Editorial: While protests can point to real problems, they should stay sane

We are thankful to see citizens able to openly state their views in Lebanon without devolving into the kind of foolishness – and worse – emanating across the nation following the tragic and deplorable death of George Floyd.
The demonstrations held in Lebanon during the past two weekends have been peaceful, despite the presence of opposing views. Any of us who have witnessed video of what’s occurred in other communities can be grateful for that.
From our perspective, it seems that most local residents greatly respect the role that law enforcement plays in our society, that it must play if we don’t want to see our own mushroom cloud of anti-social behavior.
They may also recognize that, though there is certainly validity to the perception by black Americans that they’ve gotten the short end of the stick for more centuries than is comfortable to remember, the torrent of irrational outrage toward those in blue is wildly out of synch with reality.
It certainly can be uncomfortable to hear local residents, with whom we live, work, shop, attend school or church, tell of being subject to demeaning comments and slights based simply on who they are, how God made them and the circumstances that brought them here.
In a city that prides itself for friendliness, these kinds of issues need resolution – possibly repentance.
Meanwhile, though, we appreciate that our local protests have risen above the irrationality that’s led to regrettable actions across the land in response to similar issues.
Unfortunately, decisions are being based on sentiment rather than sense.
♦ Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler pledged the city will defund three police units including the gun violence reduction team and ban officers from using chokeholds as part of plans to reform the Portland Police Bureau. The city will divert $12 million from the police bureau and other city departments to directly support communities of color.
Certainly, efforts to support communities of color may be commendable, and restrictions on chokeholds may contribute to the welfare of the community, particularly if their use has been inappropriate, but the timing is suspect.
♦ Portland Public Schools Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero announced via Twitter on June 4 that he planned to discontinue the presence of Portland Police Bureau officers in the city’s largest district.
A few hours later, Wheeler said he’ll end the school resource officer program, which places armed officers at schools in the Portland Public, David Douglas and Parkrose districts, entirely.
♦ Berklee College of Music announced it was “deeply sorry” for allowing Boston, Mass. police officers to use the school’s restrooms, following the downtown protests on May 31 in the wake of Floyd’s killing.
♦ The city of San Jose, Calif. adopted new restrictions on rubber bullets.
There are plenty more, but those illustrate the point: Is unrest the time to make these moves?
Floyd’s death was certainly a terrible injustice and one that hopefully will result in appropriate penalties for those who are found guilty. But this tragedy, coming on the heels of one of the most difficult times in recent memory for Americans, who were already disturbed and frustrated by the coronavirus situation, has produced a mushroom cloud of folly, at least in the instances noted above and others like them.
Decisions made in the heat of the moment are often regrettable, and these knee-jerk reactions by politicians and others with their index fingers in the air, testing the flow of public sentiment, will likely be too.
This is a difficult topic, because we certainly condemn any law enforcement activity that is unjust, toward people of any color. While police walk a fine line, often taking abuse, sometimes in the form of violence, from those on whom they enforce the law, their job requires them to maintain the balance of professionalism, notwithstanding. Being human, that sometimes goes awry, but it cannot be excused.
Neither can these moves to eliminate police. The stampede to right wrongs, real or supposed, by slashing away at the most basic function of government, ensuring order and stability within a society, is imbecilic. If there are problems within a police force that prevent it from fulfilling those responsibilities, they certainly need to be remedied.
But any reasonable person should recognize what happens when police aren’t able or allowed to do their job: anarchy and chaos that respects no one. Look no further than the Minneapolis Uprising, which was spawned when civic leaders tried to “de-escalate” tension by withdrawing police. The result: a burned police station and three days of fires, vandalism and looting.
A similar scenario led to the 1992 Los Angeles riots following the Rodney King verdicts, in which 60 people were killed, thousands injured and more than $1 billion of property damage took place after police were ordered by civic leaders to vacate the area.
Granted, these are extreme examples, but can we argue that east Linn County’s population is above all that? Just like the people of Minneapolis and Los Angeles, there are those among us who would take advantage of a diminished police presence – as anyone who has left their garage door open or their car window down might be able to attest.
Again, the decorum that pervaded the demonstrations held in Lebanon in recent days is commendable, and should continue.
And hopefully, decorum will attend every effort to right any of the wrongs that prompted our local demonstrations in the first place, as we try to live up to the standard of being “the City that Friendliness Built.”