Waters: A novel way to treat protesters—listening to them

Canadian prime minister's approach differers vastly from that used by some U.S. politicians.

The U.S. version of Trudeau-mania 2 may have subsided now the bromance visit of Canada’s new prime minister and U.S. president Barak Obama, his older but politically aligned new BFF, is over. But the comparisons to how we do things in this country compared with how they do it south of the border remain.

In the wake of the violent protests that canceled an election campaign rally by U.S. Republican frontrunner Donald Trump in Chicago Friday, a contrast in styles emerged when our PM, Justin Trudeau, was interrupted by protesters the other day.

Where Trump yells “get ‘em out of here,” to his security guards, then tells the audience—as he has done—he would like to smash the faces of protesters and would be wiling to pay for the legal defense of supporters who attack protesters at his rallies, Trudeau took another tack. He actually listened to what the protestors at his appearance had to say.

Yeah, I know, it’s a novel approach. But as many Americans are now learning thanks to increasing exposure to our strange northern ways given the aforementioned second coming of Trudeau-mania, we now do things a little differently north of the 49th parallel.

At the recent event in Toronto where Trudeau was speaking, two protestors carrying a sign about the proposed Energy East pipeline interrupted him. Rather than try to talk over the protestors or argue, Trudeau gave them the floor.

When they were done, he urged the crowd to applaud. Then he responded. That’s how you diffuse a situation, not incite it.

The comparison with both the sound and fury heard on the U.S. campaign hustings right now by both experienced and would-be politicians, and, for that matter, by Trudeau’s predecessor in this country, is stark. If you give people a chance to say their piece, they normally calm down. But if you shut them down with threats, violence and shouts, it simply elevates the anger and, as we have seen at Trump rallies across the U.S. lately, chaos ensues.

Trudeau’s response wasn’t antagonistic, it did not play to the worst in the people there to support him and it defused what could have turned ugly. Someone should show the tape to Trump.

It seems we now hear daily stories of how anyone who opposes Trump’s political or personal views is threatened, insulted or beaten at Trump’s rallies. He thinks it’s a show of strength.

In some cases rally participants have not had to protest at all to be threatened—they just needed to have darker skin. A black CBS reporter at one rally was accused of being an ISIS terrorist and told to go home. That despite the fact he was American born. A member of the media, a photographer, was wrestled to the ground and injured for stepping out of a wall-less media area at another rally. And those were people doing their jobs. Everyday folk who disagree with Trump get treated even worse.

And it’s not just Trump’s security people who attack those in the audience. Other supporters hurl insults at those who disagree and those who they don’t like the look of. And Trump eggs them on. It’s as if the billionaire businessman appeals to the very worst in those who claim to support him.

But as Trudeau proved earlier this week, we are measured not by how we deal with those who agree with us, but rather by how we treat those who disagree.

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