A Mother’s arms are empty. A Father’s head is bowed. A child’s blood cries out from the ground. A police officer, sworn to protect and defend the citizens of Ferguson, Missouri, rises every morning to look at “the man in the mirror” who shot an unarmed teenager. And the big question of the day seems to be: “Why would people destroy their own community”?
Political pundits, news anchors, public officials, ministers, friends and acquaintances have all weighed in on this question. The answers have been wide-ranging, including:
- This is typical thug behavior
- These are the actions of a few ignorant people who make everyone look bad
- The looters are outside agitators
- People are reacting to a militarized police force
- The people need to be given a public square to speak and express their anger
- The people of Ferguson need jobs
- Blacks in Ferguson are under-represented on the police force
- These actions are reminiscent of the “Destruction of Tea in Boston”
- People are reacting to their perceived circumstances
In my opinion, none of the above responses, sufficiently, answers the question of why people would destroy their own community. It appears that the people of Ferguson were functioning on automatic pilot in response to danger. They were in “flight or fight” mode. The community had watched a young man try to run from a dangerous situation, only to be gunned down. After the killing of #MichaelBrown, the community was surrounded by a hostile police force. There appeared to be no escape. There appeared to be no safety. They appeared to have no rights. They seemed powerless and without speech.
Tellingly, if news reports are accurate, the Missouri National Guard was dispatched to protect the Police Command Center, and some police officers were dispatched to protect certain neighborhoods in Ferguson. It appeared that there was no protection of the First Amendment rights of the people in Ferguson. Instead, the people were given an unjust order to “keep moving.”
So, it seems to me, that rather than the query about why a few, distressed, fearful protestors threw rocks; there are better questions to ask. Why was an unarmed teen killed by a trained police officer who, in addition to a gun, carried a club and mace? Why did the police officers and Missouri National Guard deny American citizens their First Amendment right of peaceful assembly? How can the family get justice for #MichaelBrown? Most importantly, how can we make sure it never happens again?
It is time, as the Prophet Amos and the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. said, to Let Justice Roll Down (Click).