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‘Burn this bitch down!’

Fergusonburns

(Image: Whitney Curtis, New York Times)

Such predictable results in Ferguson, Mo., last night. Did anyone really think Officer Darren Wilson would be indicted for killing Michael Brown? How many times can you remember when a police officer was indicted for killing someone, black or white, armed or unarmed?

And did anyone really think rioting and burning wouldn’t follow the announcement, whatever it was? History strongly suggests rioting would have occurred no matter what the grand jury decided. We’ve seen it so often — riot, loot, and burn when you’re angry; riot, loot, and burn when you’re celebrating.

Continued sympathy for Ferguson and what happened there is evaporating. There’s no excuse for lawlessness, whether it’s perpetrated by residents or by outsiders who come in. It’s stupid to burn your own community (or your brother’s), to loot and destroy the businesses of neighbors who had nothing to do with the perceived injustice. Why ensure that poverty and joblessness and anger and hopelessness continue?

They want “justice to be served,” but they keep committing their own injustice against their neighbors. Brown’s mother spoke so often of wanting peace and justice, yet when the grand jury’s decision was announced, Brown’s stepdad, Louis Head, turned to the crowd and began chanting, “Burn this bitch down!”

Yeah, that’ll teach ’em. That’ll bring peace and justice.

It does no good for leaders to come out after the fact and say Head was just distraught and emotional. Head didn’t torch the cars and businesses last night. Others did. Just as they have before. And just as they will again.

The outrage is understandable. The lawlessness that always follows is not.

32 Comments »

  1. You said “bitch!” 😉

    Yeah, it has never made a lick of sense to me. Destroying the very neighborhood you live in and those people and businesses that had nothing to do with the problem at hand. And it is pretty much emotions out of control – and that video really shows that. His anger and frustration welled up so much while holding his wife (assuming that is his wife, Michael’s mother) and feeling her pain, that he erupted and reacted purely on emotion. Temper tantrums are never the way to solve problems – like shutting down the government. Nor is violence. Bombing abortion clinics because you’re pro-life never made sense to me either.

    I actually thought there may be a slight possibility that they would at least send the officer to trial – there is plenty of evidence, much of it conflicting, that really needs to be brought forth in a court of law.

    But alas, the police won again.

    • Yes, I said “bitch.” An edited direct quote is no longer a direct quote, in my opinion. And yes, that’s Michael Brown’s mother in the video (tan jacket).

      I, too, thought maybe, just maybe, this time an officer might go to trial; all the evidence I heard indicated a jury trial was warranted. I also hoped that maybe, just maybe, this time things would be different, that we’d be amazed and admiring as the crowd stayed peaceful. But no, they reverted to form.

      Nothing that happened last night surprised me. I wanted to be surprised.

  2. Judging from commentary by lawyers, Missouri has particularly protective law that give police the benefit of the doubt in confrontations. What black leaders ought to be saying to their people now is:

    1. MLK, jr. would be ashamed of you who rioted.
    2. If you are outraged by the lack of a trial, then where the hell were you on election day? If you want true equality in the law, then you ought to get up off your asses and vote for people who will legislate accordingly.
    • Good point. I wonder how many of them bothered to vote? As for giving the police the benefit of the doubt, while Missouri might have more protective law, the law seems more than adequate in most states. It seems police acting in the line of duty are rarely held accountable in a court of law in any state. At most they usually face their superiors, who are fellow officers. Interesting discussion of the issue: “Why police officers who shoot civilians almost never go to jail.

      • @ LordBeari,

        The Grand Jury system in the U.S. has accrued much criticism, but it’s important to recognize the intent behind it. It is to subject prosecutorial decisions to a democratic (small-d) sampling of ordinary citizens. “Prosecutorial discretion”, the power to charge some people and not others, is an enormous one, but a necessary one. Many incidents are not worth the time and expense and the judicial system is already so clogged with cases that “speedy trial” is a laugh line, or at least it is in this country. Indeed, the current political hoopla over immigration and President Obama’s executive actions is actually just that, it’s over prosecutorial discretion. The president is ordering prosecutors to go after the criminal element among immigrants first and postpone action on those who are stable and otherwise law-abiding.

        @ All,

        PT’s link in the comment above is a good one, but it offers little to incentivize change, it just describes the problem. Personally, I think that mandatory individual video cams for cops, coupled with strict rules and training for their activation and use, would make a huge difference.

        • Yes Jim but it doesn’t seem to working to well from where I’m sitting, it is not an open system, when doors are closed on justice can justice succeed? The doors to the ‘Grand Jury’ room are closed to all. I for one would never wish to be examined under such conditions. What is known about these Grand Jurists that qualifies them to have such power placed upon them, because it is a power and in the USA power of life and death. I find a system like this very suspect.

          Who presents what eveidence who can confirm or refute it, justice must be seen to be done.

          • Quite right, the secrecy and the lack of adversarial process are probably the two major criticisms of the GJ process. Time and money are what’s involved, but it would be worth it to me.

        • In today’s society I think body cams should be required for every on-duty police officer. No exceptions. We’ve seen too many cases where not only were officers not wearing cameras, but they went after spectators who were recording their actions — to me a clear indication that they were guilty of and trying to hide something. On the other hand, we’ve all seen instances of an officer’s dash cam showing clearly what the suspect did or did not do. Body cams on every officer. Now. They protect everyone.

  3. Your justice system at times seems to me to be without rhyme or reason. Why the need for a so called “Grand Jury”, unless the jury is made up of eminent jurists, ex or current to decide, how can a cross section of 12 people possibly decide on matters of such moment? How can they even be classified as ‘Grand’ surely this is an oxymoron of sorts.

    I read that the GJ in this instance consisted of 9 white and 3 coloured members and that a simple majority of 9 is all that is required to indict or not. This of course didn’t raise my eyebrows a fraction, the numbers and voting of said jury remains secret and their reasons too remain hidden in silence.

    Why not an open court with a Magistrate/ Coroner steeped in the law, similar to the pattern shared by the Great Britain and British Commonwealth countries. The Magistrate/Coroner hears evidence available and decides whether or not a prima facie case has been made out against any person or person or persons unknown and decides upon the charges, if any, to be laid.

    Does’nt this sound more reasonable than a system where situation/ colour/religion/prejudices all play a possible part in the decision by unqualified people as to whether somebody should be indicted or not?

    I really believe so. I find what’s going on in Ferguson Mo. very sad indeed.

    • I share your concern that grand juries are perhaps an unnecessary step in the process. They may help keep the courts from being even more jammed with frivolous lawsuits, as Jim noted, but juries must still be empaneled and hear evidence and make decisions. Not sure that isn’t just another layer in the bureaucracy.

      As for the jurors — our system requires that jurors be normal, everyday citizens, selected more or less at random from the general populace. The idea being that they best represent everyman’s idea of justice and constitute a jury of the defendant’s peers. They bring with them all the biases and prejudices that we all have. Magistrates would be members of the court, of the legal bureaucracy, and perhaps too removed from the citizenry at large.

      • Yes but in saying that obviously the idea of the Magistrates is better, by having a good knowledge they are equiped to judge whether or not there is enough evidence to warrant a trial before jury of peers to judge guilt or innocence, I do believe that the chances of a magistrate being prejudiced is far less than that of a mixed bunch of inividuals with little if no legal training or even a fully fledged education.

        I think it is a dangerous.

        How are these GJ people selected, by the way; do they go through stringent testing as to their suitability?

        Are they appointed by a government body that may one year be Republican and the next Democrat? How can you be 100% sure and certain that the appointees are truly unbiased.

        I really don’t see how it can be possible under your system.

        • I don’t know how things are done in Australia so won’t presume to criticize. No doubt both systems have flaws. Jurors here are usually selected randomly from the rolls of registered voters and/or holders of drivers licenses. After that, the details probably vary a bit from one state to another. UScourts.gov has an overview.

          • Our Jurors are selected the same way with one slight difference, everybody over the age of 18 must be registered to vote, which I don’t think is the case in the US, Certain professions are excluded from compulsory jury service (Doctors, Priests et al) and those over 70 can apply to sit on a jury if they wish, though normally when one reaches that age their name is removed from Jury Lists/Duty automatically.

            I actually find very little to fault in our system in fact I can’t think of one at the moment, but then we know I’m a one eyed prejudiced Antipodean ^^’

          • I wish I could get off the list for potential jury duty. I get called for consideration every two years or so but I no longer have the stamina for full 8-to-5 days of jury duty.

  4. I’m so angry and disgusted by this PT. If I were a violent person. I’d be looking for something, or someone, to punch about now. But lashing out like that has just never been my way. Having said that however, I will admit to feeling a moment of satisfaction when I saw the news people getting pelted by rocks and trash last night. I feel a little guilty for that. But then again, one of them was saying earlier today that they’re all praying that there’s no repeat of the violence tonight, and my immediate thought was of some unseen producer privately thinking “Speak for yourself!”

    • The difference between you and the Ferguson rioters is that you have enough self-restraint and respect for the law to not take out your anger on someone else.

      The media, on the one hand, were covering a story that the entire country was watching. On the other hand, as you know, I’ve been a vocal critic of their tactics in the past. They do come across as vultures or ghouls, waiting around for something “newsworthy” to happen — and the more exciting, the better. And their presence, unavoidably, tends to encourage people to “act out” for the cameras.

  5. Yes. Meanwhile, call a riot what it is a riot. So counter productive.
    MLK would be discouraged.
    Jim offered 2 great points – would add:
    3. “Parents, grandparents, young people encourage your own community to get educated, get the GED/graduate and become police officers, judges, jurors, and elected officials in the community where you live. Be the ones making the ones making change rather than simply hating the way things are and being destructive. Delayed gratification, yes, but change is in your hands, too. Work for it or get out of the way and be quiet.”

    • Excellent advice. Part of the problem, of course, is that the parents of the rioters also probably didn’t graduate, didn’t participate in the community, didn’t vote, etc. Kids learn from their parents. When they don’t, it’s a cinch they won’t be teaching their kids. The cycle is tough to break.

      • True, The courts here beg – beg – minorities to show up for jury duty.
        Too many non-participants by habit in society. It is a tough cycle and difficult to change direction when faced with ridicule and even violence if they try. We’ve seen it.
        These riots are a big set back for those who are trying – especially if they have kids over 4-5th grade. Peer pressure in the pre-teen and teen years is harsh. We’ve watched friends struggle to keep their kids going when there are so many that prefer a thug career. Of course, media, celebrities, and the president could have a big impact if they would push towards the positive and shun/condemn the negative actions more. So disappointed.
        But bit by bit. One kid at a time…(Cool the public libraries stepped up to offer oasis of peace and shelter)

        • That beg minorities to show up got me thinking again about compulsory, as in voting 😉

          As well as compulsory voting it is also compulsory to turn up for jury duty if summoned here in Australia, I think I gave the few or some of them at least, exemptions. Naturally you get a please explain if you don’t and a fine if your reasons are unsatisfactory, so everyoe over the age of 18 and under 70 can get summoned to appear.

          We have a great system! We like compulsory 🙄
          😀 😀

          • It is cumpulsory in this state if you have a driver’s license, registered to vote, or several other things. (If you cannot speak English enough to understand the arguments and court instructions, you are excused after showing up…many speak English just fine until they get in front of the judge, then all of a sudden it’s “No hable.”) It make no difference. People still didn’t show up. Judges tried having court officers show up and either arrest people or haul them to court to do their duty, but people complained.
            Changes in attitude and willingness to participate in society (including voting and jury duty)) nothing’s going to change.
            I admire the Aussies unity and willingness to follow laws.

          • Perhaps I wasn’t clear elsewhere, Beari. Jury duty in Colorado is mandatory unless you have a valid excuse, with the validity being entirely at the discretion of the presiding judge. Voting, however, is not compulsory.

          • Would it not be better for the country as a whole if there was a single standard system of voting, the states rights nonsense seems to be just that now; surely in this day and age the welfare of the whole population of the USA is paramount. In Australia we are all equal, we all have the same equal rights the same benefits and punishments, the rich states and the poor, indeed our rich states suppliment the poor with no ill feeling discernable,perhaps the uber rich don’t like or agree with it.

            There was a fine example of our way in the letters of Australia’s No 1 newspaper, ( it’s not a murdock publication) This government we have at present wants to start charging everybody, no exclusions the miserly sum of $7. for every visit to the doctors to cover the shortfall that is somehow appearing in the budget.

            This letter suggested quite seriously that the solution was simple and did not require a charge on all including those that could not afford the $7, I don’t know if there are any but still his suggestion?

            Double the the Medicare levy that we pay in our tax, and believe it or not it would work and nobody would notice the little extra paid, Eg currently if you paid $100 pw tax your levy is $1.50, if you’re only paying $50 pw then $0.75c pw levy, the cost of a litre of milk, who’s going to miss that. Just go ahead double the tax a brilliant solution nobody gets hurt and everybody is covered.

          • States’ rights are paramount here, and the basis of our legal system and much more. In general and in theory, the federal government exists and works only at the behest of and with the support of the states, and that will likely never change. There’s a lot of tension between those who want a stronger central government and those who want to retain states’ rights. And these days, compared to the gridlocked oligarchy in Washington, states’ rights are looking pretty good. This country was founded by people determined to escape a dictatorial central government, and the lesson has not been forgotten.

          • With all due respects PT but don’t you think it’s time to forget the bad old days of the British rule and move forward. I believe the expression “One Nation under God” has some meaning to the people of the US but it looks like there are 50 states not one UNiTED country. It looks to we outsiders like the USA is a country divided, the haves and the have nots, the blacks and the whites that only seem to unite when there is serious global conflict that cannot be ignored.

            States rights has had it’s day and may have served it’s purpose but the United States of America needs to become UNITED if it is to hold it’s place in history. A country divided cannot hope to hold or gain the respect of other nations unless it’s own people are united together for the common good. Are you Texans or Californians or New Yorkers first or American?

            That’s the big thing, here we are Australian first and Sandgroper, Yarra Yabby, Crow Eater second the country comes first. I love Australia dearly, I still retain my English citizenship after 64 years in this country and having served in the Australian military and I shall retain my English citizenship until such time as I die or Australia becomes a Republic and retains it’s membership in the Commonwealth of Countries.

            I can see no logic in swearing allegience to the Queen of England when I am already one of her subjects born, and this I would be required to do.

            I like you Yanks and I love your country and I hate to watch you destroying yourselves, and from what we can now see hear and read instantly with the TV the Internet it looks like you are hell bent on the path of self destruction.

            It’s very sad, and England having been emasculated so long ago can no longer step up to the plate and take over once again.

          • Few things about the US are as sensationally terrible, hopeless, divided, tragic, etc., as our media make them out to be, so don’t judge by that. There are things best left to the states because they know their own populations and needs better than the federal government; they are closer to the people. There are things better left to the federal government because there are things it is better equipped to do (national defense, massive disaster relief, etc.) The system has worked pretty well for us for more than 200 years. We’re not perfect, but neither is any other nation.

  6. The American system works rather well in many places (I’ve served on four juries and believe justice was done in every case), but it requires citizen participation to fulfill its ideals. In Ferguson, two-thirds of the population is black. Yet the mayor is white and only one of six members of the city council is black. In the last local election, only 12.3 percent of eligible voters bothered to cast a ballot. Some analysts say the imbalance in voting results probably is because the white people are older, and older people generally turn out to vote in larger numbers than young people. I say if blacks believe they are persecuted they have means at the ballot box to dominate the city government and thus control the police department. Maybe we all should cut out the BS and take a look at the facts.

    • Yes, you have to think if blacks are the majority in Ferguson, they could turn out en masse and elect a majority to the city council, and maybe a new mayor and sheriff. Of course, they have to find some candidates eligible to run for those positions.

      But somehow that sounds a little too simplistic. Surely there’s more to it than that, or else all the black communities with similar complaints would have been voting for change. Wouldn’t they? I don’t know.

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