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Our Opinion: Respect rules of decorum at Capitol

January 9, 2015 at 12:00 p.m. | Updated January 9, 2015 at 12:00 p.m.

As journalists, we are fierce defenders of the First Amendment right to speak freely.

That said, we also are keenly aware that speaking freely may be appropriate and productive or inappropriate and counter-productive, depending on timing and circumstances.

The vocal protesters who disrupted and delayed Wednesday's opening ceremonies in the Missouri Senate have much to learn about that distinction.

The demonstrators in the upper galleries held banners and chanted slogans, including: "No Justice, No Peace," "Black Lives Matter," "All Lives Matter" and "This Is What Democracy Looks Like."

Actually, this is what anarchy looks like.

Let us be clear. This is not a comment on the message itself. The protesters have a right to their beliefs. Our objection is to the disruptive method of delivering that message.

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, who presided at the Senate's opening session, was correct in telling the protesters: "You have rudely inserted yourselves into a solemn proceeding, that proceeds according to rules."

The Missouri Senate is among the bastions where courtesy and decorum prevail, and we commend Kinder and the senators who are committed to keeping it that way.

The disruption not only was rude, it likely embarrassed visitors, lawmakers and the guests they invited to witness the swearing-in ceremonies.

Demonstrations are designed to attract attention. Demonstrators, no doubt, believe their message is important.

But all supporters and opponents of proposed legislation believe their message is important.

What is tantamount to a tantrum in the halls of government is not the answer. And it is unfair to the other constituencies, advocates and lobbyists who follow the established procedure - either through the Legislature or the initiative petition process.

Demonstrators may argue their message is not being heard, but that is no justification for chanting from public galleries and disrupting the legislative process.

The disruption is doomed to fail, because any indication of success would invite and encourage other groups to follow. The result would be chaos.

Disrupting government proceedings accomplishes nothing, except inviting ill-will among lawmakers and resentments among other constituencies that follow the established rules.

The structure of government is built on tenets of civility and decorum that must be respected and preserved.


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