Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ferguson, MO - a hotbed of racial divide

Source:  www.bbc.uk.com

What a mess Ferguson, MO is today.  There is so much wrong with this Michael Brown killing, both on the part of the Ferguson police, the prosecutor, and the protests of the community.

The Ferguson Police

First, Michael Brown, an unarmed young man, is killed in an altercation with a white Ferguson policeman.  Michael Brown does have to take responsibility for robbing the convenience store of cigarillos.   Had he not done that, this tragedy probably would not have occurred.

Although he was unarmed, testimony of Officer Wilson and other witnesses claimed Brown reached into the police car and tussled with Wilson for his gun and was ultimately shot in the finger/hand.   Again, that is something Michael Brown has to take responsibility for.

Officer Wilson's claim that Brown was punching him in the face so badly that Wilson feared he would be punched out don't seem to go with the photos taken of him that day.  There is not even a bruise on his face; no black eye etc.  How hard could Brown have punched Wilson if he ended up with no bruises?

And, according to the testimony of Wilson and of witnesses,  Michael Brown, who had run down the street,  then turned around and "charged," at Officer Wilson. Other witnesses testified that Brown had his hands up in surrender when he turned around.    Wilson, believing his life was in danger, shot the fatal bullets that killed Michael Brown.  All this took place in a flash - ninety seconds -and a promising African-American young man lay dead on the ground.

Where was Officer Wilson's stun gun?  That is something all police officers throughout the U.S. should have on them at all times.  Had Officer Wilson stunned Brown instead of shooting him, Brown would be alive today.  

Why was Officer Wilson alone in the police car?  Why didn't he have a partner with him? Police are suppose to work in twos.  Why not in Ferguson?  

And, why isn't the Ferguson police force more diverse?  Why are there not more African-American police officers on the Ferguson police force?

Our police departments have been militarized as never before.  Our police culture is to shoot first and ask questions later. This is something all police departments throughout the U.S. have been trained to do.  There needs to be a huge paradigm shift and police officers need to be trained differently.  They need to be trained in how to diffuse a situation rather than escalate it.  

We have seen the same thing unfold time and time again.  The African-American male is seen as the aggressor, even if he is just asking the police why he is being stopped.  If he challenges the police in any way, the guns come out and the shooting begins.

Does this happen to white perpetrators?  Certainly not as much.


The Prosecutor

Prosecutor McCulloch should have been recused from handling the Michael Brown case because, as everyone knows,  years ago, his father had been murdered by an African-American man.  That, right there, is conflict of interest in such a high profile case.

A special prosecutor should have been brought in to prosecute this case so that fairness was assured by someone neutral, someone who had no ties to the Ferguson community, and someone who would not be seeking election to office in this community.

It is frequently said that a grand jury can indict a ham sandwich.  That certainly did not happen here.  The grand jury proceedings here in Ferguson were most unusual with every bit of evidence in this case being given to them.  They became both judge and jury deciding on Officer Wilson's fate, something that is not their duty to do.

I was shocked that there were leaks to the media during this grand jury proceeding;  a procedure that is suppose to be secret. That, in itself, illustrated the bias and unfairness of these proceedings.  Prosecutor McCulloch wanted a 'no indictment' decision from this grand jury and he manipulated evidence and leaks so that he would get the decision he wanted.

Should this have gone to trial?  I believe so because there was so much conflicting testimony by witnesses, this needed to hashed out in a trial where both sides could give evidence to what occurred that day and at that moment of death.

And, the timing of Prosecutor McCulloch's announcement of the indictment was manipulated to help raise the anxiety and hot tempers of the African-American community. For at least two weeks prior to the announcement,  the media reported they were being told that a decision from the grand jury was due any day, any moment.

The endless waiting for the decision just served to rile up the Ferguson community that much more.  

Then, announcing the decision at 9 pm, Monday evening, I believe, was Prosecutor McCulloch's manipulation so that anger would spill over into the chaos, rioting, looting and burning that occurred.

I don't see Prosecutor McCulloch as trying to maintain calm in the Ferguson community but as a perpetrator to setting off the rioting that occurred.  I think it was part of his 'grand plan.'


Protests in the Ferguson community

Peaceful protests against Officer Wilson have been going on in Ferguson since August 9, when Brown was killed.  Because the grand jury had so much evidence thrown at them, this process took three months and this also helped to work up the community.

Then, the community has McCulloch announcing the 'no indictment' at 9 pm in the evening, tempers are flaring anyway, and the chaos and rioting begins.  

Brown's step-father, trying to console his wife and Michael Brown's mother, did not help matters by screaming to burn down the city.  The shock of the announcement boiled over and the protesters went nuts. 

What is especially sad, are the businesses the crowd burnt down where mostly African-American businesses.  The protesters were destroying themselves.  

It is sad, that African-Americans destroy when something doesn't go their way.  How much more relevant and important their protest against the 'no indictment' of Officer Wilson would have been if it had been peaceful.

Their burning and destruction just adds to people's perception that African-Americans break the law and 'go crazy,' in these kinds of situations.

And, as this rioting and burning was going on, where was the National Guard?  There is poor leadership on the local and state level in Missouri and no one is exempt from the responsibility of protecting the Ferguson community.

How this grand jury was handled, the announcement of the decision, and the protection of the citizens of Ferguson was woefully incompetent.  

Ferguson is just an example of the racial divide that permeates our country today.  White police officers do see African-Americans' lives as cheaper than white lives.  African-American lives do matter, yet they don't seem to when they come in conflict with white police officers.