Protests don’t have to end in tear gas
The latest contentious protest in Alabama took place in Huntsville Wednesday night as the city made it clear that it would not be tolerating lawlessness and open-hostility in the street.
How long can they hold this position? Time will tell.
Before we get started, let’s take a second to remember all of this is predicated on the unanimous agreement among citizens and politicians alike that an event that happened over 2,000+ miles away was horrendous, illegal and needs to be aggressively punished to the full extent of the law.
No one in Huntsville has expressed a different opinion or begrudged anyone for being outraged.
This was not a clear lie, much like the Michael Brown situation in Ferguson. This was clearly a situation where a man was killed at the hands of the police while in restraints and unarmed. Period.
But this is still a society where free speech is not only important — it is necessary.
That means that the government will not infringe on your right to assemble and voice your opinion. The value of that opinion is irrelevant. Klan members and Nazis have utilized it because unpopular speech is what needs to be protected.
Stating that George Floyd should be alive is not controversial in any way, and no one has pretended otherwise.
As protests across the country indicate, a multi-racial cross-section of America has taken to the streets to share this opinion.
But, and this is important, I can’t walk into a judge’s chambers or scream my opinion while running down the freeway expressing it as cars try to avoid me.
In Huntsville and everywhere else, you need a permit to close city streets, and the city appears to have even been lax on that in this matter.
Trust me, I know something about this:
Obviously, you can just walk in the road and force the authorities to stop you. Maybe they will give you “space to destroy,” maybe they won’t.
Much like Monday’s protest, Wednesday’s protest ended with most protesters going home. Both were followed with a standoff that ended in tear gas (quibble if you want, that’s what it was).
Why? Because after the protest, a portion of the protesters moved on while a remaining mob decided they were going to stand in the street until the cops made them move.
They wanted negative attention, and they got it.
Where does this end?
Huntsville’s downtown area was already shut down for two days this week. Is this to be expected every other day until those protesting declare we have racial equality? It’s unlikely we ever get there.
So at some point, the city will be required to open up the street and the protesters will have to move on.
The warning was given repeatedly. It was obvious that the crowd was not going to leave the road until a reaction from law enforcement was obtained.
So they got one. Tear gas was deployed, things were thrown, an officer was hurt and 24 non-protesters were arrested.
Did this advance the cause of the actual protests? No. It hurt them.
Was disruption the goal after the fact? Probably, so mission accomplished.
Citizens do not want this strife in their city, especially when they already agree with the cause.
Most Americans know we can always be better as a society.
Most Americans know we have come a long way from where we have been.
Most Americans want peace and fairness but they also want law and order in their communities.
Some in the media are sitting at home egging-on the protesters and hoping for more lawlessness.
But that is about them. Bad behavior at protests and after them emboldens the elected officials and law enforcement to give less leeway to actual protesters. It will also make citizens equate the actual protesters to the rioters and looters we see all day on cable news, and no one should want that.