"No bully zone"
Most elementary schools post signs throughout their halls teaching kindness and civility to the young minds passing between classrooms.
It seems to be important that we teach our children not to intimidate or harass each other.
Where does that teaching lead? What happens when there are no teachers or principals to keep a check on our interactions?
Are we so educationally and culturally deficient that we cannot carry those lessons from school into adulthood without needing the signs posted everywhere?
Kindness has taken a huge hit of late. Bullying is fueling the current national debate about violence and human rights.
Small towns are not immune.
The organizers had no ill intentions of destroying property or even allowing escalation of passion to to turn ugly. The organizers are from this town - it is their home.
So why did a dozen or more heavily armed citizens feel a need to stand imposing a completely different attitude? They said they were there to protect the monuments from vandalism. Did they need loaded AR rifles to protect the monuments? If someone showed up with a can of spray paint to vandalize the stones, the people with the guns couldn't legally shoot them.
So was it was just for intimidation? Isn't that Bullying?
The area citizens that are mostly made up of area veterans have been 'patrolling' the area for the last few weeks. On social media each day rumors of busloads of outsiders coming into small towns to cause riots and vandalized monuments were flying around like gnats at an evening little league game. The day of the rally a rumor was spread about people flying in to join the rally and cause mayhem.
Franklin police chief Kevin Anundson was aware of this rumor and changed his plans of having a couple of uniformed officers on hand to having the entire department ready.
Anundson and his department were prepared. The state police were also aware. The group of mostly veterans also became aware of the rumor and decided to be there in force.
The rumor turned out to be false, a direct lie actually, according to Anundson.
So are optics.
The organizers of this rally were met by a perimeter of very well-armed individuals with military looking rifles standing in extremely intimidating fashion. Some had their rifles on their shoulders, but others held them in front of them across their body. At this point they went from concerned citizens or veterans to intimidators. Couldn't they protect the property without carrying weapons they couldn't legally fire anyway?
Yes they are permitted to carry these guns under the Second Amendment, but again, they cannot legally discharge them in order to stop the destruction of property. According to Anundson there would need to be a direct threat to ones life for anyone to use their weapon.
The organizers of this event called for a peaceful protest. So why did the group choose to carry weapons and posture themselves in such a way? Many of them facing the protestors as if they thought the vandalism would come from within that crowd. Again the protestors planned, organized and advertised the event as a peaceful rally.
If that was intent, couldn't this be construed as incredibly insensitive and racist?
The armed "guards" were mostly, if not entirely, white area veterans. The organizers were mostly Black, though the crowd at the rally were perhaps more white. (Venango County is 97% white according to most recent U.S. Census figures.)
So again. Why the brazen open display of the guns?
Several rally attendees were uneasy and some even left early because they were uneasy about the amount of AR style guns being held in militaristic postures by men in bullet proof vests and loaded clips.
Could they not protect the monuments without the rifles? Could they stand there and stop anyone with spray paint or even hammers from getting near the monuments? Couldn't they have projected a calmer demeanor and show civility to those peacefully protesting in the park. And if someone was carrying spray paint or a hammer around with them, don't they have as much right to carry those as the guys have the right to carry their guns?
I have to question that by taking such a position in the way that they did, they almost were begging for confrontation and not just serving as protectors of the county's monuments.
Had just one person from the protest engaged them about their presence in an aggressive manner it would've likely gotten very ugly, very fast. Thankfully, the organizers said often and repeatedly to not engage and keep the rally peaceful.
Anundson and his officers were aware of the presence of those with open carry weapons. They were also aware some people attending the demonstration felt uneasy about the guns. The police department's job is to serve and protect and that was their entire focus that day, Anundson said.
As billed, the rally was peaceful, though the permit did not allow taking to the street and virtually closing the street as the demonstrators marched from the park to city hall a couple blocks away. "That was incredibly dangerous," Anundson said, but he, the organizers and city are looking into it as a learning experience for any future demonstrations.
Hopefully Franklin never sees the destruction of property bigger cities have and no one ever gets hurt exercising their freedom of speech of their right to bear arms.