“The world is in an uproar and I see no end in sight ...”

— Atlanta Rhythm Section

I won’t pretend to have any idea what’s going to happen in America, in Georgia and even in our little corner of the state now that much of our nation has fallen under mob rule.

I agree with Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler, Albany City Commissioner B.J. Fletcher and impromptu Albany police brutality protest leader Anthony Branch — an impressive voice of reason in what had the potential to be a turbulent situation — that people who are angry have a right to peacefully gather and demonstrate. A goodly number of the keyboard warriors boldly proclaiming what “they’d do” if they were in charge (i.e., shoot ‘em all) probably don’t get that this whole idea of an independent country started through such protests. (Google the Boston Tea Party ... I’m sure it has pictures.)

The rights of workers, who were paid less-than-slave wages and ordered to work more hours than they spent with their families, were won through protests, as were civil rights in this country and women’s suffrage.

I’m sure a lot of these people’s problems with groups like Black Lives Matter and MeToo is that the members of these groups who are protesting are not good old, God-fearing, white, Anglo-Saxon men — like our president (except he’s not ... the only god he answers to is the one he sees in his fantasyland mirror). Only the most bold among this group will say out loud what a good many are thinking: Women and minorities should just shut and be happy with what they have ... you know, be seen and not heard.

I agree, though, that it’s hard to understand the rage that would lead usually even-minded folks to go bats- — crazy and start burning down buildings. Libraries? Really. That’s how you answer the brutal, played-out-in-real-time, live-for-the-world-to-see inhumanity in which a handcuffed man begs for his life but is allowed to, well, die, by police officers who have sworn to serve and protect the citizens of their community?

And, even to a point, I understand that kind of frustration is something that builds and builds until it just boils over, and people who wouldn’t typically think of such things allow their rage to guide their actions.

What disgusts me, though — and, yes, here I agree with those who sit safely in their comfy homes and condemn protesters without a thought of the actions that led to their protests — are the opportunists who are hanging around the periphery of these areas of unrest, just waiting for someone to get the ball rolling and swooping in to see what they can steal. Ask them about their anger, and if they dare be honest, they’ll say, “Anger? Hell, I’m just getting all this free stuff while the getting’s good.”

Then there are the racist hate groups who revel in the unrest, do anything they can to fuel the flames so that the groups they’re afraid to face end up in sometimes deadly confrontations with law enforcement. And there are the drug cartels, who take advantage of the law’s attention elsewhere to move even more of their deadly product into cities that are already overburdened by the poison these animals spread.

That’s why Branch’s low-key approach at Saturday’s peaceful protest in Albany was so inspirational. A military veteran, Branch did not try to “take control” of the protest. He simply asked that the demonstrators remain peaceful, that they get their message across without the violence that has plagued many of the nation’s larger cities. He spoke calmly, resolutely, and later led the group in prayer. Of such stuff are true leaders made. (Leaving one to wonder where some of the purported leaders in this community were while a group of around 50 made its point without resorting to violence.)

Of course, there was talk in law enforcement circles that more violent protests were planned for later in the evening. God help us if that’s true. A city such as ours that has been blasted with natural disaster after natural disaster is ill-equipped for such violence if it indeed erupts.

Looks like it’s time for a few more leaders to step up ... and not the kind who make racially insensitive threats on social media.

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Email Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.

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