The other day protests turned to riots in Missouri following the release of a grand jury decision.
While I am certainly glad to live in a society where one is free to peacefully protest through civil disobedience when they disagree on an issue, I have never understood why some protests turn against their own community.
For much of Monday night images on television showed burning police cars and buildings as well as reports of gunfire and items being thrown at members of law enforcement and the media.
Surely this is not what is meant by peaceful civil disobedience.
It is likely that a small minority of protestors escalated things to the level of violence so any generalizations about the behavior of all of the protestors would be false. Sadly, the actions of the few far out shadow any peaceful message that the many may have been trying to share.
When the dust settles it is the images of the burning police cars and buildings that most people will remember more than any peaceful demonstration that may have occurred.
Of course protests and riots are not limited to issues pertaining to the courts and government. The world of sports is full of examples of times where fans riot in the streets following either a win or a loss.
Baseball and hockey fans have been known to take to the streets and tip over cars and start fires following championship wins or in some cases losses by their teams.
In the world of football, fans have been known to charge the field of play and tear down the goalposts as part of a celebration.
Of course when it comes to the biggest riots in sports that honor tends to fall to soccer teams where riots in the stands have turned violent and even caused deaths in some cases.
In each of these sports related riots innocent victims were affected and large costs to property were incurred.
In October both of the goalposts at Ole Miss were torn down by fans celebrating a victory over Alabama. According to published reports, replacing both goalposts cost $11,000 each.
Additionally the fan incursion onto the field drew a $50,000 fine from the Southeastern Conference on top of $3,000 for miscellaneous repairs that were also needed. The total cost of the fan riot was $75,000.
Alumni of Ole Miss set up a collection site and raised over $85,000 to cover the repairs and new goalposts so the University did not have to pay for the conduct of the fans but the fact remains celebrating a win by tearing down goalposts should not be allowed, even if the Alumni are willing to pay for it.
Of course the cost of replacing two goalposts is nothing compared to the costs that have been incurred by the riots of Missouri. While goalposts can be replaced within a matter of days the damage of one violent night in Missouri will take months, if not years, to repair.
With at least a dozen businesses burned to the ground, and others falling victim to looting, there is a very real cost being felt by the owners of those businesses.
Unlike the big time colleges who have Alumni willing to write a check for a new goalpost without blinking, many small business owners have their entire life savings tied up in a business to the point that even the slightest disruption in sales can have devastating impacts.
Aside from the small business owners being affected by the actions of a select few trouble makers, employees of those burned businesses are also affected and could see their incomes disappear.
History is full of examples of riots such as the one in Missouri and there will likely be another event in the future that will lead to protests such as the ones taking place this week.
That is part of the freedom Americans have. We are given free speech and the ability to show are displeasure with things in a way that very few other countries have.
But there are limits to the protection of free speech. Just as it is illegal to yell “fire” in a crowded theater when there is no fire it is also illegal to burn buildings and other property as a form of protest.
The violence and destruction over the past few days takes away from those members of society who are trying to peacefully demonstrate and have their voices heard.
Regardless of whether one agrees with the protesters or not one should agree that they have the right to demonstrate within the boundaries of the law.
It is when those protests fall outside the boundaries of the law that action must be taken to ensure that innocent people are not harmed.
So the next time your team wins that huge upset victory, celebrate the win from your seat and leave the goalpost firmly planted in the ground.
Also, continue to protest for causes if you are so inclined, but keep the protest peaceful so that innocent victims are not impacted.
The current protests in Missouri will end at some point and the impacted businesses will either be rebuilt or will relocate.
But there will still be scars below the surface just as there are with any riot.
The key is to let the scars serve as a reminder that can be learned from so that the events are not repeated.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get ready for a weekend of Thanksgiving football and food.
Copyright 2014 R. Anderson