Earlier this summer, two friends from Ferguson, Missouri, a northern munincipality in St. Louis, were walking home in the middle of the street when they were stopped by a local police officer. Soon they would soon be in the spotlight of national news.
In the events that followed on the afternoon of Aug. 9, Mike Brown, an unarmed 18 year-old was shot at least six times by police officer, Darren Wilson, and died in the middle of the street. According to eyewitness Dorian Johnson (who was walking with Brown), Brown was shot with his hands in the air, after a small altercation with the officer. Wilson, however, claims Brown aggressively assaulted him and reached for his gun before he shot and killed Brown.
A grand jury has been appointed and has been scheduled to meet every Wednesday since Aug. 27. However, due to a flurry of other clashing eyewitness reports, the grand jury isn't expected to decide whether to issue an indictment until October. Should an indictment be issued to the officer who shot Brown, he will be tried by a trial jury and judge.
While The DePauw offers its condolences to the Brown family and any community that was affected by this summer’s turbulent tragedy, we would like to focus on something else: the legacy of communal response to the shooting.
In reply to Brown's killing and decades of maltreatment and discrimination from police departments, we saw droves of young blacks loot and vandalize the businesses of Ferguson. A QuikTrip gas station was burned to the ground and at least 11 businesses were looted in the night after Brown's killing. As of Aug. 14, 75 individuals had been arrested as a result of violent protests, looting and vandalism.
During such chaotic times, will it ever be possible to tell which side is right or wrong? Yes.
Approximately two score and two century ago, a band of American rebels known as the Sons of Liberty set out on a mission to vandalize and destroy precious capital from the oppressive British Empire. In defiance to the British Tea Act of 1773, these demonstrators dumped over 92,000 pounds of British tea into the Boston harbor on the night of December 16, 1773.
Although this treasonous act only earned the Sons of Liberty a criminal title from the British empire, the bandit Americans are now seen as heroes in the eyes of the nation they helped birth. Their vandalism brought attention to the suppressive acts of the British empire and ultimately helped push America towards revolution.
Look at the American Indian wars of the late 1800s. Tribes of Native Americans fought valiantly to protect their homeland in an impossible war against the expanding United States. Who won that war? Who is depicted as the hero in our textbooks and hollywood culture? Who would you rather be for halloween: a cowboy or an indian?
Although each anecdote tells a different story, they each depict a history written by the victor. We hope that one day equality will be the ultimate victor in this country, but we can't help but ask, who will be portrayed as the hero? Will it be the peaceful protestors of Martin Luther King Jr.'s doctrine, or the more aggressive followers of Malcolm X?
The oppressive police department or the chaotic looters of Ferguson?