We have seen the picture way too many times. It has permeated our society for generations and it doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon. I am talking about what is going on in Ferguson, MO. On Saturday, a young black man was shot and killed by a white police officer. The reason the officer shot Michael Brown is still unclear. But, one thing is clear, it is being handled extremely poorly by the Ferguson Police Chief.
The police officer, who is yet to be identified, claims that when he attempted to exit his squad car, Brown pushed the door back on him. He then claims that Brown attached him through the window and tried to get his gun. There was a gun shot inside the car. Brown was shot 35 feet away from the car, meaning the officer got out of the car before opening fire again.
On the other hand, a witness, who was with Brown at the time it happened gives a completely different story. He claims that the officer tried to exit the car next to the two teens. The door hit them both and ricocheted closed again. According to the witness, the officer then grabbed Brown by the neck through the window. After a shot rang out, Brown and his friend started running. The officer reportedly shot Brown who then turned around with his hands in the air and said “I am unarmed”. The officer then shot him several times killing him.
The Ferguson Chief claims the officer was treated at the hospital with a “swollen face”. He doesn’t say how exactly the officer got that swollen face. But, he implies that it was because Brown attacked the officer. By the way, the only thing the two boys were doing wrong? They were walking in the street rather than the sidewalk.
Even if the officer’s claim about being attacked is true, that does not justify lethal action by the officer. You cannot shoot someone several times simply because he bruised your face. Especially when that person was unarmed, as alleged by his friend. In my view, that simply means the officer was wrong in his actions and should be punished.
That brings us to what has happened since. The residents of Ferguson started rioting. I oppose violence in all cases and the residents are wrong to riot over the incident. However, the Brown family, Al Sharpton and others have criticized the rioting and looting and asked for “peaceful protests”. The last few nights, the residents have tried to use peaceful protest.
However, the Ferguson Police Department, equipped with all sorts of militarized equipment have met them head on. Tear gas has been fired at the protesters. According to one news report on scene, the tear gas was fired just 15 seconds after the police gave an order to move on. That hardly seems like enough time for everyone to even get the news from the police.
News reporters have been arrested. Even news camera trucks were ordered out of the area before the tear gas was fired on the crowd. That brings back memories of the riots in Chicago in 1968 at the Democratic National Convention. Rather than sitting down with the protesters, especially the family and try to work something out that would help clear the way for an independent investigation into the incident, the Ferguson Police has decided to basically go to war with its residents.
Referring back to the Chicago Convention Riots, Mayor Richard J. Daily said on national television that “the police are not there to cause the riot. They are there to preserve the riot”. I was there, I lived there, and I can say that the police did an excellent job of “preserving” the riot. What we are witnessing in Ferguson is no different. Except the Chicago Police were not equipped with military equipment like the small town of Ferguson Police are.
There are calls for the people to “trust the authorities” to get to the bottom of this. How can we trust the authorities when they are the ones who seem to have caused the problem in the first place? All across the country police departments are getting more and more militarized. SWAT teams attack people’s homes without warning. All too often they attack the wrong house and hundreds of people are being injured during these attacks. Even infants like the one injured by a flash grenade that was thrown into the crib.
This is more than a black/white issue. This is what happens when any media, conservative or liberal, tries to pedal that one group is better than another. It is what happens when old white men decide that their power base is in jeopardy and they start demonizing races of people.
This case is another example of the American Tragedy played out before the cameras. There was no reason I can see why this teen was shot and killed by a police officer. There is no reason to use this case as an excuse to riot and loot a community either. The only problem is that far too often, oppressed people believe that when no one listens, the only recourse if violence. Violence may get people’s attention, but it will also lead to more deaths. There have been more deaths in Ferguson as a result of the riots.
There is a cry of “no justice, no peace”. But, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. proved that no peace doesn’t mean violence. Non-violent protest is also a form of “no peace”. The Ferguson Police Chief claims the officer involved “is hurt” over the incident. Maybe, but not as hurt as his victim. The Attorney General said that the Federal Government will investigate this incident. Hopefully, the truth will come out, and this officer will be punished for any offense he committed.
But, until we end the era of intolerance perpetrated by the loud mouthpieces mostly on the right, we will have more Ferguson’s in our future. If we don’t stop demonizing people simply because they are different from us, how can expect anything less?