Smoke fills the streets as some buildings are on fire after the announcement of the grand jury decision Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. A grand jury has decided not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown, the unarmed, black 18-year-old whose fatal shooting sparked sometimes violent protests. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Time and time again we destroy our own neighborhoods when something terrible happens. We did it in Detroit, we did in Los Angeles, we did it in Baltimore. And now, we’re doing it again in Ferguson now that Darren Wilson was not indicted in the shooting death of Michael Brown.
Let’s be clear. We are not the only ones who riot. Winning a basketball or hockey championship is often reason enough for people to take the streets and start destroying things. But come on. It’s not right then and it’s not right now.
Peaceful protesters took to the streets all across the country from South Los Angeles to Philadelphia. But when Brown’s stepfather Louis Head started yelling “Burn this [expletive deleted] down” while pointing at police headquarters right after the announcement that Wilson would not be indicted, an already anxious crowd began to destroy stores, fire guns and burn cars.
The facts of the case are horrifying: Michael Brown, a 18 year-old unarmed teenager, was gunned down by Darren Wilson on a hot summer day. According to Wilson’s recently released grand jury testimony, after struggling with Brown through the police car window he fired his weapon multiple times. When Brown began to depart, for reasons unclear, he turned around and allegedly charged at the officer. Brown wound up dead on the street and remained there, uncovered, for hours.
Brown joins the list of unarmed young Black men killed by police officers including Akai Gurley, Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell. As Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, said in a statement after the grand jury decision, “The grand jury’s decision does not negate the fact that Michael Brown’s tragic death is part of an alarming national trend of officers using excessive force against people of color, often during routine encounters. Yet in most cases, the officers and police departments are not held accountable.”
It’s time to reverse this national trend. We must start holding the police accountable for these crimes. Burning down the block is a frivolous waste and is clearly not the answer.