I haven't written about Ferguson because I've known too little to add value. But ignorance hasn't stopped others from stirring up hate and discontent. For example, Missouri's shakedown artist, Lacy Clay.
Lacy Clay, speaking from a private island in the Carribean, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Michael Brown was murdered. Clay knew or should have known the effect of his words: more violence. Either Clay meant to incite violence or he has a casual disregard for the effect of his irresponsible speech. Then again, it's easy to stir up hate and discontent if you can fly away to some private island when the killing starts.
Lacy Clay represents only one bastion of ignorance in the sordid and embarrassing affair playing out in North County.
- Michael Brown's autopsy has not been released.
- No video of the incident has been released.
- No witness has testified under oath.
- The police officer who shot Mr. Brown has not testified under oath.
On the other hand, here's what we do know:
- An 18-year-old is dead.
- The police officer who shot him is on leave.
- Hooligans have destroyed blocks of businesses in Ferguson.
- The police have harassed the innocent and ignored calls reporting looters.
- Hundreds of millions in lethal military weaponry did not stop looting and shooting.
These lists--what we know and what we don't--leave very little for responsible grown-ups to discuss regarding Ferguson. We can mourn the loss of life. We can pity and pray for Mr. Brown's parents. (When my daughter died, a clergyman told me, "no parent should ever know what's like to bury a child." ) We can decry the looting. We can criticize those like Lacy Clay who make irresponsible assertions that they cannot defend. And we can question the value of arming local "constables," as Mark Steyn describes police, with weapons designed to kill scores of people in war.
Let's go with that one: weapons of mass destruction in the hands of local cops.
Before I get into my rant, let me tell you that my father was a St. Louis city police officer, and I was accepted into the academy. (Another job offer came along before I classed up. We needed the money.) Please don't call me "anti-police." I am not. I am anti-oppression.
Why do police need armored personnel carriers, Bradley fighting vehicles, and Humvees? Seriously. I trust my neighbors and concealed carry permits far more than I trust a militarized and segregated police force that's rapidly turning itself into an armed and dangerous occupation force.
As Mark Steyn says:
So, when the police are dressed like combat troops, it's not a fashion faux pas, it's a fundamental misunderstanding of who they are. Forget the armored vehicles with the gun turrets, forget the faceless, helmeted, anonymous Robocops, and just listen to how these "policemen" talk. Look at the video as they're arresting the New York Times and Huffington Post reporters. Watch the St Louis County deputy ordering everyone to leave, and then adding: "This is not up for discussion."
"But, what about the looters?" you ask. What about them? The police failed to respond to reports of looting and gunfire on Friday night. I know this from police officers who were at the scene. Meanwhile, the heavy weaponry deployed earlier in the week, along with strong-arm police tactics, made enemies of civilians while failing to intimidate the looters and criminals. We know this beyond the shadow of a doubt.
The looters are free to wreck whatever havoc they wish on Ferguson, as long as they don't chant or pray. Back to Mr. Steyn's wonderful commentary:
Really? You're a constable. You may be carrying on like the military commander of an occupying army faced with a rabble of revolting natives, but in the end you're a constable. And the fact that you and your colleagues in that McDonald's are comfortable speaking to your fellow citizens like this is part of the problem. The most important of the "nine principles of good policing" (formulated by the first two commissioners of the Metropolitan Police in 1829 and thereafter issued to every officer joining the force) is a very simple one: The police are the public and the public are the police. Not in Ferguson. Long before the teargassing begins and the bullets start flying, the way these guys talk is the first indication of how the remorseless militarization has corroded the soul of American policing.
Until we know more facts revealed under oath and following the criminal trial procedure, I strongly urge everyone to stop ignorant speculation and wishful thinking. As we await the results of the process, pray for the people in Ferguson, especially those who lost a loved one. Pray for the business owners who may have lost their livelihoods. Pray for peace. And tell Congress to demilitarize our neighborhood constables before St. Louis County turns into Mogadishu.