The First Amendment to the Constitution clearly lays out that you shall be given the freedom to peacefully assemble.
Recent events have brought this fundamental right into the spotlight.
Now the questions flow in and the loudest one is: Where do we draw the line between protest and riot?
Protesting has deep roots that stretch back to the building of this nation. Our founders felt it necessary to ensure the freedom to assemble was highlighted in the framework for our country.
It is easiest to break down what each one, riots and protests, contain.
It’s as simple as it sounds.
One gets fired up over an issue and takes to their city’s streets to chant in discontent.
Picket signs, horns, whistles and loud voices is all it takes. When a protest is done lawfully, it will be allowed to carry on without disruption from local authorities. Street corners, sidewalks and parks are most commonly used locations for protesters.
This scenario is what is hoped for when a protest takes place.
Stockton has recently been a rally point for peaceful protests against alleged police brutality.
On April 14, marchers took over Pacific Avenue and closed it down for the better part of the afternoon.
With picket signs that had words of discontent displayed on them, bullhorns and chanting “No Justice, No Peace!” those who took part in the protest made an example of what it means to gather peacefully. However passing motorists reacted angrily towards the protesters. Angry drivers resorted to throwing plastic water bottles in frustration.
A protest turns into a riot when those who are angry take out whatever is closest to them.
This could be destroying government and private property by setting it on fire, smashing windows and even vandalizing with graffiti. It is important to note, a majority of protests don’t get to this point.
In recent news, Baltimore fell victim to one of the worst riots since 1968. The riots, which lasted for four days, over the assignation of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., were violent and filled with unlawful behavior.
The recent riot was held because of an alleged police brutality incident with a resident of Baltimore.
Freddie Gray was allegedly detained and denied medical assistance while being taken into custody. Gray later was found to have suffered a fractured spinal vertebrae and died a week later from this injury. The outcry from Baltimore’s citizen’s led to a week long protest against police brutality.
The burning of cars and the looting of businesses was just a small part of what unfolded. The most violent events occurred on the afternoon of Freddie Gray’s funeral. Innocent bystanders were also attacked during the most tense and violent moments.
There are right ways to protest to get your voice heard and there are wrong ways to protest, which leads to rioting, that will ultimately lead to arrests and clashes with law enforcement.
The best advice is to police yourself and use common sense.
Always be observant of your surroundings when participating in a protest and make the better choice to refrain from violence. Keeping a cool head and staying safe can go a long way when attending a protest.
Voices are better heard without violence.