“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Those words from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first inaugural address came to mind this past spring after hearing the increasingly frenzied worries and rumors leading up to a planned Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Ellsworth and then witnessing firsthand the event and subsequent local demonstrations. There was no violence, no property damage, no busloads of out-of-towners bent on mayhem and destruction.
Instead, there were college and high school students, small business owners, librarians, teachers, religious leaders and little kids. There were also a whole lot of law enforcement officers, providing traffic control and standing by as needed. All went smoothly, save for some traffic delays and a few rude signs (there’s always that guy … or three). Nothing to fear here. That has been true in the overwhelming majority of demonstrations.
In downtown Bar Harbor, supporters of the BLM movement peacefully gathered throughout the summer. Organized primarily by the island’s youth, the events included demonstrations, marches and speeches and dovetailed with ongoing efforts to uncover systemic racism in the community.
The U.S. Crisis Monitor, a joint effort of the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project and Princeton University, examined data from more than 7,750 demonstrations across the country connected to the Black Lives Matter movement between May 26 and Aug. 22. More than 93 percent involved peaceful protesters. To be sure, violence and property destruction — whomever it is committed by — should be condemned and punished but using the actions of a few to characterize the many is unjust. Painting with broad strokes does not produce a detailed picture.
The same can be said of law enforcement. It is entirely possible – indeed vital – to denounce the acts of a few, while still recognizing the good work so many officers perform day in and day out.
It was at the beginning of what would be a very turbulent summer that Hancock County Sheriff Scott Kane learned that the nonprofit Healthy Acadia had issued a statement expressing support for Black Lives Matter. Defining just what Black Lives Matter is can be a challenge. There’s Black Lives Matter the movement, the sentiment and the organization. But Kane saw it as a threat to law and order. He canceled Healthy Acadia’s contract to provide recovery coaching services at the county jail. This week, the sheriff, with input from other county officials, reversed course and Healthy Acadia is expected to resume work at the jail.
It was the right decision. Canceling recovery services did not make police or the public any safer and inmates were worse off. Kane and other jail officials have long worked to provide treatments and supports to inmates with substance-use disorder. It is both the right and practical thing to do. People in recovery are less likely to wind up in jail again. They have a chance at a better life.
Two organizations with that shared goal should be able to find a way forward together.