[EDITORIALS]Inviting violence

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[EDITORIALS]Inviting violence

The sight of the struggle between the residents of Sangdo 2-dong and the removal team that was televised Friday reminded one of a battlefield. Molotov cocktails were flying and burning everywhere, and it appears that homemade guns were used, along with other weapons such as iron pipes and large slingshots. The problem is that such radical and violent struggles are becoming commonplace. Although they have been more peaceful than they were last weekend, Buan demonstrators opposing the government’s plan to build a nuclear waste facility in their area have also wielded Molotov cocktails, sickles, iron rakes and liquified gas containers that they heated and exploded. Molotov cocktails made a comeback after six years at a labor rally in the middle of Seoul last month. Newer weapons, such as slingshots using bolts and nuts as pellets, were also used against the police.
The primary responsibility for such violent rallies lies with the organizing group and participants, but Seoul and the local governments also cannot escape blame. Too many times, the central and local governments have changed their policies or projects when faced with fierce opposition by residents. This has encouraged the parties involved to resort to flat refusals and violent rallies instead of peaceful rallies or negotiations.
The government should not spare efforts to protect legitimate rallies that point out the wrongs of public policies and demand their correction. Such rallies are part of the rights provided by the constitution. But that does not mean that the government should turn a blind eye to illegal rallies and protests.
Last month, President Roh Moo-hyun announced that those responsible for illegal, violent rallies would be strictly punished. But the police still do not use tear gas and water cannons, relying instead on using their own bodies to block the demonstrators.
The government should show a firmer attitude and no longer tolerate violence. Not only that, but it must show that it will not give in to those who engage in illegal rallies. Much depends on the government’s determination if we want to root out illegal and violent rallies.
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