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In a peaceful demonstration, are all members resposible for the few that are violent?In...

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pdoces | (Level 1) Honors

Posted November 8, 2011 at 11:01 AM via web

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In a peaceful demonstration, are all members resposible for the few that are violent?

In a peaceful demonstration, are all members resposible for the few that are violent?

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 8, 2011 at 11:57 AM (Answer #3)

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I would say it depends upon their reaction to the few who are violent. If they try to discourage violence, if they take action to prevent or stop violence, and/or if they condemn the violence, then I would say that they are not responsible.  If they stand by and fail to act in any way while the violence is taking place, or if they fail to condemn it once it does take place, then I would say that they lose a great deal of moral stature. If they go to a demonstration knowing that there is a great likelihood that it will turn violent, then once again I think they can be considered morally culpable to some degree.

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Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted November 8, 2011 at 12:06 PM (Answer #4)

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I am glad to see a distinction between moral and legal culpability in this discussion.  I would agree that there is a moral obligation to try to stop violence.  However, there is never any legal duty to do so unless one is an "officer of the peace."  As dreadful as it might seem, I can stand in front of my house and watch one person knife another person to death, and I am completely innocent of any legal wrong-doing.  In fact, there was a rather famous case many years ago in which dozens of people watched from their apartment windows while a woman named Kitty Genovese was knifed to death. Not a one of them even called the police.  Not a one of them committed a crime.

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readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 8, 2011 at 12:48 PM (Answer #5)

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In a peaceful demonstration, there are usually many people. This means the group cannot be culpable for a few. Not everyone would know what is going on. However, the group has a responsibility to condemn the actions of the few and distance themselves. They can argue that the few violent one in a peaceful demonstration must not represent the group. If they do not do this, then we can say that they implicitly or tacitly condone the actions of violence. In this sense, there is a level of culpability.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 8, 2011 at 1:09 PM (Answer #6)

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They shouldn't be, but inevitably they will be.  I think it is a little too easy to say that the group should show its disapproval of the violence.  How, without violence of your own, do you do that?  I'm not sure.  So I don't think that the group can prevent those who want to be violent from being violent.  But in the court of public opinion, the groups will be held responsible anyway.  Any violence tarnishes a protest, not matter how few participate in it.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 8, 2011 at 6:57 PM (Answer #8)

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Unfortunately, I think that they will have to bear some of the blame, even though it is only the actions of the few that might ruin a peaceful protest. Although authorities seem to be able to differentiate in some cases between the peaceful throng and the violent minority, it is incredibly hard to not allow the peaceful protestors to be tainted by the violence of just a few.

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 9, 2011 at 12:18 AM (Answer #9)

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I'm with #3. If you are demonstrating in a group and a few members begin to act in a violent or destructive manner, you have a moral responsibility to be a good citizen and attempt to curtail their behavior. If you do not, you are in a sense approving of that behavior; it's the mindset of "Well, I would never act in that way... but I understand it and I can't disagree with it... but I would never do it!" It's a tacit agreement, and if you condone violent behavior you are enabling it. The only response is direct intervention, or, if you are unable to get involved, disavow it and move away from it. If you are standing outside City Hall with a sign and a guy comes up with Molotov Cocktails, you should, at the very least, leave! Don't stand around and get in the way. By the way, if a violent person identifies himself with your movement, disavow him and refuse to allow him near your gatherings! Don't accept them for the numbers and then act shocked when they act violent.

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stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 9, 2011 at 2:50 AM (Answer #10)

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So, as the discussion has demonstrated, there is no one all-inclusive right or wrong way to answer the question. If I am part of a peaceful demonstration and am on the far side of the crowd from someone trying to commit some sort of act that is not nonviolent, no - I am not directly responsible for that person's actions. If I am close by and become aware of another person's intent to disrupt the peaceful activities of the demonstration, then I am probably morally bound to at least make an attempt to dissuade or forestall the disruption. As with many situations in life, it's not an all-or-nothing distinction.

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larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 9, 2011 at 2:50 AM (Answer #11)

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I also agree wholeheartedly with post #3 that one cannot abdicate individual responsibility and blame it on herd instinct. Such a practice is both cowardly and dishonest. All of us have some innate sense of right and wrong; and if group actions tend to violate our moral compass; then we can't use the old "everyone else was doing it" excuse. If actions turn violent, one should excuse himself forthwith; otherwise he is equally culpable with the perpetrator.

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pdoces | (Level 1) Honors

Posted November 18, 2011 at 12:39 AM (Answer #12)

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Thank-you, expanding a bit, how would Emerson and Thoreau respond to current demonstrations?  Would they expect each person who participate to be responsible for any violence? 

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victoria-steve | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted December 5, 2011 at 9:36 AM (Answer #13)

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I think it's a ridiculous question. People are only responsible for their own actions.  If some people in a demonstration are violent, only they are responsible for their violence.  

Other participants in the demonstration have no more moral responsibility to stop violent demonstrators than anyone else has, such as bystanders on the street. 

The question seems to me biased, suggesting that mere involvement in a demonstration can be morally blameworthy even if one does nothing wrong oneself. 

Another issue is that violent people in a demonstration are sometimes provocateurs working for a government, business, or other interested party that wants to sabotage a demonstration--by making the cause look bad or giving authorities an excuse for a crackdown. 

Another question might be whether people who do NOT join a demonstration are blameworthy for withholding their support from an important cause, like people who do not take action to stop violence or injustice.  That is certainly more reasonable than the idea that people are responsible for others' actions! 

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frizzyperm | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted December 10, 2011 at 5:53 AM (Answer #14)

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If I am in a queue for hotdogs and a person in the queue pulls a gun and robs the hotdog seller, am I responsible?

So... why am I responsible if other people on a demonstration want to cause trouble? Group responsibility is a tool of dictatorship.

If |I was on a march which had a violent minority, then morally, afterwards, I should strongly support the condemnation of the violence and stress the importance of peaceful protest, but I am in no way culpable for the behaviour of others.

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samjazael123 | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted December 22, 2011 at 11:46 PM (Answer #15)

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I don't support protest because people end up turning violent and start rebelling against something they can't see. I think Obama isn't really the controller of american society. I know that congress isn't the full authority either. See our government is following a code that dates all the way back before the sumerians. The true leader is behind the curtain. There is no conspiracy because its right before our very eyes. Someone else whom is the leader of the elite. (the chosen ones) is the true creator of violence. As people are too dumb to see or think of this individual. "It starts with someone who will bring ease at times of trouble, he shall calm the world, yet shall inflict it with sorrow" [Nostradamus Quatrain year 2098] Many read Nostradamus quatrains and see how cryptic it was, yet he uses a method known as Trans-psychosis which calms the mind like that of the Oracle of Delphi a women priestess. He was at least 79% percent accurate.  I see a people fighting the wrong people. We must realize there are higher powers within the combines of government.

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samjazael123 | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted January 1, 2012 at 2:24 AM (Answer #16)

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Me i'm a conspiracy theorist which most of the media denies exists as much as the government. Did you know the government monitors all protestors as our names are put into the system no matter violent or peaceful. Our government since 9/11 has heightened security to make sure that violence doesn't erupt. If anyone protests agaisnt the government they are considered Anarchist's as well as a threat to government. I see that much of our government is also silent on many things from immigration laws, economic collapse, heightening the price on many goods and neccessities, and illegal detention camps. I can go on all day about so many conspiracy theories, yet some are deemed as true. I wouldn't want anyone in america to protest because "The Elite" are watching you because big brother is already performing its duties. The biggest shock is what the media, the president, americans, and politicians deny incredibly. Do we elect the president and is the president the authority? In a way i've studied politics at a community college and in a way, it comes to the point that not just we "don't elect the president", but "the president isn't the soul authority in government". "Most of congress in fact are millionaires and we as americans don't seem to see that."

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elfgirl | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted January 5, 2012 at 6:35 AM (Answer #17)

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Me i'm a conspiracy theorist which most of the media denies exists as much as the government. Did you know the government monitors all protestors as our names are put into the system no matter violent or peaceful. Our government since 9/11 has heightened security to make sure that violence doesn't erupt. If anyone protests agaisnt the government they are considered Anarchist's as well as a threat to government. I see that much of our government is also silent on many things from immigration laws, economic collapse, heightening the price on many goods and neccessities, and illegal detention camps. I can go on all day about so many conspiracy theories, yet some are deemed as true. I wouldn't want anyone in america to protest because "The Elite" are watching you because big brother is already performing its duties. The biggest shock is what the media, the president, americans, and politicians deny incredibly. Do we elect the president and is the president the authority? In a way i've studied politics at a community college and in a way, it comes to the point that not just we "don't elect the president", but "the president isn't the soul authority in government". "Most of congress in fact are millionaires and we as americans don't seem to see that."

I can go on all day about so many conspiracy theories,...

Mmm-Hmm... and does your love of conspiracy theories help you to find them?

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Stephen Holliday | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 6, 2012 at 3:51 AM (Answer #18)

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A person who is peacefully protesting has no legal connection to anyone who is protesting violently, but from a practical viewpoint, anyone in a crowd in which violence is occurring may suffer from whatever enforcement actions are used against the violent protesters.  As we've seen time and again, when violent people and the authorities clash, peaceful people get caught up in the violence simply because they may be near the violence.

Even if one argues that a peaceful member of a crowd has a responsibility to act against violence, that act is usually violent by its nature and adds to the overall violence.  If a peaceful crowd action devolves into violence, the only practical solution is for the peaceful participants to leave the area.  Most sociologists who study crowds conclude that many crowds begin to exhibit the characteristics of the worst-behaving member of the crowd, and if that behavior becomes dominant, there is no longer a chance for peaceful protest anyway.

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enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted January 13, 2012 at 5:04 AM (Answer #19)

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How can anyone ever be responsible for anyone else? If I choose to go to a demonstration and protest, that's fine.  If you go to a demonstration to protest, that's fine, too.  If you stand next to me and decide to toss Molotovs around, how am I responsible for that?!? As others have posted, I may not like nor condone it, but that's different than being responsible for the actions of the person next to me.  Of course, the violent actions of a few will taint the peaceful assembly of the many; that is the unfortunate risk you incur when protesting.

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