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Rioters should be treated as the criminals that they are. They should be arrested, prosecuted and sentenced, if convicted. Damaging property and looting are criminal acts causing suffering to innocent people.

Freedom of speech, the right to protest is not a license to violating the rights of others. Rioting, looting and destroying property are not freedom of speech. It is the duty of the government to protect its citizens form such illegal acts.

Criminals should be brought to justice. Our government officials have a duty to protect its citizens from being prevented from pursuing their own best interest. That is our right in a free society so long as we are not violating the rights of others. This is the benefit of individual freedom, owning property and operating businesses as the individual sees fit. No one has the right to destroy or steal the property or businesses of other people.

One of the most important principles that protects individual freedom is that our government official’s powers are specifically set forth in the written Constitution. Government officials, as well as everyone else, are subject to the rule of law.

The Legislature makes the laws, which the executive enforces. The judiciary applies these laws to facts determined in a fair hearing about the controversy brought by litigants to peacefully resolve the issues between the litigants. No group, no matter how aggrieved they imagine themselves, is above the law and should be allowed to violate other people’s rights.

If we want to be free and govern ourselves, common sense tells us we cannot allow any individual or group to take away our inalienable rights. We have to have the courage to enforce our rights against any individual or group who try to take them away. Rioting, pillaging, looting and mayhem cannot be tolerated and must be stopped and the perpetrators brought to justice with whatever force is necessary.

As soon as a protest becomes violent, or outsiders use the protest to commit acts of violence, decent protesters should distance themselves from the violence and if necessary, abandon the area. Our officials cannot be distracted from doing their duty to arrest criminals by any alleged cause. Whatever justification a particular cause may have, has nothing to do with these criminal acts.

Being able to distinguish the two — criminals who violate the rights of others and people exercising freedom of speech — is the difference between civilization and anarchy.

Antonio P. Viviano, Clinton Township

former Macomb County circuit judge

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