A controversial police shooting of a black man in Charlotte, North Carolina and the unrest it’s prompted throughout the city are a potent reminder that Louisiana is far from alone in dealing with tensions between black citizens and law enforcement officials.

Luckily, after a highly publicized police shooting of a black man on July 5 in Baton Rouge, protests here were largely peaceful, despite a few scuffles between demonstrators and police and an ill-advised attempt by protesters to block traffic.

In Charlotte, by contrast, reaction to the city’s police shooting has included looting, damaged police cars, a truck set afire, and the use of tear gas to dispel protesters. One man was shot to death during an evening protest this week. City officials said the victim wasn’t killed by police.

Baton Rouge residents know all too well what can happen when anger about police actions turns violent. On July 17, an apparently disturbed Missouri man shot six law enforcement officers in the city, killing three before he was killed by police. 

His evil deed doesn’t reflect Baton Rouge’s values, which were expressed in protests that, while heated at times, remained mostly civil — a credit to the general restraint of demonstrators and police.

Baton Rouge has other challenges ahead. A federal investigation of the July 5 police shooting here is underway, and the results of that probe, once released, could trigger more racial tension. But the city seemed to rally in common purpose after the July 17 shootings, a resolve strengthened in the wake of last month’s historic flooding.

Those challenges reminded us of a simple truth. We are stronger when we stand together, working to build bridges, not battle lines.