In a somewhat odd press conference, St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney, Robert McCulloch, announced to the world that Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted for the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. Ferguson, Missouri -- the city at the epicenter of this case, would now see its day in hell. Despite pleas from President Obama, Rev. Jesse Jackson and the parents of Michael Brown, nothing seemed to curtail the violence and chaos that quickly consumed Ferguson.
Businesses in Ferguson were torched, cars were flipped and windows were smashed. Protests spread throughout the nation with major cities seeing hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people gathered to protest the Ferguson grand jury decision. But what is the end game and what exactly are they protesting? Scanning my Twitter and Facebook feeds, I see a plethora of reasons pop up. Some are decrying the decision by the grand jury not to indict the police officer. Others are angry at the authorities. Some are blaming the government, but many of the messages and tweets are aimed at Officer Wilson... And In there lies the problem.
Protesters are using the wrong format to get their message across and have misplaced their anger. Sadly, it will probably eventually backfire or worse, fade from our memories.
What happened in Ferguson, back on August 9th of this year, is a microcosm of what's happening every day in America today. Accusations and documentation of police brutality is on the rise. More and more videos are emerging across social media showing police acting unprofessional, out of line, or using illegal or unnecessary use of force. Police are upgrading their equipment coffers, with many departments opting for military grade upgrades. I have been in the U.S. Army for eight years as a Military Police Officer and was deployed to Afghanistan briefly in 2008. I saw more order, restraint and checks and balances while overseas than I have with the police departments here in the States. Police abuses of power have only become more noticeable because technology and social media have made it extremely easy to share information instantly and on a global scale. Recent stories that have captured headlines range anywhere from individuals dying from a police choke hold, a young boy being being killed for brandishing a toy gun, or individuals being illegally imprisoned with trumped up or false charges. Though not all police departments are corrupt or abusing their power, and many good and honest cops serve and protect the American people, to say that police brutality is a minor issue would be completely ignorant and false.
Still, what's happening in Ferguson isn't a protest against police brutality -- it's individuals who are being unruly and engaging in criminal activity. These perpetrators are bent on causing chaos and unrest. Burning down businesses, torching the American Flag, turning over cars, and crippling your city are not ways to protest a flawed system. There are many people in Ferguson and around the country that wish to protest peacefully, yet the actions of these rioters, which have run rampant in this St. Louis suburb, are ruining what could have been a defining moment in the fight against the abuses of police power.
Real change will not come from rioting or even protesting -- that's an apocryphal idea. Civil unrest, on this scale in America, will eventually turn much of the population against the instigators. Everybody still has lives to live and jobs to do. When our lives become complicated or difficult, we attempt to find the source and eliminate the problem. Unless progressive actions are taken -- such as new laws proposed, becoming part of the system in an attempt to fix it, referendums, effective community outreaches, grass root efforts or using our constitutional right to vote, nothing major will come of this.
If thousands of people can close bridges and tunnels while protesting in New York City, if thousands more can halt highway traffic in California and Chicago, if over 100 cities in the U.S. and Canada can stage rallies and get people involved, imagine what we could collectively do if we used the power of the pen and not the sword. Yes, Americans are angry at this situation. I am angry -- but anger itself only gets us so far.
Police brutality and their abuses of power in America has aggrandized to proportions never before seen. If police are supposed to protect us, who is supposed to protect us from the police? Despite all this conundrum, we CAN have a better life and make a better future if we aim our resources, voices and votes in the the right direction. At the end of the day, we must do better than just say we are "angry", we must act intelligently and decisively -- because holding a banner over our heads while wearing a Guy Fawkes mask yelling, "F**k the Police!", will not bring about lasting change.