A few weeks ago the national focus was on “Bloody Sunday” and Selma, Alabama. The response around the country was overwhelmingly positive as the events of Bloody Sunday were retold and the tremendous influence that it had on the Civil Rights Movement in this country recognized. A good lesson to learn from those accounts was that when seeking justice violence is never the answer.
Now we see a totally different situation unfolding in Baltimore. The massive acts of violence that have occurred over a period of several days, triggered by the death of Freddie Gray, a 25 year old black male, is now the national story. The question is being asked by the national media: “Would the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. condone the violence, burning and looting that is happening in Baltimore?” Personally, I do not believe that Dr. King, whose message was one that advocated non-violent and peaceful protests, would ever condone violence as an answer.
While numbers of persons in Baltimore have peacefully protested for answers – and justice – in the name of Freddie Gray, the nation’s attention has largely been focused on the violent acts, looting and burning by rioters. I have never believed that violence, looting and burning are the answer when folks are seeking real justice and my beliefs have not changed. Dr. King had this to say in a 1966 interview with Mike Wallace:
I will never change in my basic idea that non-violence is the most potent weapon available to the Negro in his struggle for freedom and justice. I think for the Negro to turn to violence would be both impractical and immoral.
Dr. King set the blueprint and laid the foundation fifty years ago and his goal was to assure that African-Americans would achieve real equality in this country. While we have made tremendous progress in the area of civil rights, I know there is much more to do. But I do not believe that violence such as we are witnessing in Baltimore is the answer.
My prayer is that reasonable persons on each side of this volatile issue and especially the leaders, will call for an end to the rioting, burning and violence in Baltimore. Innocent folks will be the real losers and the pursuit of justice in the case of Freddie Gray sidetracked if the situation in Baltimore continues along its present path. Peaceful protests can accomplish that which violence can only slow down and even stop.
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