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According to the U.S. Constitution, American citizens have some rights. Those rights include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Each of us has the freedom to pursue our rights with one exception. You can't trample on my rights to fulfill yours. Your rights end at my nose.

I heard a newscaster say that the right to protest is an American right. Yeah, but with certain restrictions. Protesting is not mentioned in the Constitution. However, the right to peacefully assemble is mentioned as well as freedom of speech. Those are protected rights. Did you notice the qualifying word, "peacefully?"

What about protesters using violence? According to the Constitution, no one has the right to advocate the violent overthrow of the government. Terms like sedition or treason come to mind. In America we can overthrow our government every four years simply by voting.

When does lawlessness, rioting, disrupting commerce, and disturbing the peace move from making a political point and become trying to overthrow the government? No one who is demonstrating or protesting has a protected right to cause riots or break the law. That means they can't block streets or damage property. That means no looting, burning, or fighting. No defacing buildings or smashing windows. No streets filled with trash and broken bottles. No pelting automobiles with rocks. No more harming people. No more hurting police officers.

Assemblies must be peaceful to be lawful. If they are not peaceful, they degenerate into a mob. Think of a lynch mob in a western movie. If mobs are violent, they're criminals. This includes (formerly peaceful) protesters marching down the street. Riots make sensible people want to buy a gun.

Freedom of religion, the right to keep and bear arms, and our freedom of speech is protected. Thank God for America. Around the globe, Communist dictatorships have brutal "thought police" who jail people for dissenting. In the U.S.A., I have the right to say to the government, "I don't like what you are doing." I have the right to disagree with dissenters. Yet a woman was killed on an American street for simply saying, "All Lives Matter."

Something has gone terribly wrong. The protest movement has been taken over by anarchists like Antifa. Their goal is constant chaos and political upheaval. They want to remove President Trump. They want to overthrow the government. They want to defund the police. They want to intimidate America's conservative majority.

What about the rights of people who worked hard to grow their business and live in a good neighborhood? Do they have the right to defend themselves and their property? Do the police have a right to defend themselves and use force when they're attacked by a person resisting arrest?

I think the employees of the Federal Courthouse in Portland have the right to go to work without a mob attacking them. I think our streets should be safe to drive on without a mob blocking the intersection or someone shooting at us. I think business owners in downtown Seattle or in St. Louis or Minneapolis have the right to be protected by police from violent mobs who disrupt their livelihood. I think women should expect the police to come protect them from being beaten by lawless thugs in the street. I think parents in Chicago have the right for their children to be kept safe from shootings. I think black neighborhoods should expect that police will not withdraw just because CNN is filming cops who are protecting their city. And, yes, I think rogue cops should not abuse citizens who happen to be black.

--RON WOOD IS A RETIRED PASTOR AND AUTHOR. CONTACT HIM AT [email protected] OR VISIT WWW.TOUCHEDBYGRACE.ORG OR FOLLOW HIM AT TOUCHED BY GRACE ON FACEBOOK. THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR.

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