It’s hard to label the jury’s decision on the Ferguson matter as anything but a huge miscarriage of justice. Somehow, the scales of justice deemed that murdering an unarmed teenager as an offence that someone can get away with scot-free. Perhaps owning a shield-shaped badge allows an individual to transcend what mere American civilians would consider justice.
I’m not surprised to hear that the Brown family said they were “crushed” by the verdict; it’s hard to think of how it would feel to know that one of your family members was killed for completely senseless reasons, and then the courts fail to deliver the justice that they, and their deceased son, certainly deserve.
Indeed, it seems to be a common theme in America that when it is an African-American who is the victim, people often turn a blind eye to the murderer. Both the case of Michael Brown and Travyon Martin can testify to this, and it shows how the land of the free still needs to make a hefty amount of progress before it can actually hold true to its name.
I’m thankful however that many people are engaging in peaceful action against the jury’s decision. Indeed, only this week was I walking past the steps of the Parkinson Building at the University of Leeds to find scores of people holding placards in solidarity with Michael Brown, Travyon Martin, Mark Duggan and other victims of police brutality. Further to this, there was a huge march in London, where the wounds of the Mark Duggan verdict are still very much evident, in solidarity as well. Certainly a much better way to voice the rightful outrage that many of us feel, in contrast to the senseless riots that we saw wrecking Ferguson.
However, on the topic of the Ferguson riots, I found myself more troubled by the police reaction than the riots themselves. Troops have now moved into Ferguson in an attempt to restore peace, but I’d be surprised if anyone could tell the difference between armed soldiers and the police force in Ferguson. The images that terrify me most from the riots are police officers, dressed in what could easily pass for a military uniform, carrying assault rifles and other dangerous weaponry taking on the protestors, armoured vehicles in tow. This excessive militarisation of law enforcement is not the way to go about quelling rioters, and the continued unrest in Ferguson shows this.
Considering that the police show no sign of giving up, and that the National Guard have been called in, I have the feeling that the Michael Brown case won’t be the only example of how there is an inherent problem in the way American deals with racial crime. Furthermore, no doubt with the police force becoming a carbon copy of a standing army, we may see the number of victims of police brutality steadily rise.
I can only hope that the people peacefully protesting across America, and indeed in places like Leeds and London back here in the UK, manage to actually to strike a chord with American politicians. The United States cannot afford to see another repeat of Ferguson in what is already a long and tragic line of African Americans who were unjustly murdered at the hands of those who supposedly protect and serve.
By Rory Claydon