The First Amendment and the right to peacefully protest is a bedrock of our nation’s founding. Empowering our neighbors to speak up for what is right, take action when injustice rears its ugly head in our communities, and create a society where we can live equally and peacefully is a goal we must all strive for.
The death of George Floyd is a tragedy. Any unjust or inhumane action deserves a full investigation and a response. It deserves a response by communities who recognize the inequalities facing their friends and neighbors. It deserves a response by law enforcement agencies, whose officers have sworn an oath to serve and protect communities – the vast majority of which fulfill this oath each day. It deserves a response by our judicial system, to deliver justice to the family and loved ones of George Floyd and the many that have gone before him.
Unfortunately, these injustices that have resurfaced over the past week are part of a deep-rooted problem in the United States. If we don’t cut it at the roots, it will continue to grow.
In the aftermath of this heartbreaking occurrence, we have witnessed protests, rallies, and marches across the country, including here in Central Washington. We have seen many police officers join in these protests, urging justice for black Americans like George Floyd. We have also seen unacceptable outbreaks of violence, attacks by radical groups on both sides of the political spectrum, and bad actors who have taken advantage of what would otherwise be a peaceful stance for equality.
Allowing rioters and looters to overrun our communities, destroy local businesses, and do harm to bystanders and law enforcement is not the answer. Continuing to turn a blind eye to bad actors within our law enforcement is not the answer. Sitting idly by and watching the events unfold while commenting on social media posts is not the answer.
We must look around to our families, friends, and neighbors, and we must take a look in the mirror to understand that – despite the shared principles and values we honor as Americans – not everyone shares the same life experiences. We must look to our law enforcement agencies and police officers to fulfill their oath of protecting us and upholding our nation’s laws, while promoting the practice of policing with our community as an integral part of our society.
In the Bible, Jesus preached to his followers and disciples, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” This wisdom, while seemingly simple and straightforward, is the only way we will emerge as a country, stronger and more unified than before.