Julius H. Cromwell: Lessons unlearned from 1960s

09/01/2014 8:00 PM

08/29/2014 3:43 PM

It appears as though we have not learned much from the turbulent 1960s when Eugene “Bull” Connor, police commissioner of Birmingham, Ala., turned high-pressured water hoses and snarling police dogs on civil rights demonstrators.

This time it was armored vehicles with SWAT teams equipped with high-powered weapons to break up large numbers of demonstrators in Ferguson, Mo., following the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager.

Another lesson unlearned was the reaction of demonstrators who looted stores and damaged businesses. We witnessed similar violent demonstrations in Watts, Newark, Detroit, New York City, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. following acts of police brutality in the 1960s.

Cooler heads prevailed in Ferguson when Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon appointed Capt. Ronald Johnson of the State Highway Patrol, who is African-American, to assume leadership on policing the demonstrators. He immediately withdrew the armored vehicles, and the police became less aggressive.

Is it that difficult for those demonstrators who resort to violence to understand that looting stores in their own community, burning and destroying property in their own community and attacking police only hinder any progress toward resolution? We certainly don’t wish to again witness the civil disobedience of the 1960s that deteriorated into race riots and violence that destroyed many of our black communities from which we are still recovering.

Julius H. Cromwell

Raleigh

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