‘If there had been no videos, no newsmen, no private cameras to record events, we would not have believed this episode.”

“As our protest march was peacefully proceeding down H Street, we all were very much aware of the low flying, almost menacing, helicopters overhead. We could see the strangely uniformed (armed) soldiers at the end of the street, side by side with the police. Although we knew we were within our Constitutional rights to freedom of speech and peaceable assembly, we were concerned for a possible confrontation.”

“Our fears were suddenly answered by tear gas and pepper spraying at us. The frightening horror of this illegal, vicious outburst sent our startled group running for any shelter off the street. Men, women, children, all ages, all races, all of us Americans, were in disbelief. This was not Hitler’s Germany; it was Washington D.C. in 2020, and our callous President decided to clear the street for his photo op walk to St. John’s Church, bible in hand.”

This is a summary of three MSNBC newsmen, who were covering the peaceful group of protesters dispersed by excessive force near the White House recently.

Unaware at the time of the inhumane incident the newsmen described, I was absolutely inspired by the thousands of folks who joined together to protest the years of racism, abuses of Constitutional rights, and institutional brutality toward non-whites and Native Americans, as was murderously demonstrated by the police on George Floyd. If all these protest marches could have remained peaceful, I believe much more could be accomplished.

Instead, pent-up tensions and anger caused a great deal of property damage. Looters, arsonists, and outright thieves took advantage of the turmoil to cause further lawlessness. Although this behavior was actually in the minority by comparison to the enormous peaceful response, the news media did focus on this negative. Peaceful marches are not newsworthy!

Perhaps 2020 will be the year we can actually have laws in place that will assure justice for all, and have police and legal authorities accountable for their actions.

The major obstacle in adopting change, unfortunately, is President Trump. His fear, hate and disapproval of the protest movement was illegally and forcefully expressed in clearing a street, and he has threatened to use military force to “dominate” the marchers. Trump’s vow of “law and order” disregards the Constitution and laws of the land, and causes disorder in his chaotic administration. He truly believes he and he alone rules our nation. This, of course, demonstrates his mental instability.

That instability is apparent in his huge list of “enemies” — Obama, Clinton, Biden, the news media, the Democrats, even the medical experts who foretold the horrors of the pandemic that he didn’t want to believe. Unfortunately, that medical delusion cost much suffering and lives lost, which could have been averted.

It’s also been alarming to see some very bright and knowledgeable advisors either resign or be dismissed from their administrative positions because they disagreed with Trump. They were replaced by political puppets, many of them totally inexperienced. Since the Republicans control the Senate, they have even approved unqualified judges for federal bench placements. The prerequisite is to be a Trump follower!

I know I’ve painted a bleak picture, but when our nation has been in crisis, it seems leaders who are devoted to our nation and the value of our democracy do come forward.

Many of our lawmakers are proposing new, just laws that will serve all of us well. As Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee said, “Our police will be guardians instead of warriors,” and as Biden stated, we will regain the “soul of our nation.”

We cherish our democracy and the marchers are proving it.

P.S. The grandma in me is alarmed for the health of the marchers. Many did try to establish distance and mask requirements to help prevent COVID-19, but most did not. Here’s hoping that there will be little or no damage to them from this relentless virus.

Harriet Hausman is a longtime River Forest resident and ACLU member.

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