For Peace and Solidarity, Tonight’s Black Lives March in Bunnell Should Be Postponed
FlaglerLive | July 17, 2016
I am writing these additional lines early Sunday afternoon in light of the latest assault and murders of police officers, now in Baton Rouge, less than a day after my column defending the Black Lives Matter movement went up. I’m not writing this to revise anything I wrote, but to address the Black Lives Matter march planned for this evening in Bunnell.
I was disappointed to hear from the organizer that the march is still planned. I don’t think it should be, certainly not tonight, and not for at least a brief time yet. Not because it’s invalidated in anyway (anymore than my sentiments yesterday were invalidated today). There’s nothing zero-sum about it. But because if we are sincere about showing solidarity and seeking peace and understanding, and changing perceptions, this is the occasion.
“It may seem to you that postponing would be a good thing to do but I ask you how can I go to my community and say, ‘The march is postponed because more officers have been killed,’ When everyday someone is loosing their life whether it be an officer or a civilian,” an organizer wrote me. “In no way am I trying to be insensitive to the point of separating us from their struggle nor do i refuse to recognize their loss because I can definitely sympathize with them. It’s not about separation it’s like you said, it’s about solidarity.”
And I agree. I wish it weren’t one march, but many. But timing matters. If today’s march “is meant to be a way to build bridges to ensure our community strives and our children [understand] that they are more than they are thought to be,” as the organizer wrote, postponing the march would speak more eloquently than holding it. And those who have spoken most forcefully about Black Lives, like Pastor Sims Jones, a candidate for local office who plans to be at the march, should show their leadership now and show that they do represent all (as Jones claims) and speak most forcefully not just for postponement, but for cops. It would diminish tensions on a day when tensions should be eased, not fueled. It would show in deeds what Black Lives Matter supporters say in words: that they, too, respect police and that they want to build bridges. It would allow our local police officers and sheriff’s deputies, some of whom, and now maybe more of whom, would be called to show a presence at tonight’s march, to be in less confrontational, more private places appropriate to a day like today. I doubt many of them want to be there tonight. I don’t blame them. They should be accommodated.
That respect is owed today in that way, and tomorrow at the European Village event for fallen cops, where tonight’s marchers should be. It does not in any way diminish the message of Black Lives. It amplifies it nobly, and it proves that solidarity is possible, not just essential. And if the march were postponed to a different day (I’m not saying a less grievous day, because these marches are also about grief), then I imagine that more people who would have never dreamed of joining a Black Lives march before might now decide to do so. They would do so in recognition for today’s gesture and to show equal solidarity, as they unassailably would not tonight.
We have a relatively calm community. A gesture like this would show why we are intent on keeping it that way. It’s not fair. Nothing has been fair about any of this bloodletting, all of which has been red. But it’s the right thing to do. And it would still live up to the Maya Angelou poem the organizer quoted to me today, whose last three lines are: “Do what you can do/And tomorrow your nation/Will be what you want it to be.” This is what we can do.