Today has been a day of protest over a St. Louis grand jury’s decision not to indict white police officer Darren Wilson for shooting the unarmed, black teenager Michael Brown back in August. People nationwide and in other countries, including a diverse bunch here in Fayetteville, gathered to voice their disgust with what they called a justice system stacked against people of color. (You can see Ben Goff‘s official photo gallery for the paper here.)
There’s a ton of passion throughout these events, obviously — in Ferguson last night, rage over the decision turned into violence. The 80 or so people here in Fayetteville stayed peaceful, loudly chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot!” and other slogans and holding signs saying the lives of non-white people still matter.
Four people were arrested after they blocked traffic for a few minutes after noon, but Fayetteville police and everyone else involved were calm during the civil disobedience and handcuffing. It reminded me of the Occupy Lincoln protests I covered back in school. Here, at least, people trusted their police.
I won’t wade any further into the furious disagreement over what happened that August day; you can take a look at all of the evidence that exists here. But I do want to talk about one or two things in all of this.
White men who committed or are accused of terrible crimes — shooting dozens of people in a movie theater, shooting dozens of people at a political rally or allegedly killing a police officer — lived through their arrests. Brown is one of many unarmed black children and men in recent years who didn’t live through theirs.
A lot of people see these as coincidences, biased sets of examples or otherwise justifiable in some way. One fellow came out today with a little sign saying Darren Wilson is a hero.
A lot of other people, including the Fayetteville protesters, disagree. They instead see this situation as a pattern that won’t go away no matter how hard they try. That’s what the protesters were fighting, they said.
As for me, I want people to be and feel safe around cops. I want people happy and safe in their skins. I hope the people working to make these things happen, whoever they are, succeed. I can’t say much more and remain an observer.