The Ferguson, Missouri grand jury has finally made their decision on whether the white police officer that shot and killed the black 18 year-old should be indicted for a crime. After hearing all the testimony and weighing all the physical and scientific evidence the 12 jurors determined that the officer acted appropriately and should not be held for trial. As soon as the announcement was made, of course, all hell broke loose.
Rioters, who had been gathering for days in the streets, broke store windows, torched cars, looted shops, and set fires across the city. More than 70 arrests were made. And there were demonstrations and arrests, and not only in Ferguson but in cities across the country from St. Louis to New York City, to Chicago, to San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Directly following the verdict, just as the rioting was taking place, President Obama went on national television to address the nation. Although he began by calling for "productive ways of responding" and that "burning buildings, torching cars, destroying property, putting people at risk" is not a productive way of dealing with the grand jury's decision, he went on and spent most of the time justifying the anger of the crowds as "rooted in reality."
He said, "The frustrations that we have seen, are not just about a particular incident. They have deep roots in many communities of color, who have a sense that our laws are not always being enforced uniformly or fairly." He said there is a need to have "real conversations" to change the situation so that there is more trust between law enforcement and these communities. He continued in this way, in effect lecturing America that the anger towards the police in minority neighborhoods is understandable.
Never, not once, did he ever speak about the importance of young men of color obeying the law. He said nothing about teaching our young men the proper way of comporting themselves with other citizens, particularly with the police. Nothing about the high criminal rates in intercity communities and the fact that so many kids in these communities grow up without a father in the home.
He said nothing about teaching these young men important moral values. He never mentioned respecting the rights of other people's property, showing respect for women, for older people, and yes, for the police officers who work hard to protect innocent citizens from the criminals who prey on the community. He said nothing about the need to teach kids in these communities how to be good and decent and honorable citizens. And why they should be working WITHIN the law and not outside of it.
Obama spoke about changing the way law enforcement deals with minorities, as if this were 1963 Birmingham. Obama comes at this thing, I'm sorry to say, more as a community organizer with grievances against "the man" than as a president of the nation who should be trying to set a high tone for law and order and calm.
Some inconvenient facts that led up to the killing of the 18 year-old "kid" (6ft. 4in. and weighing close to 300 lbs.) have interestingly enough been ignored in much of the reportage in this story. With very few exceptions (my wife being one, Mayor Rudy Giuliani being another) nobody seems to be pointing out the fact that the shooting victim had earlier robbed a convenience store, roughed up the proprietor, and was a fugitive from the police. He brazenly approached the officer who was sitting in his patrol SUV, reached through the window and slugged the officer in the face.
While still reaching through the open SUV window, the 18 year-old crook struggled with the police officer for his service revolver. The gun went off, the robber was hit and then attempted to flee. The officer got out of his car and went after the thug, who at some point turned and came at the police officer straight on. He was ordered to halt, he did not, and he was shot several times while he was still coming after the officer. The officer says he knew if he didn't shoot the man, he would have killed him.
But people have their minds made up regardless of the facts, regardless of the grand jury findings, regardless of what anyone says, or does, or proves. The thing of it all is this. No matter what color you are, the chances are you won't be shot and killed if you: (a) don't rob a store, (b) don't rough up the store owner, (c) don't punch a police officer in the face, (d) don't attempt to take the officer's gun away from him, and (e) don't run from the law.