Ferguson, Mo., population 21,135, has assured its place in history in the most unsavory manner imaginable. Although the situation in that community is in a state of flux — and will probably remain so for some time — there are lessons to be learned here.
The Missouri Army National Guard was called out after last Sunday night’s latest outbreak of violence, in which at least three people were injured. Whether the guard can restore lasting order remains to be seen.
Shootings and arrests continued into Tuesday, with some of those taken into custody coming to Ferguson from as far away as New York and California. These folks are nothing other than agitators and trouble-makers, authorities theorize.
The community has been torn apart by various forms of violence, including looting, since a white police officer reportedly shot and killed a black teenager. The exact circumstances surrounding the shooting remain clouded, but there is no question that the reactions to it have been extreme.
So much so, in fact, the U.S. Justice Department and President Obama have become involved, not to mention Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, St. Louis County Police, the Guard and other agencies.
And then, of course, other so-called experts in racial matters from across the nation have decided to play a part, serving mainly to further incite the residents of the community and area.
Prior to all this, little attention was paid to Ferguson. Statistics, as of 2012, show that Ferguson’s population consists of 9,279 men, or 43 percent, while 11,856, or 56.1 percent, of the population is female. The median age of the residents is 33.1 years. Sixty-seven percent of the residents are African-American.
Prior to the shooting, the Ferguson Police Department had 50 officers, slightly more than Sedalia, and they were responsible for an area of 6.201 square miles.
None of this seems to be remarkable in any particular way. What is astounding, however, is the speed with which events in Ferguson have escalated and gotten out of hand.
Part of the blame for that can be placed squarely on the shoulders of the various media now on station in Ferguson. There has been what amounts to a feeding frenzy among reporters, TV anchors and the like, seeking to root out the latest detail and opinion conerning what occured.
The result has been a blizzard of information and some of it has been proven to be false. For example, one Internet group identified a man who had nothing whatever to do with Ferguson as the officer responsible in the shooting. Although not a legitimate news organization, this particular incident serves as an example of how easily “facts” can be distorted, if not falsified.
Given what has transpired in Ferguson in the last two weeks, an argument could easily be made for a complete news blackout for 48 hours — an enforced cooling down period designed to accomplish nothing less than preventing additional loss of life. It’s unlikely to happen, though.
What is almost impossible to understand is the rash of property damage and looting that has occurred. What has the shooting victim’s family gained from the rampant thievery, or from the throwing of Molotov Cocktails at police? What good has come from trashing Ferguson’s streets, or from the outraged demands for justice voiced shrilly by people who, before the shooting, had never heard of Feruson, Mo.?
If the intent here was to gain national attention, then success can be claimed. But justice? How can the justice system possibly function when it is forced into a position of constantly protecting those who serve it?
Can police officers be blamed for their show of force when they are confronted by an out-of-control mob? How can they serve and protect while unceasingly under attack?
While rational behavior seems to have fled the Ferguson city limits, it must be remembered there are citizens there who are acting responsibly, who are attempting to clean their community after the chaos, and who are calling for calm, sane behavior. It is these people who should be in the spotlight, not the Sharptens and Jacksons who seem bent on inciting additional rioting.
We can only hope that peace is restored in order for the true facts of the situation to prevail and for justice to actually have a chance.
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