City handled visit well

Published 1:48 pm Sunday, August 6, 2017

On Thursday, President Donald Trump made his first visit to the Tri-State area, drawing more than 9,000 people to the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington.

The visit was the president’s third to West Virginia, having appeared in Charleston as a candidate in 2016 and then speaking to the Boy Scout Jamboree in Glen Jean last week.

As with all presidential appearances, the event required attendees to wait a few hours for the chance to see the chief executive speak.

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The area to line up for the visit was located on the arena’s plaza, on Eighth Street, directly across the street from those who came to protest Trump’s visit.

As a sign of our polarized political landscape of the last few decades, the president drew a few hundred to demonstrate in opposition to him.

Huntington officials worked with organizers from both sides to ensure that everyone had the chance to exercise their First Amendment rights, both for and against the president’s agenda.

Rather than pen off opponents in a so-called ‘free speech zone,” as has happened in other cities, officials allowed the two sides to come face to face.

Through communication and follow-up with organizers from both parties, they were able to prepare for the opposing sides to line the street.

It is to their credit that the event remained peaceful and well-coordinated, with no violent clashes between the disagreeing crowds.

And it is to the credit of both sides that disagreements remained largely civil, despite earlier concerns that things could have turned sour.

The chance to see a sitting president is a great civic opportunity and supporters should enjoy it. And the right to free speech is one of the most cherished in the Bill of Rights.

We commend Huntington Police, the Secret Service, organizers attendees and all who showed that it can be exercised peacefully and smoothly.