Yesterday, President Obama gave a powerful speech in the wake of the horrifying violence that has shaken the country. He touched on the preciousness of the lives that have been taken, noted the incredibly difficult job police officers face every day, talked about the need for systemic change in the U.S. and called on Americans to “open our hearts” and heal as a nation.
One of the president’s remarks — “peaceful protesters cannot be dismissed” — rings especially true in relation to the last five days of demonstrations in Atlanta.
His statement takes on a double meaning of sorts: No one should dismiss peaceful protesters; No one is able to dismiss peaceful protesters.
On Monday night, several hundred Black Lives Matter protesters staged a sit-in outside of Gov. Deal’s mansion. The demonstration led to Mayor Kasim Reed and Atlanta Police Chief George Turner coming out late at night to engage in dialogue with the protesters. Reed agreed to a meeting with protesters next Monday.
The peacefulness of last night’s sit-in paved the way for dialogue — and the promise of future dialogue — with the most powerful elected official in Atlanta. Protesters were able to make a statement that is absolutely crucial to the conversation we must have as a nation right now. And Reed and Turner were there to listen.
Fifteen protesters were arrested on Monday night, but 14 of those arrests were for obstructing traffic and one was for failing to use required bike equipment. No one was hurt.
Last night’s sit-in should serve as a model for channelling righteous indignation and justified anger into something positive and important.
As President Obama said today: “With an open heart, we can worry less about which side has been wronged and more about joining sides to do right.”
And in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was arrested 30 times for his own nonviolent resistance: “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”