11/11/04 — Stop it now: Only firm action will curb anarchy

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Stop it now: Only firm action will curb anarchy

There is a big — and grave — difference between legitimate peaceful demonstrations and anarchy.

That mob of 100 rampaging in Raleigh in the wake of the General Election clearly falls in the latter category.

They tried to burn the Republican headquarters near N.C. State University, smashed windows and spray-painted obscenities on buildings.

Of the 100, three were arrested by Raleigh police. The anarchy continued when the three went to court for their first appearance. A young man who had not been arrested, but obviously was a supporter of the anarchists, seated himself on the front row of the courtroom and tried to signal the three defendants on how to respond to the judge’s questions.

Why the court did not eject the young spectator from the courtroom or jail him for contempt has not been explained.

But as people were leaving the Public Safety Center after the preliminary hearing, the young man — identified as Asa Lincoln Collier of Cayce, S.C. — attacked two cameramen, smashing their equipment to the floor.

He faces charges of assault and damaging property but has not been apprehended.

The three defendants who were in court face felony charges resulting from malicious use of an incendiary device. One of the defendants has an anarchist tattoo on his arm.

Violent demonstrations apparently have been occurring in some metropolitan areas across the country.

In an account of the Raleigh incident, The News & Observer reported that in Eugene, Ore., four years ago, 70 “protesters” were arrested in two days for violent demonstrations. Each was convicted on at least one count. Almost all received wrist-slapping sentences involving a year’s probation.

But at least one, a leader of the group, is serving a prison sentence of more than 20 years.

No one wants to end or even curb legitimate, peaceful protests. But there is a clear distinction between such demonstrations and what happened in Raleigh.

The courts can emphasize that difference — and contribute to preventing dangerous, felonious and explosive conduct — by giving convicted violators maximum active sentences.

Slaps on the wrist not only condone but encourage more violence.

Published in Editorials on November 11, 2004 11:28 AM