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Editorial: An opportunity to bring real change

Following protests and rallies nationwide, a Unity March is scheduled for this Monday for downtown Ironton.

The event will serve as a memorial to two African-American men — George Floyd, whose death while being detained by Minneapolis police sparked a nationwide outrage, and Guy Thomas, an Ironton man who was found in the parking lot of the city’s police department underneath the cruiser of an officer.

The event will be attended by several members of local law enforcement, including Ironton Police Chief Pam Wagner, who will speak at the event.

It is wonderful that law enforcement wants to be involved in this event, but let’s not get distracted from the point of many of these gatherings across the country — increased accountability and honoring those who have been a victim of poor policing without justice.

It is our hope that, rather than simply showing up, these leaders will be willing to have a serious discussion and work with the public on these issues and work for reforms.

In the past few decades, there have been a number of incidents that have made the headlines that show the need for this conversation. These are but a few of the issues that have made the news in Lawrence County:

• In 2010, a civil rights lawsuit was settled after a nationally-ranked bicyclist and an adult were arrested and tasered by Chesapeake police. Charges against the adult were later dismissed.

• In 2011, the city of Ironton settled with the family of Aaron Roe, who died in 2007, after an officer allegedly fired his taser when Roe fled into the Ohio River. His body was found in the water the next day.

• Three Lawrence County corrections officers were found not guilty in October 2015 of abusing a prisoner in an almost two-week long trial in U.S. District Court. Due to union rules, two officers were placed on administrative leave and were reinstated within a month. The third officer, who had not worked long enough to be in the union, was fired and not rehired.

By no means, do we feel the tone of the event should be anti-police. We understand that officers and deputies have a tough job, deal with difficult situations and put their lives on the line. And that law enforcement is essential to a functioning society.

We are a deeply divided society, whether through politics, economic status, race or many other aspects.

While no single action will remedy a centuries old problem of inequality of treatment, we hope that Monday’s march will help to begin the process of asking tough questions and bringing about a true commitment to fair and absolute impartial service.