As you know, the grand jury deliberating the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson this summer, issued its decision last night and they decided not to indict the police officer who was responsible. Even before the announcement, protests had begun both there in Ferguson and in cities across the country. Some turned violent. Sadly, some Ferguson businesses were totally destroyed. This morning though I want to talk about another announcement that came last night - this one from the President of the United States,
Not long after the Ferguson Grand Jury announcement, President Barack Obama went to the White House Briefing Room and calmly spoke to the American people about that announcement. During his remarks, the President joined Michael Brown’s parents in calling on those who were protesting, to do so peacefully. Unfortunately, most of the protesters were already in the streets and not listening to the President.
Why was there looting? Why was there destruction of property? I would imagine that frustration played a big part. I remember the crowd in San Francisco when the Dan White verdict (charged with killing Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk) was read. People were outraged and they were frustrated. The "system" let us down again. Very much the same in Ferguson where it must have seemed like again a police officer was getting away with murder.
There things we can do. I spoke of this back in the summer when Michael Brown was killed. President Obama spoke of it last night. Political engagement and political reform were mentioned by the President, who also said he had instructed the US Attorney General to work with cities across the country to build better relationships between communities and law enforcement. The President urged people to not be violent and to not be destructive, but to make a difference and to work for change.
The President is correct, of course. "There are ways of channeling your concerns constructively and there are ways of channeling your concerns destructively," is part of what he said. All too often we are angered by events and we overturn newsracks and cars, and throw bottles, and smash windows. Soon after it is business as usual and nothing has changed. What President Obama is urging is that we channel our energies in to actual reforms to make sure that whatever bad thing does not reoccur. We shouldn't move on and forget about it. History will just repeat itself. Let's all take the President's advice and get involved and make some positive changes for the good of all.