Letter to the Editor: Distortion of peaceful protests

In a recent interview, self-proclaimed “public safety activist” Rep. Steve Smyk, R-Milton, talked about “militant groups that came in from out of state to sow violence and promote organized looting under the cover of peaceful demonstrations.”

Rep. Smyk believes the demonstrations in Wilmington on June 5 “remained in check” because of a strong police and military presence — and “divine intervention.” It rained.

He also claims the demonstration the same evening on Del. 1 outside Rehoboth Beach “remained peaceful under strong police presence.”

For the record, I was one of the 600 protesters on Del. 1. We were peaceful because we chose to be — not because state troopers were there.

The interviewer accepted Rep. Smyk’s comments as fact. After all, Rep. Smyk says he gets his information from inside sources. “I’m well-known in the police community. They call me.” The police told Rep. Smyk they “were exhausted and scared,” “felt they were facing a military foe” and “worried they didn’t have the support of the governor or the attorney general.”

The interview concludes with Rep. Smyk exhorting us to be like Jesus and Dr. Martin Luther King.

History note for Rep. Smyk: Dr. King went to jail 29 times for acts of civil disobedience and on trumped-up charges by police. He marched for civil rights. He protested the Vietnam War. Two days after his “I Have a Dream” speech, the director of intelligence for J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI sent this internal memo: “We must mark him now, if we have not done so before, as the most dangerous Negro of the future in this nation from the standpoint of communism, the Negro and national security.”

Biblical note for Rep. Smyk: Jesus preached peace and love, yet he was accused of sedition by the state and executed.

But back to the present — and the future.

The interviewer was so convinced of the seriousness of what occurred that he thinks a bipartisan state investigation is needed to be better prepared for the future.

I don’t know what “seriousness” the interviewer wants investigated, nor do I know what he means by “better prepared.” Prepared for what?

I do know that Rep. Smyk’s comments reflect the kind of thinking that leads to peaceful protesters being brutalized and thrown into unmarked vehicles by unidentifiable federal agents and militarized police.

I also know if we want to protect our First Amendment right to assemble, we need to speak out when peaceful protests are distorted by “public safety activists.”

Joanne Cabry
Chair, Progressive Democrats of Sussex County