Protests have taken place across the United States in response to the horrific murder of George Floyd during his detainment by a Minneapolis police officer. The initial protests were led by residents and community leaders calling for accountability. Provocateurs infiltrating the crowd were seen breaking windows of stores to entice residents to loot. Within hours, the peaceful assembly had been hijacked. Social media video of gentlemen destroying property confirmed that the intent was lost
The President encouraged state officials to “ dominate “ the peaceful protestors. His intent to remove the constitutional protections of United States citizens signal lethal consequences for people of color. At night protestors find themselves standing toe-to-toe with police in riot gear. They have guns, rubber bullets, batons, flash bangs, gas masks, tear gas and the authority to arrest. Citizens have documented abuse, threats and physical assault at the hands of police officers. The press has not been spared. With documented cases of police firing on reporters, it has become apparent that protesting without protection isn’t safe.
After attending a recent protest in Baltimore, it became apparent that this march had no endgame. The organizer offered no concrete strategies for the 800 plus crowd that marched through the streets chanting: “ No Justice, No Peace “. He was upset that lower income neighborhoods did not have the luxury of a Whole Foods, that police would not chant the names of those murdered, that wealthy whites were not joining him in protest and complained that the Chief of Police refused to discuss his issues. The leader refused to provide his name and social media information. He wanted the group to meet him at the City Hall within a few days. Realizing my time had been wasted, I left the protest as darkness began.
Viable solutions have been absent from a large number of social media posters and protesters. Many community members feel that all peaceful options have been exhausted. Feeling helpless, they rage against a system that has never invested itself in their empowerment. Unfortunately, these efforts fail to tap the wisdom of the civil rights era combined with new techniques of dismantling oppression. Upon closer inspection, few rarely participate in the political process. They confuse posting a meme on social media with speaking truth to those in power. Social media activism has replaced the work that must be done to enact change. Work that requires contacting local officials, sending complaint letters, attending community meetings, donating to grassroots organizations, mentoring children and PTA attendance. These acts were the catalyst for change during the previous generation. We have replaced these proven methods with armchair commentary under 140 characters. Protesting without an agenda is a pep rally.
Look For An Alternative
We fully support the peaceful protests. These movements demonstrate the public support of a cause. Although these are well intentioned, spending hours shouting does not change policy. The lawmakers that need to hear the message are absent. The individuals that have the power to change the mechanics of policing are hidden behind closed doors.
Civic Power – Vote !
We are in the midst of an election season. There are local, state and federal races being run throughout the country. The District Attorney and Sheriff positions are two of the most influential. These individuals are responsible for policing policy and prosecution. We must have trusted representatives that have ties to the local community. We need a focus on collaboration with increased funding to prevention programs.
Research candidates that are looking for your vote. Visit their websites and send emails to gain clarification on issues that directly affect you. Vote for candidates that pledge to work for you. And use that same power to remove elected officials that lack cultural understanding, empathy and accountability. When you take responsibility for how you are governed, you take an important step in creating peaceful communities.
Jah Perez, Executive Director
Sigma Lambda Xi Civic Fraternity, Inc.