Justice

FI-EditorialIt’s not surprising that protests following the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown come to Greenwich. Sadly, neither is it surprising to see that these protests have been too quickly mischaracterized. They are not anti-cop. They are pro-justice.

That so many people miss the point is one of the root causes of the problem, and unfortunately, is also a reason to be afraid that nothing will ever change. To make this a “protesters versus the police” issue is to miss the point. Yes, these protesters, in Greenwich and across the country, are speaking out after police actions left unarmed black men dead in two separate cases. And yes, the anger is fueled because these are not isolated incidents. There is history to be considered, as well as a present that keeps showing new tragedies

But this must not be misinterpreted as an attack on police themselves. People are not running around spitting in cops’ faces and calling for revolution in the streets. That might be the nightmare version put forth by those with a money-making agenda aimed at keeping “good people” scared and outraged all the time. It might be a job requirement at certain media organizations, such as the New York Post or Fox News, but it’s not accurate.

There is anger, to be sure, and well-founded anger at that. The reasons for these protests can be summed up in one statement, “Black lives matter.” That’s why it’s so inspiring to see kids in Greenwich take up the protest and add their voices to it, just as students previously did in New Canaan. As diverse as Greenwich is, this issue may not be one residents here are likely to face on daily basis or even through isolated incidents. To see local students joining when it could so easily be ignored here is a sign of how much the controversy is resonating.

That’s why to make this a fight all about police is wrong. No serious person is condemning all police. What Greenwich students did this week was hardly disrespectful to the Greenwich Police Department. What’s being sought here is justice, yet some seem to choose to miss the point. Consider a Facebook discussion about the GHS protest in which a critic demanded to know why the kids weren’t speaking up for cops killed in the line of duty. But that’s part of the issue. People who kill police are most often caught and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. It doesn’t lessen the tragedy, but there is at least some measure of justice.

The lack of justice and the idea that lives of black men are easily disposable in Ferguson or New York or Fairfield County is what’s driving the protests. A cop should no more be able to get away with homicide than an average person walking down the street. Equal justice under the law is a high principle that’s hard to achieve, but this country is not even coming close to it.

That’s not to say people all across the spectrum aren’t making an attempt. All cops should not be compressed into one easy category, all good or all bad, and neither should the protesters. There must be a change, and it must come not only in police tactics but in the very way we all view each other. Racism and all other forms of bigotry are not lost in the distant past. They are very much in America’s present.

To see this issue misinterpreted as “If you stand with the protesters, then you must hate police” only makes things worse. Those who condemn the protesters while citing Martin Luther King should remember that not only was he considered a dangerous radical by those too heavily invested in the status quo — but that thinking led to his assassination. This is not race baiting or hucksterism. This is about justice.

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