Jewish World Review Sept. 2, 2004 / 9 Elul, 5764

Felice Cohen

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Want to be heard? | NEW YORK — During my freshman year of college, I, along with thousands of other Massachusetts State College students, rallied outside the State House on Beacon Hill in Boston. The reason? To protest budget cuts and tuition increases. The result? Publicity in all the major newspapers about rowdy college students trampling flowers on the front lawn of the State House.

During my senior year of college, while working on a column for the school newspaper The Collegian, our newsroom was taken over by student protestors. The reason? Students were upset over an editorial concerning the Rodney King verdict. The result? Publicity in the local newspapers about a smashed window in the Collegian's production office.

Years later, when I was an employee in the UMass admissions office, students marched in and took over the entire Undergraduate Admissions Center. The reason? To protest tuition increases. The result? Publicity about stolen items from offices, the leftover piles of trash and pizza boxes strewn around the clean and modern building.

Now, thousands of protestors are storming the streets of Manhattan on foot and on bicycle, marching and chanting around Madison Square Garden, home of this week's Republican National Convention. The reason? To denounce Bush. The result? Publicity in newspapers and on television focusing on the arrests, ignited floats and kicking our finest New York City police officers.

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What do these situations have in common? Despite the best intentions, the results always focus on the destruction. The media cannot listen to the real message when it is mired in mishap. When you exhibit unreasonable actions, the focus immediately changes.

While New York City has been the center of terrorist attacks, bomb threats and warnings ever since 9/11, the one group that has not only had to deal with the color changing codes, but has had to step up and stand on the front line, are New York City police officers.

This week, the thousands of extra officers on duty — officers who, like everyone else, are just doing their job — have no choice. Unfortunately for them, their job is to stand on a line. No matter how confrontational that line is, no matter which side of the line they would rather stand on, they have no choice. They were hired to protect this city and all of its citizens.

I was at a Fleet ATM last week and an NYPD officer walked in. I'd been speaking to a friend about the upcoming convention and the cop said in a serious but joking tone, "Please, don't mention that word, I'm already dreading it." Many of the cops do not want to be in the middle. The men and women in the war are their brothers and sisters, daughters and sons, and mothers and fathers too.

If you want your message to be heard, use your voice. Call and email your friends, explain your stance on the war, explain the importance of their vote and encourage them to express their voices though positive influence, not something that is going to take attention and focus away from the real enemies. Remember, the cops are all we've got. Hurt them and who is left to protect you?

Comment on JWR contributor Felice Cohen's column by clicking here.


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© 2004, Felice Cohen