Ferguson Protests

When the world looked at US news last week the coverage was dominated by events in Missouri. For the second time this year the press flooded the airwaves with scenes of chaos and destruction in Ferguson, plus the spillover of protest and violence into other cities. The grand jury decision that found Officer Darren Wilson had acted correctly threw a spotlight on race relations in the USA and prompted a flood of outrage about racist cops and the way black Americans are denied justice.
At least that’s the party line. In reality things are a bit different. From the way the case has been reported you’d think Wilson singled out Michael Brown just because he was black, then staged a public execution for the fun of it. Look at the facts, though – facts that nobody has disputed. Brown and a friend were walking away from the scene of a robbery they’d just committed, stealing a box of cigars from a local store. For reasons unknown they decided to walk down the middle of the road, deliberately disrupting traffic. When Wilson saw them he told them to get on the sidewalk; they refused. Then he realized Brown’s description matched the robbery suspect and spotted the cigars. When he challenged them again events spun out of control, and this is where eyewitness testimony – always the most unreliable kind – gets confused. Wilson says Brown punched him through the car window then tried to grab his handgun. Some witnesses dispute this. However the evidence is clear: Wilson suffered facial injuries, and forensics proves that when the first shot was fired the gun was inside the car and Brown had his hand on it.
So far from a brutal cop singling out an innocent youth going about his business, it turns out Wilson was doing his job – keeping the peace and trying to apprehend criminals. Of course there are bad apples in law enforcement, and of course cops sometimes make a bad decision, but this doesn’t look like one of those times.
Despite the racial conflict stoked up by Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and even Barack Obama, plenty of black Americans recognize that the police have a difficult job to do and mostly only use violence when it’s necessary and justified. The latest to come out in support of Wilson is former NBA star Charles Barkley, who made a strong statement Wednesday condemning those who used the grand jury decision as an excuse for vandalism and pillaging. Calling the rioters “scumbags” Barkley confirmed that he agrees with the verdict, then went on to praise the police for the job they do in maintaining peace.
It’s true that racism still exists in America, but we shouldn’t go looking for it every time an incident like this happens. It’s always a tragedy when a young person is killed but that doesn’t make the deceased blameless. Officer Wilson found himself in a difficult and frightening situation, and exercised his right to defend himself. Going by how many people didn’t feel the need to go out and burn local businesses, most Americans of every race understand that.