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Proving your point on the bus vs. Starting the bus on fire

Georgia Republican Governor Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency on Thursday in anticipation of violent anti-police protests in Atlanta this weekend. The governor activated 1,000 National Guard troops and will deploy them to prevent further violence after masked protesters threw rocks, launched fireworks and burned a police vehicle in front of the Atlanta Police Foundation building last weekend.

Kemp's state of emergency declaration came as Atlanta braces for possible protests on Friday when Memphis authorities intend to release body camera footage of the alleged beating of Tyre Nichols by five Memphis police officers who have since been fired and charged with murder in his death.

"We are closely monitoring the events in Memphis and are prepared to support peaceful protests in our city," the Atlanta Police Department said in a statement Thursday. "We understand and share in the outrage surrounding the death of Tyre Nichols. Police officers are expected to conduct themselves in a compassionate, competent, and constitutional manner and these officers failed Tyre, their communities and their profession. We ask that demonstrations be safe and peaceful."

Video of the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols, the 29-year-old man who died three days after a traffic stop by police, is set to be released by Memphis officials this evening.

Nichols, 29, was hospitalized in critical condition and died three days after Memphis police officers stopped him Jan. 7. Details about what occurred between Nichols and the officers have been sparse; police initially said that Nichols fled on foot during the reckless driving stop and that a "confrontation" occurred in an effort to detain him.

The Memphis community is bracing for potential protests in response to the video release, with Memphis-Shelby County Schools canceling after-school activities Friday and Southwest Tennessee Community College moving to virtual classes Friday.

Five officers involved in the case — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith — were fired last week after an administrative investigation found they violated department policy on use of force.

Police Chief C.J. Davis described the incident as "heinous, reckless and inhumane" in a video statement Wednesday night.

There is a collective identity in a group as they move to the streets making them feel as if they are a “collective force” with the emphasis being on the word “force”.

Because of our society’s addiction to social media and 24-hour news coverage, this collective identity may stretch over thousands of miles and across many groups such as we may see here this weekend. Groups in Memphis, should they become violent and start looting, will inspire groups across the country who then, on a psychological level, will believe it is not only acceptable to riot and loot, but that it is the correct time to do so.

This is why the activists in Atlanta will be seen jumping on any negative actions taken in Memphis even though the issues in the two locations are completely different. Let me point out that one of the big differences is that while in both places someone was killed, Memphis immediately arrested and fired the officers based on fact while Atlanta correctly did NOT in light of the facts there.

Some groups such as the Atlanta activists see rioting as a strategy and operate under the perception that law enforcement is weak as well as being the enemy. Since it is the responsibility of law enforcement to prevent rioting and looting, the clash becomes more intense and quickly ends up in a war zone. The decision made to involve the National Guard is not just to increase numbers but to create a barrier between protesters and the local police who at this time are being perceived as the enemy.

Activism that does nothing but promote violence and death is called terrorism in any other country and the intentions of activists like this quickly turn into a vicious reality for the rest of us and especially law enforcement.

While I rarely see good coming from these protests and see nothing but the potential for them to turn violent, I will say that historically, peaceful gatherings and protests can be incredibly meaningful and healing as well as creating a catalyst for change. This is, after all, less than a week after celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Peaceful memorials and gatherings can be highly emotional and therapeutic not just for individuals but for communities. Research has shown for many years that mass gatherings with positive emotions can create a strength, validation of values and a sense of solidarity that can change communities. Change that we need.

We can only hope that this weekend our tree hugger friends stay in the forest and the families in Memphis can gather to remember Tyre Nichols and find some healing.

There is a big difference between bucking the system on the bus and deciding to tip the bus over and light it on fire.

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