DUELING COLUMN: Riots Are The Answer To Negligent Governments

Protestors approach cops during Naples' George Floyd protest on Tuesday, June 2, 2020. Tamica Jean-Charles/PantherNOW

Humberto Mendez Prince/Staff Writer

The act of rioting—like protesting—is necessary. In many government bodies around the world, public demonstrations like the ones we have witnessed in the last couple of weeks are a constitutional right, and a way for masses to communicate their disillusionment with the government. 

Contrary to what some people might think, riots don’t come from an illogical place; they’re born out of previous violent actions that bring as consequence a chain reaction. This is something we were able to witness during the George Floyd protests this past week, when peaceful demonstrations turned to riots due to police brutality against the protestors. 

More often than not, it’s encouraged that these demonstrations be peaceful because of the consequences that an escalation could bring. However, many great changes in government have occurred right after a violent protest takes the place of a peaceful one. After all, many riots can be traced to events that began as peaceful protests but were ineffective, further escalating into violent demonstrations.

A Biscayne protestor. Jesse Fraga/PantherNOW

The L.A. riots of 1992 serve as a benchmark for protests of this kind. What mainly sparked the riots was the acquittal of the four officers who detained and beat Rodney King, a black construction worker, for a driving violation. The manner in which the LAPD managed the protests following the acquittals, along with the racial tensions the U.S. was going through at the time, caused altercations between the people and the LAPD to escalate across the county, leaving several dead and even more wounded.

The need to protest springs from the injustice and illicit behavior of local governments towards their citizens—injustice that shouldn’t come from the local authorities in charge of “protecting” the same people they are repressing. 

Another factor is the overall incapacity of the government to assess the situation or come to an ultimate logical solution. 

The seemingly voluntary inability from the government to listen to their citizens adds to the impotence that the general population might feel. This ultimately incentivizes the once peaceful protests to escalate into armed conflicts between police and civilians.

When specific sectors of society encounter resistance from their government to address their needs—whether those needs in question are political or civil—it’s only logical for the people to take to the streets to protest.

But other issues, such as discontent towards a leader in government, have also sprung peaceful protests that, through use of governmental force towards citizens, end up being a catalyst for bigger riots.

Back in 2014, the so-called Ukrainian revolution saw citizens of the European country gather around the Maidan Nezalezhnosti square (also known as the Independence square), to voice their discomfort towards pro-Russian policies. As they protested, president Viktor Yanukovych decided to unleash state police on his people, exercising police brutality that effectively injured dozens or protestors. The end result was months of riots that led to more than a hundred deaths between protestors and police officers alike.

This conflict ended up escalating into one of the most emblematic riots the country had ever seen, which ultimately led to Yanukovych resigning and fleeing the country.

Rioting happens when all prior peaceful options are neglected by the government. All protests should start and finish as peaceful demonstrations, but to avoid their escalation, politicians must take their people seriously. It is only when a radical and meaningful change hasn’t occurred, that riots arise and anarchy substitutes a peaceful protest.

Indifference, injustice and short-term solutions are what ignited this week’s protests in the U.S. into riots. Adding police brutality into the mix only adds to the frustration of protesters and the end result is conflict that leaves a negative opinion by the general population on those who were affected the most in the first place. 

Although the timing of this week’s protests unfortunately overlaps with the COVID-19 pandemic, the recent boom is not an event that came out of the blue. For decades now, there have been flaws within the structure of the police system and the government’s negligence. To fully assess it has only made things worse, which in consequence brings us to today’s events.

Protests and civil disruptions are justified when all prior alternative peaceful solutions are dismissed violently by a government that is oppressing the protestors in the first place. There’s a difference between the individuals who riot because they’re not being heard and are truly angered at the system, and opportunists who take advantage of this situation to steal from businesses with the purpose of tarnishing the message of the individuals who are protesting. 

All riots originate from a necessity to change and the frustration of a citizenship that sees its own government turn their back on them.

DISCLAIMER:

The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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