The onslaught of the coronavirus and the nationwide protests that followed the police killing of George Floyd in May are destined to go down in our history as unforgettable events.

The astronomical number of casualties and the massive unemployment caused by the pandemic, as well as the strong support for Black Lives Matter, will stay in our nation’s memory. The intensity and enthusiasm of millions of Americans of all races protesting peacefully has truly impacted the conscience of America. Rarely in our lifetimes have we seen such determination to bring about a change that is long overdue.

While I heartily applaud peaceful protests, I have been saddened by the destruction of property and looting across the country. The anarchists and looters burned police cars and other vehicles and destroyed stores. Even grocery stores and restaurants in low-income areas were not spared. At least 530 businesses across St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minn., were vandalized. A number of these stores were owned by minorities. City leaders said that 80% of the people involved in rioting were not local. These opportunists look for situations where protests are planned and have no connection with peaceful protesters.

It is imperative that the police force and National Guard do a vastly better job of preserving property and businesses in the future. New York police lamely attributed the prevention of destruction of property to intelligence failure. The needed protection can be accomplished while preserving the right of dedicated people to protest unjust practices. It is reasonable but sad to assume that many police atrocities, committed in the past, before the era of ubiquitous video cameras, never became public.

We owe the safety and protection of property to the brave people protesting all over America and in so many parts of the world for a most noble cause: ensuring equal, respectful and fair treatment of all citizens by police officers. Not since the civil rights movement of the 1960s has the country seen such an inspirational and irrepressible demonstration of this urgent national need. A true democracy deserves no less.

I also feel strongly that this great country, with its unlimited potential for change, can ensure peaceful protests that are devoid of violence, looting and destruction of property.

The writer lives in Greensboro.

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