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Change is essential to a future of peace

Smashed windows. Fires. Curfews. An as-of-yet untold number of people killed.

Summer is heating up fast. Cooler heads must prevail.

The story of George Floyd, pinned to his death under the knee of a police officer in Minneapolis in late May, has sparked a firestorm across America. Protests have been taking place in cities nationwide, including here in Williamsport. Here, the protests have been peaceful, and we support the right of protesters to peacefully assemble as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution.

We draw the line at violence and destruction.

Racism is central, as it has been with numerous other protests of recent decades. These protests followed incidents involving police and black Americans who believe they are being unfairly treated.

To be sure, our black neighbors have not received a fair shake. Old policies such as racial profiling and stop and frisk have heightened the righteous anger in the black community. People being killed as George Floyd was fuels the anger.

Floyd’s brother, Terrence Floyd, on Monday called for an end to the sort of “destructive unity” that the nation has witnessed this past week.

He called for a peaceful path forward, one that may be carved out at the ballot box.

“Educate yourself. Don’t wait for somebody else to tell you who’s who,” Terrence Floyd said during an emotional visit to the site of his brother’s death.

In advocating for change to be effected peacefully at the polls — not just by voting for president but by voting for representatives in public offices across the board — he called for an end to the destruction that his brother’s death triggered.

He is correct. Demanding change through protest alone will not get the job done.

“Change never comes through violence,” Dr. Bernice King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., warned on the same day.

We couldn’t agree more. This pattern of a life taken at the hands of police followed by protests that escalate into destruction will only continue if we don’t weed out bigotry wherever it exists. The images have been disturbing. Change is essential to our future.

True, much has changed since the civil rights movement of the mid-20th century, but change has been slow. We have a long way yet to go. As Bernice King said, change is earned and won with every generation. The question now is how to find a better way than through flaring tempers and more violence.

“If it does not change, I shudder to think what might happen in this country,” she added.

We do too, Bernice. We do too.

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