Michael Brown and the subsequent events in Ferguson, Missouri
I was on vacation and not following the news as much as otherwise when Michael Brown, unarmed, was shot dead in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9. I posted a handful of Twitter entries about events in Ferguson, and here make a few observations about Mr. Brown’s killing and the events that unfolded thereafter:
– We have an overgrown police state that over-relies on weapons and other methods of force — too often with excessive force and other forms of police misconduct — in too much of an "us versus them" mentality and training approach. When we have too many police — which the United States has, for instance for over-policing for so-called quality of life matters (including littering, minor traffic violations, and drinking alcohol on the street or in one’s car) and against crimes that should not be crimes, including marijuana, prostitution, and gambling — we will have a higher percentage of substantially racially biased police, because as we have more police, a higher percentage of highly racially biased police are inevitably hired, and we have diminished quality control in selecting, training, monitoring, and promoting police. Racism runs too rampant in society, police are chosen from that same society, and their uniforms do not cleanse them of any pre-existing racism.
– Even if police claims are at all true that Michael Brown physically challenged or brawled with his killer, police officer Darren Wilson, and even tried to disarm Wilson, so long as Brown remained unarmed himself, it sounds unjustified at best for Wilson that he ended up shooting Mr. Brown twice in the head and four times in his left arm.
– Nothing justified the vandalism and looting that followed Mr. Brown’s killing.
– How much did police protect people’s First Amendment rights to demonstrate after Mr. Brown’s killing, and the press’s right to report? Why did police arrest two journalists at a McDonald’s, a St. Louis Alderman, and a photographer? Why on August 13 did police "force media to move back out of the area and throw tear gas at an Al Jazeera America crew"?
– A curfew was imposed at one point, but withdrawn when it apparently was ineffective. Curfews are antithetical to a free society.
– The National Guard was called in at some point, and then withdrawn. The National Guard should be a last resort. The National Guard is part of the army. When the military is deployed domestically, for me that spells further militarization and escalation of a police state in American society.
– In Ferguson, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, a black man, recently recounted being stopped by police when already a federal prosecutor, when he merely was running to make a movie on time in the wealthy Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., and suffering police car searches on the New Jersey Turnpike. If that could happen to him, such police actions could happen to any black man.
– Officer Darren Wilson remains presumed innocent unless and until prosecuted for killing Michael Brown, and proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. To try to water down Wilson’s rights as a potential criminal defendant waters down all of our rights as potential criminal defendants in the future.