At the outset — I confess to simmering all week long — on this topic. . . in a slow angry boil. . . We, as Americans, do have a right to know the identity of any agent, acting under color of government authority — who shoots an unarmed citizen (especially a young one) dead.
IT is five days late in coming, but now we know. How much tear gas could have been avoided, had the police chief of Ferguson simply done his constitutional duty in a timely fashion? Would the second shooting have been avoided? Who can say? But this is not 1963 — even as the Gray Lady shows us images which eerily echo that awful time (at right, with permission). Her its editorial page is spot on:
. . . .Higher authorities wisely stepped into the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo., on Thursday after a night that startled the nation with images of police overkill: flash grenades, rubber bullets and huge clouds of tear gas fired at demonstrators protesting the police shooting Saturday of an unarmed black teenager.
Gov. Jay Nixon — after keeping a low profile for too long — made an urgent tour of the town and replaced local police officers with the Missouri State Highway Patrol. He gave the Highway Patrol an order that should have been given over the weekend: Let protesters who are angry about the shooting protest peacefully, without aggressive demands to disperse, as is their constitutional right.
It’s time to make sure, he said, “that we allow peaceful and appropriate protests, that we use force only when necessary, that we step back a little bit and let some of the energy be felt in this region appropriately.”
Earlier in the day, President Obama denounced tactics of “excessive force” by the police and the “bullying” and arrest of journalists trying to cover the news. He said the federal investigation into the incident, which began earlier this week, must determine exactly what happened to Michael Brown, the 18-year-old shooting victim.
Local authorities, including the police, have “a responsibility to be open and transparent about how they are investigating that death and how they are protecting the people in their communities,” Mr. Obama said, noting the “violent turn” in street confrontations that have been seen on screens around the world. . . .
Restoring a sense of justice will not be an easy task in the town of 21,000, which is 69 percent black yet remains under white government leadership. While authorities have the right to respond forcefully to looting and violent rioting, the unyielding use of military tactics and abusive behavior have widened that rift. Once the tear gas has dissipated, Mr. Nixon and Mr. Obama have an obligation to ensure that a real dialogue begins in Ferguson and other racially segregated areas, in hopes of keeping armored vehicles off the streets of America. . . .
On Monday night, a man was shot with a tear gas canister when he would not “immediately vacate” his own back yard. His own property. Every citizen has a right to peacefully stand safely on their own property — even in protest — and yes, even to heckle the police, so long as no call for violence in made. And, let’s be honest — he would not have even been there — in all likelihood, shouting — had the police chief done his duty — and released the name. We as a nation need to remember that.
UPDATED 08.15.2014 @ 5:00 PM EDT:This is deeply disturbing — if Officer Darren Wilson did not know this when he shot Mr. Brown, what possible reason is there for releasing the security camera footage? It cannot “justify” the shoot — in any manner: . . .Police Chief Thomas Jackson said the officer did not know the teen was a robbery suspect at the time of the shooting and stopped Michael Brown and a companion “because they were walking down the middle of the street blocking traffic. . . .” There is simply no excuse for using deadly force — to clear even a crowded street — in a traffic stop. NONE. And this one wasn’t at all crowded.
UPDATED 08.15.2014 @Noon EDT: It would seem that the local police have released stills from a store security camera suggesting that the decedent may have earlier been involved in what amounted to stealing several packs of Swishers (retail value about $15), from a convenience store. It would also seem that the decedent was identified by the officer who ultimately shot him to death, while driving northbound on West Florissant, as matching that description.
Even assuming all of the above is true, there is (in my experienced opinion) no arguable basis for the use of deadly force, and certainly not in the manner as described by three separate eye-witnesses on the scene, in real time.
Deadly force — used, and used repeatedly, as the man was surrendering — with his hands up, facing the officer — and the officer kept firing? For $15 worth of Swishers!? This cannot be the America I was raised in. This IMO is not going to calm the fears of most of the people living in the community — that there are two standards of policing in Ferguson — one for white people — one for brown and black.
So it goes. Let tomorrow be a better day in America — for us all. We are all much better than this. Much better.