A Middletown, New Jersey, police officer thought it would be a good idea to hold a ceremony honoring law enforcement, military and first responders before a major high school football game.

But Deputy Chief Stephen Dollinger made the mistake of telling a local paper the ceremony, held over the weekend, was partly a response to the recent phenomenon of pro athletes protesting during the national anthem.

“It’s okay to stand up for social justice, inequality and reform,” Dollinger told the Asbury Park Press before the event. “It’s another thing to not stand up for the national anthem.”

Those comments raised the hackles of the ACLU of New Jersey, which condemned the ceremony in a letter to Middletown High School South officials.

The ACLU wrote that, although the ceremony’s purpose was ostensibly to honor police, military and first responders, “the event is being used to intimidate and ostracize people who express their views about systemic racism and social justice.”

Jasmine Crenshaw, an organizer from the ACLU-NJ, declared the ceremony sent a “frightening message” that law enforcement will not allow people to voice their opinions on America’s “history of unequal treatment and systematic oppression.”

When questioned at the event, Dollinger said his comments had been misconstrued.

“I said we respect the rights of everybody to stand up for social justice and equality and reform, but we also respect our country and want to celebrate the first responders, the national anthem,” the deputy chief told the Asbury Park Press. “This is just about honoring our country and the men and women of law enforcement and first responders. That’s all this is about.”

Reflecting on the uproar, former police chief and Missouri state representative Jeff Roorda noted the irony of the situation.

“Imagine what a laughable argument it is that the ACLU feels that free speech somehow undermines free speech,” he mused.

Roorda, author of “The War on Police: How the Ferguson Effect is Making America Unsafe,” laughed off the ACLU’s claim that police want to “intimidate and ostracize” those who protest the national anthem. He reminded the organization police officers have the right to speak their minds, too.

“Police officers have a right to express our patriotism, to express our outrage at professional athletes who disrespect our flag, disrespect law enforcement, and perpetuate a false narrative,” the former officer asserted.

Crenshaw, the New Jersey ACLU organizer, declared in a statement: “Entrance to one of the biggest sporting events in the area should not require that someone accept an atmosphere that suppresses political protest. The magnitude of this event chills the belief that police should be held accountable when they abuse their power or discriminate against people of color and pressures student athletes to act as props of the police.”

Roorda, who serves as business manager for the St. Louis Police Officers Association, pushed back on Crenshaw’s idea that the police were suppressing political protest, or that national anthem protesters should have anything to fear from police.

“We’re the people in Ferguson, Baltimore, Dallas and elsewhere who put our lives on the line to protect people’s right to protest, to protect people’s right to speak freely, and the idea that our speaking freely somehow chills other people’s rights is just offensive and requires a rereading of the Constitution on the part of the people who say such things,” he said.

It’s never been tougher to be one of the men in blue than it is right now. Get “The War On Police: How the Ferguson Effect Is Making America Unsafe” now at the WND Superstore

Roorda admitted the ACLU might be right that there is “systemic racism” or “systematic oppression” in America, but not where the ACLU thinks it is.

“There certainly are problems with racial disparity in this country, but don’t look at law enforcement,” he said. “Look at these finger-wagging politicians who themselves want to ostracize law enforcement and lay all the ills of the world at our feet when they’re the ones who have failed communities of color.”

Jesse Lee Peterson, a black radio host and founder of the nonprofit Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny, completely rejects the idea there is systemic racism in the American criminal justice system.

“It’s a lie that’s made up in order to manipulate and control black folks,” Peterson told WND. “Black Americans are in prisons and jails around the country because they have committed crimes. They’re very angry due to the destruction of the family and the lies from the ACLU, the media and the race hustlers. If they didn’t do the crime, they wouldn’t have to do the time.”

Peterson, a WND columnist and author of “The Antidote: Healing America From the Poison of Hate, Blame, and Victimhood,” expressed disgust at Colin Kaepernick and all the other NFL players who have protested during the national anthem.

“It’s a disgrace,” he said. “It’s shameful. These people have no appreciation for freedom, the Constitution, and the fact that they can do as well as they do in this country. It’s because of our military men and women that they have the ability to make as much money as they want. And yet when they get to that point, they slap the country in the face, and that’s what they’re doing in these kind of protests.

“You know, when I saw Kaepernick kneeling at a football game, it was just such a disgrace and a letdown for the American men and women who have died in the military around the country so that this idiot can have the freedom to even play football, and for him to disrespect the national anthem like that is a total disgrace.”

Peterson lambasted the ACLU for what he sees as their role in stirring up racial resentment.

“The ACLU is a radical agitator group that is a force for evil and not good, and the ACLU is doing exactly what the race hustlers from the president on down have done, which is to justify bad behavior, black bad behavior, in order to gain power and wealth for themselves,” he declared.

Roorda, for his part, said the ACLU has a role to play in America, but they don’t fight equally for all groups of people.

“There need to be organizations out there looking out for our constitutional rights, but they seem lopsided in their defense and their picking and choosing of whose rights they want to defend,” Roorda observed. “I wish they would care about how frequently police officers’ due process rights come under attack from groups like Black Lives Matter.”

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Animosity toward the police certainly seems to be sky-high in the black community. Earlier this month, Angelia Williams Graves, a black Norfolk city councilwoman, compared police to the Ku Klux Klan.

Present-day racists have “taken off their white hats and white-sheeted robes and put on police uniforms,” Graves claimed during an Oct. 1 speech at the Norfolk NAACP Freedom Fund luncheon. “Some of them have put on shirts and ties as policymakers and some of them have put on robes as judges.”

However, Roorda doesn’t allow comments like those from Graves or the ACLU to discourage him. He is confident they don’t represent the majority of Americans.

“We’re certainly rewarding bad behavior when politicians and activist organizations are allowed to make spurious claims like that,” he said. “But the fact of the matter is that the vast, vast majority of the country supports law enforcement, and a handful of people who are engaged in a false narrative and hate speech don’t speak for Americans, and the silent majority should have the right to express their feelings too, their pro-police feelings.”

It’s never been tougher to be one of the men in blue than it is right now. Get “The War On Police: How the Ferguson Effect Is Making America Unsafe” now at the WND Superstore

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