One of the biggest stories on the front of people’s minds this year has been the protests and riots raging across the country.
Taking issue with several facets of American life, the protestors primarily target perceived bad acts and injustice people face at the hands of law enforcement officers.
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), who represents Monroe County in the House of Representatives, recently gave his thoughts on the protests that often begin peacefully and then turn into violent riots.
“It has been very different in different parts of the country and for different reasons,” Fleischmann said of the purpose of the protests. “What happened in the George Floyd case was something I think the vast majority of Americans, myself included, thought was something outrageous and should not happen in the United States. What happened after that, though, is we saw violence in certain jurisdictions and abdication of certain cities to some of these groups by elected officials, many times who are not conservative but progressives and who the mob turned on in terms of their positions.”
Fleischmann emphasized that he is in favor of peaceful protests as they align with the U.S. Constitution, but there must be a line drawn when violence enters the equation.
“The ability to peacefully protest is a foundation to our Constitution and needs to be there,” he said. “I want to make sure that Americans always have the right to have a strong and free media under the First Amendment so that we can be free to assess and criticize our elected leaders and get the information out in a free society. When it degrades into violence in cities, physical damage to cities, these are inner cities we have taken decades to build up through investment — federal, state, local and business — I think, sadly, for these residents they will be set back for decades.”
Fleischmann said the area where he stays in Washington D.C. has felt the damage that has resulted from protests and riots.
“I walked through Washington D.C. where it was once beautiful and vibrant downtown, I’m seeing buildings boarded up and abandoned,” he said. “That’s not good – it’s not good for America, it’s not good for those cities, it’s not good for entrepreneurs, it’s not good for the communities.”
This violence has begun to make people think about leaving these areas, he added.
“I’m having folks tell me they’re not sure they want to live here anymore,” he said. “That’s what’s scary and that’s what we don’t want to lose to these protestors. These communities — particularly the communities of color — who have worked so hard to build back these communities are now going to be in a very detrimental position.”
Fleischmann added that he sees some issues with some law enforcement officers, but that isn’t a reason not to support the profession in general.
“Does law enforcement need improvement? Of course they do,” he said. “We’ve got to get back to supporting law enforcement. We’re losing too many good officers, good men and women who said enough is enough.”
Fleischmann said the protests taking place throughout the country take him back to another era in American history — the late 1960s and early 1970s when the Vietnam War was raging and protests scattered across the land.
He said relatives of his would have disagreements inside the family over that war.
“The dad and the son … fighting about World War II versus Vietnam,” he said. “Just a very interesting time where you saw great division in our country.”
Fleischmann also recalled such moments as the Korean War disputes, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy and the incident at Kent State University when members of the national guard fired on and killed some student protestors.
More locally and in present time, Fleischmann said the damage that has happened in Tennessee during protests and riots has disturbed him as well.
“Seeing some of the damage done in Downtown Nashville where they burned the courthouse, seeing some of the damage done in my home city of Chattanooga where they defaced public and private property,” he said. “I’m glad to see Gov. (Bill) Lee, with the support of the legislature, address that in special session so that there is a punitive response to behavior that goes beyond that.”