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On Ferguson




       Friends and family have posted recently on Facebook about the tinderbox that is Ferguson. Some are angry. Some are frustrated, others disgusted. Here in Minnesota, we had a sea of people blocking a main Minneapolis thoroughfare in protest of the verdict. At least one woman was injured. In Ferguson itself, chaos. The air was thick with smoke, tear gas and gunfire. There were riots and looting—local stores were torched and burned to the ground. People’s livelihoods became insurance claims overnight. Ferguson became a warzone, and though things have begun to calm, it’s still a powder keg just awaiting another spark—much like the entire country right now.

       I found that I was angry too. Angry at those that presumed to know more than the twelve people that were tasked with deciding whether or not a crime was committed. At those that protested the verdict. At those that used it as an excuse to espouse racism or racial inequality. At those that burned down buildings, and rocked police cars, and took part of their day to become part of (and thus perpetuate) the problem. I’m pissed off because almost every one of you has missed the point.

       Does racism still exist in this country? Absolutely. Did some moron that looks to be about fifteen shoot an unarmed man? Yes he did. Is that a tragedy? You bet. Any loss of life is tragic. Did he have to shoot him? Probably not. Was race a factor in the shooting? Maybe. Does that matter? No. Not in the slightest. Not as it pertains to the verdict.

       Now hear me out before you all start losing your shit. The verdict has nothing to do with race. The grand jury did not find enough evidence to indict this guy based on the law. Missouri law requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt by prosecutors that a shooting wasn’t justified. This is different from the laws in other states that require the officer to prove that a shooting was justified. And, by the way, Missouri law also states that it is legal for an officer to shoot any felon in the back if he is trying to escape. Not a “dangerous” felon. Not a “forcible” felon. Not an “armed” felon. Any felon. Therefore, under the law, Wilson had the legal authority to use deadly force, and prosecutors simply could not prove that he should not have done so.

       It wasn’t the grand jury’s conclusion that Brown’s life was less important than Wilson’s. Sadly, Missouri law quite clearly indicates that its citizen's lives don't have the same value as those of its police. And that would have been the case in any such shooting, no matter who the officer and the victim were. This is not a failure of the system to acknowledge racism; it is a failure of the system itself. Our protests in this case should not be about racial inequality. They should be about changing the laws in this country so that is never acceptable for a police officer to shoot anyone unjustly. They should be about the militarization of our police forces. They should be about requiring body cameras for law enforcement officers. They should be about the pervasive rise of violence in our culture as a means to make ourselves heard—on both sides of the law.


       If you want justice for Michael Brown, then consider shifting your efforts to getting the laws changed to reflect the will of the people in your communities. Protest can be a powerful tool to enact change if done so peacefully, but to continue with the riots and violence and hostility will only serve to exacerbate the issue. If we insist upon acting like savages, we will surely be treated as such. 


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