Lincoln County can and should be proud of protesters here for their peaceful participation in nationwide protests of the killing of George Floyd specifically and racial injustice in general.
Like almost everything today, including COVID-19, the protests seem to have split Americans into sides. But many of the positions we have staked out are not mutually exclusive.
It is possible to both support peaceful protests against racial injustice and oppose violent riots.
It is possible to both support law enforcement and support reform in law enforcement where necessary to address excessive use of force or racial injustice.
It is possible to both be a patriotic American – even a supporter of the president – and call for the president to take a more productive approach to the unrest.
Attacks on Democrats and journalists, misleading statements about responsibility for the riots, incitement of violence, and obsession with brutal crackdowns do nothing to address the root causes of the unrest. You can have “law and order” without any of these things.
Of all the responses to the protests from authorities, we admire most the law enforcement officers who, rather than confront peaceful protesters, have talked with them, walked with them, knelt with them. This kind of bridge-building is how our country will make progress on the issues underlying the protests.
Here in Lincoln County, some progress is visible in the response to local protests. During the first local Black Lives Matter protests a few years ago, many locals mocked the protests, condemned the movement itself as racist, and dismissed the idea that racism could exist in Lincoln County.
There seems to be less mockery today. Perhaps more people are beginning to accept that yes, racial injustice continues; yes, we should all stand against it; and yes, racism exists everywhere.
In general, we see more protests in Lincoln County around progressive causes. One annual exception is a long-running anti-abortion protest in Wiscasset.
Many opponents of progressive causes belittle the protests and protesters. They say things like “get a job,” although we see no evidence of chronic unemployment among protesters. They complain about protests slowing traffic (the horror!) or, during a recent climate protest, complain about the protesters skipping school (they didn’t).
Maybe the recent protests against Gov. Janet Mills’ response to COVID-19 have made Republicans more sympathetic to the idea of protests.
But one has to wonder about people angered by protests and protesters.
The Boston Tea Party was a protest, with burglaries and destruction of property. Perhaps we should ask the U.K. to recolonize us?
Protests were central to the successes of the civil rights movement. Many were peaceful – not all. Should we go back to Jim Crow?
Protests are seldom perfect. They have faults, like the humans who organize and participate in them. But they are catalysts of change.
The founding of America was an act of protest. The Constitution protects the right to protest.
If your first reaction is to dismiss or judge protesters, slow down and think about why.