[EDITORIALS]Defending the defendersParents of riot police and former police officers who served their mandatory military service as police personnel will stage a rally to protest violence at other rallies. They are expected to distribute fliers that demand the government to ban illegal rallies and urge protesters to stay within the police lines designed to protect protesters. Nevertheless, the real intention seems to be to protest against criticism that the police were responsible for the recent deaths of two farmers in a protest. It does not sit well with them that the government does not demonstrate the will to investigate illegal violent rallies and punish the instigators according to the law. Instead, they say, Seoul tries to calm anti government feelings of farmers and civic organizations by firing the police chief.
There is also a feeling of sadness and frustration that they are treated as offenders although they are often exposed to steel pipes and bamboo sticks wielded by protesters and are injured. Last year, when protest rallies by laborers and farmers were frequent, the number of injured riot police and police officers was 747, including 138 who were injured seriously. Those serious injuries were four times the number in 2004.
On one Internet Web site, parents of riot police are arguing that their sons, who are even called murderers although they suffer a great deal from violent demonstrations, need encouragement. There are many people who agree with that thought. Because the government is turning a blind eye to the riot police, who are exercising justified legal police power, parents are now trying to protect them.
If this continues there is a possibility that the discord between parents of riot police and farmers will increase. We urgently need a government announcement of a clear stance on banning illegal violent protests. It is good that the prime minister said a committee would be established to reach a social consensus to end violent rallies. In order to establish a tradition of peaceful protest, the cooperation of protest rally organizers is essential. If civic organizations promise to hold peaceful protests, it would be very welcome.
That the police uphold the principle of executing the law strictly is also a precondition for a healthy protest culture. Last year, the police arrested only four people who crossed police lines. The police need to show the will to stop studying the mood of an administration that is friendly to civic organizations. Instead, they should do their best to maintain order in protest rallies according to the law, and show a strong will to enforce the law as is written.