• 48°

Stop fanning flames with rumors

Two protests.

Two areas of the city.

Two different groups.

Two different days.

Numerous rumors flew on social media about violence and looting.

Numerous businesses closed as a result of the rumors.

But no violence happened. No looting happened. And we expected no less from the young people of Suffolk.

In a protest in North Suffolk on Monday, a group of mostly young people gathered and held signs and chanted at an intersection leading into a shopping center. They shouted the names of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, two people who are black who have been killed by police officers in other states in recent weeks.

A protest in downtown Suffolk on Tuesday was organized by young people but saw a turnout that spanned the generations. They marched around the block from the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts twice, made speeches and read the names of people of color killed by police and white vigilantes.

In other words, both of the protests were completely peaceful. None of the violence feared in the rumors materialized. Other rumors were about protests that never actually existed at all.

In light of the whispers of professional protestors and agent provocateurs in other areas that have seen looting and damage and fires, even as close as Virginia Beach and Richmond, folks in Suffolk may have had reason to expect that similar bad actors would show up here, bringing destruction and then blaming it on the protestors. But it was always virtually assured the protestors themselves would be peaceful as they exercised their First Amendment rights to speak out against the police brutality, vigilante justice, racism, evil and hate that has stolen the lives of too many people of color.

Monday’s protest organizers were mostly Nansemond River High School graduates. Tuesday’s protest was organized by a very recent King’s Fork High School graduate. These are OUR young people protesting for the right to live. These are OUR young people who are going to change the world and lead us into the next decade.

They didn’t deserve the negativity these rumors spread onto their events, and we are grateful no bad actors showed up to cause division.