A RECENT demonstration in Quincy's Washington Park brought a large gathering of people to protest the executive orders of Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was a peaceful event in the spirit of the First Amendment right of free assembly, organized by folks who have legitimate concerns about government overreach at any level. Compared with images of protests from elsewhere in the state and around the country, it was a remarkably peaceful display. There were no threats of violence, and notably absent were hurtful images from the past that have haunted demonstrations in other cities.
Also notably absent were confrontations with law enforcement officers from the city and Adams County.
In all, it was the heart of what America is: the free expression of ideas by a group of like-minded individuals.
No one has to agree with the demonstrators, nor do the protestors have to agree with those supporting the governor's plan. What is important is that people remember to keep those disagreements civil, or the potential for bad outcomes increases exponentially.
For their part, members of the Quincy Police Department and Adams County Sheriff's Department have done a remarkable job over the past few months of keeping people safe and allowing dissenters to air their grievances.
This pandemic has been a trial for all of us, and at least here, those sworn to uphold the law and serve and protect the public have shown us true professionalism behind the badge.
While some officers and departments across the county have taken heavy-handed approaches to enforcing stay-at-home orders, officers and deputies here -- under the thoughtful leadership of Quincy Police Chief Rob Copley and Adams County Sheriff Brian VonderHaar -- have taken a much more measured stance. Both agencies, in coordination with various other city and county governmental agencies, have a two-step approach to enforcing Pritzker's order. The first step would involve visiting with an opened business and issuing a warning, as well as guidance about how the business' actions could have ramifications at the state level. A second complaint would see the departments forward the information to appropriate state agencies.
So far, there hasn't been much need to take those steps, and with many businesses set to open in some capacity on Friday, we hope there will be even less call for it.
This is a far better approach than storming business, arresting patrons and other actions that would inflame an already tense situation.
It also is a far better approach than openly announcing they would disregard the order, as some of those appointed or elected to uphold the law have decided to do. The constitutionality of laws is not for peace officers to decide. Instead, their duty is to enforce them. While the constitutionality of Pritzker's order is being determined in the judicial system, it is still up to police everywhere to enforce it.
A blatant disregard by law enforcement for laws or orders they do not like, or the overzealous enforcement of laws they deem worthy, can only lead to a breakdown of the rule of law, jeopardizing our entire way of life.
Again, though, in Quincy and Adams County, we have been blessed with hard-working, thoughtful officers and deputies whose efforts to keep us safe are greatly appreciated.
To all of you, we offer you our thanks.