Mike Brown was a man.
It’s plain as day that the cops have no strategy, no end goal in Ferguson. There’s no leadership. They don’t even understand the situation that they’ve found themselves in.
Basic crowd management for a group that will not, or can not, disperse is to de-escalate. The rent-a-cops at a hippie music festival know exactly what to do when the sound cuts out, but somehow the heavily militarized police force in Ferguson missed the lesson. It’s a hot summer day? Well, then you hand out some water to folks. You even smile while you do it. No, the water shouldn’t be coming out of firehoses while you hold back your German Shepherds.
For that matter, take off the helmets, and holster your weapons. This is basic shit for police! Never point a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy. Don’t point an assault rifle at someone unless you intend to kill them. These are fundamentals of firearms safety that every 8-year-old who’s ever gone on a hunting trip learned.
But the police who have now pulled off a coup in Ferguson never had a plan. They had a wish. They bought that insecure macho myth of the “show of force”. Impotence performed.
There was certainly a conversation where a white man said, “We’ll disperse the crowd.” There was certainly no conversation where someone asked, “Why? And what if it doesn’t work?”
And then the people, the brave people of Ferguson, saw guns drawn at them and thought, “All these cops can do is kill us. And they already had that power. They showed us that last week. So this is nothing new.” Ferguson’s people are heroic, to be sure, but they’re not cartoon heroes saying, “I’m not afraid to die.” They’re afraid, but the fear has always been present. It’s just life.
Once you’ve accepted that the people sworn to protect you might just kill you, there comes a clarity. What the people want now is simple: justice. They’re saying it flat out, chanting it in the streets. But it can’t be heard through military-issue helmets. The police are insulated from hearing a simple request because they’ve been converted from neighborhood peace officers to a militarized occupying force. That’s not new; this is America, where patrolmen have been replaced by the SWAT team that blew a hole in your two year old.
Those who actually serve, those who deal with genuine hostile forces that are armed, are aghast at what the police are doing to citizens in Ferguson. Because quelling the immediate unrest is not a difficult problem.
Put simply, Ferguson will be calm when the officer who killed Mike Brown is named and people see the possibility of accountability. Mind you, not even actual accountability. No, we know all too well that these officers who have violated the Constitution and denied citizens their rights won’t even lose a day of pay, let alone their jobs or their freedom. But Ferguson will stand down if there were just the slightest indication that the police who now run Ferguson recognize Mike Brown was a man.
Mike Brown was a man. And his life mattered. He lived his life in a world where we make black boys grow up so fast. He went to visit his grandmother. And then he was killed by someone. Now they’ll burn down Ferguson just to hide that killer’s name.
Who killed Mike Brown? And will that man pay?