And the behaviour of many residents of Ferguson, Missouri displays the latter.
Months after a black 18-year-old was shot and killed by a white policeman, rioters continue to loot and cause destruction.
Twelve businesses were destroyed by fire last week after a grand jury decided not to indict the police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown.
When a shooting like that happens, a public outcry for answers and justice is not unexpected. But using a teenager’s death to justify ransacking and stealing from local businesses is pretty low in my books.
Residents were very quick to pick up their pitchforks (and even bricks and lighters, evidently) immediately after the tragic incident on Aug. 9. Some went from praying at a candlelight vigil to smashing car and store windows. That has to be one of the worst ways to remember the loss of a young life and fight for justice that I’ve ever heard of.
I have to admit that after initial reports, I could understand their outrage. When you hear more than one eyewitness’ statement that an unarmed black teenager with his hands up is shot by a white police officer, it’s easy to be led to take this as the complete truth.
But let’s not forget that there is always two sides to every story. The police officer whose actions were questioned told the jurors last month he acted in self-defense after Brown, who had fled a struggle at the police cruiser, turned and came towards him. Regarding the vehicle altercation, the officer later stated he wasn’t carrying a Taser and didn’t want to use Mace in the confined space. He believed using his gun was the only option. He claimed Brown – who he felt overpowered by – grabbed hold of the gun.
Even when their words are put to print in the media, everyone (witnesses, police, etc.) has their own version of how an event transpired, and that credibility can always be questioned. Maybe there’s some truth to what some have said, maybe there’s none at all.
Protesters were further enraged when police released a video purporting to show Brown robbing a convenience store of almost $50 worth of cigars shortly before he was killed, calling it a “smear campaign” against the teen. But the video is an important piece of the puzzle, and withholding evidence and information from the media and the public only increases suspicion and doubt. It’s important to get all the facts out there. It’s also important to note the name of the officer was released that same day – a move that put him in jeopardy. He resigned from the police force last week, reportedly stepping down after the police department told him it had received threats of violence if he remained on the force.
It’s understandable that the people of Ferguson would be upset by a young man being shot dead in the street of his own neighbourhood. Whether the shooting was justified or not, Brown’s death was senseless.
But there are more peaceful and effective ways for protesters to get a message of anger and injustice across.
Arson, vandalism and looting doesn’t help the situation. Pointless destruction and turning a community into a war zone solves nothing.