LETTER TO EDITOR: We should respect peaceful protest

Published 8:25 pm Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Dear Editor,

Sometimes when we try to make a complicated issue clearer with a simple comparison, we only confuse the matter. This is what Steven Ray Bowen does with his story of Little Johnny’s protest of his brother’s bullying.  Bowen leaves the meaning of his story to his readers, but it’s apparently about the NFL players’ police brutality protest. Bowen seems to think his story shows how a protest can be misguided and so fail to achieve its purpose. 

But his story makes the opposite point.

Addressing nationwide police brutality is a lot more complicated than one bullying older brother, but solving either starts with knowing there is a problem. Both Johnny’s and the NFL players’ police brutality protest do that.

Cell-phone cameras have given us clear evidence of lethal and unjustified police brutality in this country. The images we’ve seen have shocked many Americans and resulted in many actions motivated by these horrible crimes, from violent street protests to calls for body cameras on officers. The NFL brutality protests are just one of the measures aimed at making Americans safer from police officers who may be anything from poorly trained to homicidal. Do these protests make us safer? 

2014 had several high-profile killings of unarmed men by police followed by highly visible protests.  Data collected by The Washington Post beginning January 1, 2015, shows the number of deadly police shootings of unarmed people has declined greatly since 2015 — from 93 in 2015 to a projected 50 in 2018.  (The NFL players’ brutality protests began August 2016.)

“These trends mark significant changes,” says Geoff Alpert, a professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of South Carolina.  “What we don’t understand yet,” he tells The Post, “is what’s causing these numbers to move downward.” 

But we do understand what light allows us to see.  The videos and protests shine a very bright light on police brutality. As a result of this exposure, police departments across the country are being held to a higher standard and are working to improve their practices. That’s good for everybody.

Mr. Bowen implies that kneeling during the National Anthem disrespects our country and those of us who love it. That’s wrong.

Objecting to a free-speech, non-violent protest against the rash killing of criminal suspects is not good for our country.  It is not patriotism.

If we don’t respect and acknowledge peaceful protest, we invite violent protest. 

Gavin Layton

A Washington resident, who has family in Hogansville and recently visited.