As the Michael Brown controversy continues to garner extensive coverage in major media outlets, the town of Ferguson, Missouri will surely never be the same. 18-year-old Brown was shot and killed by police officer, Darren Wilson, after a physical altercation, according to St. Louis County Police Chief Joe Belmar in a news conference the day after the killing. Brown had robbed a convenience store earlier that morning, obtaining Swisher Sweet cigars with another companion. In the days following Brown’s death, a candlelight vigil held in his name turned into a violent riot and loot.
As the violence and protests continued, the St. Louis Police force responded with armed cars, bulletproof vests, helmets, tear gas, and ultimately an impending front of complete intimidation. On Thursday, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced “that the Missouri Highway Patrol will take control of security in Ferguson and that the unit in the embattled town would be overseen by Capt. Ron Johnson, who was born and raised near the community,” according to USA Today.
While off to a promising start, Capt. Johnson’s honeymoon period of leadership with the protesters lasted a mere day. On Friday night, the protesters began to clash with the officers and more armored cars and tear gas were brought onto the scene.
On Saturday, Gov. Nixon issued a state of emergency for the Ferguson area and imposed a curfew from midnight to 5 a.m. Gov. Nixon said at a Saturday afternoon press conference, “if we’re going to have justice, we must first have and maintain peace.”
While there are many opinions and interpretations of the Brown killing, speculation seems to be the name of the game. On one hand, Brown is painted as an innocent, unarmed, young, African American man that was about to attend college at the end of the summer. On the other hand, he is also portrayed as a violent, “thug” by the police released photos of him robbing the convenience store, and allegedly intimidating a store worker on his way out.
Regardless of the version of Brown you choose to believe, people have been following the news coverage searching for a reason to brand Brown as good or bad. People wonder whose fault Brown’s death was. Perhaps Brown for stealing and allegedly provoking a police officer? Or, was it Wilson’s fault for shooting an unarmed citizen who was allegedly surrendering? Or, is there more to the alleged confrontation that would help contribute to Brown’s innocent characterization or even contribute to Brown’s negative characterization? The word “alleged” is used too many times in these questions. They are essentially questions with no answers. Those choosing Team Brown or Team Wilson seem to be missing the immediate implications of this tragedy completely.
The Washington Post reports the differing viewpoints of the tragic incident and believes that the many gaps in what happened between Wilson and Brown could be an inciting factor of the riots, protests, and lootings. “Police and witnesses have offered very different accounts of what happened Saturday in suburban St. Louis. The account offered by police described a physical confrontation between Brown and Wilson that involved a struggle over the officer’s gun. But the version described by Johnson has Wilson confronting Brown before shooting him as he tried to surrender.”
The Washington Post also reports “the witness said Brown did not reach for Wilson’s weapon. After offering updates in news conferences in the days after the shooting, police largely stopped providing new details. Authorities repeatedly declined to say how many times Brown was shot or where on his body he was struck. Belmar did say Brown was hit “multiple times” and died about 35 feet from the police car where the confrontation occurred. This lack of information was fueling much of the frustration in Ferguson, residents said.”
Based on this information, it is no surprise that the citizens of Ferguson took to the streets so immediately. They seem in distress regarding the lack of information available. Answers are not being given to them. However, it seems that the definite answers that the people of Ferguson are searching for are nonexistent.
The differing opinions make for a “he said, she said” type of account of the incident. The uncertainty of the event combined with the certainty of the ending (Brown’s death) is confusing for those involved.
Alas, Ferguson must try to quell the uprisings of those who seek the truth. Unfortunately, the truth cannot be immediately found, if found at all. Ferguson must put the search for the truth on the back burner and focus all of its power and attention on the horrendously, dangerous atmosphere that this town has allowed.
Mob mentality is currently rampant through the streets of Ferguson. Mob mentality, also referred to as herd mentality, is when people ban together, ultimately losing their sense of individuality in the process. Standing with those who are frustrated at the same thing for similar reasons provides those people with a sense of strength that is absent when standing alone.
As the mob begins to take on an “us vs. them” mentality, which can be referred to as “protesters vs. police” in this particular situation, the situation at hand can escalate and become dangerous. This is exactly what is happening in Ferguson. People are lost, confused, and saddened by the killing of Brown. Instead of grieving peacefully and waiting for answers, it seems that some citizens of Ferguson believe that looting, rioting, and vandalizing are their only hopes.
I personally think it is maddening to hear of these violent protesters’ behavior. Their dangerous activities are only further spiraling Ferguson into a darker place than it already was immediately following the killing of Brown. The people of Ferguson have so many options other than resorting to rioting and looting.
The reputation that these violent protesters are giving their town in its time of need is one that is viewed upon with a harsh sense of discontent by the rest of the country. As the rioting and looting continue, it seems that the citizens of Ferguson almost have nothing better to do. They are using Brown’s death as an excuse to wreak havoc among their own town. Rather than pushing for a type of social change or reform that is generally present in protests, they are resorting to violence and uprisings in the name of Brown. It seems as if the protesters of Ferguson were just waiting for an opportunity to fight and misbehave. Frankly, they are turning a tragic death of a young man into a bigger and more dangerous situation than it needs to be.
In the end, the violent protesters of Ferguson are only hurting themselves.
I understand the uncertainty and confusion they feel, but I don’t understand the horrible choices they are making in response to it. As a nation, we must stand idly by on the sidelines, letting the mob mentality take its course.
Until the people of Ferguson come to their senses and realize that violence is not the answer, and the public decides to stop trying to brand Brown as good or bad, the issues in Ferguson will continue to be lost causes that are tragic, hopeless, and disappointing.