6 Things We Learned From This Week’s Toms River Protest
The biggest local story of the past week was clearly the demonstration that took place just outside the WOBM studios, as we hosted our regular 'Ask The Congressman' with Rep. Tom MacArthur. Now that some time has passed and we've had the opportunity to digest what we saw, it's a good time to look back and reflect on the lessons learned.
Here are our top takeaways from Thursday night:
No matter what side of the political aisle you sit on, the act of protest has been a cornerstone of American history and is a healthy expression of dissatisfaction when done peacefully. Seeing so many Ocean County residents involved in the political scene is a good thing, and if you disagree with what some one's saying, you have the very same freedom to reply.
A lot has been said about Indivisible, a website that organizes and provides resources for protests against local members of Congress. Their tactics have left some wondering about the finances behind the group, and whether individuals are actually being paid to protest. While we can't speak in definites about what's going on at the upper levels of Indivisible, the people on the streets of Toms River were legitimate locals, expressing their opinions without compensation.
I already mentioned the importance of peaceful protest, with the keyword being 'peaceful'. This is exactly what Thursday night's movement was. The mostly anti-Trump group came prepared with signs & chants, but it never escalated into anything more than words. Even when pro-Trump rivals appeared, it remained civil and never amounted to anything more than passionate dialogue. Though agreement wasn't achieved, both sides were heard.
Like his policies or not, Rep. Tom MacArthur surely won some people over with the way he handled himself on Thursday. Lesser politicians may have been frazzled, but MacArthur confronted the situation head-on, taking phone calls from constituents and answering questions directly. Following the program, the Congressman met with the remaining crowd and took a few face-to-face questions. MacArthur will be continuing the dialogue on March 31st at Ocean County College, an event that is free and open to the public.
There can't be enough said about the tremendous work that our local law enforcement officials do every single day, but it's never more evident than during events such as this. Members of the Toms River Police Department and the Ocean County Sheriffs Office were on hand throughout the evening to ensure the safety of everyone involved. There was never a moment of doubt that anything would get out of hand, as the officers allowed the group to protest peacefully, and the group respected the officers' requests to keep the street and driveway cleared. In an era when the TV shows constant hostility between citizens and authority figures, there was absolutely none of that on Thursday, with an obvious demonstration of mutual respect displayed by both police and citizens.
Although the night ended on a positive note, with a face-to-face conversation between Rep. MacArthur and his constituents, it is clear that the two sides still have a way to go before coming to any agreeable resolutions. Will the recent dissent last throughout the entire Trump presidency, or will the anger begin to eventually fizzle? Only time will tell, but as of this moment, the passion is strong.