I tend to agree with Rev. Al Sharpton that the situation in Ferguson, Mo. is a defining moment. So much of what is happening there is confronting us with the corrupt underpinnings of our society. It is like finding a leak in your basement after a flood and learning that the entire foundation around it is collapsing (with all apologies to Detroiters with flooded basements).
The fact that being an unarmed black male in public is often a fatal risk was already a poorly kept secret. However, the shooting of Michael Brown has also brought into focus the militarization of the police, and bias of media reporting depending on the race of victims. There are two noteworthy developments in Ferguson that I haven’t heard much discussion on: one bad and one good.
The first issue that strikes me is that there has been virtually no discussion of the fact that the Ferguson police are rioting, and they pose a far greater risk to public safety. Martial law should be declared and the Ferguson police disarmed. The Governor implicitly recognized the fact that the police were out of control when he put the State police in charge, but the fact is that there is still a steady stream of reports about the lawless actions of the police.
This includes numerous false arrests with no arrest reports filed. This allows the arresting officers who are breaking the law to remain unidentified and unprosecuted. Numerous people have been arbitrarily arrested, including members of the media (which is probably the only reason why this is being reported). Other instances of assault and battery are being reported, yet not one police officer has been arrested for the numerous acts of criminality. The headlines only report the actions of residents, but not the ongoing police riot.
The second issue is encouraging in a certain way: the agitation and willingness of the people of Ferguson to take to the streets to protest murder by the police. In an era when very few people take collective actions to effect social change, the willingness of people to continue to protest until justice is done is exactly what we need.
We need to take to the streets because the political process no longer works for ordinary citizens. It is the action of the police which have created the violence in response to peaceful protest, and most of the violence seems to have been perpetrated by the police.
The media love to report on a relatively few instances of looting, but so far, with only one exception, the only people being killed or injured are citizens being assaulted by the police. The restraint being shown by the residents of Ferguson in the face of a lawless police force is amazing.