Protest but don’t destroy

Americans have a history of protesting. Lawfully protesting is a protectED right given to the people by the Constitution. 

The current protests taking place in every corner of the country is nothing new. Protests against the Vietnam War changed the nation’s direction. Demonstrations in support of civil rights brought about change. Although it is not completely fulfilled.

We were shocked when a Black man is killed by a police officer in Minneapolis, caught by a bystander on their camera. Unsurprisingly, the killing of George Floyd resulted in demonstrations in Minnesota that spawned protests across the country. 

We shudder at images of the destruction in our cities—graffiti, vandalism and burning buildings and cars. Most protesters were lawful, expressing their right to free speech. There is evidence that much of the looting and destruction of property was carried out by elements that saw an opportunity and seized it. Many protesters themselves decried the destruction; a protester is not necessarily a rioter.

Some call for more stringent law and order to address the protests and riots. The president has threatened to send in military troops to quell the violence in our streets. That is the wrong policy and will only incite more dangerous protests.

Others call for a change in how we respond to civil discourse. A segment of society says it is time to sit together, listen to those with valid grievances, and learn.

Anyone who denies there is racism in America hasn’t been paying attention. Black America has lived with overt and covert racism for hundreds of years. Society hears them but nothing changes. We can listen to those who are victims of racism, but until institutional changes are made, our country will continue to endure the same scenes that are playing out now. Things will get better only when hearts and minds are changed. We see the seed of that change in the faces of protesters around the nation—black, white, brown, men, women, old and young.

Not all protesters are thugs. Most have legitimate concerns that we, as a nation, must address. If force must be used during these protests, let us reserve it for those actually breaking the law and causing mayhem. 

How one responds to the protests might depend on one’s interaction with law enforcement. If you have never been arrested, it is likely you view the protests and riots with disgust, otherwise you may view the protests with a little understanding.

Americans protest; it is our right as citizens. It is when others use those protests as cover to loot and destroy that we all must say “Stop.” Go ahead and protest but don’t ruin our community.