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Phillips: Protesters versus those who riot
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I like to write my weekly column on humorous topics when possible. During my months here, I’ve managed to sprinkle in some stories of goofy things that have happened in my life and there are more I would love to convey to you. I’m probably not as funny as I sometimes think I am, but those are still the kinds of musings I prefer.

Over the past couple of weeks, though, I’ve been inspired to take a look at more serious topics. I’m afraid I’m going to continue that trend this week, because there are things going on that simply can’t be ignored. I’m talking about the civil unrest in Baltimore, Md. Actually, civil unrest is too gentle a term for it. It’s been a riot. It has been a lot of wanton, senseless destruction. As I write this on Wednesday, news reports say things have calmed down some and that, of course, is good news.

What baffles me, and apparently a lot of other people, as well, is why anyone thinks the way to get their opinion heard and noticed is to destroy their own community, attacking, vandalizing, stealing and victimizing their neighbors who have nothing whatsoever to do with what they are “protesting.”

Protest is a constitutional right in this country. In fact, this nation was founded on dissent that grew to the point of violence and war, some of which was fought right here in Kershaw County. But I say there are a great many people who just lay in wait for an excuse, any excuse, to violently act out. I can’t call robbing and burning a CVS pharmacy an act of protest, because that not what it is. It’s an act of thuggery and accomplishes nothing other than to make the perpetrators look like the thugs they are.

I am not for one second saying people should not be upset about a man dying while in police custody, but the truth is it has not been determined just how the man was injured and what his cause of death was. I’ll wait on the investigation before I make any determinations of my own. But history, especially recently, has shown some people will not be satisfied with any outcome which contradicts the conclusion they have already come to in their own minds, without the information needed to make such a decision.

If it’s found the police or jail staff have done nothing wrong, the cries of “it’s a cover up. They always watch out for each other” and similar phrases will surely be said. That train is never late. But, back to my original point: we all certainly have the right to voice our displeasure, but only if it’s done with civility. Destroying police vehicles, looting and burning stores and throwing harmful objects at police is not civility and those who do those things are not widely seen as protesters, they are seen as thugs, and rightly so.

Thugs give protesters a bad name and surely they diminish the good a group of protesters hopes to accomplish. The major news media sources have a large role in this, as they show the looting thugs far more than the peaceful protesters. The real, genuine protesters should be outraged at the thugs and the media that gives them so much attention. Not that the thugs should be summarily ignored. It is, after all, news. But if I was a peaceful protester I would want my city leaders, residents and the world to also see what I’m trying to say and what I’m trying to get done.

There are still many divisions in this country. There’s racial division, yes, but there’s also social division, economic division and class division. Some of these have always been and I’m afraid will always be, but the way we go about trying to cause change will make all the difference in whether or not that change ever gets made.

Protesters are not thugs and thugs are not protesters. There is a definite division there. Which are you?