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Rioters are undermining just cause of legitimate protestors

The past few days have seen not only yet another needless killing of a person of color as a result of improper police conduct — this time Minneapolis, Minnesota resident George Floyd on Memorial Day — but understandable anger and outrage that it continues to happen and with alarming regularity.

Across the country — including in downtown Lewistown on Saturday — people have exercised their First Amendment right to protest the obvious injustice of not only this loss of life, but many others that have come before it. We’ve seen similar demonstrations in cities around the globe. The protestors are putting forth the noble and just message that all people, but especially those who are black as they are most frequently the victims of such incidents, deserve to be treated fairly by law enforcement — innocent until proven guilty and not the other way around.

However, that honorable message has been hijacked by a much smaller group of people who are looking for any reason to act violently, cause chaos and inflict senseless damage on others’ property — property that belongs to folks who had literally zero to do with any of these unjust killings.

That is an affront to everyone who is legitimately seeking to bring a much-needed change the right way — the same way those who protested in Lewistown did, the same way most people in this country are doing, the same way the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did in the 1960s — by peacefully demonstrating instead of rioting and looting.

Let’s call the troublemakers what they are. They are rioters — not “violent protestors,” not “demonstrators,” not “bad apples” — but rioters and they have very little to do with the protest, but their actions sully the message anyway.

We also want to make clear that it is possible to respect and admire good law enforcement officers — like most who serve us locally — while denouncing what took place in Minneapolis and has happened in so many other places before that.

Most law enforcement officers are good people who, like anyone else, occasionally make mistakes, but can be counted on to try to do the right thing. Just as we don’t believe it’s fair to judge legitimate protestors by what rioters are doing, we don’t believe it’s fair to make generalizations about all police officers and how they interact with different races based on what officers elsewhere have done.

In fact, video has begun populating social media depicting law enforcement engaging in shows of solidarity with protestors all across the nation. It has been a really encouraging sight given the events of the past week.

Those who believe rioting and looting are justified would do well to remember Matthew 5:38-39. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”

Hoping to bring about systemic change requires a refrain from violence. Those whose cause is virtuous — which includes most people making their voices heard — are demonstrating that and we are here to support them for it.

It’s just a shame that a relatively small group of selfish rioters don’t realize and/or don’t care they’re undermining that vital message.

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