A young but fairly large man stole cigars from a store and pushed the puny clerk out of the way, and then he walked down the middle of the street, and then he tangled with a cop, and then he was shot dead, and then others decided to riot and loot stores, and then when they didn’t get their way with the grand jury, they rioted and looted some more; one wonders if there is much of a connection between the death of a young man and rioters and looters…

It was all very predictable. The reaction to a local grand jury’s decision in Ferguson, Mo. not to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of a black youth, who as it turns out was reportedly unarmed, is that some have taken to rioting and looting and setting police cars on fire. The violence I have read so far is not limited to Ferguson.

From comments on the web and radio you can tell this is a racially charged incident that puts the spotlight on the racial divide between black and white or black and, well non-black.

But one wonders if some or even most of those who riot and loot care not for justice as much as lashing out to be lashing out, and stealing to be stealing, and whether they have any real sense of responsibility in their lives.

Certainly many black people may simply be frustrated with what they see as racism among white cops and the continued preponderance of poverty in their culture.

I began this post before the grand jury announcement and had written we all seemed to be forced to be on pins and needles because if the decision was not what the mob demanded they would go wild (not my exact words, well actually I did not post that — my real job  demanded attention before I could finish it). It was not until perhaps about an hour (not sure) after the decision was announced I had time to check the news. But the reports are of violence (exactly how much and how widespread I am not sure as I write this — but it sounded bad).

—————–

ADD 1: As of 11:18 Central Time, I have heard reports of looting, the setting of fires, and heavy gunfire in Ferguson, plus violence in the St. Louis area. There are reports of I-44 being shut down and flights diverted away from an area airport. One area radio commentator said the violence is not about the dead young man anymore but is more simply widespread lawlessness.

—————————-

I don’t think I’ve commented on this case previously. I have been reluctant to because for one thing the details seemed fuzzy but at the same time it seems that the poor dead youth was playing the part of bad actor and there have been reports that he attacked the officer and/or resisted arrest in some manner.

Video evidence shows that the deceased had just got done with a strong-arm robbery of a store, although it is unclear whether that had anything to do with his run-in with the officer. It seems that he and another youth or youths were walking in the middle of the street and were told not to and the hassle was all about that — although the officer may or may not have seen that the now dead youngster matched the description of a robbery suspect.

It may well be that whatever the case the officer should have taken some other action short of lethal force, but things happen so fast and decisions have to be made.

How are we going to convince people to be our policemen (and women) if we tie their hands behind their back and take their authority and protection away from them? I sure would not want their job.

It is also true, I think, that the profession of beat cop often attracts bullies, I mean it just seems a natural fit (although not really a good one, and excuse the contradiction in terms).

But we should not have bullies as cops and we really need to come up with alternatives to gunfire at the drop of a hat.

In this case I think I read that the officer in question was not known to be the bully type.

But this trial by mob is not the way to go.

P.s.

In Ferguson and elsewhere, as I understand it, police forces have a hard time recruiting blacks. Also, up until now, as I understand it, the black population in Ferguson has not taken part in local politics for the most part. Apparently they should.

 

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