Whether you’re right-wing or left-wing, violence abuses the value of protests
Recently, many people feel there is a lot to protest. Whether you’re on the left and want to protest Trump’s presidency, or on the right and want to protest the anti-Islamophobia M103 motion, there’s been a lot of activism in the air in Montreal.
And that’s great. The right to protest is a part of free speech—something I strongly support. But recently, I have noticed that this right is being abused by both ends of the political spectrum.
On the evening of Jan. 20, I attended an anti-Trump protest organized by Collectif de résistance antiraciste de Montréal (CRAM). I had initially intended to counter-protest as a joke with my Make America Great Again hat and an “Art of the Deal With It” sign—a parody on Trump’s bestselling book.
I decided against it, however, after reading reports from the Montreal Gazette about a man who was knocked to the ground for wearing a “Hillary for Prison” shirt during an earlier protest.
Instead, I attended purely to observe. The evening protest seemed to be going peaceful at the start. It was lawful for nearly an hour before masked vandals began defacing property. This culminated in several smashed store windows, a lot of graffiti and, ultimately, a rock being thrown at police and shattering a police station window.
I find behaviour like this incredibly disheartening. Whether or not you think there is corruption within the police force, I find it hard to understand why anyone would support this behaviour.
Instead of being able to go out and help people who are actually in need, six or seven cops had to remain by the shattered station window to ensure rioters did not destroy anything else. In other words, local cops were prevented from saving local citizens because people were abusing their right to protest.
During riots, left-wing anarchists and right-wing populists alike think they are punishing a “system,” or that the only people being hurt are those in positions of authority.
But who do you think is going to wash the “Fuck Trump” or “Kill Cops” graffiti off the Koodo store or the HMV? The answer isn’t some rich corporate giant. It’s going to be someone making near-minimum wage outside in the dead of winter. They may even be a college student who agrees with your views.
Personally, I’ve never felt that protesting does much serious good because of the violence I’ve seen it bring. However, I respect that many feel differently. Protesting, then, must not make anyone feel entitled to be violent, destroy property or attack those with whom they disagree.
Last weekend saw another protest—this one involving both the far left and far right—and it too turned violent, according to an article by CBC News. What could’ve been either an opportunity for two sides to debate and come to an understanding, or simply for each side to promote its beliefs to onlookers, turned into a brawl—completely delegitimizing both sides.
If we want a free and civil society, we must allow people we disagree with to spread their message, or counter-message, without violence. We must not destroy our own communities in order to prevent others from speaking up.