The peaceful protest of taking a knee during the national anthem is now being questioned as protesting the anthem and disrespecting our troops instead of raising awareness about police brutality and the unarmed shootings of hundreds of citizens annually. I want to make my position on this very clear, that I stand with Colin Kaepernick and support all who wish to take a knee during the national anthem. I support anyone's right to peacefully protest, and I pledge to tackle the issue of police brutality and the extrajudicial shootings of unarmed citizens head on.
The United States Constitution protects all citizens in their right to free speech, and whether your personal feelings are against this peaceful protest, it is an example of protected speech. Further, this protest that began sitting, was changed to bending the knee in order to be respectful to our troops. As reported in the New York Times in an opinion piece by Eric Reid, the lesser-known and still employed teammate of Kaepernick's who joined him in the protest at the onset, they chose to kneel rather than sit after a conversation with former Green Beret and NFL player, Nate Boyer. "We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy." (Reid)
There have been many public statements across our country by public figures on this issue, but the one most relevant to us in Michigan is first the comments by Michigan Police Chief, Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, and the subsequent statements by our current Governor Rick Snyder. On Col. Etue's Facebook page, she shared a meme that read “millionaire ingrates who hate America and disrespect our armed forces and veterans.” The statement from the governor via his spokeswoman Anna Heaton read “The Colonel said she made a mistake and publicly apologized. She has served with distinction as an outstanding public servant for decades. The governor will not be asking her to resign.” (Oosting)
While I strongly believe in the Constitution's guarantee of freedom of speech, public figures also have a duty to the constituents they serve. In the case of Col. Etue, sharing this meme shows that she does not value the First Amendment right to peaceful protests, and that she does not take the issue of police brutality seriously. All of this in light of the current lawsuit against the Michigan State Police and Trooper Mark Bessner in the death of 15-year-old Damon Grimes. The details in the lawsuit show that Trooper Bessner had two prior cases of excessive force before he tased the young Grimes while he was on a moving ATV causing him to crash. (Hunter) What kind of leadership is Col. Etue actually providing to the Michigan State Police?
Instead of arguing over the act of kneeling for the flag, we need to come together and fix the issue that the protest is about, police brutality and extrajudicial killings, so we can all proudly stand for the anthem as equal citizens of the United States.
I add my name and voice to the call for the resignation or firing of Colonel Etue.