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Some people have a wrong conception of what a peaceful protest is. In our clime, that terminology has been bastardized! Some now think a peaceful protest is just one in which the protesters are not armed. It goes beyond that. A peaceful protest is one that shows displeasure of the protesters without offering fear or threat of harm to anyone. You carry your placard if you like and march in peaceful procession; or take position at a location and stand or sit in but at worst, you march. When you behave as a mob, chanting war songs, hijacking vehicles from their owners or compelling motorists to carry your members; making bonfire on highways, blocking roads and creating fear among the populace, then that protest is no longer peaceful.
The criminal code describes it as a riotous assembly and while it does not call for military force, it certainly calls for police intervention to safeguard the populace. For this, no live ammunition will be employed. The police will use baton, tear gas and water canons to disperse such riotous assembly. If the riotous assembly starts attacking people, looting shops and setting fire to private or public properties then they become looters and arsonists which crimes carry lengthy jail sentences and police may use live ammunition to quell it even when those involved are not armed!
If such becomes widespread and police can no longer contain it then the military will be called in. If that happens, anyone who still need his life will have to disappear from the street. Army does not have tear gas or baton. The minimum they have is a rifle with live ammunition. Unlike the police who are trained to shoot to maim, soldiers are trained to get the heart or the head. They shoot to kill. Once you see them on the streets, you confront them at the risk of death.
Finally, protest organizers need to be told that protests can easily be infiltrated by people who do not share the ideals of the organizers. Touts, looters and thieves can easily hide under the cover of the crowd to perpetrate crimes. People with pent up grievances can unleash bloodthirstiness on innocent residents and motorists. It is important to note that protesters and their organizers bear the responsibility for such if it happens. A mob has no identity. Any member of the protest can therefore be held liable for any deed done by any other member. It is sufficient to establish that the fellow took part in such protest.
The wider political implication is that an action that leads to death of another ethnic nationality in such protests, even if not intended, can trigger a vicious backlash in form of retaliatory attacks in areas far removed from the scene of incident. Those who organize protests should have these thoughts at the back of their mind.
- Remi Adeoye