My take on the Ferguson events from a while ago

White Police Officer Shoots Unarmed Black Teenager; Becomes Millionaire

Chances are you’re aware that Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot dead by white police officer Darren Wilson in the US town of Ferguson, Missouri in August last year. However, chances are, you’re not as angry about it as you should be.

Well, get angry. Eye witnesses generally report that Brown had his hands raised at the time of the shooting, and it has been confirmed that Brown was shot seven or eight times by Wilson, who fired a total of twelve shots in the overall altercation, which took place over a time period of under 90 seconds.

In other words, a police officer with a gun, a car, and backup on the way attacks an unarmed civilian. Then attacks him again. Pretty much all because said civilian wouldn’t move from the road to the pavement. You angry yet?

Brown was alleged to have stolen a box of cigars from a local shop, after which police were alerted of his suspected theft. However, footage released recently now appears to show that Brown actually paid for the cigars, granting even less credence to the initial behaviour of Wilson. And if you ask me, even if Brown had stolen some cigars, that doesn’t exactly warrant the shooting of someone. And I know I haven’t waded through all the evidence or heard all the accounts (in fact I barely feel qualified to write this piece, given the plethora of information and views on this case), but why not try, maybe, asking the person to calm down, or waiting for your backup to arrive, or, if you really need to, getting out of your car and attempting to handcuff the suspect.

Indeed, stealing a box of cigars hardly seems a crime that one should pay the ultimate price for, in any case – try something more like $48. And given the fact that the US is the only developed country in the Western world where it’s deemed acceptable to kill someone for committing a crime at all, it seems a little blasé of a police officer to contribute to such an unmistakable, unequivocal atrocity as robbing a young black teenager of his life.

Furthermore, even in the US, there are many cases of far worse criminals being taken in alive. Take Jeffrey Dahmer, for instance, a white serial killer who murdered 17 people, beheading many of them, and eating the body parts of others. He fought to resist arrest, but was not harmed, and was taken in alive. Rightfully so. Or take Gary Ridgeway, another white American serial killer, who admitted to murdering at least 71 victims over more than 16 years: again, taken in alive and sentenced accordingly. Rightfully so. Not exactly stealing a box of cigars.

Unfortunately, there are myriad other cases that show racial bias against minorities.

Trayvon Martin, for example, was another black teenager, shot dead by George Zimmerman, who was eventually acquitted of manslaughter, let alone murder.

Zimmerman first alerted the police to Martin’s presence in the area due to “suspicious behaviour”, with Zimmerman citing that Martin was “just walking around”. Ooh, suspicious. Despite the fact that Martin lived in the area.

Police told Zimmerman not to pursue Martin, but the black teenager was eventually shot from a distance of 70 yards away, after supposedly having a violent encounter with Zimmerman. Zimmerman was found not guilty due to the existence of self-defence and “Stand Your Ground” laws in Florida, despite Martin being unarmed, 70 yards away, and initially entirely justified in his actions and position.

Or take the case of Eric Garner, another black man, this time killed by the use of a banned chokehold by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo.

Garner was wrestled to the floor by several officers despite backing away from them while asking the officers not to touch him, and being unarmed – video of the footage can be seen online.

Garner was alleged to have been illegally selling cigarettes, an accusation he refuted, telling police officers to “leave him alone” and stop “harassing” him. However, he was tackled to the floor, and Pantaleo’s headlock was eventually said to have been the cause of his death, with Pantaleo also holding Garner’s head to the pavement, despite four other officers also assisting in the arrest of the man and Garner telling officers “I can’t breathe” no less than nine – yes, nine – times.

A grand jury has since decided not to indict Pantaleo. Amazingly. Although I suppose these things should no longer amaze us, really, so dire has the situation become.

Or how about Tamir Rice, the 12 year old black boy shot twice in two seconds at a range of less than ten feet by police officer Timothy Loehmann for having a toy gun on his person in a local park, despite not pointing the toy at Loehmann, and being in a state which legally allows people to have firearms on their person in public. Loehmann had a history of poor firearm use, and had been identified as an emotionally unstable officer.

The examples are plentiful. At time of writing, since the murder of Michael Brown, there hasn’t been a single week in the USA when a police officer hasn’t killed a black person, and a recent reported estimated that security officers kill one black person every 28 hours in America. The most recent of these monstrosities involved “Africa”, a homeless man murdered by the LAPD. His execution can be seen on YouTube. This bullshit is widespread.

Stereotyping is bad enough on any level, but when it results in deaths, it is unacceptable. Especially when those deaths come from the police themselves. No ifs, no buts. Unacceptable.

Indeed, several eye witnesses in the Ferguson case state that Wilson started an altercation between himself and Brown through the window of his police car, reaching for Brown and grabbing his neck, and that Wilson pursued Brown even while he was trying to flee the scene, shooting at him and ultimately killing him. Justifiable? Never.

Never.

Never should someone employed to uphold the law and its justice flaunt it so fantastically. When police officers start committing crime – and getting away with it – it is time to realise that something is wrong in society. It is not even worth me describing the wrongdoings of Wilson or the issues with the whole shooting here: there are too many to know where to begin. It is suffice to say, though, that Wilson was both extremely incompetent and racially motivated in his actions. Not exactly qualities we like to see anywhere in society, let alone in the police, who are supposed to help protect society and keep it free from wrongs or prejudices or unfairness.

Whether police should even be armed is another debate entirely, but it certainly would have prevented several recent murders in the US.

Now, you might think that this is a problem confined to the US, and that police brutality doesn’t occur on this scale in good old Blighty, where our coppers are all right, hard-working people who do their best with a difficult job. And some of them are. But you still might like to think again on that one.

There have been multiple cases of police officers murdering civilians in the UK, perhaps most notably the case of Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian man who was misidentified as a terrorist and subsequently shot once in the shoulder and seven times in the head.

But, arguably, the crimes themselves aren’t even the worst part, especially in the case of the Ferguson shooting.

Worse has been the reaction to the event. Take unfair curfews, oppression and aggression towards protesters, victim blaming reports, corrupt trials and incorrect information being given to juries. And, worst of all, take the treatment of Darren Wilson.

Instead of being arrested or held in custody or put in jail, Wilson was given leave from his job. Paid leave. Allowing him to earn money provided by the state for shooting an unarmed teenager. I’ll repeat that. Darren Wilson shot a man, was then given “administrative leave” from his position due to these circumstances, and was subsequently paid by the taxpayer for this. Because he was a police officer. Angry yet?

Since then, Wilson has racked up an even larger pile of cash. Support groups for Wilson (yes, these exist) have raised in excess of half a million dollars for the poor, poor, blameless officer. And Wilson has since given interviews to American television channels – he’s almost a celebrity! Undoubtedly he’ll have received huge fees for his interviews, likely firmly camped in six-figures, with the fee for his ABC interview allegedly totalling $500 000. Wilson may thus even be a millionaire.

Wilson has since resigned from the police force. He will probably never have to work another day in his life. Because he shot an unarmed teenager. Wilson says his resignation is due to threats that his police department has received, and that he is “not willing to let someone else get hurt because of me.” Ironic doesn’t even begin to cover that, does it? I won’t bother asking if you’re angry yet.

And what can we do about it, I hear you ask? Well, protesting, petitions and political pressure are certainly a start. But if we really want to get rid of police brutality or racially motivated attacks or corrupt investigations or any of the rest of it, we need something akin to a revolution.

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Author: Jack Taylor

Hey, I'm Jack, a 19 year old English student at the University of Nottingham. Writing goes from creative fiction to serious non-fiction. Hope you enjoy :)

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