The Newtown Florist Club rally Monday, June 1, 2020, gave opportunity for young people to discuss their feelings on recent protests and the causes behind them as well as plan out what steps they may want to take next during the event where Rose Johnson, Newtown’s executive director, said the gathering is not a protest but a “community organizing event.” If, as a nation, we are to emerge from the protests and demonstrations that have kept the nation on edge for more than a week, it likely will be because of the leadership of groups such as the Newtown Florist Club, the responsible activism of engaged young people, and the professional demeanor of law enforcement agencies such as those found in Gainesville and Hall County.

All were evident at a rally in Gainesville on Monday, where members of diverse communities gathered as one to denounce the sort of police brutality that led to the death of George Floyd, but did so in a peaceful and thoughtful manner befitting an event that was about building brotherhood and searching for equality rather than seeking confrontation and promoting anarchy.

The local rally, organized by the respected Newtown Florist Club, served both as a reminder that there remains much to be done to combat racial inequality in our nation, and as an example of how well-intentioned people can work together to make clear their anger at the status quo without resorting to unnecessary confrontation and criminal behavior.

In watching events unfold across the country over the past week, it is increasingly obvious there are two distinctly different ways of viewing what has happened in the streets of cities and towns of all sizes and demographics. Tom Vivelo

Mandy Harris

In one view are the vast numbers of peaceful protesters exercising their constitutional right to assemble in order to address their grievances. These are the protesters with whom we have seen law enforcement officers praying, hugging, kneeling, marching and even dancing.

In the other view are the smaller numbers of agitators, looters, vandals and thieves who have taken advantage of a national crisis of consciousness by espousing lawlessness and anarchy while endangering the lives of all involved. There is no doubt some have damaged property out of anger and frustration, which is understandable but not acceptable.

We should not allow the message of the peaceful to be lost in the discordant noise created by the criminal.

Those who protest legitimately need to be heard, their concerns addressed. Those who break the law need to be arrested, their misdeeds punished. That we expect law enforcement to make split-second decisions in determining which is which reflects the heavy burden we place upon those shoulders.

In such situations, mistakes of judgment are inevitable. Given that, we would hope those who wear the badge would err on the side of the protesters. Spray paint will wash off, vehicles can be replaced, what is broken can be fixed, but lost lives cannot be regained.

Those who advocate more aggressive actions would do well to remember Kent State, […]