As I write this, no announcement has come from the grand jury about whether it will indict police officer Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown on August 9th in Ferguson, Missouri. But that doesn’t stop the rumor mill. Everyone knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who heard this or that or whatever. It’s like a game of operator, with help from social media and the usual fear-mongering media. Truth is, no one knows anything, and hasn’t all week. That may change tomorrow. Or it might not.
Brown’s father and mother have repeatedly called for calm, asking that there be no violence or looting if Officer Darren Wilson is not indicted by the grand jury. Even for people who hate the police, why would you disrespect the parents of the dead man who you’re supposedly protesting on behalf of? Then again, I’ve never understood looting. It’s a misdirected way to express your anger, taking it out on some mom-and-pop business — that you often patronize in your own neighborhood — that had nothing to do with the perceived miscarriage of justice you’re pissed off about.
As for the “protesters” who have been out there every night since August 9th, there haven’t been a lot of them — 15 to 20 most nights, about the same as the number of media keeping an eye on them outside Ferguson police HQ. The other night, five people were arrested there. None of them were from Ferguson. They were from other municipalities in the county or from out of state. Media reports say that every night, they shout profanities and epithets at the cops, trying to entice a response so they can capture it on video and make it public. That has yet to happen, thankfully, but if that’s what they’re up to, they should be called instigators, not protesters. Their actions are counter-productive to any effort to get real changes in the system in Ferguson. Moreover, they have not affected anyone’s opinion to the positive.
Question: is it possible — just possible — that two things are simultaneously true in Ferguson? One is that the police don’t treat blacks equally because the laws aren’t fair to the poorer members of the community. The other is that Michael Brown wasn’t exactly a saint, considering he had just stolen cigarillos from a convenience store, shoving the owner aside on his way out. That’s not a crime we punish with the death penalty, of course, but is it possible that when Wilson came upon Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson and told them to stop walking in the middle of the street, that Brown thought the cop knew about the shoplifting and attacked Wilson, who then overreacted by killing him? I don’t know what happened that day, but it seems possible that the protesters in Ferguson, while they have valid reasons to be unhappy with the treatment of their community by law enforcement, may have chosen the wrong guy to get behind.
We now return to normality — until someone hears something from someone else.