Editorial: Condemn fireworks attack on demonstrators in strongest way possible

While it is, at this time, still an open investigation, should law enforcement find the individuals who allegedly shot a “bottle rocket” style firework at demonstrators on Westminster’s Main Street last weekend and it is determined the act was intentional, the perpetrators should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Regardless of the message, all Americans have the sacred right to free speech and the right to demonstrate and protest. And those who disagree with their message have the absolute right to demonstrate and counter-protest as well.


It is this fundamental right, protected by the First Amendment of our United States Constitution, that separates our great nation from so many others: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

As of this writing, Westminster police have identified only a “vehicle of interest,” a white extended cab pickup, likely a Ford Ranger, that they believe was connected to an incident Saturday where a firework was fired into a crowd, causing injuries to two people. Fortunately, the injuries were minor, but they could have been much worse. Police have offered a reward of up to $500 for additional information leading to an arrest and conviction in this incident.

At best, the incident on Saturday was a dangerous accident in which a firework was shot into a crowd and the perpetrators fled the scene. At worst, it was an act of violence intended to silence a group that has peaceably demonstrated nearly every week for roughly a year and a half.

The group of demonstrators, known as the Westminster Patriots Resist Rally, began shortly after the inauguration of President Trump and the Women’s March. According to its organizer and many of the demonstrators, the group does not protest specifically against the president or any particular political party, rather they have championed what they consider positive, patriotic American values such as an inclusive society and multiculturalism. And there is recognition among demonstrators that there are many in our community who don’t necessarily feel the same way.

The political implications, however, are not what matter here. What matters is the freedom to demonstrate and speak your mind without the fear of violent retribution. We would be equally outraged if a similar incident were to occur in our community to a group protesting abortion, rallying for fewer restrictions on firearms, or demonstrating for any number of conservative causes.

We were glad to see the City of Westminster speak out so strongly against the act in a statement that was released Tuesday afternoon: “As the elected leadership of the City of Westminster, we wish to state explicitly that such conduct is unwelcome in our downtown area, or anywhere in our community. … The Mayor and Common Council strongly condemn any attempt to undermine our citizens’ freedom of speech and peaceful protest. We ask everyone to be respectful of their neighbors and of viewpoints which may be different than your own. It is the heart of our shared democracy.”

Thus far, the Board of County Commissioners has been silent on the matter. Members of this particular board, some individuals more than others, have made a career out of pounding their chests over protecting the constitutional rights of all Americans. It would mean quite a bit if, when the commissioners convene today for the first time since this incident, they condemn both individually and collectively, this act in a similar manner as the Westminster mayor and Common Council, and make clear it will not be tolerated in Carroll County.

And we would also encourage anyone with any additional information to please come forward to police. Tips can be called in to Detective Sgt. Jeffrey Schuster of the Criminal Investigations Bureau at 410-848-3846 or 410-848-4646, or anonymously to 410-857-8477 or texted to 847411.