Ferguson: Freedom of speech not freedom of destruction
Impatience and social anxiety turned violent on Monday when protestors took to the streets of Ferguson, Missouri after a grand jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black male.
Immediately after the decision, rioters began looting shops and setting fire to police vehicles and several buildings. It is important to note that not all parts of Ferguson were in turmoil but still there was no shortage of violence.
Ferguson officials prepared for chaotic aftermath as police officers were spread throughout the city reinforced with shields, extra body armor, and tear gas primarily centered on the Ferguson Police Department. At the conclusion of the night, cars and buildings had been burned, glass had been shattered, and 61 arrests had been made according to multiple reports including CNN.
“What we saw tonight was much worse than what we saw any night in August,” stated the St. Louis County Police Department on their Facebook page. “Bricks were thrown at police officers, two St. Louis County police cars were set on fire and police seized an automatic weapon.”
The disappointment turned to anger is comprehendible as many who felt the unarmed Brown was wrongfully killed only wanted to make their opinions and disapproval with the decision known, and there is no wrong in wanting to be heard.
However, the violence that ensued- while many feel it was the only way to grasp the attention of those who supported the decision- borders on the nonsensical and goes against many of the ideals of past civil rights leaders, Martin Luther King Jr. being the most notable.
In a culture desperate for instant gratification, violence is often the first option taken when certain social grievances are not addressed. While topics such as tuition increases for University of California schools tend to garner calmer backlash (if there is such a thing) from the opposition, cultural and sociological protests like the Michael Brown case, seem to lack the organization protests need to have in order to be taken seriously. Yes, burning down cars and tearing down buildings will turn heads but acts such as those only come off as desperate and impulsive, and serve no progress in the issue at hand.
When activists wanted to end segregation certain groups decided on violence as their ally, but it was those same groups who made themselves look no better than the "outside agitators" they had been deemed as. What really helped achieve integration was the patience, persistence, and civility that was expressed by King and his allies when fighting for what they wanted.
Of course, the Michael Brown case differs from segregation as Ferguson's protesters are not up against any form of law or widespread division. This is about one case that becomes a part of many within the issue of inequality that all minorities agree exists.
Violent action, though, is not just senseless: it is irresponsible, embarrassing, and pointless for those who feel they are "standing up for what they believe in." When a white man kills a Hispanic or black man, the race card gets pulled out quicker than the killing itself. The same reaction takes place when a police officer interrogates or uses violent action against what he/she feels is a gang affiliated pedestrian. The same things are said. They were innocent. They were judged too quickly. They abused their power.
But what happens when a Hispanic or African American gang decides they want to take the lives of bystanders, at times children who get caught in the crossfire, who may not have anything to do with the gang at all? What happens when the same people criticizing law enforcement are the same ones who choose to turn a blind eye to the crimes taking place on streets everyday?
According to a National Gang Threat Assessment by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2011, gang members are responsible for approximately 48 percent of violent crime, while some regions including California have attributed up to 90 percent of crime to street gangs.
"Street gangs are involved in a host of violent criminal activities, including assault, drug trafficking, extortion, firearms offenses, home invasion robberies, homicide, intimidation, shootings, and weapons trafficking," according to the website.
As of 2011, the national gang center reports that Hispanics and African Americans combine to make up 81 percent of gang members in the country.
As a member of the Hispanic community I would not find it right to take violent action as a form of protest against unlawful treatment towards Hispanics as it has been proven that in some cases we provide the injustice. Sure, we can continue saying that the authorities are supposed to protect us, that unfair treatment from them is not justifiable in any way and that the death of Michael Brown broke a code of law.
Rev. Al Sharpton, speaking for Michael Brown and his family told CNN "We may have lost round one, but the fight is not over." He said this while also taking his stance against violent protest and crime.
Protesters need to understand that although they may be unsatisfied for the moment, the change they long for will take much more time. Great changes have always taken years if not decades to be implemented. This is the history of the world.
King and his allies were ridiculed, ignored, mislead, and thrown in jail many times over, yet they remained focused and though it took longer than they had hoped for, they ultimately prevailed. Violence won't slow the process down, but it won't help either. It is the cheapest form of protest, and the people contributing to it, probably shouldn't have the right to protest in the first place.