When the smoke finally clears from Ferguson, Missouri, and there are answers or justice or whatever is going to happen that will push Mike Brown's death from the front pages into history books and year-end-lists, there will be a time to reflect on the many lessons learned here. Obviously, I say this in a sarcastic tone as I don't expect any law enforcment or government officials to implement any of the learning that will be done - history has shown us that it's a virtual certainty that won't happen - but learning is learning.
One thing we've all learned from the events unfolding in Ferguson thus far (and especially over the weekend) is how inept the entire authoritarian structure in and around Ferguson is. From the Governor all the way down to local police. It's almost like they have a handbook that tells them what to do…and they have inexplicably done the exact opposite.
Based on what we've seen thus far in Ferguson, Missouri, here is a list of how not to handle a situation that has spiraled out of control. I'm an ordinary citizen of Anytown, USA, but I imagine that the vast majority of Americans (and not the fringe element trolling comments sections) could advise on how better to deal with all that has been going on.
And let's start with the most obvious.
1. Do not recklessly kill unarmed citizens or non-citizens or hell just people - don't shoot unarmed people - be they Black, white, brown, purple, yellow, men, or women.
I realize that is not a catch-all, easy to implement solution. Shit happens sometimes that is beyond the control and best intentions of all individuals present. But, this all started with Mike Brown's shooting. All of it. It has morphed into a discussion about Ferguson, the militarization of the police force, and looting and violence. But at its core, this is all because a young, unarmed Black man was gunned down in broad daylight. And…
2. Do not leave said victim rotting in the afternoon sun for hours while never once calling for EMS or even calling in an officer involved shooting immediately.
What kind of inept fuck doesn't radio for immediate assistance AFTER having shot anybody, regardless of the situation. I'm not a cop but that seems like a standard practice. But I'll tell you who doesn't? Somebody who is in the wrong. A police officer who has unlawfully shot a man, realizes it (and likely realizes that he has killed him) does not follow protocol because he's already off the wagon.
3. Once you realize you have created a situation that is unjust and unfair, if you are law enforcement, DO NOT circle the wagons immediately and send a huge fuck you to the community you police by refusing to provide information, transparency, or answers.
The best way to stir unrest is ignore the people you have offended. It's that way in one-on-one relationships, and its especially that way when it comes to police-action where a member of the community has been gunned down. It's been oft-repeated and its true: if this was Mike Brown shooting a cop, he'd be in jail immediately, no questions asked. Flippant statements like, "he was shot at least a couple times , but not much more than a couple" do NOTHING to stem the anger and frustration.
You know what…I lied. The best way to stir unrest….
4. Do not send in what amounts to battle-ready troops to offer "crowd control" while pointing weaponry and running MRAPs through neighborhoods.
If you want to instigate somebody, pointing a gun at them or making them feel occupied is the essence of doing so. How that fact escapes law enforcement is beyond me. I have been on a subway in NYC when the national guard was deployed after 9/11. There is nothing more harrowing than seeing guys looking like they're off to war policing a subway car. The silence of everybody on the train car wasn't because we didn't feel like talking, it was because it seems like these soldiers had license to shoot anybody they deemed suspicious. But at least they weren't pointing them at us. These officers in Ferguson have been pointing guns at people who were peacefully demonstrating. Because why the fuck not?
And why the fuck are the polie wearing fatigues??????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
5. Do not as a mayor or governor of a city or state be cavalier in statements to your constituency.
I have watched video after video of both the mayor (a total douche, by the way) and Governor Jay Nixon (who is having the worst weeks ever) where their defiance flies directly in the face of the people they need to give a shit about. I don't see how any level headed individual, in any capacity, could view the tactics employed by the police as being necessary or just. There are some bad apples out there and they have not helped at all. But this all started with a police officer seemingly overzealously murdering a citizen. That seems to get lost.
6. When finally dispersing requested information, do not ALSO attempt to disparage the name of the victim at the same time.
When even the Governor, who has been no star, questions the necessity of the release by the police department's convenience store tape you've got to acknowledge things have gotten bad. The attempt to make Mike Brown guilty of his own murder is astounding and shameful.
7. When bringing in somebody to suprress the situation - in what seems to be effective in the short-term - do NOT undermine his efforts by instituting a gotdamn curfew.
Nowhere in America does being told told you cannot leave your home for any amount of time constitute effective policing. In fact, its MORE antagonistic. You are not going to get a positive outcome from telling anybody they can't go outside. It doesn't work for children and it especially will not work for adults who want answers and who have been treated unfairly. You've hit people with rubber bullets, tear gas, etc and your solution is to tell those people that they need a curfew imposed on them "so they can get some rest and then return to demonstrating"? Also, Governor Nixon has stated that the only way to get justice is to first have peace. Really? When your government has created the unrest how do you blame the people who are frustrated by it?
8. Do not pretend like a bunch of outside agitators are coming in and destroying the fine fabric of your peaceful city.
I always hate when I read stories that pretend like its always outsiders who come in and rile people up. This was used in the 60s in the South when they pretended like Blacks loved their lot in life in those places and it wasn't until Northerners showed up that the good Blacks started getting ideas. Come the fuck on. America is a boiling cauldron - and always will be - of racial unrest. We're always on the cusp of a Ferguson because so much of our society's unrest is racially tinged. It's baked into the crust of the apple pie that is the American dream. The idea that the problems of the past have somehow disappeared as we've grown as a society is naive and dangerous. The community of Ferguson is fed up. If you prevented everybody from enterting or leaving you'd have the same problems. I wish those in power would just acknowledge that they do indeed have a problem and stop thinking that sending in the fucking national guard, truly there to protect the police not the community, will keep those problems at bay.
Again, I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that it hasn't been all peaches and cream on the non-police side of the fence. There is never an excuse for looting or burning down businesses. There is no real functional positivity that comes from destroying another person's property and livelihood. I get where frustration comes from but that is never an okay response. And I get why the police are losing their shit too. They've been at this for over a week and neither side is letting up. You get a molotov cocktail thrown at you you might over-react.
HOWEVER, to quote some Black person somewhere, "don't start none, won't be none." This was not created by the community. Those policing the community started this and escalated it. And Ferguson's current state is what happens. It's not over yet…but it seems like all we've learned thus far is how NOT to effectively handle or address a situatoin where the people in power and the police have done harm.
Let's pray others are paying attention.