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More rioting possible if 'justice' isn't served

Although it doesn't directly affect Carroll County at this point, it very well may some time in the future. I refer to the growing unrest in communities all across the country from Chicago to St. Louis to Boston to Baltimore and other areas due to law enforcement-involved shootings and other alleged mistreatment of arrestees that have led to serious injuries and even unfortunate deaths.

All of these occurrences have led to protest marches, demonstrations, and rioting as in St. Louis and Baltimore among others. As in Baltimore, once the initial violence calms down, local government officials gather to plot their strategies and then meet with the affected community's clergy and other leaders, many of whom appear to be self-proclaimed. Following these talks, the usual course of action is to fire the police chief or superintendent and hire a new leader to run the police department. This action seems, in most cases so far, to buy the governmental officials time to come up with new ideas on how to improve the lives of those who must live in the riot-torn areas.

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All the while, the community leaders continue to have meetings and coordinate marches and demonstrations calling for changes in the way that law enforcement deals with the citizenry and usually shouting loudly for "justice" for those who have been injured or died, allegedly at the hands of the police.

My question with this is: What is their definition of "justice?" Will the protesters and community leaders be satisfied that justice was served if an officer is charged and brought to trial, and declared not guilty by a jury? Or, as I fear, will they only be satisfied if the officer in question is found guilty of all charges and is sent to prison? We may soon find out these answers as the trial of the first of the six officers charged in the Freddie Gray case in Baltimore has begun.

I'm fearful that if the officer is not convicted on all counts against him, the city will explode into violence on a large scale with the community "leadership" calling the trial a sham and a travesty and a miscarriage of justice simply because the result wasn't the one that they desired.

I lived in the city at the time of the rioting following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and had a first-hand view of the National Guard on the corners of my block and the military vehicles patrolling the neighborhood. Luckily, my neighborhood was spared the worst, but the smell and sight of the acrid smoke from the arson fires was impossible to escape.

I would hope and pray that, for once, cooler heads might prevail and whatever the jury decides will be accepted as "justice" as it should be defined, a fair and impartial decision based only on the facts presented. This, so far, hasn't affected our county, but who is to say that it never will? As involved citizens we need to be aware of the possibilities and the consequences.

Will Baltimore set the bar high or will the city succumb to the lowest common denominator resorting to violence? Only time will tell.

Bill Kennedy writes every other Monday from Taneytown. Email him at wlkennedyiii@verizon.net.

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