My way and the highway: Response to NBC 12’s Curt Autry

Devoured by an eerie silence and sense of disbelief, VCU’s campus resembled a ghost town as televisions flashed the message most students were severely unprepared for — Donald Trump was voted the president elect. 

It was not until the following day that students’ initial grief and mourning from election night soured into anger and backlash. Multiple protests erupted across Richmond on Wednesday night as students marched throughout the city and onto highways, chanting anti-Trump slogans while carrying signs demanding equal rights for all.

As social media exploded with videos and photographs of the protests, NBC 12’s Curt Autry took to Facebook later that night to address the protests himself. In his post, Autry commended the police departments for their handling of students’ “stupidity” and condescendingly implied a lack of parenting was to blame.

While both VCU’s and Richmond’s police departments did indeed handle the rowdy protests rather well, it was Autry’s patronizing tone many found offensive and unnecessary.

“Trust me —” Autry stated, “in many cities across the country, tonight’s stupidity would have resulted in tear-gas and busloads of students with their hands zip-tied behind their backs.”

No, Autry. I will not trust you. You refer to yourself as “a Richmond news anchor with an opinion” on your “fan page” yet that is contradictory in and of itself. Your responsibility as a journalist is to report the news, and to do so as free from bias as humanly possible. Your role is to provide the public with factual, nonpartisan information and to allow your audience to form their own opinion.

You are to inform, but never to persuade — that’s my job.

Illustration by Gareth Bentall
Illustration by Gareth Bentall

Your disdainful post was both biased and unprofessional. You criticize students for holding their own opinions while your entire career is based on neutrality and yet you still spew your own judgments all over social media.

Your work is unethical and lacks any form of journalistic objectivity or credibility. Good ratings and high rankings do not justify a breach in ethics.

Aside from the fact that intertwining your opinions into your news reporting is intrinsically immoral, the statements you make in regard to the parents of protesters and the practicality of protesting are speculative.

“Some of your precious children mistakenly believed that risking their lives by walking into the path of 70 mph traffic in the dark — was a good idea,” Autry stated.

You make this statement as if many of these protesters’ lives were not already at stake by Trump’s election. Sure, blocking the highway and screaming profanities was not the brightest of ideas — but neither was voting a man into office who wants to deport them, to take away their rights to their own bodies, to silence them.

The blocking of highways may be illegal but compared to rioting and other alternatives it is a far more peaceful and acceptable form of civil disobedience. If you are so immensely offended by their actions, you may just have a weak stomach.

These students, or “precious children” as you snobbishly referred to them, were exercising their First Amendment right to protest. Parents of said students should not be ashamed nor embarrassed of their children’s actions, they should instead be proud to have raised their children to stand up for what they believe is right.

You may doubt the efficiency or the need for protesting, but you must recognize protests are protected under the First Amendment and play as vital of a role in democracy as voting. Protesting provides individuals with a platform for their voices to be heard when they may otherwise not be.

If you stand behind democracy, you have no choice but to also stand behind the right to protest. You cannot simply pick and choose which aspects you do and do not agree with.

Autry’s criticism in regard to the vulgar chants used by protesters made a somewhat valid point. Yes, “F— Trump” and “F— the Wall,” were not particularly classy but these protests took place only a day after the election when the wound was still fresh.

VCU students have since shifted their focus from rebellion to activism and demonstrated their ability to peacefully protest without vandalization or violence.

Students assembled in the compass on Saturday afternoon for “Richmond Grabs Back,” a civil and nonviolent six mile march throughout the city. Protesters held peace signs high in the air as they chanted exclusively empowering and positive slogans, including “They go low, we go high,” and “Say it loud, say it clear, Muslim lives are welcome here.”

VCU students exhibited their maturity, love and passion for promoting the common good and preserving human rights. Our community proudly encourages positivity and inclusivity, and our generation never ceases to advocate for open-minded and progressive ideology.

Our actions were not stupid. We do not need to be tear-gassed, arrested or deemed unintelligent — we need to be heard.


OPINION EDITOR

Ellie Fialk. Photo by Julie TrippEleanor Fialk
Eleanor is a junior print journalism and philosophy double major with a concentration in ethics and public policy. She often writes about issues of social justice and human rights, and her dream career would include traveling the world as a documentary filmmaker. You can usually find Eleanor binge watching an entire television series in one night or planning her next backpacking trip.
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ILLUSTRATIONS EDITOR

Gareth Bentall. Photo by Julie TrippGareth Bentall
Gareth is a cartoonist and illustrator currently in his senior year as a communication arts student. He specializes in political cartoons, humorous illustration, underground comic trivia, bird watching, hoarding, forwarding, boogie boarding and Parcheesi. Gareth currently resides inside of his inkpot. Last year, Gareth won the National Society of Professional Journalists award for Editorial Cartooning.
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  1. LTE: Response to the CT's Nov. 14 issue, Autry editorial

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