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Oh Ferguson

Posted by kc on August 14, 2014 in Current Events |

I watched in horror last night as an overly militarized county police force overreacted and over-responded to protesters grieving the shooting death of an unarmed 18-year-old at the hands of a police officer just a few days ago.

Folks in Ferguson are unhappy, and rightly so. A young man — a young, African-American man in a community that is almost 3/4 African-American — was shot and killed by a member of the community’s police force, a police that has but three African American members. The circumstances are under investigation, and conflicting reports of the how and why are, as one would expect, out there.

There’s plenty to be said about that, plenty to be said about an American justice system that has biases clear to anyone who doesn’t benefit from them. I’m not gonna wade into that morass just now though. I have another morass in mind.

Mike Brown was killed on Saturday. On Sunday, protesters gathered, and later in the evening, some of them went into riot mode, breaking store windows and looting and damaging police cars. On Monday, tactical officers with the St Louis County Police Department were on hand from the start, wearing more body armor than some American soldiers get in war zones and carrying weapons that would make the Bundy crew green with jealousy. Needless to say, things didn’t go well.

Angry protesters challenged police, and the police fired tear gas at the protesters. It happened again on Tuesday night. And then on Wednesday, an even larger police presence took to the streets. As on the other days, the protest during the day was peaceful, but tactical officers were an ominous presence in helmets, body armor and armored vehicles. The Ferguson police chief asked but did not order protesters to confine their protests to daylight hours, but he repeatedly said there was no curfew in place. Two reporters — national reporters — were temporarily detained that afternoon when they didn’t move quickly enough to leave a McDonald’s when police barged in and ordered everybody out. They were released when the police chief called and asked what the hell was going on.

Somebody, somewhere threw a rock, or a bottle, or a brick. Somebody else tried to light a wick for a Molotov cocktail. Somebody else saw a gun. And it was on. Police went all out with crowd control, using sound bombs, piercing sirens, flash bangs, tear gas and bean bags.

It was the Middle America equivalent of Israel’s response to Hamas’ homemade missiles. Wanna further piss off angry people? Respond to them angrily and with excessive force.

Today, it’s early yet but there’s been a sea change in Ferguson, Missouri. Gov Jay Dixon finally came to town, after, I suspect, federal officials told him to stop ignoring a serious situation and be the governor he was elected to be. He relieved the St Louis County Police Department and its chief, Jon Belmar, from command of the security in Ferguson, replacing them with the Missouri State Patrol and a captain, Ron Johnson, who grew up in the area.

Johnson promptly ordered no tear gas, no gas masks, no excessive body armor, no tanks, and, while we’re at it, let’s escort a march and I’ll walk with it.

This is how it’s done. I have no idea what will happen as the sun sets in Ferguson tonight. I hope this one powerful move will make a difference. This country has more problems we think aren’t problems than we can shake the proverbial stick at, but there’s just no sense in antagonizing an already agonizing situation. And that’s what went on in Ferguson for the first part of the week. There’s plenty that needs to be discussed around this, but the kind of adversarial response that officials obviously thought was a good idea is precisely the wrong idea. People need to be heard, they need to be respected, especially when they’re grieving, when they’re scared and angry and hurt.

They don’t need a paramilitary police force staring at them down the scope of an assault rifle. That’s a sure fire way to tell them they don’t matter, which, of course, only confirms what they already knew.




Posted by kc on August 1, 2014 in Current Events, My life and times |

All killing is wrong. All killing is murder. It doesn’t matter whether you or I think there is a justification for it. There is no justification for it. If we think there is, we’re part of the problem. The problem is that some of us think others of us are less deserving of living. Whether […]

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