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One disruptive hand ruins work made light by many
Tom Purcell
Tom Purcell

It was a perfect late-spring Saturday.

Several members of my large extended family gathered at my parents’ house to trim hedges and plant flowers. The sun was out, the skies were brilliant blue and the temperature was perfect for yardwork.

A wonderful old saying, “many hands make light work,” was certainly the case - though we really didn’t “work.” 

We gathered as a family, laughing, joking, catching up with each other, marveling at how fast the little ones are growing, and paying homage to our shared heritage. 

Beautifying my parents’ yard reminded them how blessed they are for working so hard to raise good citizens, who love doing nice things for their elderly mom and dad.

We savored every moment. And when it was time to leave, nobody really wanted to part.

It wasn’t until I left that I learned a peaceful protest in downtown Pittsburgh had gone violent.

The Trib reported the “planned peaceful protest was spurred by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. Video of the incident showed at least one police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he cried that he could not breathe. Floyd was black, and the officers involved were white.”

That video is difficult to watch. Why the barbaric tactic of kneeling on a man’s throat, when he was clearly cuffed and already detained? Bystanders pleaded with the officer to remove his knee from Floyd’s neck as Floyd pleaded he could not breathe.   

Protesters have every right to demand answers - to demand change - and they were protesting peacefully in Pittsburgh until violence was sparked.

“The floodgates opened and protests turned violent about 4:30 p.m. Saturday, police said, indicating that it all started with ‘the vandalism and ultimate burning of a marked Pittsburgh Police vehicle,’” according to the Trib. “More specifically, a man dressed in all black began spray-painting the cruiser, then jumped on the hood and broke the windows.”

Who was he? A young white male from the suburbs - allegedly, Brian Jordan Bartels, 20, of Shaler - clearly more interested in wreaking havoc and creating mayhem than in calling attention to the protesters’ cause.

The Trib reported that police wrote, “A black female from the crowd stepping in front of Bartels and pleaded for him to stop. He gave her the finger and then jumped on the car hood and stomped the windshield.”

The little twit.

It was young fellows just like him who caused violence at such protests across the country - causing mass destruction and the death of at least one security guard.

These young men could have done something positive last Saturday, such as helping their aging grandparents tend to their landscaping.

They could have protested peacefully, written letters to the editor, informed friends on social media of things each of us can do to create needed change, or promoted political candidates who will work to prevent deaths like Floyd’s from ever occurring again.

They could have done many positive things to effect change, but they did the opposite.

Bringing many positive hands together is the way to make light work of effecting change - that is where the focus should be.

But as we saw in Pittsburgh last Saturday, all it takes is one negative hand to disrupt so many positive actions. 

Tom Purcell is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Send comments to Tom at