The Ferguson Riots- An American Turning Point?
While politicians and activists from both sides of the political spectrum scramble to benefit from Ferguson, we wonder if Ferguson might be a turning point in American history, when people reject the limousine leadership of the left and the right and start leading themselves.
OPINION- William Collier- There is rioting, police brutality, and racial hate menacing the town of Ferguson, MO as a result of the fatal police shooting of 18 year old Michael Brown.
Events in Ferguson, Missouri, which is in St. Louis County, have taken a course which alarms many citizens across the political spectrum.
Meanwhile, leaders in Ferguson are calling for people like Al Sharpton to remove themselves from a local problem. They accuse Al Sharpton of inciting a near-riot when he proclaimed that the incident in Ferguson involving a young black man being shot to death by police is ‘bearing witnesses for all of America’, specifically America’s race relations.
According to Sharpton, the Band-Aid has been ripped off, and all of America is seeing that racial hatred is alive and well. The accusations are seen as doing more harm than good, inciting militant activists to violent actions, such as can be seen in Ferguson right now.
Regardless of the act that led up to the unstable situation in Ferguson, the reaction by the local police has been dramatic and militaristic. The police deployed were wearing military-style clothing. They were armed with heavy weapons and drove armored vehicles. They were not facing insurgents, but unarmed protesters.
This overt display of military power on American streets by a local police department has come under scrutiny not just from the protesters, but even from the members of the community who do not support the protesters.
The incident that triggered the riots and unrest was the shooting of an 18 year old unarmed man, Michael Brown. Michael Brown had a long criminal background before the incident, so the police might well have been aware of who he was. According to the police version of the incident, Brown was assaulting an officer. There was a struggle for the officer’s gun which led to the 7 shots that killed Brown.
A friend of Brown, who is also accused of participating in the assault, claims Brown was attacked for no reason by the police. The friend claims Brown was shot while trying to raise his hands and surrender.
Police supporters claim this is a cut and dry case. They note that the officer was injured in the altercation and that both Brown and his friend have a criminal background (as I noted earlier), including assault (this has been confirmed in the case of Brown, but not in the case of his friend).
Michael Brown supporters say this is a case of police brutality and, now, as charged by Sharpton, racism. In fact, President Obama called Michael Brown’s family to offer condolences before any facts had emerged about the actual nature of the shooting. Obama’s overture to the family is seen by the police supporters to reinforce the narrative that this is about racial hate, not an altercation that went wrong.
But both sides in that debate have problems to contend with.
For the police supporters, there are real and proven incidents of police brutality against members of the community of Ferguson during this unrest. There have even been reporters that have been roughed up, arrested and let go without any paperwork filed, and a number of other documented ‘irregularities’ by this police department. These incidents cannot be brushed aside, and they only serve to offer evidence of a police department gone rogue, one that could possibly have done what Brown’s friend alleges they have done.
Two reporters were arrested, one roughed up, at a local McDonald’s when they were clearly not breaking any laws and, though they were released, no paperwork was filed. Another reporter was shot point blank with a rubber bullet. Additionally, I myself watched a live feed as police, in military gear, with armored vehicles, pushed a crowd of protesters INTO an otherwise quiet and peaceful neighborhood.
The crowd being pressed by the police fled into the neighborhood, running between homes, often being chased by police, bringing chaos to a neighborhood that was not involved in the rioting. The police then proceeded to turn their tear gas and rubber bullets on the people in this neighborhood who had stepped outside to see what was causing all the disturbances on their front lawns and back yards.
The notion that this same police force, the local police force in Ferguson and the St Louis County Sheriff’s Department, never uses excessive force cannot be easily discounted after what has transpired.
For the supporters of Michael Brown, the problem is that the only witness to claim this was police brutality may himself have been involved in the alleged attack on the police officer and, if reports are true (which we have not confirmed), he is himself a criminal.
He certainly has the tattoos that are associated with gangs, say those who disbelieve his story, which we have not confirmed. It had been alleged that the deceased man, 18 year old Michael Brown, had a criminal record already, including burglary and assault. Man posts with links to court records went viral. What is disconcerting about these allegation was that his juvenile record is closed and he is only 18- this means his list of crimes SINCE he turned 18 would be fairly lengthy. His rap sheet is cited as reason to believe the police officer’s version of the events. We have learned that possibly 4 other witnesses have also come forward with similar stories. We have SINCE CONFIRMED- Michael Brown had NO CRIMINAL RECORD and no charges were pending against him.
The shooting took place on August 9, a Saturday, at around noon. After the shooting, efforts to organize protests and reprisals went viral on social media, and by Monday the riots had become severe, resulting in businesses being looted, One local convenience store was not only looted, it was also burned down.
The rioters were further inflamed by the vitriolic and black supremacist rhetoric of the New Black Panther Party, as well as by Al Sharpton, both of whom flew in from out of state to ‘lead’ the protesters’.
The violence-inciting rhetoric was legitimized, police supporters argue, when US Attorney General Eric Holder promised to get involved, as well as by President Obama’s rush to call to offer condolences to Michael Brown’s family before getting the facts of what actually occurred.
But many local citizens and leaders, even those who believe this was police brutality, have accused the politicians and the national figures from outside of making things worse.
I saw one woman on live video, a black woman who had come out of her home. She was outraged at how the violence was encouraged by people from outside the community. She noted that while her taxes were up and schools were failing, these local politicians continue to ask for the “black vote” but do nothing for the black community. The only time political leaders, local or national, show up in a black community is during times like this, in their helicopters and Lear jets, making matter worse for all concerned. She kept saying “they win, they win”. When asked who “they” were, she replied, “them politicians!”
She did not appear to sympathize with police, who she saw come through her quiet neighborhood bullying anyone who was seen outside, even homeowners who were concerned about the ruckus. But she did not endorse the rioting, which she blamed on “people from outside the community coming to stir things up and get their 15 minutes of fame!”
Whatever the truth is now may only matter in the legal sense of the word. The question from the outside looking in is this, who benefits?
There seem to be two opposing views on this:
The first view is from the leadership on the right. They believe that whether the killing was justified or not, leftist agitators saw an opportunity to reinforce the demonizing narrative of the white man attacking the black man. It is the same tactic used by the mullahs of Iran who wish to deflect blame for their own failures away from themselves by attacking the great Satan, America.
In the case of the trusted leftist voting bloc of African Americans, the deflection is away from the failures of democratically controlled governments to deliver prosperity and security to the ghettos of America. If the black community focuses on hating white people, they won’t pay attention to the failure of government, run by Democrats, to give them a good education, offer them a safe place to live and a path to prosperity.
The countervailing view from the leadership of the left is that the police are attempting to agitate the black community in order to create a similar bogeyman, for different voting bloc, this one for republicans, white America. The narrative goes something like this; The black mob is being whipped up to a frenzy by republican-leaning agitators to reinforce the notion that white America should fear violent black America and come back to the republican party to check the growing power of the black-supported left.
As outlandish as these theories sound, they have more than a few adherents, and this is the cause of no small amount of division between Americans. But the police reaction may have a rather interesting effect not foreseen by anyone- people from the left and right, people who are of all races, and people who disagree about the original incident, all seem to agree that what the police in Ferguson are doing to protesters and what outside leaders are doing to stir the pot are equally awful and illegitimate in a free and democratic society of equals.
One sees leftwing and rightwing blogs, as well as social media commentary all saying the same thing- the spectacle of a military-styled police force is detestable on the streets of ANY American neighborhood. It could be that if there are true agitators on the left and the right, neither side will get what they want, greater control over the voting power of a bloc of people. It could be, at the end of the day, when the dust has settled on Ferguson, that the real winners might be the Americans, of all ethnicities and beliefs, who decide to no longer be led by the helicopter-swooping, Lear-jet parking leaders. Rather, they will choose to lead themselves where they are, neighborhood by neighborhood, block by block, town by town, to build pathways to prosperity, security, and liberty.
In Ferguson, it appears, there are no heroes. One can only hope that from such flames, a new resolve is forged in America, to build, where you are, with those who will build with you, what most of us really want, across all divides, the freedom to prosper and pass along to our children a better world than the one we were given.
Let us hope at the end of the day, be they Republicans or Democrats, that we do not say the only winners from Ferguson were ‘them politicians’’.