People walk through the streets after a standoff with police during a protest for Michael Brown in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Politicians, candidates for elected office, clergymen, and residents in the DMV have strong opinions regarding the situation in Ferguson, Mo. The reaction to the killing of African-American Michael Brown by a White police officer has ignited a national debate about the relationship between Blacks and law enforcement agencies. The Ferguson police have responded to unruly protestors with military-style equipment some commentators say is more appropriate in Afghanistan than in the small Midwestern city.
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) thinks that a military response to civilian unrest is inappropriate. “Spotty looting in a suburban community produced armored trucks, military combat weapons, and police dressed to kill, who resemble the personnel we see in Afghanistan,” Norton said. “To make matters worse, there appeared to be no civilian control of the police by the appropriate elected officials. Where were the locally elected administration and the governor while the police took control the streets?”
The Rev. Graylan Hagler, senior minister of the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ and an independent candidate for an at-large seats on the D.C. Council in November, recently expressed his feelings regarding the situation in Ferguson. “War in Gaza, War in Ferguson – same thing – people fighting against racism, militarization and occupation,” he tweeted.
Khalid Pitts, also an independent at-large candidate for the council, said “With the shooting of Michael Brown at the hands of Darren Wilson, we have been painfully reminded that not every citizen in our country has the same security walking down the street. Unfortunately, for people of color, being fearful of the police is a part of daily life. We need to assert that all lives matter.”
Laurel, Md. resident, the Rev. Dr. Ronald E. Braxton, a presiding elder of the Potomac District in the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church, grew up in the Black civil rights era. He said, “A big part of the crisis in Ferguson stems from the lack of home grown leadership in the community. I don’t think a township where African-American’s are two-thirds the majority, having limited to no representation in city government, reflects strong leadership.”
Students and alum from Howard University have joined the Ferguson community to stand against the racial backlash. In response to the death of Michael Brown, Howard students have united to post a photo on social media with their hands up, and held a rally against police brutality during the week of Aug. 10. The Howard University Student Association will hold a meeting Aug. 21 to determine 10 economic impact items to be used to draw attention to the movement, according to a press release.
Joi Ridley, 2003 Howard alum, said that while announcing a vigil she heard “a lot of different response, diverse responses based on individual concern. One thing is common – looking for a solution, so that we don’t keep coming back to this same place over and over again.”
Langley Park resident and mother of a 2-year-old son, Dwelley Gardiner, said “What happened in Ferguson can happen anywhere. It saddens me that I have to teach my son to be scared of the police. They are supposed to be here to protect us. Michael Brown’s death is not the first and he won’t be the last, there is no way to put an end to racism.”
Although many in Prince George’s County are outraged by the actions of Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, there are those who support the officer. “African-Americans tend only to be upset when a White person kills a Black person, but Black on Black crime happens more often, where are the protests then?” said Zachary Crawford, a White Suitland resident.
Jonathan Weaver, pastor of Greater Mt. Nebo A.M.E. Church in Upper Marlboro, is one of many clergy outraged by the case. “Out of this tragedy will come a desire in the African-American community to groom candidates for elected office who have the best interests of our people at heart,” Weaver said. “Citizens are not doing enough, they need to mobilize politically and take control of their own community.”
AFRO D.C. Editor LaTrina Antoine and Senior Correspondent Zenitha Prince contributed to this article.