We are all outraged by the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. People all across the country have taken to the streets, social media and many other forms of protest to show their outrage.
The one question that I have as I watch video accounts of what is happening on the ground in Ferguson is who is profiting from the tragic loss of life that has occurred in this community. While people are taking to the streets, tearing up their neighborhoods and destroying businesses in Ferguson, there are hundreds of journalists that have embarked on the area who are staying in hotels (outside of Ferguson), renting cars, buying gas (probably outside of Ferguson) and buying food (outside of Ferguson if they want to eat in peace). Some might say that this is a small price to pay in order to expose this tragedy to the world, but the fact that businesses, including many Black businesses, in Ferguson are suffering because a few people choose to riot and commit criminal acts should be of concern to many community leaders.
But let’s take this even a step further. The frustration that the people of Ferguson and St. Louis as a whole have with law enforcement and a legal system that perpetuates disparities in the arrest and incarceration rates of African Americans is something that needs to be addressed. However, while protestors look to make the police and “the system” pay, the protestors who have taken their actions too far by looting, rioting and committing criminal acts just for the sake of doing so have done nothing more than provide “the system” and the officers in question with an opportunity to get paid.
Police officers do not work for free, and when a state of emergency was called by the Governor of Missouri it provided a green light for state and local officials to utilize the necessary resources to get the situation in Ferguson “under control.’ That means that in addition to the local police department having all hands on deck, re-enforcements from the state patrol and other police departments in the area will be on extended duty to support the public safety efforts until the situation in Ferguson is stabilized. All of the police officers involved in this effort will undoubtedly receive a significant number of over-time hours (at least time and a half), which means that they too will financially benefit from the tragic death of Michael Brown.
I’m not opposed to protesting, and I support the efforts of the protestors on the ground in Ferguson. However, I think that the leaders and protestors in Ferguson (or any other city that feels the need to protest injustices) need to have a specific agenda and a strategy for what they are doing. Is it necessary to protest at night? Or can the same results be reached during protests held during the day? At what point of the day do the officers on duty begin to receive over-time pay? Should we hold very vocal protests during the day and hold more toned-down prayer vigils at night? These are some of the questions that I would like the protestors in Ferguson to think about because it is important that they keep their eye on the prize. At the end of the day, we all want justice for Michael Brown. However, the last thing we want to see is police officers taking vacations, buying new cars and getting an unexpected payday on the back of an unarmed Black man that was unjustly gunned down by one of their fellow officers.
Hands up, don’t shoot! Let’s protest, not loot!
Through the eyes of an ink barrel, may peace be unto you!