Opinion: Berkeley’s silent majority wants peace and harmony, so police must enforce the law

Residents don’t want civil unrest, reminiscent of an anarchist failed state. Police must maintain calm, even if it means using tear gas to achieve that.

In politically turbulent times, it is easy for citizens to forget that most people want one thing above all: order. Most Berkeleyites–and I speak for my neighbors, friends, and colleagues, not just myself–simply want to go about their daily lives uninterrupted and unmolested by violence and unrest.

I applaud the police for apprehending the criminal known colloquially as “Based Stickman,” known for attending rallies in Berkeley armed with weaponry. Similarly, I praise our law enforcement for arresting Eric Clanton, another man who has been charged on suspicion of assaulting peaceful protesters with a bike lock. One of the distinguishing features of civilized rule by a government is the state’s monopoly on force, and it gladdens me to see our government assert that monopoly by prohibiting sticks and pipes at parks and legalizing the usage of pepper spray against the mob.

I ask: why stop there? To be sure, I decry the indiscriminate application of lethal force which has caused controversy after controversy across the nation. However, I implore the police: bring out the water cannons and tear gas!

The silent majority in Berkeley agrees with me: we want peace and harmony, not civil unrest reminiscent of an anarchic, failed state. Let me be clear: this is not a comment on “free speech”. People may say what they like and peacefully protest all they want–but a riot is a riot. The point of having a police force is to enforce the law and protect citizens. (Maybe you don’t think we need a police force or government at all, in which case you are free to relocate yourself to Somalia.)

At times, it may certainly seem as though many people support, and even revel in, the conflict between the left and the right. Let me set the record straight: these are extremists, radicals, and n’er-do-wells that have too much time on their hands (regardless of political affiliation). People who are seriously contributing to the local community–people who are working hard, raising families, and caring for their children–do not have the time, let alone the desire, to engage in the farcical role-playing. (If you want to role-play as some sort of noble defender of civilization, go fire up your PlayStation 4 instead of dressing up in absurd costumes and parading about on the streets.)

In a recent editorial, a member of the Berkeley community criticized our mayor for classifying “Antifa” as a gang. Well, if you don’t want to be classified as a gang, then don’t dress up in matching colors and beat people up on the streets.This isn’t exactly rocket science.The Berkeley of the past was renowned for open dialogue and intellectual discussion, not fists, fire, and vandalism.To draw upon that glorious past as a justification for present-day depredations is a blatant insult to this city’s history and to the moral principles of Martin Luther King Jr.

If you want to stage a principled, nonviolent protest, go for it! I heartily applaud such protests–but don’t whine about being “suppressed” by the “police state” if your “protest” is just a thinly veiled call to arms or an attempt at physically intimidating people en masse. There are over 100,000 protests each year in mainland China, and they succeed not by alienating citizens with clubs and weapons, but by setting up inclusive, open frameworks which minimize, rather than escalate, the risk of violence.

Regular citizens should not sit by and tolerate the desecration of our neighborhoods by idiots who have eschewed the principles of peaceful debate and reverted, ape-like, to the “might makes right” of millennia past. Let’s not hold back our police force; instead, let’s allow them to use the appropriate nonlethal techniques to ensure that instigators of violence are swiftly and efficiently dealt with. Let me repeat myself: bring out the water cannons and tear gas!

Zhihuan Li, a consultant in the embedded systems technology, has lived in Berkeley since 2010 and is deeply concerned about local violence.