Not only did the announcement of the much-anticipated decision of the grand jury that investigated the August 9th shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Mo. police officer Darren Wilson lead to two nights of protests and violence in the suburb of St Louis, the lack of an indictment triggered similar events around the country.
Thanks to days of professional media outlets obsessively regurgitating the same story on the potential for violence, as well as everything from fear mongering police officers to the deployment of the national guard ahead of the decision, the world has certainly taken notice of what is going wrong in Ferguson.
Whether or not Darren Wilson was justified in his actions, Ferguson is a city where black residents feel so discriminated against by their police force and other community leaders that they are driven to mass protests with the hope that someone will hear their plight. Instead, they have essentially been criminalized as a community by the media and the Nation.
Given that the violence sparked during the initial protests against the shooting of Michael Brown had been incited by those from outside of the Ferguson community and by a heavy-handed police response, the disturbing focus on the violence in Ferguson is only giving those who have committed violence the attention they crave.
At the same time, it is teaching people that they need to cause trouble to be noticed. In essence, the official response to violence in Ferguson has created a perverse incentive for violent attention seekers to cause chaos in Ferguson and elsewhere.
A great deal of the problem is that dealing with issues like a systemic failure to respect and address the interests of a community creates headaches for political leaders and those responsible for maintaining order. Consequently, it is easier for them to appease significant protests until the movement fizzles out or to find ways of quietly suppressing dissent instead of actually addressing the underlying problems.
Where everyone from the local police to the State governor have been more than willing to bare an iron fist against Ferguson, they have failed to offer them a hand in building solutions to the problems that plague their community. Although the residents of Ferguson, as well as those who live in communities with similar problems, experience and know these issues, they need the outside world to help them vocalize what a solution must do and help them develop solutions.
Law is not necessarily about right or wrong; it is about maintaining order. Only when a legal system adequately protects and balances the interests, rights, and freedoms of everyone do People see the value in upholding the Law. When communities no longer see the legal system serving them, which is what has happened in places like Ferguson, prosecution is seen as a means to persecute those who dissent from the will of the privileged and a way of absolving the wrongdoings of the powerful.
In the case of Darren Wilson, there was not enough proof to justify an indictment, but that does not necessary mean he was justified in his actions or handled the situation in an appropriate manner. That said, the outrage over the killing of Michael Brown is just as much about Michael Brown’s death as it is about the failures of our society that too often result in the killing of young blacks across the country. In reality, the killing of Michael Brown was a flash point that happened to ignite already growing outrage.
Although the Grand Jury did not return an indictment, it did reveal areas where Ferguson can start addressing the underlying problems with its police force. Unfortunately, a lack of professionalism, training, and adherence to effective police procedures appears epidemic within the Ferguson police department. At the very least, Darren Wilson and his superiors should face serious disciplinary action for allowing Wilson to essentially flee the scene of the crime and taint the evidence.
Furthermore, anger and frustration felt throughout the United States is not simply rooted in poor race relations or a sense of legal injustice. It is driven by a broader sense of social and economic injustice. Feeling the need to be disruptive, and destructive, in order to have their voices heard, Wal-Mart workers plan to add another round of protests to the ongoing struggle against income inequality on Black Friday, which is one of the most important shopping days of the year.
Given Wal-Mart is the Country’s largest employer, the reality that it keeps wages and salaries low for its employees helps prevent competitor from raising wages for their employees. Although simply raising the minimum wage is not a sustainable way of addressing growing income disparity and poverty, Americans clearly feel there is a lack of economic justice that is being driven by businesses that show no regard for employee interests and unresponsive government that does not produce policies that serve the needs of the American People.
Simply complaining does not solve problems, but it is a means of demonstrating there are problems that are being ignored and that need solutions. When society fails to adequately address and balance the interests of a population, that society is doomed to failure.
Going abroad, the ongoing Hong Kong Umbrella Revolution protests are starting to reemerge in the news. Where the Chinese government and the local leadership had hoped the protests would simply fade away or their disruptive nature would enable the police to disperse the protesters with any PR issues, renewed interest may well help keep the Umbrella Revolution alive long enough for the efforts of protesters to impact democratic reforms in the Chinese-controlled city.
Although more obvious in the Umbrella Revolution than in the Ferguson protests and other efforts, a major point driving conflict between protesters and the privilege elite is their understanding of what government is supposed to do. For the privileged, government is often seen as a means to maintain peace, stability, and the status quo, so they can safeguard their privilege. For those who protest, government exists to serve the interests of all a nation’s Peoples. This includes finding ways to address the needs of the neglected, which sometimes means the privileged lose some of their privilege.
Moreover, protests are happening around the world from Ferguson, Mo to Hong Kong for a variety of reasons, yet the driving force is a failure of government and society to address the needs of those protesting. Instead of indulging the impulse to avoid the underlying issues behind this public outrage, political and community leaders need to find solutions that adequately address and balance the interests of all those involved.
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