Criticizing repression of protest abroad, practicing it at home
What if Americans Demanded the Ouster of This Government?
Ukraine’s new rulers, in one of their first acts, have disbanded that country’s riot police.
Now without getting into the complex politics of the ongoing struggles in that country, or into the question of the covert role of the US in backing the protests that brought down the old government in Kiev, this elimination of a brutal paramilitary police organization got me to thinking: If Ukraine, which has just gone through a spasm of deadly violence, and which is still in a very dangerous and politically unsettled situation, can get along without riot police, why can’t the United States?
Lately, with political struggles occurring in the streets of Venezuela, Thailand, Ukraine and a number of other places, the US government has been declaring over and over that the governments being challenged should not resort to violence against their own people.
Here’s US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Venezuela:
“We support human rights and fundamental freedoms – including freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly – in Venezuela as we do in countries around the world.”
And here is President Obama, speaking about the police violence in Ukraine:
"We hold the Ukrainian government primarily responsible for making sure that it is dealing with peaceful protesters in an appropriate way, that the Ukrainian people are able to assemble and speak freely about their interests without fear of repression."
Even in Thailand where, unlike in Venezuela or Ukraine, the US is backing the government against protesters seeking new elections, with State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf still insisted that the US supports:
“...a democratic process to resolve the ongoing political tensions in Thailand...We also continue to urge all sides to refrain from violence, exercise restraint and respect the rule of law...and we do, I would note, applaud the restraint shown thus far by government authorities in this regard."
Now let’s compare those fine, high-minded scoldings and warnings -- and remember, we’re talking about three countries where the protesters have been seeking the overthrow of their existing governments, not just for reforms in the system, and protesters, particularly in Ukraine and Venezuela, who have themselves resorted to violence and especially to property damage -- to how our own government these days responds to peaceful public protest.