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John Larrysson's Column:Protester, demonstrator and rioter

【明報專訊】Protester, demonstrator and rioter, what is the difference? These words have been thrown about in the news as if they meant the same thing; they do not. A protester is against something and wants to show the government that they are against it. The point is to show up with as many people as possible and show the government how much support your side has.

A demonstrator is someone who shows or demonstrates something. A science teacher shows their class how the world works. A political demonstrator can be for or against something. Usually they want the same thing as a protester, to show how many people agree with their stance on an issue.

In English common law a riot is a group of three or more people who disturb the peace. The wording varies from place to place, but the basic idea is the same. It is very easy to be a rioter. Anyone who is part of a group, that includes people throwing bricks, is a rioter. If you walk away, you are not a rioter. If you stop the person throwing the brick, you are not a rioter. If one finds oneself in such a situation, one must act.

As soon as violence is used by a group, it is no longer a peaceful protest. It is no longer democratic. It is a riot.

This summer, large peaceful protests were ignored. The pan‑democrats did not suggest reasonable changes or protections. On the 12th of June Legco was attacked and vandalised. It was only after that riot that the government suspended the amendment. Carrie Lam spurned peaceful demonstrations, but rewarded rioters. Violence for a political end is a dangerous path to go down. Violence may be the ultimate response, but the People's Liberation Army (PLA) holds the ultimate potential for violence.

■Audio and full text: link.mingpao.com/15488.htm

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