THE FIRST AMENDMENT of our Constitution provides for five important freedoms and they don’t deserve to be abused.

The First Amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The First Amendment protects the rights of citizens to protest the Minneapolis police murder of George Floyd.

But looting, burning of stores and destruction of businesses is an unacceptable way to protest the murder of George Floyd.

Protests and demonstrations are not new in this 200 year old democracy.

The protests of the 60s ranged from the Civil Rights movement to our involvement in the Vietnam War. Subsequently we have experienced the Gay Rights Movement, the Environmental Movement, plus a number of issues have changed our lives in many ways.

We have experienced a great deal of social change because of these movements, made possible by the First Amendment.

The First Amendment allows us to speak to issues and redress government regarding its policies and legislation. The recent protests are an excellent example that there is a need for change of police culture and how we provide safety and protection of citizens.

It’s becoming clear that we may have expected police to perform too many roles. It’s also clear the training of officers is not adequate and/or disciplines and accountability are not adequate in some departments.

The protests/protestors are rightfully calling attention to this. But action by others who damage property, injure people and place economic burdens on neighborhoods should never be acceptable and distract from the goal of the protest.

Racism is so deep-seated we haven’t been able to overcome it. In the George Floyd case, people around the world were witnesses to a crime and saw no one take an immediate action when the officer was taking Floyd’s last breath away. Are we going to continue to be witnesses to injustice?

Protests will continue to be in order, but if you are protesting the State government, go to the steps of the State Capitol. If you are protesting County government, go to the County Courthouse. If you are protesting issues in your own city, go to the City Hall and clearly state your issue.

America has changed, but tough questions have been ignored. We have made some progress with equal opportunity and equal rights and I do not think there is justice for all.

Hopefully, now is the time we no longer ignore the tough questions on racial inequality and the current protests will result in a major shift in America so there is more equal opportunity, equal rights and justice for all.

-- Special to the Baldwin Bulletin 

Gene Johnson can be contacted at 

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