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Keep Protests Free of Trouble

It will be surprising if any true outside agitators come into our area in attempts to convert our peaceful protests into riots. Troublemakers such as those in Antifa have bigger fish to fry in the nation’s urban areas.

Our small town nature, even in the Ohio Valley’s cities, is an advantage in times such as these. It is not difficult to stir a crowd to violence in a big city. It is far more difficult to convince people who know local store owners and patronize their businesses to destroy them in frenzies of looting.

Rumors were making the online rounds Tuesday. Three hundred rioters were headed here from Columbus, it was said. Busloads of agitators were coming from Cleveland, someone posted. On and on it went.

But at the appointed time and place for trouble, noon on the sidewalk opposite the City-County Building in Wheeling, a demonstration that had been scheduled was called off — because of all the reports of outside agitators. Kudos to those who had organized the event. Their goal had been to make a point, not make trouble (later, a small group of peaceful protesters did show up).

Much the same atmosphere seems to have prevailed — at least, as of this writing — elsewhere in the Ohio Valley and West Virginia. Protests have occurred in many of our towns. All have been peaceful. Only a few arrests, for obstructing traffic, have been made. In Martinsburg, someone fired a gun into the air earlier this week, but it appears the intent was to startle people, not harm them.

Still, we would be deluding ourselves if we did not realize we are sitting on something of a powder keg. Trouble could erupt.

It very nearly did on Sunday, as we have reported. A group of protest marchers was confronted by a man whose conduct was sufficiently aggressive that Wheeling police responded. They issued him a citation for disorderly conduct.

That situation could have turned out differently — and violently.

We’re better than that, as organizers’ action in calling off the Tuesday demonstration illustrated. Good for them.

Preventing trouble instigated by one or two hotheads or out-of-town residents bent on mischief can be very, very difficult. That needs to be the top priority of everyone — protesters, police, even bystanders, however. This is not New York or Philadelpha. It is not Minneapolis, in many ways. For our own good — all of us — let’s keep it that way.

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