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Justice for ALL

Justice for ALL
'Fear is a reaction. Courage a choice.'-unknown

By Ladson F. Mills III
Special to VIRTUEONLINE
www.virtueonline.org
June 1, 2020

Protest is a Constitutional right for all American citizens. There are even times when civil disobedience becomes an unfortunate necessity. Neither of which have anything to do with the violence that has erupted since the tragic death of George Floyd. Floyd, an African-American, died suspiciously while in police custody recently in Minneapolis.

I awoke on Pentecost Sunday morning with a phone full of text messages desperately seeking assurance that my wife and I were safe. Unsure as to the reason for the inquiries I tuned to the local news. I quickly learned that during the night my hometown of Charleston, South Carolina had become the victim of violence run amuck.

Although billed as a peaceful but passionate protest it quickly morphed into little more than a thuggish brawl. Perhaps that had always been the intention. Fires were intentionally set, businesses destroyed, all under the guise of "no justice, no peace."

As soon as the curfew imposed by the mayor, suspiciously ignored by both the police and the rioters, was lifted my wife and I walked downtown to view the situation. For the first time in memory local media reporting had downplayed an issue. They failed to do justice to the destruction suffered by our beautiful city.

Walking historic King Street seemed strangely akin to a funeral visitation. People moved quietly speaking in soft whispers. Respectful distances were kept as shop owners cleared away debris from what had only recently been neat and inviting businesses. Many shop owners seemed overwhelmed by the vicious randomness of the violence and stood around as though in a dream from which they hoped to soon awake.

Whatever negative may be said about the protestors, their expensive taste cannot be denied. The Apple store along with other expensive shops had been picked clean and left in shambles. But it is more than just big-ticket item stores that had been destroyed. Mom and pop businesses and cafes were assaulted as well. Stores just recently opened with high hopes of staging a financial comeback from the recent pandemic closing were ransacked. Adding to owner's woe is that riots are not automatically covered by insurance. It is hard to fathom how they must feel.

An inside source shared with me that the Charleston police had been caught unprepared. There are increasing whispers that the mayor's response was lacking as well. It is hard to refute the apparent failure of those who lead our city.

I overheard a question as why would anyone want to destroy their community? This is Charleston where on June 17, 2015 citizens banded together when the innocents of Emmanuel AME were targeted and murdered by a deranged gunman. This is the city where historic St. Michael's Anglican Church's parishioners formed a human chain around Emmanuel during the first Sunday worship service following the tragedy. Although largely symbolic the message was crystal clear.

On April 4, 2015, a North Charleston police officer shot a fleeing non-violent suspect. The officer was arrested and jailed in less than 48 hours. After being found guilty he received a harsh sentence.

But why destroy one's own city has proven to be the definitive question. And the answer emerged from Mayor Melvin Carter of St. Paul, Minnesota, sister city of Minneapolis.

Mayor Carter revealed that numerous arrests following the riots in Minneapolis-St. Paul proved to be mostly outsiders. They were out of towners, professional thugs and trouble- makers intent on making mischief. George Floyd and Black Lives Matter mean no more to them than any other excuse to incite mayhem. These are hired guns pure and simple who prey on the innocent. They destroy and move on to the next opportunity.

In March of 2016 Charleston County Councilman Henry Darby wrote an editorial for the Charleston "Post and Courier calling white clergy moral cowards for Preaching the Love of Jesus. 'They lecture on the love of God and Jesus Christ' but remain predominately silent on the issue of race. The reason according to Councilman Darby is because they are 'timid moderate and reserved ... and lack moral courage' to support the Black Lives Matter movement.

Maybe it time for clergy of all races to heed the councilman's sage advice, although perhaps not in the way he might have intended.

At the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic I quoted the Pastor of First Baptist Dallas, Texas that a "fearful world needs a fearless church." Fearlessness must be tempered with the social responsibility and legitimate concerns over health and safety issues. Capricious decisions must be avoided.

I believe the church has fulfilled its social responsibility but must now switch to its fearless mode.

The one thing protestors got right was the chant of "no justice no peace." This may prove to be the one thing of which we might all agree.

Federal law prohibits moving from state to state for the purpose of inciting violence.

Clergy should fearlessly proclaim no peace for criminals who prey on the innocent until full restitution has been received by the victims. This restitution must not come from the government and hence the citizenry but from those responsible for the criminal acts. This should include participants, organizers and the rest.

If funds are not available from those judged guilty then require restitution through sweat equity. Learning the cost and diligence of building a business might prove a valuable lesson in respect and restraint.

Restitution is after all a Christian concept.

So, Councilman Darby perhaps this will help clear up your concern that clergy are timid, moderate, reserved and lack moral courage.

Now, let us see yours.

Ladson F. Mills III is priest with over thirty years pastoral experience. He is retired and lives with his wife in Charleston, South Carolina. He is the author of "Abandoned Shipmate: The Destruction of Coast Guard Captain Ernie Blanchard". He is a regular contributor to "Virtueonline" and "The Covert Letter".

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