What's Unfolding in Ferguson

August 9, 2014

The city of Ferguson, Missouri, has been going through its own kind of hell since 18-year-old African American Michael Brown was shot, some would say murdered, by Darren Wilson, a 28-year-old white officer, and his body was left in the street for hours. What followed was not pretty, but came as no surprise. 

The Story So Far: 

Mike Brown‘s parents, Lesley McSpadden and Mike Brown, Sr., spoke with broken voices of their son, including of how he had just graduated from an alternative learning program at Normandy High School in St. Louis. He was described by teachers as, "a student who loomed large and didn't cause trouble." Because of his 6'4" stature and 292-pound frame at the time of his death, he was described by some who knew him as a gentle giant. They said the behavior he was accused of was atypical. Sometimes he assumed the role of amateur rapper Big Mike. Benjamin Crump, the Brown family’s lawyer, told the press that Brown was enrolled in a technical school, Vatterott College, where he was scheduled to start classes on August 11th, two days after he was killed. 

Witnesses at the scene provided several different versions of the shooting. At one point, there were a few who said Brown had been shot in the back while running from Wilson, a scenario which autopsies have shown to be untrue. A greater number of witnesses tell a more likely story: after a confrontation with Wilson, Brown ran, then, at a sizable distance, stopped, turned, and faced Wilson with his hands up as the shots took him down.

Brown's family, friends, and shocked community began to grieve and did what communities do. They demanded answers, they felt unsafe, and they took to the streets. Then, the Ferguson police made a miscalculation: they withheld the name of the officer who shot Brown. Even so, but for a few who took advantage of the situation by looting, demonstrators were peaceful. Yet, masses of police marched in wearing riot gear and brandishing weapons in a military manner, like a cross between SWAT and the invasion of Normandy. 

Ferguson is basically a black community, however its mayor, police chief, and six members of its seven-person city council are white (the other is Latino), and most important to this conversation, only three members of Ferguson’s 53-person police force are black. When I heard this, I wondered how likely it was that enough scrutiny would be given to Darren Wilson’s actions, and what hell the police might unleash rather than performing their sworn duty, which is to serve and protect. I didn’t have to wait long to find out. 

Watching hordes of police marching on the demonstrators took me right back to Chicago, 1968, when Mayor Richard J. Dailey sent masses of police accompanied by tanks to the Democratic Convention to handle young demonstrators from the Youth International Party (Yippies) and many of the supporters of Eugene McCarthy. Fortunately, in Ferguson, African American State Trooper Captain Ronald Johnson emerged as a voice of reason, and was targeted to communicate between the protesters and the police.
On August 18th, a friend of Wilson’s, identified only as Josie, claimed that he had told her his side of the story. According to Josie, Wilson said that Brown reached for Wilson’s gun and “…at one point, had it completely turned against the officer’s hip. When the officer shoved the weapon away, it fired.” Josie says Wilson added, “All of the sudden, Brown just started to bum rush him; he just started coming at him, full-speed, and so Wilson just started shooting, and Brown just kept coming.” So there you have it. The stories of Josie and the other eyewitnesses present a perfect Rashomon effect.  

The racial makeup of the grand jury is similar to the racial breakdown of St. Louis County, which means that six white men, three white women, two black women and one black man will decide what happens next. This is our justice system at work. While I was reading articles on the subject, I found two interesting passages: 1) During the 1950s and 1960s, when local authorities would not pursue justice, the federal government stepped in. President Eisenhower sent US Marshals to escort African American children to school; President Kennedy sent the FBI to investigate the murders of Civil Rights activists. 2) President Obama has sent Attorney General Eric Holder and the FBI to Missouri to investigate the killing of Michael Brown. That's a good start, along with Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s appointment of Captain Johnson as the new chief of operations. Things are much calmer now, and the National Guard may be leaving soon. 

August 25, 2014

It's the day of the funeral, Things are much calmer now, and the National Guard may be leaving soon. So, maybe there’s hope.

What We Can Do: 
  1. Let you own police force know how you would want to handle such matters
  2. Which of the scenarios above do you most relate to?
  3. Please use the comment section to let me know which one ~ there are two sides to every story
  4. If you have a different point of view, please tell us what it is
  5. Make sure to share your position on this topic with your representatives in Congress

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