[EDITORIALS]Keeping the peacePolice said the candlelight vigil to protest the National Assembly’s impeachment of the president was illegal. That is a legitimate decision. The event was held in violation of the law, which bars holding a mass gathering after sunset and requires prior notification. The candlelight vigil in 2002 to remember the road deaths of two schoolgirls by a U.S. armored vehicle was a religious and cultural event, but the weekend gathering was a political one. Police, therefore, warned that they would disperse future gatherings and take necessary legal measures against organizers.
Our society is experiencing extreme conflict and confrontation over the impeachment. Over 500 civic groups formed an alliance to protest the impeachment, planning to hold candlelight vigils and to collect 10 million signatures by April 3. In contrast, 150 conservative groups said they would collect 20 million signatures to support the impeachment and demand that media organizations correct their unbalanced reporting on the issue. If the liberal and the conservative groups continue mass protests over the impeachment, our society will see chaos and splits.
The organizers of the candlelight vigil claimed that the event was a voluntary action to defend democracy. They said the event must not be seen as confrontational, but politicians are calculating busily how the events would affect the legislative elections a month away.
The National Election Commission asked the police to strictly control protests for and against the impeachment if they contain elements of campaigning. Even an assembly with an innocent motive could be abused politically and would never be free of controversy. Whether it is to support or object to the impeachment, such an event must be controlled. Civic groups must not provoke the public: They should remain quiet until the Constitutional Court rules.
The police have a heavy responsibility amid this impeachment crisis. They must insist that people notify police of their events in advance and hold them within legal boundary: daytime rallies that do not occupy the streeets for a long period of time.
Even at a lawful rally, police must enforce the law sternly, if violence erupts by controlling it and punishing violators.