The Brandenburg Protest - Why so much hate?

An editorial by Messenger staff member Crystal Leo

I attended the “protest” in downtown Brandenburg last night. To put it simply, I was there for two reasons: One, to be an eyewitness to anything newsworthy that might happen so the Meade County Messenger could report it. And two, if history was going to happen, I wanted to see it for myself.

You see, I love history. It is something I get from my father. He practically lives with the History channel on our television and can explain a lot of things that most people have no clue about. I am also a firm believer of George Santayana’s quote, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Civilizations rise and fall, and if we do not bother to learn why, then we are only dooming our own society to a slow annihilation.

So, what did I learn last night?

Hate and ignorance are still going strongly on both sides of the current dilemma our country finds itself in. I do not have a PHD, nor am I a trained psychologist. However, I do have a firm belief that there are three sides to every story, and somewhere in the middle lies the truth.

Here are the truths I witnessed last night:

Downtown Brandenburg merchants were terrified yesterday. They had been warned of a possible Black Lives Matter protest about the civil war monument on the waterfront and then told they should take precautions to secure their stores and the safety of their employees. Those store owners don’t care if people want to protest for equality. Most of them understand equality is vastly needed. What they don’t want, though, are the violent outbursts that sometimes follow protestors by individuals who are looking to cause trouble.

Windows were boarded, stores were shut down and store owners stood outside their buildings, which encompassed their life’s savings in most cases, with guns, determined to deter anyone who might consider trying to loot or destroy their property.

Did they have a right to do those things? Yes. One hundred percent unequivocal yes. Not just because we have the freedom in the United States to protect our property, but also because one of those property owners was told by authorities that “law enforcement’s focus would be to keep the peace and protect the monument.”

Small business owners were just plum out of luck and had to fend for themselves.

Is that law enforcement’s fault? Maybe yes, maybe no.

Unless you were one of the law enforcement officials working the protest last night, you have no idea what they had been told to do or not to do. I am sure many just wanted to make sure that things would stay peaceful. They wanted to make sure everyone went home safely, including their brothers and sisters in uniform. Being a law enforcement official is not easy, and I do not envy their position. My husband was a deputy sheriff for nine years and everyday he walked out the door, I had no idea if he was coming home to me and my children that night. So, in essence what I’m saying is, no matter what anyone thinks, all law enforcement that were on duty for last night’s protest were simply trying to do their job to the best of their ability. Whether you agree or disagree with what they did, or did not do.

Moving on to my next point.

Were store owners in the wrong for asking friends or family to help them protect their store with loaded weapons?

No. We live in a free country that allows us the right to defend ourselves. As long as citizens use that freedom responsibly it is okay. It is only when individuals abuse that privilege that they basically spit on the memory of every single person that has fought for, and possibly died for, these rights. Besides, how could they not be concerned when most of Kentucky has been watching the rioting and destruction in Louisville, that is only a little over thirty minutes away from Brandenburg, for the past week or so? How were store owners to know if any protestors would, or would not, try and destroy or take their property?

Here is another truth. There were peaceful protestors last night. Not as many as I hoped to see and by far vastly outnumbered by the opposition. I saw a few of them with my own eyes and admired their courage. Can you imagine the guts and strength it takes to walk through a street lined with armed men and women with guns, while not saying a word, and simply holding a sign that says, “black lives matter”? I am adult enough to admit that even I do not know whether I would have had that sort of courage to do that, and many of the protestors I saw were younger than me.

Peaceful protests are one of the strongest, best weapons when facing adversity. How better to show the world your point than to literally do nothing wrong, as you stand or sit somewhere, telling the world what you believe in with either your words or a sign and stand your ground? We have had plenty of amazing people throughout history open our eyes with this sort of demonstration. Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Alice Paul, Rosa Parks, and the unnamed man the world dubbed “Tank Man” who so bravely stood in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China in front of a column of tanks, refusing to move out of their way.

Unfortunately, peaceful protests always seem to attract those who are either actively looking for a fight or to somehow take advantage of the perilous situation. That was seen in abundance last night in downtown Brandenburg as individuals from both sides of the debate taunted each other needlessly to get a rise out of the other side. Thankfully, while there were no major incidents, there were a few minor ones.

Such as the video we, the Meade County Messenger, posted the day of the protest, shortly after the scuffle occurred. In the video you can see a group of individuals fighting with someone who is in a gray car. The individual in the car was holding a sign up and yelling out the window. Whatever he said incensed the group outside of the vehicle who were there in opposition to the peaceful protestors, and then part of that group decided to attack the unknown man in the gray car.

The actions of those individuals who resorted to violence was deplorable. We have free speech for a reason. Everyone has a right to say what they want. What you do not have a right to do is start a physical altercation because of someone else’s words.

While the Meade County Messenger’s mission is to report unbiased news as often as possible, we cannot say that the rest of Meade County views us, the media, and especially the staff at the Messenger, in the same light. We had multiple employees in the area of the protest and we all experienced and saw different aspects of this protest. We had moments where we could not believe what we were seeing, such as the incident where the man was attacked in his car. We were dismayed anyone would resort to violence. Our reporter shared that video in an unbiased way to show Meade County what one of our residents, the man in the gray car, had endured at the protest. It did not matter what he was screaming and yelling, it should have never been reduced to brutal behavior.

What possibly dismays me more is how our video was received by Meade County. Here we were, trying to report unbiased news, and instead individuals came onto our post and shamed us for showing that video. Assumed we were somehow trying to propagate the negative attitude that was infecting the protest. It amazes me how seemingly none of them thought, “Oh, they were posting video of what happened to that poor man in the car. I hope that guy is okay.”

No, instead we received a bevy of insults for us trying to highlight the injustice that was done. I find that incredibly sad. Tragic even. When did we turn into a world where we automatically assume the worst about people? I live my life everyday hoping for the best of humanity.

To wrap this editorial up, I only have a couple of things I would like to focus on.

We, the staff at the Meade County Messenger, not only care about Meade County enough to try and report unbiased news so that individuals can make up their own mind, but we also try not to make false assumptions about individuals until we know the whole truth.

I point this out because I would like to remind everyone that the Messenger is a small office and we can only work so much, cover so far, and produce so much quality content in a short span of time. We have images of the protest from all angles and we will share those once our newsroom coordinator has a chance to go through the hundreds of images he took, edit them for clarity and then write his editorial piece about his experience. I am sorry if this is not happening on the sort of accelerated time frame that you would like it to happen, but everyone is entitled to some sleep and time off, both of which Seth Dukes richly deserved after what he experienced yesterday. I’ve spoken briefly with him on what he plans to cover, and I think Meade County has a wake-up call coming in terms of where they “think” or “assume” the Messenger stands.

Secondly, the Meade County Messenger stands for basic human rights and equality. We do not care the color of your skin, your choice of religion, or how you identify or love when it comes to sexuality or gender. Everyone in our office looks for the actions of a person and the soul within. Not what comes packaged on the outside of those two things.

For those who are trying to paint us as “anti-protestor”, “anti-black lives matter” or biased in any way, you are inaccurate. Personally, I feel like no one in Meade County has the right to try and shame me, or the Messenger, for what we report on when I still cannot locate a “safe” church for my bi-sexual daughter to attend. There might be those in Meade County that are disappointed at us, but please feel free to look in the mirror. The truth is, sometimes we are disappointed in some of you as well.

“Judge not unless you judge yourself. Judge not, if you’re not ready for judgement.” - Bob Marley

To everyone who went to downtown Brandenburg yesterday to either peacefully protest, or stand guard over private properties without being rude, crude and despicable to the protestors, I applaud you tremendously. Thank you.

To the law enforcement officials that were there to do their job, or because they cared, I thank you as well. Your protection and services are invaluable and I appreciate your service to the community.

To the individuals who were NOT Meade County citizens that came solely because they wanted to stir up some trouble because that is their brand of fun… shame on you. Your sort of help is not needed nor wanted by Meade County. Go home and stay there. Don’t let the door hit you where the good Lord split you on the way out.

To the individuals who ARE Meade County citizens that came down to the protest to rile up the crowd and start fights, shame on you as well. If there was a naughty corner big enough for all of you, I would say you most certainly deserve to stand in it. Do not cause trouble where it is not needed. Meade County is not perfect, but most of us are a loving, caring community. We do not appreciate your brand of trouble.

To those that “volunteered” to protect the store fronts or monument but felt the need to hurl inappropriate insults at protestors, such as calling them “retards”, shame on you. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

To those who went downtown so that could hurl their hate and bigotry… you have your freedom of speech. Those who do not agree also have the right to utterly ignore your ideals.

To those who went on our video’s post and did nothing but try and stir up trouble or throw accusations at us… “Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.”

Finally, I want to say thank you to my staff at the Messenger for their dedication yesterday. One employee was guarding our office with her husband in the small chance that a riot would break out. Seth Dukes was in the middle of the protest scene having insults hurled at him, being physically threatened and pushed around, so he could more or less work a fourteen hour day in an attempt to get news coverage, only to turn around the next day and have those in Meade County try and twist and turn it into negative narrative.

I am proud of you Messenger-ites! You are my family and I know we all had the best of intentions yesterday, even if others do not, or refuse to, realize that. We shall stand strong and stick to our ideologies of reporting unbiased news to all of Meade County. Perhaps, eventually, the county we love so much will come to realize that most of what we do, we do in hopes as the best for them.