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America was founded on the principle of free speech and upholding the first amendment needs to be a responsibility of all Americans.

However well intentioned, many anti-war demonstrators have stepped over a line, and in their passion taken away the rights of fellow Americans.

The allied invasion of Iraq generates strong emotions from both supporters and detractors of the war. Each has a right to be heard. However, those not participating in a demonstration also have a right – the entitlement to continue in business, and that basic right is being impeded.

Anti-war protesters, notably in San Francisco and New York, have gone beyond expression of free speech, endeavoring to shut down the downtown districts by blocking streets and tying up traffic. In the attempt to generate publicity, protesters have hurt many businesses, large and small. There has been some physical damage, but most damage is caused by loss of business. Small coffee shops, retailers and others, already on the edge, have lost one or two days sales, placing additional pressure on already strained shopkeepers.

In Flagstaff, Arizona, peaceful demonstrations were held in the large city park, supporting and opposing the war. Both events allowed each perspective to be heard and business suffered no disruption. Subsequently, however, the anti-war group decided to form a human chain across Route 66, the main thoroughfare in town, to call attention to their cause. The result was snarled traffic and lost business by many small establishments. The reason given the press for the highway shutdown – “the anti war message wasn’t being heard.” Free speech is a right to talk, not forcibly stop the free commerce of others.

The next time you see protesters resorting to disruptive tactics, remember this is hurting small business people, and they have a right in this, too. When protesters shut down commence, money is taken from the till of small business just as surely as if a thief emptied the register during a robbery.

Steve Marr is the former CEO of the fourth largest import-export firm in the U.S., a company which facilitated international trade for many of the largest companies in America. Currently, Steve consults with with businesses and ministries utilizing ancient Biblical principles for success in today’s marketplace. Contact Steve at [email protected].

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