Q&A - Peaceful Protests Can Harm Communities

Today’s entry: How long must we endure these peaceful protests? These peaceful protests are not only disrupting lives and businesses but fueling riots, as well. It's gotten to the point that I no longer consider these protests peaceful anymore. Enough is enough. We need to get back to work. Time to shut the protests down or at least limit them in some way, shape, or form. This cannot go on forever. They are the way to disrupting to an economy that is already fragile.

Bottom Line: We’re all familiar with the first amendment. We have freedom of expression and the right to assemble. With that broad understanding of our constitutional rights, it’s commonly thought that as long as protests don’t turn violent or destructive, they’re legal. Many if not most protests in South Florida and across the country have been and continue to be unconstitutional. The reason directly reverts back to your point about the disruption to the lives and businesses of others. That disruption is destructive. 

You don’t have to throw bricks and loot stores to cause harm. Denying one the ability to conduct their business is a loss in and of itself. That’s why, for example, permits are required for events that would potentially disrupt the surrounding community. It's a byproduct of our education system and the failure of our news media to effectively cover this aspect of the protests. It would seem that in the name of political correctness, or a lack of constitutional/legal knowledge, this dynamic has been ignored. Freedom of expression and assembly isn’t limitless. This is why you can’t yell fire in a crowded theater and its why you don’t have unlimited rights to hold events or demonstrate wherever and whenever you want. 

We’re all allowed our constitutional rights but an act becomes unconstitutional – illegal – the moment we deny others their constitutional rights. Using one's expression to shutdown roadways, obstruct city blocks, prevent one to operate their business, or patrons to patronize those businesses are all illegal acts. I don’t fault law enforcement for the lack of enforcement in this regard. They’ve been placed in a no-win position but it also shouldn’t be encouraged in an unlawful way by civic leaders. Again, an informed and objective news media would cover this important dynamic. By not shedding light on this topic, and by often lauding the peaceful but still unlawful protests, it potentially encourages more and ongoing like demonstrations. Let me be clear, this is not about the message or the validity of the peaceful but illegal protests, this is about right and wrong. As always there’s a right and a wrong way to do things. It’s possible to hold a peaceful protest in a place and in a way that doesn’t violate the rights of others. 

Pertaining to the already fragile economy – this is a huge concern of mine. Prior to these concerns, many businesses that made it through the pandemic to reopening were on a razor’s edge. To just use one data point, an association survey of restaurants that had reopened showed 65% were unprofitable since reopening. When you think about this in context it’s even more alarming. Many restaurants went out of business while shutdown. These restaurants are the survivors, there’s less competition than before and yet nearly two-thirds are still losing money. The main culprit is the limit on seating capacity. Most restaurants can’t be profitable with limits on seating capacity. Now disruptions due to civil unrest and curfews. In business and entrepreneurship, there’s always a risk/reward proposition that is considered when laying your resources and livelihood on the line.

The subjective nature of shutdowns by public officials already significantly skewed the risk/reward dynamic for many business owners and future entrepreneurs. After all, only 55% of businesses survive for five years without coronavirus shutdowns and civil unrest. This brings me back to my theme of recent weeks. Elections have consequences and it’s often those closest to you which have the biggest impact in your daily life. Between the coronavirus lockdowns and handling of civil unrest – we've seen recent examples of just how critical all elected officials are during times of adversity and how they literally are able to determine if we’ll be able to pursue life, liberty and happiness.

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