Dear Editor: Recent violent events in Virginia are a shocking blemish on our civil society. In reports and accounts from Charlottesville, there were three major failures.

First, organizers of a demonstration clearly failed to restrain participants. They should have screened out anyone who did not respect their legitimate protest as defined by our laws.

Second, counterdemonstrators evidently hurt their cause by not being sufficiently trained in nonviolence. Congressman John Lewis, who was so trained, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of marches in Alabama, said: “(L)ong before the freedom rides, or the march from Selma to Montgomery, any organized campaign that took place, we did study. … You have to be taught the way of peace, the way of love, the way of nonviolence.” (1/15/2015)

Every counterprotester should get instructions like those before they take up their banners, signs or apparel.

Third, our failed president lacked political and moral leadership; it showed neither in his impromptu waffling remarks blaming “evil” from “many sides,” nor in his scripted comments that came too late to assuage fears and dispel rage.

If our country is to succeed despite such failures, engaged citizens must treat each other with compassion. If those who would foment hatred and division demonstrate in Madison, I trust that they would be met with well-trained nonviolent counterprotesters who, like John Lewis, use courage and love to defend our rights and freedoms.

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Henry St. Maurice

Columbus

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