None but the hardest heart could learn the details of Garrett Foster’s death and life and not quake with sadness at what his loss represents to the wife he loved and the family he leaves behind.

Foster was killed in downtown Austin Saturday, not far from the state capitol, while participating in a Black Lives Matter protest. The melee of violence that ended in his death began with a car driving into the crowd of protesters. Foster, a veteran who was armed with a rifle, was shot as he approached the car. According to published reports, Foster did not fire, although shots came from the car as well as the crowd. The shooter reportedly told police Foster aimed the rifle at him.

Whatever happened, we know this: A young man leaves behind a wife who was his childhood sweetheart and who he loved with devotion. The pain of his death can’t help but be amplified by the fact that she is a quadruple amputee who plainly relied on her husband and was with him when he lost his life.

The impulse here that we see playing out on the internet is to immediately assign blame, with every stripe of ill-informed conclusion accompanying the usual foul commentary.

Foster’s death must be thoroughly investigated in the name of justice for him and society.

But pulling back on what happened, it appears that this tragedy is now part of a metastasizing trend toward violence in and around the protests that are gripping America right now. This violence must be de-escalated in order to move forward toward the progress everyone of conscience wants — a fairer and more just nation for Black Americans.

Across the country in the last week, most notably in Portland but also in Seattle, Chicago, Aurora, Colo. and Louisville, Ky., the country witnessed spasms of violence — some organized, some not — that drew people into ever more dangerous confrontations.

In Louisville, two armed militias faced off. The only injuries, thankfully, came from one militia member apparently firing accidentally into his own people. The possible outcome easily could have been far worse.

In Aurora, a blue jeep tore through a crowd of protesters marching along an interstate, injuring one person. A protester fired on the vehicle as it drove through.

“I just heard people screaming ‘Medic!’ from everywhere,” protester Heather Benton, an emergency medical technician, told The Denver Post. “I didn’t realize I’d entered a war zone.”

Earlier in the week, in Chicago, 49 police officers were injured and 18 were hospitalized when an organized attack from a group within the larger protests began hurling rocks, cans and frozen water bottles at officers. A line of people assembled with protesters jabbed at officers with sharpened PVC pipe, said David Brown, former Dallas police chief and now superintendent of police in Chicago.

“We cannot assume protests are going to be peaceful,” Brown said, noting the unsettling shift from largely peaceful assemblies to violent confrontations.

In Seattle, as protests grow increasingly violent, Police Chief Carmen Best has continued to question the city council’s decision to prevent officers from using non-lethal force, including tear gas and rubber bullets, to quell violent crowds. A federal court order has restrained the city’s prohibition, and Best has warned that officers will carry those materials.

And in Portland, protesters and federal troops are locked in standoff night after night in an increasingly dangerous circumstance that has given us disturbing images of open struggle between the two sides along with videos of citizens hauled off in unmarked vans and protesters slicing through security fences in a bid to wreck federal property.

There is an ugly irony that these things happened in concert with the burial of civil rights icon John Lewis. As a statesman, an organizer and a protester, Lewis deeply understood the moral authority that comes from the rejection of violence.

That spirit has animated change for the greater good in America for generations. And we believe it is the spirit that animates those who want to ensure that the unjust killings of Black Americans at the hands of police does not stand without protest and lasting change.

But what happened in America over the last week is a signal that everyone involved, from the police chiefs to the Trump administration to the protest organizers, must step back and consider how we move forward without increasing the violence we are already seeing.

Brown called for protest organizers to work with police to help ensure that those who would diminish the movement through their inclinations toward violence be stopped before they can start.

Whether organizers can take greater steps to ensure peace is hard to know. But they must at least answer the call of chiefs like Brown, and, in Dallas, Chief U. Renee Hall. While no leader is perfect, these are officials who we believe do sincerely care about their communities and who have common cause with protesters who want change for the better.

Nothing good will come from allowing protests to be hijacked by those bent on hurting others or destroying property. Nothing good will come from facing one another with weapons.

Good will come from the rejection of violence, and the willingness to genuinely and peacefully seek the best for one another.

The above editorial was published July 28 by the Dallas Morning News. Its views are its own.

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