With all the headlines this week about protests across the country in honor of a black man killed recently by police in Minnesota, we'd like to see more cities take some lessons from Chattanooga.
Most of our police leadership continues to be careful to forge a peace-seeking way during tough moments. The same has been true of many protest organizers.
Early Tuesday morning, despite some very tense moments of standoff, what began five hours before on Monday as a peaceful protest by about 200 activists in Miller Park, ended peacefully, too — no matter an effort to literally blow up that peace.
Organizers tried to end the event with a call for activists to stay motivated. But someone threw a firecracker onto Market Street, spurring an argument among those gathered when organizer Brie Stevens told the thrower not to disrupt the peaceful event.
The crowd then gathered at the end of the park near M.L. King Boulevard and Georgia Avenue in a standoff with the Chattanooga police. While organizers begged them to be peaceful, many activists verbally antagonized the police — shouting insults and mocking them. When state troopers arrived, they and Chattanooga Police Department officers formed a line on the park lawn and protesters formed a line, this time about 10 feet across from each other. Speakers played music as some activists chanted and a handful of organizers tried to keep the peace.
They succeeded, and organizers and police eventually found common ground. They even thanked each other as the crowd dissolved.
Earlier Monday, we saw similar understanding.
As more than a hundred peaceful protesters on their knees chanted "Take a knee" outside the federal courthouse building in Chattanooga, some officers did just that.
Capt. Jerri Sutton and Assistant Chief Danna Vaughn knelt on the sidewalk. So did Nathan Cullom, a contracted security officer and a retired police officer. Activist Marie Mott, who has led multiple peaceful demonstrations over the last three days, knelt across from them.
What's more, the protests and the understandings that bridge peace and unity don't always take place on the streets. This week, one such moment took place in our region's largest hospital.
An Erlanger nurse posted on social media over the weekend while watching a live video stream of protests: "I'm getting a good look at these faces. Don't come up in my hospital wanting help if you get hurt."
Erlanger Health System officials saw the post and gave "thoughtful" consideration to what it might mean and how it might reflect on the hospital and the compassionate care for which Erlanger seeks to be known.
"This led Erlanger to taken thoughtful and swift action, and the individual is no longer affiliated with our system," according to a statement from Erlanger to the Times Free Press.
The point of this, folks, is that protesters do not equal disrupters or thugs or looters or any of the other negative words your cousin or your crazy uncle or your president who's desperate to win back suburban white votes, may try to tell you.
Protesters — like all Americans — come in all shapes, sizes, skin tones and spirits.
Some came this week to call for a better tomorrow.
Some came this week to create more chaos.
It's up to each of us to look for and understand the difference, and to support the better angels out there putting themselves on the line to improve our world.