WASHINGTON, November 21, 2014 — The pending decision of the Grand Jury in the Michael Brown shooting case has local and state officials braced for violence. More than a few people are wondering how more rioting, looting and disorder can make the case for better, more respectful relationships between communities of color and public safety agencies.
If gun sales are any indicator of what residents of Ferguson and suburban St. Louis, expect to happen after the Grand Jury announcement, a lot of chaos is in the forecast. “We’re selling everything that’s not nailed down,” owner Steven King of Metro Shooting Supplies said.
King added, “Police aren’t going to be able to protect every single individual. If you don’t prepare yourself and get ready for the worst, you have no one to blame but yourself.”
When the incident of Brown’s death was initially reported, it was difficult to not to suspect that the police might be covering up a case of excessive force, manslaughter or possibly murder, on the part of Officer Darren Wilson. This perception largely stemmed from the alarming number of cases nationally where law enforcement officers have been shown to have abused their authority against minorities and such encounters have produced many casualties among Blacks.
But in our system of justice, we review the facts and proceed with each case on the individual evidence discovered. From information that has surfaced unofficially, Officer Wilson appears to be justified in using his service firearm to defend himself.
Some leaked Grand Jury documents indicate testimony supporting the narrative of the incident as Brown having attacked the officer and attempted to take his gun, perhaps to use the weapon against the officer.
One positive trend has emerged from the confrontations that have been seen on national news reports from Ferguson. Law enforcement authorities and state officials are revisiting the practice of outfitting police in tactical gear and presenting a militarized image to protesters.
Officers will place a priority on patrolling the city to prevent vandalism and looting and reserve riot gear for situations demanding its deployment.
There is a reasonable likelihood that Wilson will not be charged criminally in Michael Brown’s death. That is what has so many people on edge, not just in Missouri. There will be many who can not abide peacefully by the decision of the St. Louis County Grand Jury. That’s unfortunate and illegitimate. As a matter of fact, a sample of some of the worst instincts of elements of the Black community are already displaying themselves.
In a protest that formed outside of the Ferguson Police department, protesters chanted, “What do we want? Darren Wilson! How do we want him? Dead!” They threatened officers and disrupted traffic. This is not demonstrating. This is illegal behavior, which it is now tricky for the department to deal with. This short video clip contains foul language:
The decision of the jury is less important than the evidence they are reviewing. If the evidence and the testimony show that Michael Brown was acting aggressively in the manner suggested by the convenience store video and his actions gave the officer no option but to shoot, his death should not be the focus of protests, and certainly not the cause of more violence.
None of this should be understood to mean that demonstrations and protests are not legitimate forms of expressing discontent. It’s typical that criminals leverage public demonstrations for the purpose of going on sprees, that not only have no relation to the issues being protested, but have the effect of discrediting the voice of dissent.
And that makes it especially important that if demonstrators want to make a case for their grievances to the nation, they need to avoid violence. This is the way Michael Brown’s family sees it. His father posted a video on YouTube, including these comments:
“My family and I are hurting. The whole region is hurting. I thank you for lifting your voices to end racial profiling and police intimidation. But hurting others and destroying property is not the answer.”
The problem of police misconduct against citizens is not exclusive in any way to Blacks or minorities. It is a dilemma that affects Whites. Blacks, Asians and Latinos equally.
In this vein, Mr. Brown made another noteworthy, inclusive message. “Continue to lift your voices with us and let’s work together to heal, to create lasting change for all people regardless of race.”
That’s what it should be about. Justice for all people regardless of race.