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Distortion of peaceful protests in Barefootin’

July 27, 2020

Self-proclaimed ‘public safety activist’ Rep. Steve Smyk (RD 20) told Dennis Forney, publisher emeritus of the Cape Gazette, about “militant groups that came in from out of state to sow violence and promote organized looting under the cover of peaceful demonstrations.” (Cape Gazette, July 17) 

Rep. Smyk believes the demonstrations in Wilmington on June 5 “remained in check” because of a strong police and military presence - and “divine intervention.” It rained.

He also claims the demonstration the same evening on Route 1 outside Rehoboth “remained peaceful under strong police presence.” 

For the record, I was one of the 600 protestors on Route 1. We were peaceful because we chose to be - not because state troopers were there.  

Mr. Forney accepted Rep. Smyk’s comments as fact. After all, Rep. Smyk gets his information from inside sources. “I’m well known in the police community. They call me.”  The police told Rep. Smyk they “were exhausted and scared”; “felt they were facing a military foe”; and “worried they didn’t have the support of the governor or the attorney general.”   

The column concludes with Rep. Smyk exhorting us to be like Jesus and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

History note for Rep. Smyk:  Dr. King went to jail 29 times for acts of civil disobedience and on trumped-up charges by police. He marched for civil rights. He protested the Vietnam war. Two days after his “I Have a Dream” speech, the director of intelligence of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI sent this internal memo: “We must mark him now, if we have not done so before, as the most dangerous Negro of the future in this Nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro and national security.”

But back to the present - and the future. Mr. Forney states: “By the end of our interview, I was convinced that the seriousness of what occurred over that period of a week deserves a bipartisan state investigation to be better prepared for the future.”

I don’t know what Mr. Forney wants investigated. And I don’t know what he means by ‘better prepared.’ Prepared for what?

I do know that Rep. Smyk’s comments in this interview reflect the kind of thinking that leads to peaceful protesters being brutalized and thrown into unmarked vehicles by unidentifiable federal agents and militarized police. 

I also know if we want to protect our First Amendment right to assemble, we need to speak out when peaceful protests are distorted by ‘public safety activists.’

Joanne Cabry
chair
Progressive Democrats of Sussex County
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