Just as the Constitution protects our right to publish and prevents the government from censoring speech, it also ensures that citizens can peaceably assemble without fear of interference by either the government or other citizens. Whether that was the intention of people who posted messages last week on social media that seemed to be veiled warnings about the planned protest in Harwich, we can't say for sure. The actions, however, prompted the parents of the two eighth graders who were organizing the event to call it off over concerns about the kids' safety.
Outraged adults took things over and a powerful event took place Saturday in Brooks Park. About 1,000 local residents assembled peacefully, decrying racism and the numerous incidents of violence against Black Americans by police and others. It was moving and inspiring to see a sea of people of all ages, colors and economic backgrounds bowing and kneeling for eight minutes and 46 seconds to protest the murder of George Floyd.
Similarly, a Harwich couple has faced a backlash after a story in last week's Chronicle about their son's arrest during protests in Washington, D.C. On social media and in phone messages, the couple were told they should be “ashamed” of their son's “disgusting stance;” others vowed to boycott their businesses. This is not helpful and doesn't further the goal the couple and their son had in communicating his experience and the need to resolve the deep fracture racism has created in our society. It also reinforces the need for a community-wide dialog on the issue. People have a right to their opinions, but they don't have a right to shame or berate others for theirs. Intolerance will not heal wounds.