El Cajon protesters muddle message

by Lehi Naseem, Staff Columnist

One sign read “End Slavery” in bold green letters, another said “All lives matter.” There was also a bright red cap bopping around with the infamous phrase “Make America Great Again.”

Alfred Olango, a 38-year-old Ugandan refugee, was shot in the parking lot of a shopping center in El Cajon, California on Sept. 27. These signs were all present at several protests in the city after Olango’s death.

The majority of protesters claimed to be fighting police brutality and the injustice of Olango’s death. Protestors had various reasons why they were there and what they were fighting for, but some of their behavior was erratic. Some said they were protesting against police brutality, while others were hurling glass bottles at the officers. Some protesters spread rumors about the shooting, others fought one another. A few assaulted a Trump supporter who decided to rile people up. He succeeded.

Olango’s family members and El Cajon residents have every right to be upset about the events of last week. Protests were inevitable, that was not the problem. The issue was the disorganized and violent behavior of some protesters. There is a difference between frustrated protesters who fight to make a difference and vengeful ones who fight for the sake of fighting. Several of the violent protesters had aligned themselves with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement but showed nothing but insolence and disrespect towards the police and residents of El Cajon. Several did represent BLM’s values by “practicing justice, liberation, and peace in [their] engagements” with the police force and bystanders alike.

Protesters who have been behaving in direct opposition of BLM’s standards only taint BLM’s name and hinder its potential achievements. They are the ones at the forefront of the protest. And they have successfully incited fear and disruption on the empty streets but rowdy sidewalks of El Cajon.

Initially, protesters crowded the streets of El Cajon in order to pressure the police department to release the footage of the shooting. But once the footage was released Friday at 1pm, the protesters proceeded to plan demonstrations for that same evening and the following weekend. As a result, local business owners closed their doors in compliance with the suggestion made Friday afternoon by El Cajon Business Partners President Daryl R. Priest.

A protest’s purpose is to disrupt normality in order to advocate improvement. But being peaceful and organized can achieve these same results in a more effective way.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that,” Martin Luther King once said. “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

These protests caused the wrong kind of disruption. They have not disrupted the system, they have disrupted peace and the sense of community. It can be argued that the cop who shot Olango already did that when he pulled the trigger. But activists must ask themselves: do you want to fight violence with violence? Or are you ready and willing to promote peaceful change?

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