Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

What lessons did protesters teach kids?

Thank God for the protesters who disrupted traffic in Center City and shouted down the performers at Philadelphia's annual Christmas tree lighting.

THANK GOD for the protesters who disrupted traffic in Center City and shouted down the performers at Philadelphia's annual Christmas tree lighting. Yes, I know, a number of the performers were kids, and parents who brought their kids to the lighting ceremony were disappointed because their evening was disrupted.

The kids may have learned a few good lessons.

I interviewed on my radio show the organizer of last week's protests that intentionally made life miserable for all who attended the tree-lighting ceremony. She consistently said that events like this and other Christmas-related events could not go on while police were killing black people across America and getting away with it.

When I countered that she and her mob destroyed the night for kids and other performers, she countered that it was necessary to make black and brown kids and their parents aware that they could be killed by police at any moment.

Do you think the kids got that perverted message? I wonder how they felt about practicing for their moment and then being subjected to the boos, jeers, sirens and bullhorns of the enlightened mob. The organizer was kind enough to tell me that maybe the city should have a bigger amplification system so that they can't be drowned out. I'll make the mayor aware of it.

The mob also feels that they were teaching everyone about First Amendment rights. Groups like this believe that they have the right not just to protest but the right to shout down others at any event they choose. Do you believe that?

I challenged them to get an even bigger stage for their message. Why not use the same tactics to protest along the Mummers Parade or, even better, at the reviewing stand on New Year's Day? The organizer told me they had no plans to do that at this time. If they did, what would the mayor and police do?

At the Christmas tree lighting, the mayor and the police taught the kids that they wouldn't protect their rights. They could have allowed the protesters a zone of, say, 300 feet away from the main stage where they would have been visible and heard, but not able to drown out the scheduled event and performances.

Why was this not done? I saw police do this at the signing of the bill that would stop Mumia Abu Jamal's prison broadcasts by Gov. Corbett on Locust Street. The Mumia people were allowed to protest, but they did not stop the proceedings.

Apparently there will be lessons taught in the Philadelphia public schools this week around the death of Michael Brown at the hands of former Ferguson, Mo., Police Officer Darren Wilson. Students will hold 4 1/2 minute "die-ins" in school or walk out of school and hold them in the street. The 4 1/2 minutes are supposed to symbolize the 4 1/2 hours that Brown lay dead in the street after being shot by Wilson. This time is offered as evidence of the callousness and inhumanity of the Ferguson Police.

There is an inconvenient fact to these lessons. The funeral director who picked up Brown's body told St. Louis TV news outlets that the delay was caused by an angry crowd that gathered at the shooting scene. He talked by crouching down in his vehicle because he didn't have a bulletproof vest. Facts like this might spoil the "cops just want to kill black people" narrative.

A lesson I'd like to impart to the kids is that there are big differences between the Brown and Eric Garner confrontations with police. A probe of Garner's death is justified. People who want to link both cases around racial bias are at best misguided. In fact, kids should know that Garner's death can lead to a conversation about possibly unnecessary laws that need to be changed, like the use of police power against those selling individual cigarettes (known as "loosies") and the correct use of police force.

These conversations and debates are to be done through our systems of laws. They are conversations for voters and adults. They are not for loud mobs screaming, "Shut it down."