Public protests are part of the political fabric of this nation. If they remain peaceful, I have no problem with anyone voicing their support or opposition to issues of the day. When they turn violent however, the rights of the protesters are fully abandoned.
A lawsuit was filed Tuesday in St. Louis by two dozen activists who were arrested during a 2003 agriculture forum in St. Louis. The protesters said police were plotting to stifle their constitutional rights to demonstrate.
When you read the information from the protesters, you begin to wonder if police indeed didn't overstep their bounds. The police rounded-up suspects in an abandoned building, they arrested bicyclers who had planned to participate in the demonstrations and they detained one individual for hours in the back of a patrol car and then later dropped the charges.
So on the surface, you have to wonder if police didn't overreact. An earlier and similar ag forum in Seattle had taken a turn for the worse. In that demonstration, 50,000 demonstrators overwhelmed the 400-member police force, smashing windows and vandalizing cars. So with that in mind, did police in St. Louis fear the worst and step on the rights of the protesters?
Well, you have to read a few more details to get the answer. When police made those arrests, they found roofing nails, a slingshot, combustibles, a bag of rocks and other items similar to those used in the Seattle protest that turned violent.
So given these details, perhaps police were more than prudent to arrest these demonstrators. Perhaps with the items found, the protesters had planned to create a violent atmosphere and turn the protest into an event similar to the one in Seattle. What other explanation would a demonstrator have for possessing roofing nails and the other items?
There are truly professional protesters in this country who travel from location to location with the intent on creating chaos. The issue under protest matters little. Their goal is to incite anarchy and violence. There's no real way of knowing if those were the plans in St. Louis. But you can certainly draw that inference.
Protest is valid and welcomed in our society. But the line is drawn when that protest turns violent. And police are in the position to make those decisions. In St. Louis, it appears the police had it right.