I’ve wanted to pen something on the whole Ferguson, Missouri situation for months. Days after the fatal shooting on August 9th, I wanted to take a point/counterpoint approach, and try to play Devil’s Advocate on/against both sides of the debate.
Alas, writer’s block is a SOB, and that piece never got written. Here we are now, three months later, and it’s been a fluid situation ever since. While the core of violence/rioting was more or less contained to the first week after the incident, protests have carried on regularly. Some civil and peaceful. Some far from. I’ve been keeping as close an eye on the landscape as possible from four hours away. The epicenter of this, after all, is less than 20 miles from my roots.
As a whole, the past three months have been a massive black eye on Ferguson, as the fallout ultimately paints the entire St. Louis area in a negative light. That hostility, anger and frustration extends far beyond Ferguson, and understandably so. The writing I wanted to do three months ago cannot be done today, even if I still wanted to take that approach. The evidence that has been presented since then simply makes it impossible. Prior to that evidence, it would’ve been easy for me to take the side of Michael Brown. With the forensic evidence found within the interior of Officer Wilson’s patrol vehicle, it removes any doubt that there was a physical struggle between him and Michael Brown.
I’ve spent enough time with and around law enforcement to know that, in the event of an altercation/struggle, you are to respond not with equal force, but with the next step above. If a tazer is available and can be used on an unarmed suspect, that would be an acceptable less-lethal response. If the officer is not equipped with a tazer, or if it were to be unaccessable, then you escalate to the next level of defense, which would most likely be the gun.
As I write this, the jury is still out regarding certain evidence, including the events that transpired between the shots fired while Michael Brown was at/in the police vehicle, and the spot of where he fell to the ground and died. One fact that is unquestionable is that, yes, Michael Brown is dead at the hands of officer Darren Wilson. Was it justified? Based on the evidence presented, if I were forced to make the call, it would be difficult to say that it wasn’t. I’m not blind to facts, nor to evidence, and the evidence revealed thus far has been pretty condemning to Michael Brown.
We now stand by and wait for the pending announcement from a grand jury, which will determine whether or not there will be an arraignment and charges filed against Darren Wilson. If I were a betting man, my life savings would be put on the wager that Wilson walks free. The negative to this, is that there are hundreds of protestors who seemingly have remained blind to evidence, and will simply not accept any sort of exoneration of officer Wilson.
The protests, riots, and overall violence of the initial week following Michael Brown’s death were not pretty. I realistically fear that if officer Wilson is not charged in this incident, that what we saw in that first week will pale in comparison to what may take place following the grand jury announcement. In my head, I picture a repeat of April 29, 1992. That was the date that police officers were acquitted in the videotaped beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles. The core of violence from those riots lasted nearly a week. We’re two decades beyond then, and the landscape for a similar situation is greatly advanced. There was no social media in 1992; all gathering of rioters were grass-roots. These days, it’s infinitely easier for forces to organize and strategize. The tensions are already high, including the publicized “list of demands” put towards the police force.
I love my home city. I haven’t lived there in 14 years, but it’s still home to me, and always will be. I’m embarassed at what the image of St. Louis, as a whole (as noted earlier, this is much bigger than just within Ferguson city limits), has been since early August. I wish I could say that the embarassment will fade away, but I project it getting infinitely worse before it gets better. It’s a no-win situation.
Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. And if you’re of that belief, prayers for peace might not be such a bad thing.