Editorial: Laurels for police, peace keepers, good citizens

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 2, 2020

In a chaotic moment on Sunday, there were plenty of laurels to go around for keeping things from escalating.

When shots were fired into the air, things could have gone wrong fast. That did not happen, and the man witnesses said was responsible was quickly taken into custody. Protests remained loud and peaceful. The protest site was free of leftover paper and plastic by morning.

Here are a few laurels worth noting.

Laurel to the Salisbury Police Department and other law enforcement agencies for responding quickly as protesters marched through downtown and to the intersection of Arlington and Innes streets on Sunday.

From our TV, computer and smartphone screens, Salisbury has watched as law enforcement’s reaction has escalated a situation that might have otherwise remained without major incident. In Salisbury, police let protestors say their piece and march around the city. Sheriff’s deputies blocked traffic as protesters made a loop through downtown.

The response was also quick, which also helped. At least a dozen police cruisers responded to the scene within a couple minutes. Police officers already were nearby to detain a man accused of firing shots in the air when tensions escalated.

There should be questions raised, though, about whether men suspected of simply possessing a concealed handgun should have been made to lay on the ground as police searched them.

But, perhaps more importantly, things remained relatively calm because of a number of people at the scene of the protest who reminded protesters to remain peaceful and stay on the sidewalk. None of them organized the event, but they deserve laurels for their leadership afterward. Gemale Black, Anthony Smith, Marcus Fairley, Ash Love and a number of others prevented confrontations from escalating as protesters walked to different locations.

Systemic change is possible through peaceful and/or nonviolent protests, unrelenting advocacy and mobilizing voters to the ballot box. There was change in Salisbury, for example, after local groups spoke up when police shot and killed Ferguson Laurent while serving a no-knock warrant in 2016.

It’s not currently possible to show up en masse to Salisbury City Council meetings and demand change during public comment periods, but there are other methods of advocacy to which local elected officials will pay attention. Peaceful or nonviolent protests can be one of those methods.

Finally, laurel to the people who cleaned up the site of the protest Sunday evening or early Monday. As the crowd dispersed, there were water bottles, plastic wrappers, paper and other debris on the sidewalk and blowing in the wind.

By sunrise, that debris was in a trash can on the sidewalk. And the streetscape was clean.