[EDITORIALS]Riots and principlesAlthough belatedly, the president pledged that he would not tolerate illegal rallies that involved violence. He has shown the direction toward ending our tradition of violent demonstrations. Because of lukewarm government measures against violence, rallies by labor and civic groups tended to involve displays of force. As the president said, if the government keeps the principle of crushing violent demonstrations while guaranteeing legal protests, the culture of holding rallies without disturbing public order might begin to be established.
At a rally organized by a labor union on Nov. 9, Molotov cocktails reappeared after six years, demonstrators fired metal bolts at riot police with slingshots and demonstrators set fires under liquid gas cylinders. The rally, staged in the center of the city, was like a street fight. It was a pity to see the police, equipped only with shields and batons, trying to suppress the demonstrators. Innocent riot policemen were hurt. Therefore, some former riot policemen volunteered to take photographs of violent demonstrations. If such demonstrations are left unchecked, they will get even more violent.
By tolerating illegal demonstrations and showing leniency, the administration might gain popularity temporarily. But the tolerance will result in the collapse of national discipline and social order. Demonstrators who use violence and the leaders of groups that lead or instigate violent rallies should be held accountable. By punishing them, we must let others who stage rallies often understand that they cannot get anything out of violent demonstrations.
When a guideline is established, it is important to apply it equally. The police plan to be tolerant to two demonstrations scheduled today ― a nationwide farmers’ convention and a rally against a nuclear waste disposal facility in Buan. We wonder whether the latest guideline will end up only as words. It is hard to understand the explanation by the Blue House spokesman that the rally in Buan is different. Even before it goes into effect, is the guideline on violent demonstrations going to drift?