Editor’s note: This editorial expresses the views of the Log Cabin Democrat. The editorial board is composed of Frank Leto, Jeanette Anderton and Alex Kienlen.
On Tuesday, a group called Reinvest in Conway had a peaceful protest outside Conway City Hall for about six hours. Another group called Arkansas Patriots stood across the street with guns and an unclear purpose throughout the protest.
The first group carried signs reading messages such as “Black Lives Matter,” “Lionel Morris and Jaleel Medlock Should still be ALIVE!” “Defund the police” and more. The second group carried firearms, including a few with semi-automatic weapons.
Reinvest in Conway has met with city officials to discuss policy changes in the police department after Lionel Morris died while in the custody of Conway police. They had requested to be on the city council’s agenda for that night’s meeting. They explained their reasons for protesting to reporters and passersby. Each protestor who spoke with reporters gave their names.
The second group said they were there to “protect the city” and refused to give reporters their names, though most wore Arkansas Patriots insignia and some identified themselves as members of the group.
The Log Cabin Democrat continues to support peaceful protest and condemn acts of destruction, such as rioting and looting, as we wrote in our June 6 editorial following protests in the city over George Floyd’s death in police custody.
We support protesting outside City Hall – which was bought and renovated using taxpayer money and belongs to the people.
We don’t support uninvited armed militia groups showing up under the guise of assisting the police or protecting the city. Instead, they serve only to try to intimidate and instigate. It sends the wrong signal and often escalates tensions leading to violence.
The same night this was happening in Conway, a teenager armed with a semi-automatic rifle walked the streets with other armed civilians in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during a protest over the shooting of Jacob Blake by police.
Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, said he was there “protecting businesses from protesters,” according to widely circulating cellphone footage.
Instead, he ended up fatally shooting two protesters and wounding a third. He faces five felony charges, including first-degree intentional homicide and first-degree reckless homicide, and a misdemeanor charge for possession of a dangerous weapon by a minor.
Rittenhouse would face a mandatory life sentence if convicted of first-degree intentional homicide. Under Wisconsin law, anyone 17 or older is treated as an adult in the criminal justice system.
He never should have been there in the first place. Because he was, two people are dead; one was left mangled; and he could spend the rest of his life in prison.
Peaceful protests are not only legal, they are an important tool to bring awareness to issues that need to be addressed.