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Shenandoah’s natural transportation highway

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Before commerce was first introduced to the railroad phenomena and before the macadamized turnpike stretched from Winchester to Harrisonburg, our great valley had a natural transportation highway. It would take a number of enterprising partnerships, strategic planning and long term labor intensive efforts to deliver the physical improvements necessary to access a narrow, twisting and shallow river.

In colonial times travel by land was done by old-fashioned stagecoach, on horseback, or on foot. The roads were in a habitually deplorable condition. Many of the towns were thoroughly without roads, only connected with their neighboring towns by Indian trails. Great quantities of hemp, grain and other farm products were often brought to town from the remote settlements on pack horses.

Wagon transport was not an essential factor in Shenandoah Valley trade until the 1760s, when the shipping requirements of the hemp industry provided the first major demand for wagon teams. A warehouse for hemp was established in Frederick County and freight wagons necessary to conduct trade first became a priority.

Wagons in general were expensive to construct and demand for wheelwrights and other skilled craftsmen were greater than the supply. The local and legendary Newtown wagons had not yet been developed to haul hemp and farm produce from the river valleys and mountain slopes over the Blue Ridge to busy city warehouses. Overland transportation using wagons was always an option, but costly and dependent on good weather. Wagon routes were often a treacherous option due to heavy spring and summer rains.

Beginning in 1790, the Shenandoah Valley produced a surplus of flour for export and the developing requirement for passage to eastern markets in Alexandria, Richmond and Fredericksburg grew more intense. Farmers searched for other avenues of conveyance and the solution appeared to be in a natural, but potentially unnavigable transportation highway. Written records reflect that in the 1790s, pig iron and flour were first loaded onto primitive rafts in the North River at what would become Bridgewater and sent down the Shenandoah during high water seasons.

Historical Society Museum – Bridgewater, VA located on the banks of the North River, has been a center of commerce for over 175 years. Its history began with a quiet little settlement previously known as Magill’s Ford, Dinkletown and Bridgeport. Photos / Nancy Gunderman

Around that time George Washington became actively involved in efforts to establish an organization whose objective was to develop water routes between the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers employing a series of canals and locks. Washington led the way in chartering the Potomac Company by first seeking interstate cooperation between Virginia and Maryland in developing the Potomac River. Both states passed legislation in early 1785.

Washington had also called for the establishment of a U.S. Armory at Harpers Ferry, located at the mouth of the Shenandoah River. By 1799, as work commenced on the armory, improvement of the Shenandoah River was a requirement to channel up-river lumber and iron into Harpers Ferry as material resources to support site construction and later for forging muskets, rifles and pistols.

The Virginia legislature unsuccessfully attempted to establish an independent company for developing the Shenandoah River to handle substantial boat navigation. In 1803 it granted a charter to the Potomac Company. In 1805, after obtaining the necessary start-up loans, the company hired a boat crew to inspect the Shenandoah from Harpers Ferry to Port Republic on the South Fork. The Potomac Company concentrated efforts toward managing the most difficult river rapids by building a series of canals and locks on the lower seven miles of navigation above Harpers Ferry. These milestones were completed in 1806.

Potomac Company crews continued to hammer away, black powder blasting rock and dredging the river bed and by 1807 established a navigable passage for trade between Harpers Ferry and Port Republic, then the head of navigation on the Shenandoah. In especially shallow areas, funnel-shaped wing dams made of stone were built with an opening in the center to form a higher flowing passageway for boat traffic.

Historical evidence accounts for an unsophisticated cargo carrying boat, called a Gundalow, to become a mainstay of valley commerce and transportation from roughly the turn of the nineteenth century until after the Civil War. These whitewater river crafts were heavy, with square bows and sterns, flat bottoms, pine hull/floor boards and measuring as much as 9 ½ feet wide by 76 to 90 feet long. The side planks were two inches thick and fourteen or more inches wide.

The yellow pine scale model of a wooden gundalow flat bottom river boat built by George Erdman is on display at the Shenandoah Valley Cultural Heritage Museum at the Edinburg Mill.

The Gundalow was a short-lived boat built for quick inexpensive shipment of bulk commodities (8-12 tons) down river. The boats were most often loaded with flour, lumber and pig iron. Other diverse items such as pork, beef, tobacco, ginseng, copper, manganese, wheat, whiskey, furs, tanned leather and occasionally herds of turkeys were pre-staged on site while boat captains waited for high waters in order to make the trip downriver to Harper’s Ferry or continue on the Potomac to Georgetown.

The crafts were mostly built by local sawmills near Port Republic. A gundalow was usually manned by six crew, four pole men and two oarsmen, one for each tiller. Boatmen manipulated the craft through manmade and natural chutes, rapids and constant choppy waters, docking at river stations to discharge or take on cargo. At their destinations, gundalows were disassembled and sold as inexpensive lumber to frugal builders who then used the recycled material for wall, ceiling and floor construction in houses.

Once landed and unloaded, the boatmen received good paying wages and returned to their point of departure on foot. Front Royal was often a popular place to rest on the return trip. A man could buy new clothes, or get a room, bath, meal, bottle and perhaps some female companionship here. These river sailors were both boisterous and unruly and locals claimed they carried a readily combustible powder keg in their hearts. Boatmen mingling with horse and cattle wranglers, wagon drivers and trainmen created an atmosphere for ferocious nightly saloon brawls giving the village of Riverton on the northern edge of Front Royal, the unflattering nickname of “Helltown.”

The Potomac Company was never able to generate enough funding to fully support navigation improvements to the upper stretches of the Shenandoah River. In 1816, the company sold its Shenandoah works and permissions to the New Shenandoah Company. The new company’s first objective was the physical improvement of the Shenandoah River between Port Republic and Harpers Ferry. Countless wing dams, cut through and tow paths had to be constructed, but by 1825, a continuous and improved waterway extended from Port Republic to the river’s confluence with the Potomac at Harpers Ferry.

By 1829, valley farmers believed that river transport was a cheap, safe and viable alternative to any wagon route east. Therefore, prior to valley rail and turnpike service, upland farmers and iron masters turned to the Shenandoah River whose waters were made navigable by the very spring thaws and ice melts that mired wagon routes and they did so with great zeal. Later channels were sufficiently cleared to navigate gundalows on the North River as far as Mt. Crawford and Bridgewater, on the South River at Grottoes and the Middle River, as far as Mt. Meridian.

Port Republic, founded in 1802 and located at the convergence of the North and South River, established an authentic harbor as docks lined the riverbanks in order to oblige increasing river traffic. The prospect of shipping and boat building propelling immense river trade slowly transformed the newly chartered town into a center for local commerce and agriculture. The nearby Massanutten Mountain ridge provided the tall, limbless long-leaf yellow pines that fueled boat building and other lumber dependent industries. Methodist and Presbyterian churches, mercantile stores, grist mills, leather tanneries, blacksmiths, saw mills, a tilt hammer shop as well as hat makers, shoe factories, wood workers, coopers and tailor shops eventually lined both Main and Water Streets.

Port Republic Museum – Port Republic, VA was founded in 1802 because land speculators were quick to recognize the vast industrial potential of the area, valuing the rivers as a source of power for driving machinery and as waterways for transporting articles of trade.

The New Shenandoah Company began upgrading the North Fork in 1825 for boats measuring a minimum of 66 feet long and 8 feet in width. Contractors not only cleared the river segments congested by trees and other debris, but also built works including dams and chutes. Records of the company indicate that the contract called for river navigation enhancements up to Tumbling Run, halfway between Strasburg and Toms Brook, but continued improvements were extended up to the dam at Pennybackers Mill, near New Market by May, 1832. This site was known as the head of navigation and may also have been a boat yard with docking capabilities for loading cargo similar to Port Republic, however on a much smaller scale. In 1845, accounts reflect that the North Fork was navigable at high water for large boats up to Plains Mill near Timberville.

The macadamized Valley Turnpike, completed in 1841, connected the western valley to the Winchester and Potomac Railroad and gradually reduced the gundalow traffic on the North Branch to almost non-existent status by 1850. The Manassas Gap Railroad arrived in Front Royal in 1854. Gundalows that once floated down the forks of the Shenandoah River to Harpers Ferry and beyond, now were unloading their cargo on to trains at Front Royal which transported them to market points east.

During the Civil War Valley Campaign in 1862, Stonewall Jackson swept the Valley burning bridges to slow Union troops, rendering wagon transport all but impossible. The destruction of bridges briefly revitalized gundalow traffic on the Shenandoah. After the war, gondolas continued to be used to move product to Front Royal until the bridges could be rebuilt and the Manassas Gap rail lines extended to Harrisonburg in 1868. The Shenandoah Valley Railroad connected the south fork communities with Hagerstown MD and Waynesboro, VA in 1881.

Some farmers, out of respect for southern tradition, continued to use this river system friendly to the “sons of the valley” as late as 1880. Despite sporadic business from loyal farmers, millers and timbermen; destructive winter weather, floods, railroads and modern turnpikes pushed the river captains, sailors and gundalows into the dust bin of history. Only recent scholarship has brought them all back to life again. Perhaps someone will soon uncover a nineteenth century gundalow buried under river silt somewhere in the Harpers Ferry basin?

Note: An outstanding source of information on the Shenandoah River is The Shenandoah River Atlas, prepared by W. E. Trout, III and Friends of the Shenandoah River.

Mark P. Gunderman
Stephens City, Virginia

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Response to Mr. Bianchini’s Oct 22 letter and the Courthouse Statue

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I certainly believe there has been racial inequality in our history but am aware of no such instances in Warren County in the 15 years I have been a resident and would object to any claim that our community does not offer equality to all its citizens. While an insignificant number may hold biased beliefs it is in no way representative of the majority. No person has been the property of another for over 150 years so can we let that rest? Plus, I’m not ignorant that discrimination continues to occur but sincerely believe that it’s on the fringes of our society rather than being pervasive as some assert. And yes, Mr. Bianchini I listen. The recounting of Ms. Freeman’s life experience at FRU’s ‘teach-in’ is from over a half-century ago and such situations have for the most part been remedied. I am sad that she was mistreated but that is in the past and cannot accept that it’s representative of our society today.

Too many choose to ignore the social justice strides made in the past half-century where Virginia citizens (majority white) elected a black Governor in the 80s when the Commonwealth was still a red state. In 2008 and 2012 a mostly white America elected a black president. Let’s also acknowledge the educational preferences and minority contract set-asides and programs that have been instituted as well that promoted equality.

While there may be some institutional bias in law enforcement we cannot overlook that they deal with black criminals everyday disproportionate to their representation in the population and thus it is rational for police to exercise greater caution when interacting with males of color. However, there is no justification for excessive use of force against any citizen and various efforts are occurring to address that specific issue.

Had Mr. Bianchini paid full attention to my testimony at the Oct 20 BOS meeting he would have heard my proposal for a compromise of possibly adding a plaque clarifying that the courthouse civil war monument is not to be interpreted as supporting past slavery or oppression and clarifying its focused intent. I could certainly support the idea of another statue as well that he mentioned which could acknowledge the contributions of slaves in Warren County’s history and would offer to donate the first $1,000 towards such a marker and challenge Mr. Porter and Ms. Cascada to match it were such an idea to move forward.

So, maybe Mr. Bianchini and I aren’t as far apart as, he may think, at least on this issue, and I appreciate his statement that he does not see me as having racist beliefs. So, how about everyone keeps their powder dry and await the results of the referendum. It might also be valuable to recognize that making frequent assertions that our community or even some of its citizens are racists will not contribute to an environment where mutual understanding, compromise, and healing is possible.

Gary Kushner
Bentonville, Va.

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A Perhaps Futile Search for a Middle Ground on the Confederate Soldier Statue

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(Royal Examiner reporter/editor Roger Bianchini’s response to Gary Kushner’s Oct. 22 Letter to the Editor)

Having butted heads philosophically in print with both Mr. Kushner and the current leadership of Front Royal Unites over the issues of institutional racism in modern American society (Kushner) and the advisability of compromise on the Confederate Statue issue to avoid the very backlash we are now witnessing (Porter/FR Unites), let me attempt to draw a middle ground on this conflict of perspectives.

While I sincerely believe Mr. Kushner does not consciously harbor racist intentions, I think I might be safe from a threat of civil action in describing him as somewhat racially insensitive to the plight of citizens of color in modern American society as a consequence of the lingering aftermath of slavery and racism in our culture.

I also feel that Mr. Kushner may be correct in his description of the current FR Unites leadership’s intransigence on the Confederate soldier statue’s location issue. As I have written in a past opinion piece, I felt and still feel that a compromise allowing the statue to remain, but adding some sign that the statue remains at the courthouse with other war memorials as a result of two opposing perspectives reaching agreement in 2020 on a mutually satisfactory outcome. As I wrote in the story on the Oct. 20 meeting, I believe the suggestion expressed at the meeting by Richard Hoover that a statue commemorating the sacrifice of Warren County people of color who were held as slaves be erected on the courthouse grounds is the best compromise idea out there.

Room for another memorial? Why not add rather than subtract to the number of memorials on the Warren County Courthouse lawn? Royal Examiner Photo by Roger Bianchini

Let me add one personal observation on a related subject. Several FR Unites speakers expressed disappointment at the absence of county officials at their previous Sunday “Teach In” as I understood it to be, revolving around the statue removal issue. I observed some of the speakers in the online live stream of the event. An LFCC professor described slavery as the root issue of the Civil War underlying the “state’s rights” issue – which was essentially the right to keep slaves as free labor to bolster the Southern state’s economies; as well as the racism expressed openly by Confederate political leadership in justifying secession and racially based slavery. Okay, most rational, educated people understand these things.

Another speaker and county citizen of color eloquently described her experience of racism in this community during the era of desegregation of our public schools, and consequently after in her adult life and work experience. Again, this isn’t news to people who are paying attention – are you listening, Mr. Kushner?

But I ask, and from what I saw there was no one present at the event who asked this question – how much do these known historical experiences of about 160 years and 50 years ago directly address the issues at hand concerning the fate of the Confederate soldier’s statue on the Warren County Courthouse lawn in 2020?

Wouldn’t an advisable strategy for anyone concerned with advocating equal treatment under the law and an end to protections of institutional racism, particularly in the conduct of law enforcement in the treatment of suspects nationally, be NOT to give those not so concerned with these issues or even perhaps harboring lingering racist tendencies themselves, an issue upon which to aggressively push back against your organization and its root issue of equal treatment under the law?

If there was a statue of openly racist Confederates like its President Jefferson Davis or Vice-President Alexander Stephens on the courthouse lawn, I would vigorously support their removal. But as has been noted by supporters of the Confederate soldier’s statue remaining where it is, most, if not all, of those 600 or so names on that monument were not from slave holding families. To my knowledge there are no known writings of any of those men justifying slavery and promoting the racism at its root. None of us will ever know what was in their hearts and minds when they went to war, or when they returned from it, if they did.

So, why draw a hardline in the courthouse grass on removal of a monument to the sacrifice in going to war, even if on the wrong side of history, of those 600 county sons?

Wouldn’t the cause of equal justice under the law be better served by focusing our energy and the energy of our municipal governments on a positive act, rather than a negative one? That act would be raising public funds to see a memorial to the human sacrifice of those who lived in Warren County as slaves be erected in a place of honor on the courthouse lawn, not far from the Confederate soldier memorial.

Now THAT would indicate that Warren County is exhibiting progress and cultural growth and a desire for equal treatment under the law for ALL its citizens in the 21st century. But that is only likely to happen after people with opposing perspectives begin, not only to talk, but to LISTEN to each other with a willingness to at least consider the other’s perspective.

Is it too late for that to happen here in Front Royal and Warren County? – Ms. Cascada, Mr. Porter, Mr. Kushner are you LISTENING?

Roger Bianchini
Royal Examiner

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Gary Kushner asks ‘Who is Racist’ in Confederate statue debate

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Courthouse Statue, Oct. 20 BOS meeting discussion

On Front Royal Unites (FRU) Facebook page, Laura Lee Cascada posted on Oct. 16 that the Examiner had published my Letter to the Editor that was a ‘racist rant’ and referred to a Facebook comment I had recently made.

First, I would caution Ms. Cascada about calling me a racist or I’ll have her radical left behind in a civil action for slander for calling me a racist, which is not true.

Second, the comment that she referenced was in response to a heated argument I was engaged in with a Facebook user who I thought was black who I felt was trashing America and its slavery history. The idea I attempted to relay in that comment was that slavery had a silver lining for the descendants of slaves in that being subsequently born free in America provided them with the liberty and opportunities of all American citizens as opposed to possibly being born in a third world African country with its political strife, violence, famine, challenging economies and lower standard of living. The comment I made was, “You should be thankful your ancestors were slaves because they paved the way for your freedom. Otherwise you’d be living in a grass/mud hut in some shit-hole country”.

While I freely acknowledge that my choice of words was over the top in the frustration of a heated argument, but I continue to defend the validity of the concept. No one is clamoring to move from America to Africa with all its political and economic troubles and that statement is not evidence of racial bias on my part, it simply states facts. I hold no views that any race of people is superior to another or that any group of people should be discriminated against for any reason.

At the October 20, Warren County Board of Supervisors meeting in the Public Comments segment where the issue of the courthouse statue was the topic of interest, Ms. Cascada testified in support of removing the statue and made an underhanded attempt to embarrass me and to delegitimize my pro-statue testimony by reading the Facebook comment referenced above. However, feeling confident in the concept I previously explained I was not embarrassed at all. In a meeting break thereafter I approached Ms. Cascada and attempted to engage in dialogue to see if we could improve our mutual understanding, which was witnessed by the Examiner Reporter, Roger Bianchini.

Mr. Porter, President of Front Royal Unites, advised her not to talk with me and they both left without further interaction. I was not surprised in it seems that neither FRU nor Ms. Cascada has any sincere interest in exchanging ideas like mature adults and they present the impression that you either agree with and accept their perspectives or you’re wrong and biased. I believe that persons with weak ideas commonly refuse to engage in rational discussion because their arguments are difficult to defend with logic and the truth.

Mr. Porter recently posted a comment (that may have subsequently been deleted) on Facebook insinuating that a person who had assisted in the creation of FRU was separated from that group because they had been ultimately recognized as being ‘white’. If that, in my opinion, isn’t considered a racist view than I’m a ‘monkey’s uncle’. That from the leader from an organization that claims to be all about equality and unification of the community.

Mr. Paul Gabbert also testified in support of the statue at the Board meeting and that FRU was only successful at dividing the community rather than being a group with positive results. Thus maybe Mr. Porter should consider renaming his group Front Royal Divides, it would be more accurate.

Gary Kushner
Bentonville, Virginia

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Supreme Court Nominations

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historically speaking

As if 2020 has not been bad enough, with just a few weeks before the presidential election, the beloved Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away. Not only did we lose a judicial icon, but her death caused a vacancy on the high court that is turning into one of the biggest fights of the Trump administration.

Back in 2016 when a justice passed, Republicans argued that a president in his last year should not nominate a new judge but should wait for the voice of the people in the form of the new president to make the next pick. At the same time the Democrats in 2016 insisted it was not only the president’s right but his duty to make the next selection. The differences this time are, first, both parties flipped their stances, somehow realizing they were wrong in 2016, and, second, this time Republicans have the numbers in the Senate to make the confirmation. The constitutionality of Trump’s decision to put forth a judge has been questioned. Historically and legally speaking, however, Trump does have the right and it has been done before.

There is no legal issue with Trump nominating a new judge; it is perfectly acceptable under the Constitution. The Democrats would have done so in 2016 if they controlled the Senate. The question is not a legal one but an ethical or fairness one. Is it right for Republicans to nominate a judge now when they blocked Obama’s pick in 2016? This question cannot be decided in court but, rather, in each person’s conscience. If it helps, we have seen a last-second appointment before and by a well-respected Founding Father.

I have written about the Election of 1800 so many times that most of my readers know the details by heart. Suffice it to say, it is my favorite election and it was one of the most heated and contentious elections ever. John Adams, equal only to Washington in importance when it comes to our freedom, lost his bid for a second term to his nemesis, Thomas Jefferson. Adams did not take it well. In sports parlance, he took his ball and went home by not even sticking around for Jefferson’s inaugural. However, before he left, he decided to leave Jefferson a small parting gift. This is important for the modern issues as well: after an election, the losing president is still the president until the next inaugural. In other words, even if Trump loses in November, he can still perform all his presidential duties up until January 20.

What Adams did in 1801 after he lost was not only install a new Chief Justice, John Marshal, but he also created a new level of federal judge positions so he could fill them with Federalists. By packing all the federal judgeships with his party, he took away Jefferson’s ability to nominate judges on any level for the near future. What was most amazing is that Adams made 42 nominations and the Senate confirmed them as a batch just two days before Adams left office.

All but three of the “Midnight Judges” took their places on the bench, but because of the lateness of the appointments, three never received their commissions. The commissions were basically left on the desk of the new Secretary of State, James Madison with a yellow sticky note saying “Please give these out.” Madison, upset by the new appointments, conferred with Jefferson who agreed not to distribute the remaining commissions. However, one of the judges, William Marbury, upset by Madison’s refusal, sued him for his papers. This became one of the most important court cases in history, Marbury v. Madison, but that is a story for another article.

Jefferson did not take Adam’s actions well. He blocked the courts from taking up any cases until 1803 out of spite. I am not sure it is helpful or not to see our Founders acting as petty as our current political leaders. Yet what we can learn is that in some ways politicians have not changed. Two days before he left office, Adams got 42 new judges pushed through. Jefferson then refused to allow the court to hear Marbury’s case for more than a year and did succeed in getting the last three blocked from the bench. What Adams did was perfectly legal; the only question for Adams, like Trump, is whether it was ethical. Both seem to think it is.


Dr. James Finck is a Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. For daily history posts Follow Historically Speaking at Historicallyspeaking.blog or on Facebook.

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Don’t just ask about us

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The Examiner’s decision to scrutinize the cost of police presence at Front Royal Unites’ recent racial justice events begs the question: Why now, and why not for any other rallies or parades? And, more importantly, why aren’t we talking instead about the costs white supremacy has inflicted upon our Black friends and neighbors?

One of those costs is life itself. Law enforcement, in theory, was designed in large part to protect our first amendment rights, including both life and peaceful assembly. George Floyd’s birthday observance this week was held in remembrance of a man whose first amendment right to life was stolen from him because of the color of his skin by law enforcement—the very institution we all agree has a duty to protect that right.

And what about the costs to Black citizens, like former NAACP President Suetta Freeman, who was locked out of school during Massive Resistance in 1958 and who spent her entire career in auditing and finance commuting to Northern Virginia because she was unable to secure equal and fair employment here in our town? Let’s consider the costs to Black families like hers, and to our community for silently accepting the exodus of diversity and talent that has come with our institutional inequities.

Citizens should expect that some police funding will be allotted protect our first amendment right to peaceful assembly, just as they, and apparently the Examiner, are willing to accept the thousands of dollars accrued by police staffing at various celebrations and rallies for other causes, like the Back the Blue rally on September 1, without question. At least these figures might have been researched to provide more balanced reporting.

No one is asking for police to shut down a lane of traffic to celebrate Little Joe’s sixth birthday—but for a much-needed reflection on our history of oppression. It seems that much of Front Royal is uncomfortable when public resources are used to uplift voices other than those in their own echo chambers. Good, let’s be uncomfortable. Let’s talk about our white fragility, and let’s do better.

Laura Lee Cascada
Front Royal, Virginia

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Front Royal Unites (FRU) birthday celebration for George Floyd

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I conducted a one-man counter-demonstration to that event on the bridge on October 14, 2020, and have received criticism for it.  I rained on their 34 participant parade, so to speak because someone needed to.  They had signs presenting Mr. Floyd as a father, an athlete, a friend, and other titles, and my sign said, “celebrate good people not criminals” and “all lives matter”. Their idea represented bad judgment, in my opinion, in that while Mr. Floyd’s killing was tragic, Front Royal Unites (FRU), BLM and many Dems have been making him out to be a celebrity and upstanding citizen. The truth is he was just a victim with a controversial past and was under arrest for allegedly passing counterfeit money at the time of his death. Everyone has the right to demonstrate anything, but it has consequences.

Substantial law enforcement resources were wasted because they had to be prepared for the worst-case scenario where outside agitators might show up, as has happened elsewhere, and we all know how that could have turned out. Fear was injected in our community that there could be traffic disruptions and mayhem that we’ve seen in other places throughout the country. As for one citizen commenting on running over people, demonstrators have no right to impede the lawful travel of the general public. Demonstrators in the street have caused damage and threatened drivers so running them over is a logical and warranted reaction if it came to that. The concept of  ‘do stupid things, win stupid prizes’ applies I think.

Months ago, after Mr. Floyd was killed, there was virtually universal support for police reform.  FRU was created and sponsored a march in support of that concept, but they couldn’t just leave it at that, and Mr. Porter hijacked the situation to claim white supremacy and racism that is not a significant element in our fine community, and that’s how I became involved initially.

I attended the first march, but advertised that I felt Mr. Porter’s allegations were exaggerated, and even addressed it in a Royal Examiner ‘Letter to the Editor’, but it didn’t end there. Mr. Porter told others his group was not interested in the courthouse statue memorializing locals who had fallen in the Civil War but then proceeded to support an effort to have the statue removed, which many saw as a lack of integrity. That issue has been placed on the upcoming ballot and will eventually be resolved but has caused unneeded divisiveness in our community, in contradiction with his group’s name.

Then Mr. Porter came up with the idea that by running for Mayor he might gain a greater platform to press his agenda on the Town.  However, he did not take the opportunity to qualify in a conventional manner so is having to run a write-in campaign because he couldn’t meet the application deadline. Mr. Porter seems to be an educated and capable young man with good advertised intention, and I appreciate his prior service to the country, but his youth and relative inexperience suggest he’s just not ready for prime-time yet, in my opinion. In September, he endorsed the McCool candidacy, but now that has understandably been abandoned.

The FRU group is seen as a BLM supporter, a Marxist group, whose mission is to transform America into a socialist society which is one of the central themes in our upcoming national election, even though socialism has proved to be a failed system and occurs at the expense of individual freedom which is the central tenant of our country.  I couldn’t be more opposed to socialism, and that contributes to why I have spoken against and used my resources to oppose FRU and its leadership.

While I encourage Mr. Porter and others to work to improve our community, it seems their efforts to-date have done more to divide than unify. I hope that he and other FRU supporters will evaluate their strategy to see if better results can be achieved. I’ll continue to observe the happenings in our Town and County and contribute where I can to keep this one of the best places to live, in our beautiful state, in the best country on the planet.

Gary Kushner
Bentonville, Virginia

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