To the editor,

With all the conversation and interest in Black Lives Matter protests, as a (Black) African American, I deem it necessary to weigh in with a personal point of view.

Admittedly, my biggest concern is the false conjecture that the peaceful protestors are often interspersed with loiterers and rioters who are at times more vocal and violent. Consequently, and as a result, those who are justifiably exercising their constitutional right have been wrongfully accused of being lawless and disruptive.

That, my friend, is not factual and a gross misrepresentation of what are enjoined with rioters who are often mistaken.

It should be noted that every American citizen is afforded by the United States Constitution the right to “assemble,” among other things. If my grade school civics class and recent web search is correct, the First Amendment of the United States Constitution provides for the right to assemble, right to petition.

Thusly, the amendment “protects the freedom to ‘peacefully’ assemble or ‘gather together’ or associate with a group of people for ‘social,’ economic, political or religious purposes. It also protects the right to ‘protest’ the government.”

Historically, America’s founding, independence, renaissance and advancement stemmed from protests. Namely, the Boston Tea Party (1773), Abolitionist Movement (1830-1865), Women’s Suffrage Parade (1913; ironically, we are presently commemorating the 100th anniversary of this constitutional amendment), March on Washington (1963; recent 57th year observance) and Poor People’s March/Campaign (1968), the Vietnam Anti-War Demonstrations (1967-1972), among numerous others.

And those life changing protests were only here in the United States. Neither time nor space will allow me to elaborate on the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, storming of the Bastille in France (can you say “Tale of Two Cities” — Charles Dickens), Gandhi’s Salt March in India (reference: Henry David Thoreau’s civil disobedience and Martin Luther King’s civil rights, non-violent movement), the Anti-Apartheid Movement (AAM; also called the Boycott Movement) out of Africa, or the Shipyard Strike in Poland which brought fame to Lech Walesa and solidarity to the Polish people.

And those are just civic or political in nature. Are you Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal or some other non-Catholic Christian faith? Then surely you know the worldwide religious impact of Martin Luther and the Protestant (protest) Reformation.

Lesser known, but just as impactful, was McDonald’s employees protesting workplace sexual harassment; the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Equal Rights and Liberation; and the Anti-Prohibition protestors that ushered in the 21st Amendment of 1933 (admittedly, as a gospel preacher, this one I cannot in good conscience condone but we can all readily attest to its lasting impact on society).

More recently, you may recall the Wall Street (2011) and Me Too (2017) protests and their attempts to draw attention to the socio-economic wealth disparities across racial groups in America and the sexual exploitation of women in this country.

And what about the efforts of those protestors in Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, who petitioned their respective state officials to re-open businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak?I dare not bore you and prolong this column with talk of violence, vandalism and villains. But I do plead with you and the general public to not rush and wrongfully judge the innocent protestors exercising their constitutional right with criminals and thugs who simply want to be acknowledged on social networks and newspaper headlines.

Their method is wrong, not to mention their criminal message. Mind you, their ultimate end will be subsequent to their criminal intent and beginning, violent. Protestors or provocateurs? You be the judge. The Holy Bible, God’s inerrant word and final authority, instructs us to “judge righteously” (Deuteronomy 1:16). God bless you; God bless the United States of America!

Wayne M. Williams

Athens

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