October 2014
Billie Silvey
The police were let off.  

Now we have another chance to make things
right.  The Justice Department intends to
launch a civil rights
investigation of the
Ferguson police.  

I was glad that the Attorney General was
himself African American.  
Eric Holder's
department had already issued a report
charging that the Albuquerque Police
Department “repeatedly used deadly and
excessive force when there was no imminent
threat to them or the community."  

However, Holder recently resigned, and we
can only hope that his successor will
continue his emphasis on police justice.

The use of the police force as an occupying
army instead of a community service
organization didn’t help.  The gifts of
military
surplus to police forces doesn't, either.  
According to Amanda Marcotte, "The
Ferguson police responded to protesting
residents like they were retaking Fallujah."   

"Then, when state troopers succeeded in
calming things down for a night, the
Ferguson police released the surveillance
video from that convenience store, as though
trying to make the case that Michael Brown
had it coming, which enraged local residents
and started a new cycle of unrest."

In fact, from 2006-2010, a white police officer
killed a black person at least twice a week in
the U.S., according to Lucas Jackson.

It is not right when one part of the community
can teach their children that the policeman is
their friend, while another part must caution
theirs that the police are out to get them.

Meanwhile, over the weekend after the killing,
Officer
Darren Wilson, who pulled the trigger,
made more money on his GoFundMe pages
than the President makes in a year.  

Racial profiling is still happening.  If people
have to protest the killing of an unarmed
youth by the very people charged with their
protection, if people are afraid of the police
just because of the color of their skin, can we
really say we have justice in America?

I am not a member of a minority.  I am just a
white American grandmother who would like
to see our country finally become for all
people what it has always promised to be—a
place of life, liberty and justice for all.

When
Martin Luther King and his entourage
walked the litter-strewn streets of Watts, they
had a memorable conversation with a hostile
youth. “We won,” the youth exclaimed.

King recoiled at the youth’s ebullience. “How
have you won?" he asked.  "Homes have
been destroyed, Negroes are lying dead in
the streets, the stores from which you buy
food and clothes are destroyed, and people
are bringing you relief.”

The youth’s answer both startled and
enlightened King. “We won because we
made the whole world pay attention to us.
The police chief never came here before; the
mayor always stayed uptown. We made them
come.”  

That should never be what it takes to have  
justice in America.
To
Protect
And
Serve
The Watts Riots broke out, among other
reasons, as a result of white officers policing
a predominantly African-American part of the
city.  The same thing happened in Ferguson.

The Los Angeles police department at the
time of the Watts riots was 95% white and
5% black.  The Watts community was
overwhelmingly African-American.  

The
Ferguson police were 94% white and 6%
black, while their community was 69% black
and 29% white.

The Watts Riots started when
Marguette Frye,
a 21-year-old black man, was arrested.  His
mother tore the shirt of one of the officers.  In
response, the police struck Marquette in the
head with a nightstick and called out the
National Guard.

Media reports of the incident in Ferguson
repeatedly pointed out that Michael Brown
was both "big" and "black," as though either
were illegal, immoral or a risk to society.

Michael Brown had no adult criminal record,
and his relatives told reporters that he didn’t
have one as a juvenile, either.

It’s not that it hadn’t happened to people who
happened to be in the minority before.  I knew
about several cases, and I knew people who
knew about many more.  Still, the police
never admitted it.

When I was teaching a Wednesday night
Bible class at the Vermont Avenue church,
one of our young Hispanic men came to
class with his head heavily bandaged.  

When I asked about it, he explained that he
and his cousin had gone to a movie and
were sitting on a bus bench on their way
home when police attacked them and
pushed his head into the concrete bench.
The cry of Ferguson citizens, "Hands up, don't shoot."  The cry expresses both their attitudes and their
fears.   
The inequity is obvious in this scene of an unarmed community member confronted by police in riot gear.
In 1991’s Rodney King incident, I was sure
things would change.  There was
documented proof that the police had beaten
a young black men.  You could watch the
blows fall over and over on the video.  Now  
surely justice would be served.

But the
trial was moved out to the suburbs,
and the jury appeared to buy the intricate
story of how each blow was a measured
response to an attempt by King to get away.