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Ferguson: A Sharp Divide

By Dane La Born |
Courtesy photo/Shutterstock FERGUSON, Mo. — Demonstrators at the site of destroyed QuikTrip react after Police Chief Thomas Jackson released the name of the officer that shot Michael Brown.

Courtesy photo/Shutterstock
FERGUSON, Mo. — Demonstrators at the site of destroyed QuikTrip react after Police Chief Thomas Jackson released the name of the officer that shot Michael Brown.

As I sit and write this, there have been eight days of protests in Ferguson, Mo., with no signs of anything calming down anytime soon. Sunday night at 2 a.m., governor Jay Nixon signed an order to deploy National Guardsman to the St. Louis suburb, where 18-year-old Mike Brown was killed by an officer of the law.

In response to this, people from all over the U.S. have united in solidarity behind the people of Ferguson, gathering in cities all over the country with their hands up, chanting “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.”

The reality that this is happening in the year 2014 is completely baffling to me. Being a local boy, not born, but mostly raised, it’s just not something I’ve seen in Fayetteville. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, last week’s civil rights ordinance and the city council meeting about it proved to me that just because I don’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I had the hope that things were better here and in our country as a whole than they were in, say, 1964.

Right now, though, there are pictures coming out of Ferguson that are virtually indistinguishable from the civil rights movement. It’s a shocking thing to see, on one side a black and white photo of a cop using a German Shepherd to make a group of protesters back away, and on the other, nearly the exact same in color.

A lot of people my age were mostly unaware of the sharp racial divide the country has. Ferguson has thrown that divide into sharp focus.

The difference between how white and black suspects are treated in this country is staggering. Even the way we report on these things is different. When James Holmes was arrested, after murdering 12 people in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., the media made sure to point out how troubled he was. His emotional difficulties. Painting him as a victim of his own mind.

On the other side of the coin, when Trayvon Martin was killed, they said things about him being suspended for having an empty bag with traces of marijuana in it, and painted him as a miscreant and thug, despite all the reports to the contrary by family and friends.

It says a lot, then, that for once, the media seems to be on the side of the people. That may be impacted largely by the fact that members of the media have had their own run-ins with the police this time around, several members being arrested for heinous crimes such as ‘filming police activity’ (which is legal in all 50 states) and ‘leaving a backpack by the door’ (Um…) among the many arrests made during the protests themselves.

Over the weekend, Governor Jay Nixon instituted a midnight curfew to try and stop the protests, something the ACLU, NAACP, and Amnesty International came out against almost immediately, citing it as unconstitutional. The curfew was rescinded on Monday following escalating protests on Saturday and Sunday nights.

The “hacktivist” group, Anonymous, has also gotten involved in Ferguson, though maybe in the wrong way. They issued a video statement calling on Missouri lawmakers to create “Mike Brown’s Law” to hold police officers accountable for their actions. They also called for a transparent investigation into the death, and threatened the entire department with having their information released if they do not comply or if they step over the line.

All of this was still while there was rioting, so of course, Anonymous followed through and released the supposed name of the officer behind the shooting, but here’s the problem: they got the wrong guy.

Almost immediately after his name was released, Ferguson police department came out and said he wasn’t even a member of their department. The next day, the department announced that Darren Wilson was the officer who had pulled the trigger. Following this, Anonymous quickly released information that might actually be helpful; the dispatch tapes from the day in question.

Rather than threatening innocent people, Anonymous, I hope you have learned that it’s information we want, and that you are capable of providing. Don’t worry about the names, worry about the information. Show us police reports, autopsies, etc. More things like the dispatch tapes.

The situation in Ferguson, at this point, shows no sign of easing or letting up. Though I hope the violent side of things does stop, I hope the protests continue until some change is created. The things I’ve seen coming out of Ferguson have been downright scary, and the militarization of the police force has been the most frightening. There have been mistakes on both sides of this, but the looting and violence seemed to have been mostly relegated to non-locals using the situation to try and take advantage.

The eyes of the world really are on you, Ferguson, and I hope that, this time, something can change.

You can follow Dane on online at http://www.facebook.com/dlaborn

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