Editorial: No justification for vigilante violence, oppression in the name of civil rights

Editorial: No justification for vigilante violence, oppression in the name of civil rights

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Assault near Wisconsin protests investigated as hate crime

Wisconsin's "Forward" statue lies in the street on Capitol Square in Madison on Tuesday. Crowds outside the Wisconsin State Capitol destroyed two statues and attacked a state senator amid protests following the arrest of a Black man who shouted at restaurant customers through a megaphone while carrying a baseball bat.

(Emily Hamer/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)

In their zeal to press a laudable civil rights cause, self-righteous protesters too often exhibit the most frightening traits of the oppressive people they claim to be fighting against. In efforts to advance their cause, protesters have used force to stifle free speech and interfere with journalists doing their jobs. They’ve resorted to violence even while protesting the use of violence by others.

Such behavior makes no sense and reduces public support for their cause. It also gives President Donald Trump political ammunition to assert he must be reelected to halt the nation’s descent into chaos and lawlessness.

A case in point was a protest in Madison, Wisconsin, on Tuesday. Protesters smashed windows and began destroying two statues near the state Capitol. State Sen. Tim Carpenter went to the scene and began photographing the protesters. They attacked him viciously, punching and kicking him. He lost consciousness. He wound up with a concussion and fractured nose. All this because he was exercising his legal right to record the events as they were unfolding.

The protesters were occupying a public space. It’s not as if Carpenter had busted down the door of their house and invaded their privacy. But as often occurs in such situations, leftist protesters were asserting a level of authority and ownership of the public square that they never had a moral or legal right to claim.

Adding to the irony is that Carpenter is a self-described gay progressive Democrat. Doubly ironic was the fact that one of the statues they destroyed was of an abolitionist who fought and died during the Civil War fighting for the Union against slavery. The protesters beheaded the statue and dumped it into a nearby lake.

Apparently, the groupthink prevailing at the time was that anyone from the Civil War memorialized in a statue must therefore be evil. And anyone daring to observe or make a photographic record of the protests must also be evil. Thus, street justice was permissible.

Wrong. It’s never permissible, whether administered by police, right-wing vigilantes or left-wing protesters.

In Seattle, Washington, protesters have seized a neighborhood, taken over a police station, and claimed it as an “autonomous zone” where, supposedly, peaceful coexistence, harmony and understanding would rule. In the absence of police, three shootings have occurred there. One person has died.

For Missourians, the Wisconsin attack should sound all-too familiar. Recall the University of Missouri protests in 2016 when a campus journalist tried to photograph protesters occupying part of the campus. Melissa Click, a communications professor participating in the protest, tried to block the photographer and then called for other protesters to help provide “muscle” to oust him. She very justifiably lost her job.

Oppressive tactics in the name of social protest must never be deemed acceptable, nor accepted as representing American values.

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