders could seize this opportunity to distance themselves from Trump, and be decent people, but they won’t, because they are afraid of their constituency. The right knows what their base is capable of, even if we don’t.

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In Robert Draper’s interview on Fresh Air I heard the story of foul-mouthed conservative bully Erick Erickson getting death threats for not supporting Trump. It doesn’t make me gleeful to hear about him receiving letters from people who discussed how he might be shot. I don’t think it’s cool for armed strangers to show up at his door “just to talk.”

After this experience will he have empathy for all the people on our side who have had this happen to them? Will he now understand that when open carry people show up “just to talk” it’s really meant to convey future violence unless he complies?

Even though those threats were directed at Erick Erickson from the right wing, we can’t count on the right-wing media to act on this. They always assume the gun-toting, violence threatening people are on their side threatening liberals and democrats–so it’s fine. (And when we call them on it they will say, “We were just joking!” )

I think the right knows that if they asked law enforcement to use their full surveillance power, with a warrant, it would uncover the people on their side who they turn a blind eye too.  Law enforcement doesn’t need to go to the FISA court or run unwarranted wiretaps to get this info.

When people get death threats, and they are elevated to “true threat” levelseveryone understands it is appropriate to bring in law enforcement.

I know a lot about computers, how they operate and how people can be traced. I also read terms of service contracts. I know acceptable use policies.  It wouldn’t take the NSA to crack the anonymity of most people making death threats, especially if the ISP gets a warrant from law enforcement.

Even with all my knowledge I know I could be found with a lawful warrant. But I’m not making death threats. I’m not showing up at protests with my gun and bragging about my arsenal or talking about killing people. I don’t show up armed at people’s house to remind them I know where they live and where their kids go to school.

People should NOT have to accept getting threats of violence as just the price of modern life. If they are coming from “social media” it is likely a violation of their terms of services. If people are writing threatening emails while at work it might be a violation of their organization or employer’s code of ethics. It might also be illegal.  It definitely is wrong and unacceptable in our democracy.

The people making threats can be found. In fact, a lot of tech savvy people can find these people right now. In the past I’ve encouraged people to keep track of these threateners, so you can show a pattern and importantly prove their intent.

The reason that most people making death threats aren’t traced or identified isn’t their digital hiding skills, it’s about the lack of will and capacity of law enforcement to do anything.

I get no satisfaction from “I told you so.” 

“I told you so’s” after the fact aren’t enough for me. If we know that a group of domestic terrorists are planning to kill people and we don’t act because we thought they were joking, we are failing in our duty to grasp reality and protect others. People can say Trump and RW media hosts have blood on their hands, but nothing is going to happen to them latter.

I also want to remind people that there are other exceptions to the First Amendment besides, “You can’t falsely yell fire in a crowded theater.” Threatening speech is NOT protected speech. It is essential to show the public that making true threats to others will have consequences.

After people are shot, killed or assassinated, pundits will wring their hands and say, “Nobody could have seen this coming!” Yes we can.

And before some concern troll starts talking about a chilling effect to political speech,  I’m not talking about thoughtcrime or pre-crime. We’ve seen the threats, they are specific and they are happening now. We need to act to prevent violence now, instead of waiting for after the election to really take them seriously.

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