After reading about local “black lives matter” protests and showing up at one to see it for myself and to photograph the event, I went to the paper’s website to see what articles there were on these protests and to read up on what it is the protesters are protesting, what do they want, what are the concerns of the counter protesters, etc. only to find that I couldn’t find any articles. I get that covering these issues may be a bit disconcerting, but it is news.
Here is what I have observed first hand and through hours of streamed videos of the protests.
There have been protests in Farmington, Fredericktown (two now), Ste. Genevieve and Park Hills. The local protests have taken place without any hint of rioting, looting or mass violence. In fact, with the exception of a couple of isolated incidents they have been remarkably peaceful. Passions have been high, though and if words could kill, we’d have a lot of casualties.
There have been counter protests which have run concurrent to the Black Lives Matter protests most notably in Fredericktown and in Park Hills where local citizens showed up en masse (vastly outnumbering protesters) to voice their opposition the movement and to protect their communities from expected violent looters and rioters who never came. I blame the people making up these rumors for creating a highly charged and potentially lethal situation. Among these counter-protesters have been some overtly racist individuals calling people the “N” word while sporting Confederate flag. We do have real racists among the mostly good people in our communities.
The protesters want to bring attention to the militarization of law enforcement and to the prevalence of police brutality in America, particularly against people of color and to the systems built to deprive freed slaves and their descendants of the rights to which they are entitled under our constitution. Their aim as I understand it is the dismantling these racist systems and reforming the way policing is done in America.
Police are expected to be social workers, drug rehabilitation counselors, marriage counselors, mediation experts and much more, all while working under intense public scrutiny. They simply do not have adequate training in all the fields in which they are expected to function as professionals. Many police officers suffer from PTSD or other issues but seeking help could jeopardize their career. Reporting behavior of individuals wholly unsuited for police work can also end a career. The reforms which would address these and other issues are not only good for communities but also good for the good people who do serve and for those who would wish to serve the community as police officers.
They protest even in small rural communities because they want and need our help to bring these changes to fruition. People without power can do little on their own to bring about substantial change besides making a big noise to try and get the attention of the people with the power. That’s you and me, we are the people with the power. You may not feel very powerful but the truth is that if enough white people speak out about these issues then we will be heard. I understand these protests as a plea for help and so the question we must answer is this; will we listen with a compassionate heart to the cries against injustice and generational oppression or will we turn a blind eye and harden our hearts to the suffering of others?