When the protests against the government of the Ukraine became increasingly violent it was not surprising that they invited an equally violent response from the forces of law and order.
The overwhelming reaction from commentators and political leaders in the West was support for the protesters and condemnation of the government for stopping “peaceful” protests with violent confrontation.
Can protests be considered “peaceful” when barricades are set up in streets to stop the police doing their job as well as preventing free access to other law-abiding citizens? When police are shot at, stoned, petrol bombed with many injured and some killed.
When government buildings, vehicles and other public assets are invaded, burned and the occupants prevented from doing their jobs.
I have always been wary of the right to peaceful protest. The moment the number of protesters becomes high enough, or their actions violent enough, to interfere with the ability of others to enjoy freedom of movement, ability to work or use their property, a line has been crossed.
That line should not be crossed in a democratic system.
The first time a brick or more dangerous missile, is hurled at a policeman, public or private property damaged, the protesters must accept the risk of being seriously injured or killed.
I have no sympathy for recently deposed President Yanukovych or his government, however I have little enthusiasm for mob rule.
Why do we in the West automatically side with the protesters? Even when the government that is the target of the protesters was freely elected and by some standards no worse than others? – That was not necessarily so in the case of the Ukraine.
The Western leaders and media fell over themselves to praise the protesters in the “Arab Spring”. The result, certainly in Libya, Egypt and Syria, less stable countries with more casualties than before under the old autocratic regimes.
What would happen in North America or Western Europe if freely elected governments were faced with massive and violent revolution? We saw how Greece experienced a taste of it at the start of the austerity measures.
It was ugly, but the government had no alternative to using force to contain the situation, protect lives and property, prevent a revolution.
We saw a much more wishy-washy response to protesters during the “Occupy” movement when crowds illegally invaded private and public property, used private gardens as camp sites and toilets and prevented thousands of people going about their legitimate business.
That is not democracy at work, that is the action of a selfish minority attempting to replace a government it does not like by revolution instead of the ballot box.
Why should your and my tax dollars be wasted on replacing burned police cars and paying for thousands of hours of police overtime because the authorities are too timid to use force to maintain law and order?
The new interim government in the Ukraine is now calling for the arrest and trial of President Yanukovych. That may well be justified and he certainly invited retribution by is actions and by the recently revealed opulence of his residence.
That creates the concern that other presidents and prime ministers will be too nervous about their own futures to use force to stop revolutions. The job of being the leader of a country will become more dangerous, less attractive. Weak governments will result, anarchy will prevail.
There is a great danger in glorifying revolution. Yes some revolutions are just and eventually result in better governed countries with better conditions for most citizens. The French Revolution of 1789 – 1799 is probably the best example.
Other revolutions have had more sinister outcomes.The Russian revolution in 1905, being a prime example. One oppressive regime being replaced by a worse and more deadly one that affected the lives of millions of people inside and beyond the borders of the country itself.
The danger is that accepting increasing levels of violence and destruction as the “right of peaceful protest” opens the door to insurrection and chaos every time a segment of the population becomes dissatisfied with the government of the day. Irrespective of whether that government was democratically elected or not, good or bad, effective or not.
In Canada, Australia and most of Europe, the population has largely been disarmed, ordinary citizens will be unable to defend themselves, their families or their properties when weak leaders fear the consequences of firm action and mob rule is allowed to become the norm.
A sad state of affairs and one deliberately engineered by successive levels of increasing “big government”.
The USA, Israel and Switzerland alone in the West have allowed their citizens the security of legal possession of fire arms to defend themselves against the results of mob rule.
Graphic by Artvex.com