Ferguson: Disturbing Questions
Does anyone find it frightening how the 24 hour news cycle and the immediacy of social media has conditioned us to demand information right away in every circumstance? We don’t even allow investigations to happen before we take the word of one or two people and go to the streets to protest. In the case of Ferguson, the police failed to disclose the fact that Michael Brown was a suspect in a robbery where the assailant who looked astonishingly like Michael Brown (maybe there are a lot of 6’4" 290lbs guys who dress like Michael Brown) grabbed a convenience store worker by the throat about half a mile away from where the fatal shooting occurred. Maybe the information can’t come out in a day, but why six days?
Did the officer use too much force? We don’t know yet, but this isn’t a simple case of a couple teenagers being pulled over by a police officer for jaywalking. It was a situation where the teenagers might be worried they were busted after strong arming a convenience store. While no one seems to take issue with the officer shooting the gun inside of the car in a tussle with Michael Brown, what were the circumstances outside the car when Officer Darren Wilson likely knew Michael Brown wasn’t armed yet allegedly chased for 20 feet, then shot and killed the young man?
Does anyone find it frightening how well armed Ferguson’s police was? The scary part is that it’s not uncommon. The Ferguson Police Department is part of the many police departments across that country that are participants in the Department of Defense 1033 program. This program distributes surplus military equipment, including automatic weapons and heavy armored vehicles like Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. According to media reports, law enforcement agencies in St. Louis County received a dozen 5.56 millimeter rifles and six .45 caliber pistols from the program between August 2010 and February 2013. Also from media reports, an official from the Defense Logistics Agency said that the Ferguson police department acquired two vehicles, a trailer, and a generator in November.
Does it disturb you that they were armed with automatic weapons, bullet proof vests, helmets, tanks, shields, tear gas canister launchers, beanbag launchers, flash bang grenades, and for some reason wearing green camouflage in an urban environment? I find it interesting that so many of my liberal friends are so concerned about the militarization of such a small town’s police force but don’t seem to understand the argument by 2nd amendment advocates that citizens can’t defend themselves when even small town police forces have access to military grade weaponry (and can organize, mobilize, and deploy quickly enough to handle any type of civilian gathering.)
Think honestly about the people you know who have chosen to become police officers from your life. Think about all the police officers you have encountered in your life. Think about all the incidents you have seen and read about police officers using excessive force, conducting illegal searches, committing illegal seizures, making illegal arrests, and targeting specific demographics. Do you trust them completely to the point of not having the ability to protect yourself against them? I believe in the goodness and competency in the vast majority of the law enforcement officers in this country, but like any industry there are bad seeds and in law enforcement these bad seeds have access to big weapons. (Many of you trust clergy with your spiritual lives, but how many of you would trust them with unfettered access to your kids and your money after all the religious scandals of the last few decades?). Maybe I just have lingering paranoia from being raised by grandparents, uncles, aunts, and parents who saw how a Communist government utilized weaponry against unarmed civilians after systematically disarming them for years.
Does anyone find it upsetting that the Ferguson police had the audacity to state ““We ask that any groups wishing to assemble in prayer or in protest do so only during the daylight hours… We further ask all those wishing to demonstrate or assemble to disperse well before the evening hours.”? I’m pretty certain many of you have participated, seen, or known of candlelight vigils done at night. Heck, every single time a celebrity dies, a shrine shows up and hundreds if not thousands show up praying. Why do the people of Ferguson have to go to bed at night? Why can protests only occur during daylight hours when people are at work? Why can’t citizens take to the street at night?
What about the purveyors of exploitation? While there is no doubt a systematic problem of the socioeconomic conditions of our urban minority poor, our rural white poor, and Hispanic migrant poor, why does it take a death for people to openly talk about the imbalance of the racial demographics that end up in our prison system? And also the imbalance of our police forces? Why aren’t we discussing the causation of these imbalances and what we can do address them? Why incite racial tensions when it is a critical time period to keep calm to ensure safety?
Why did so many people buy so quickly into the teenage kid about to go to college story instead of waiting to see what the 19 year old man was up to? For all the vitriol of chronic exploiters like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, where are the defenders against government tyranny that marched upon Bundy Ranch? Why are martial law, curfews, tear gas being shot into innocent people’s yards, lack of any information disclosure, usage of heavily armored vehicles, etc. acceptable to those who claim to defend civil liberties against tyranny? Even if Michael Brown is a brutish thug who at his massive size put the officer’s life in jeopardy and was legally shot and killed, the behavior of the police force was still wrong. Can people not separate the two? Is it as simple as the Bundy Ranch protesters don’t care about black people?
Breathe, reflect, question, and take responsibility. We can control our government with awareness, information, and holding them accountable. We need to remember what it takes to be a citizen and not to take those rights and privileges for granted.