Seattle, Prague: It’s clear who the bad actors are

Well, look who’s rioting again. It’s the same nasty crowd who made all the trouble in Seattle.

As in Seattle, the demonstrators in Prague hope to act as bullies. They are trying to use force to block other people from holding legitimate — and important — discussions. The rights of others to assemble peaceably is of no interest to the demonstrators who assemble with intent to take control of a city.

Of course, most demonstrators mean well, at least in some general sense. Their concerns about poverty in Third World nations and job losses in developed countries are completely legitimate, if not always well thought out. It’s vital, too, that more democracy and environmental protection be built into the emerging world economy.

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which are meeting in Prague, get the message. They have moved to incorporate some of the protesters’ ideas, including a measure — still much too small — of debt relief for poverty-stricken lands.

In fact, across the political spectrum, the need to balance economic development with human concerns is well understood. Unlike the protesters, however, most people aren’t losing their heads with hysterical visions of a bleak future for the world.

And most people aren’t casting aside morality to take up sticks and stones to throw at police. The public — here and elsewhere — recognizes the face of tyranny, even when hidden by cowardly black masks.

If the demonstrators’ tactics weren’t so outrageous, it would be humorous to witness the comfortable protesters pretending to be the voice of the world’s poor. It’s a claim that brings no support from the poor nations who want to improve their economic positions, not sit around blaming capitalism for every ill in the world. Perhaps the street protesters believe that the hungry can be fed with five-year plans or the shattered glass from McDonald’s windows. But the rioters, with their retro-Soviet desire to "smash capitalism," are as lacking in humor as they are in self-restraint. It is simply not funny or acceptable to tie up major cities while throwing temper-tantrums that endanger police officers.

In the nearly 10 months since the WTO mess, Seattle has properly sought to re-examine the official failures to prepare adequately for the demonstrators. Prague should remind all of us where the original responsibility for the trouble lies.

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