Well! Finally – some concrete evidence emerges about what happened the day Michael Brown was shot by a Ferguson police officer – his name revealed today to be Darren Wilson – (not the Darren Wilson who is the president of the Ethical Society of Police, who has been with the St. Louis Police Department since 1996. There was some confusion about that on Facebook, and at least one blogger jumped the gun and reported that it was that Darren Wilson before all the facts were known.)
I’ve refrained from writing about the incident thus far because with only limited information and no evidence to go on, I felt there was little for me to say – other than to comment on the appalling riots and looting that happened in its wake, and the bad actions of a few police officers – something hundreds of other blogs were already commenting on. Even the disturbing militarization of the police I felt might be somewhat justifiable in an instance of massive civil unrest like this one. I don’t like to waste everyone’s time being Captain Obvious – “looting is bad!” , “destruction of public property is bad!” “Arresting reporters for no good reason is bad!” So much distressing news – even a potentially positive story – like the one about the decent people who came out to clean up after the riots, was marred by the ugly racial animus that has so poisoned the nation since the “post racial president” was elected: Volunteers Clean Up at Ferguson QuikTrip, Get Yelled At for “Helping the White Man.” Ugh.
Anyway, I don’t know why it took this long for the surveillance video to come out. I think it would have made a huge difference in how the community reacted to the shooting because it sheds important light on the altercation that led to Brown’s death. Brown wasn’t stopped for no good reason – he was stopped by a cop responding to a 911 call because Brown was suspected of robbing a convenience store. The witness to the shooting (whose story never sounded plausible to me) had every reason to lie about the altercation because he was an accomplice to the crime.
Had the surveillance video come out right away, would we have seen the social unrest in Ferguson we’ve been seeing for the past week?
John Hayward, The Conversation: The Ferguson story changes dramatically:
“I think [the robbery and the shooting] are two separate issues,” Captain Johnson said today, as reported by Mediaite. “People in our country commit crimes every day. I don’t want to mix the two, I’m not going to say that one justifies the other, and I think if we’re going to give answers, we need to not give hints. We need to say it.”
Again, with all due respect, this is sheer nonsense. Of course it’s hugely relevant that Brown was the suspect in a robbery, and was seen to use physical violence to pull it off. The story that sparked riots in Ferguson was that gentle, sweet, innocent, wouldn’t-hurt-a-fly Brown was just walking down the street when the cop pulled up and gunned him down for no reason at all. Brown had his hands up, and was trying to be nice, but the cop blew him away, shot him in the back, emptied God knows how many bullets into him. We were told over and over that Brown was a great kid, and it was utterly inexplicable that a police officer would confront him at random – well, explicable only by vile racism, that is.
As for whether the police should be “giving hints”… good Lord, Captain Johnson, the police have been tackled and pummeled by the combined force of the entire U.S. media establishment and excoriated for not saying anything about the case. They were taking heat for their silence less than 24 hours after the shooting. The police department is currently being made to look like bumbling fools, stormtrooper wannabees who had to be sent to the showers while the state Highway Patrol takes over. A billion editorial pixels have been spilled on roasting the police merely for being slow to release the name of the officer involved, even though the threat to his safety was palpable.
One important point is this: I am getting very tired of the “teenager”meme from the media.
Michael Brown was 6’4″ and 300 pounds. He was, physically, a full-grown man. (Well, maybe he might have grown a bit more to 6’5″, but certainly he was more fully grown than 90% of men on the planet.)
It is time for the media to stop peddling this deliberately misleading descriptor, which they know:
1. Suggests a thin, awkward whelp, as most “teenagers” are. The description suggests child. Whereas an older teenager is in fact usually a full-grown man.
2. Suggests, without actually saying so, that the “teenager” musthave been shot maliciously, because certainly a full-grown cop doesn’t need to resort to deadly force to restrain a “teenager” — again, the image in our heads is of a thin, gawky 14-year-old whose voice is just beginning to change.
These situations are always heavily dependent on facts, and it’s well past time the media began getting the facts right, without resorting to deliberately-misleading carnival-barking and deceptive hype.
The Hill: Police chief rips Obama remarks:
The executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police criticized President Obama Thursday for his remarks about law enforcement in Ferguson, Mo.
“I would contend that discussing police tactics from Martha’s Vineyard is not helpful to ultimately calming the situation,” director Jim Pasco said in an interview with The Hill.
“I think what he has to do as president and as a constitutional lawyer is remember that there is a process in the United States and the process is being followed, for good or for ill, by the police and by the county and by the city and by the prosecutors’ office,” Pasco added.