Based on the news reports that continue to saturate the national media, the town of Ferguson, MO is tearing itself apart.
The unrest is supposedly a reaction from the community to the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a police officer.
If, as has been alleged, the officer shot Michael Brown in cold blood, the officer should be held accountable – removed from the force, and charged criminally for his or her actions. But one of the main problems is that the riots and protests broke out before the Ferguson Police Department really even had a chance to investigate the incident. There seems to be an assumption in the Ferguson community – justified or not – that justice will not be done.
But the big question her is whether a community’s assumptions about injustice somehow rationalize riots and looting. Hopefully, we can universally agree that the answer is “no.” Even if, as some of the protesters allege, the violence is a reaction to a history of injustice at the hands of local law enforcement in that community, it is no excuse to steal from local businesses or to throw rocks or Molotov cocktails at police. Those actions don’t bring justice; instead, they justify violent defensive actions from law enforcement, making an already bad situation even worse.
We have seen too many times in our nation the condemnation of individuals and groups when too many facts were still unknown. After Trayvon Martin was killed, we saw violence grow throughout Florida, and eventually throughout the nation. People were beaten, and some were even killed “for Trayvon,” as though blood justifies blood.
This kind of thing seems to be happening more and more often in America. Tawana Brawley accused six white men of raping her. Protests and violence ensued; it turned out to be a lie. An African-American exotic dancer accused the lacrosse team at Duke University of raping her. More protests ensued, reputations were ruined, but it was another lie. Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, and protests initially broke out over delays in the official investigation. But as time went on, there was a general assumption both by the protesters and the media that Zimmerman was guilty of murder…and yet, as more and more facts came out in the case, it turned out that George Zimmerman’s accounting of events matched the evidence far more accurately than any other account being perpetuated in the media, and eventually, Zimmerman was acquitted of murder charges that had been filed largely due to public pressure brought on by the protests.
And now, it is happening again. Unlike in the Trayvon Martin case, people didn’t wait for delays in the investigation, or for any official information in the case, for that matter. With no knowledge about the officer involved, and scant information about the circumstances surrounding the shooting, it was assumed that a racist law enforcement officer gunned down Michael Brown in cold blood.
But as details emerge about what actually happened that day, the truth, once again, tells a different tale.
As it turns out, the officer was responding to a robbery call that had come in nearby. Michael Brown is now a suspect in that robbery, along with one other young man, Dorian Johnson, who was also alleged to have been involved in the robbery, and who has been speaking out to the media about what he supposedly witnessed that day – but not mentioning anything about a robbery, of course. Police have released stills from surveillance footage that allegedly shows Michael Brown pushing around the clerk at the convenience store that was robbed. Still, not all of the facts are in, but this definitely changes some of the circumstances surrounding Michael Brown’s death.
Not that this matters to many of the protesters. While it is true that a good number of the daytime protesters are concerned citizens who want answers, the New Black Panthers have also come in force, looking to stir up trouble. Reports have indicated that many of the people doing the rioting and looting have been coming in from outside Ferguson. Either way, they aren’t doing much good for their cause.
President Obama, yet again, hasn’t done much to help either. Scattered among his rather lukewarm comments in a statement he gave on the issue, the president accused Ferguson police of attacking peaceful protesters who were just exercising their First Amendment rights – though there is no real evidence that such a thing ever occurred. But, of course, at this point in Obama’s presidency, we should just be thankful that he didn’t accuse law enforcement of “acting stupidly” again.
And, of course, Attorney General Eric Holder is getting involved, sending the same team to Ferguson that managed to make things worse during the Trayvon Martin situation…so we have that to look forward to.