By WIN GRUENING
Americans were horrified by the senseless killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer.
Subsequently, Americans were horrified by the indiscriminate looting and vandalism that accompanied the demonstrations in scores of cities across our nation.
Sadly, the destruction, as well as the violence directed at police forces attempting to maintain order and protect lives and property, were dismissed by many in the media as an unfortunate by-product of frustration and anger of protesters.
To be fair, many peaceful demonstrators, black and white, decried the violence and attempted to prevent more destruction.
There were reports that organized extremists instigated looting and participated in burning down stores, churches, and even a police station.
Unable to distinguish between legitimate protesters and criminal vandals and looters, police were put in an impossible situation, and, in some cases, ordered to stand down while lawlessness prevailed, and cities burned.
In our country, peaceful protest is protected. All citizens have a right to be heard.But the message of the protesters was undermined by the violence and mayhem that occurred.
The medias treatment of Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests, often describing them as mostly peaceful, while labeling nearby rioting mobs as uprisings, was clearly at odds with what America witnessed on their television screens.
Even more stark was the medias selective reversal on Covid-19 mandates.Aided by politicians and talking-heads, organized BLM protests were enthusiastically endorsed throughout the media.In contrast, earlier public positions and protests by business-owners, churches, and organizations advocating for opening up the nations devastated economy were roundly condemned.
Both groups were exercising their 1stAmendment right to protest unwarranted or unlawful government authority. Yet, the reaction to them by the public, local authorities and the media was often diametrically opposed.
Black Lives Matter protests were treated quite differently.
As protests continued, along with public memorial services for George Floyd, it became abundantly clear that Covid-19 mandates werent meant to be applied to everyone just those not demonstrating for an acceptable cause.Governors and mayors across the country encouraged and joined the BLM protests all the while insisting that other large gatherings remain strictly forbidden for health reasons.
Just weeks before, Alaska shop owners objecting to health mandates were widely criticized for putting the lives of their fellow citizens at risk in the pursuit of profits.
Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, who joined peaceful protests, also thought lives were at risk, but not in the way you might think.During a recent community radio address, he elevated Black Lives Matter protesters to hero status by saying I see people who are risking their lives to protestin spite of a pandemic.
That comment diminishes the sacrifice of thousands of real heroes in our countrys history who risked and lost their lives defending the constitutional right of all Americans to protest.
The coronavirus doesnt distinguish between conservative and liberal protests. According to some, apparently our 1st Amendment rights do.
The complex and deep-seated issues facing our country wont be solved by quelling debate and limiting personal freedoms of those expressing opinions with which we disagree.
Win Gruening retired as the senior vice president in charge of business banking for Key Bank in 2012. He was born and raised in Juneau and graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1970. He is active in community affairs as a 30-plus year member of Juneau Downtown Rotary Club and has been involved in various local and statewide organizations.
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