The Cedartown Commission took time out during their June session to discuss protests that have taken place, and their position of support for peaceful demonstrations as well as local law enforcement officers.
During the Commissioner comments portion of the meeting at the tail end of the June 8 session, the board had the opportunity to talk about their feelings and thoughts on recent demonstrations that have been held in downtown Cedartown following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer, Devin Chauvin, in late May.
Cedartown Commission Chair Matt Foster went first, and said that his opinion about the events in past weeks were still fresh in his mind.
I will also tell you that I attended the protest the other day, as a spectator and also as a participant. I believe that what happened in Minnesota is unjust. What happened to Breonna Taylor in Louisville was unjust,” Foster said. “What happened to that black officer that was defending his friend’s pawn shop was unjust.”
”I guess the reason is that I’m having a hard time putting it into words is that yes, I’m an ally, definitely with the peaceful protest of the first amendment,” he added. “There is everything pure and good in people exercising their constitutional right to peacefully assemble, even if you don’t agree with what the reason they are there, they are following the law.”
“Our guys — many of them I know as personal friends, but even that not being a factor — I see the hard work that our police put in every day, and I see the hard work the Polk County Police, and the Rockmart Police, and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and state agencies I interact with, and I don’t think there’s one among us that think if bad teachers need to be held accountable, then bad cops need to be held accountable too.”
Another who joined him at the protest was Commissioner Sam Branch, who during his opportunity to speak out chided candidates for office for not speaking out ahead of the primary on their beliefs and opinions on the events of past weeks.
He joined Foster during the June 2 gathering in downtown Cedartown to protest as well.
“I thank everyone here for speaking up and I’m going to call out the ones who didn’t. In my opinion, we got some folks who were running for office, who are political candidates, and they haven’t said anything,” Branch said. He added that “I’m sure they will. But in my opinion that is too late. You’re out wanting my vote, and you didn’t say anything.”
Being silent in his opinion is akin to being part of the problem.
“Say something about an issue, say something that matters,” he added.
Commissioners Jessica Payton and Dale Tuck also voiced their support for the protests that have taken place in the past days following Floyd’s death.
Tuck, who has for decades taught students in classrooms in Cedartown, said that she has heard from former students who have shared their experiences and said she has gone through her own emotions over what happened in recent weeks. Yet she returns to a simple ideal that should help remind everyone of what direction they should follow: the golden rule.
”It is about time that all of us shine a little light and wisdom on our personal prejudices,” Tuck said.
Payton said she was also going through her own range of emotions on the subject, and that though she was on vacation during protests she would have if home.
”I was proud to see law enforcement there and being supportive,” she said.
She said she was supportive of bringing awareness to the issues around the protest, and believed that parties need to sit down and have a deeper conversation.
For Commissioner Andrew Carter, he said he was “never more proud to be from here than I am now.”
”Not because of how peaceful the protest was, and I’m glad it was, I really am. I don’t want to see what happened in Atlanta happen here. But at the same time, I’m so thankful because of all the people who came out to have their voice heard,” Carter said. “I’m thankful to live here. Now at the same time there are things we need to address and have discussions about.... I’m happy to be here where we can peacefully assemble and peacefully protest that we so strongly believe in and strongly support.”
He said the subject of race relations, law enforcement and role that citizens are playing in steering in any discussion, but that it needs to be had because “we’re talking about lives here.”
”I want to thank those people who came out,” he added. “We’re just a small town. But that group — and the way that 98.9% of the citizens who drove by, who came up to the protest — was a a wonderful response, and support was great. What Sam (Branch) said is true. What happens after this point is going to be the challenge. But I guarantee you that I and all the rest of the people up here are willing to have those conversations.”