Taken and tweeted by St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer Robert Cohen, the photo seemed to sum up the anger felt by residents of Ferguson, where unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown was shot dead by a still-unidentified police officer on Saturday night.
By Pate McCuien, Sports Editor
As a citizen of the United States of America, Americans are guaranteed certain unalienable rights by the constitution, but what guarantees the protection of these rights? What keeps reporters from being unlawfully abused and arrested simply for acting on their freedom of the press rights? What keeps local police departments from militarizing and breaking up peaceful protests with flash grenades, rubber bullets, LRAD’s, and tear gas? Apparently in Ferguson, Missouri, nothing.
After the controversial death of the unarmed African American, Michael Brown, an uproar has been unleashed in the small town in Missouri named Ferguson. Protests, riots and looting have been taking place ever since the shooting on August 9, and the Ferguson police department has done a terrible job of handling the chaos.
The incredibly unprofessional display started just moments after Michael Brown was shot at least six times when the officials of Ferguson allowed the body to lay in the street for over four hours. People in shock and awe were in the streets taking pictures and struggling to look at the graphic image of the motionless body. Anger followed.
The citizens of Missouri began peaceful protests immediately, holding up signs saying “hands up, don’t shoot” and asking “if you would support police officer Darren Wilson if he killed your son?”
As more and more people began to protest, a few began to loot and riot, beginning an initial tension between peaceful protestors and police officers. Eventually the problems of Ferguson seemed very similar to the problems of Middle Eastern countries, with images of peaceful protestors being broken up with tear gas, stun grenades, LRAD’s, and rubber bullets.
In fact, during one protest, police threatened the protesters if they did not turn off their cameras and disperse. The police officers and crowd control security do not have the right to force people to turn their cameras off on public property.
It seemed the police simply wanted the cameras off to keep what was going to happen next from going viral. Luckily it did go viral. The crowd control followed through with their threats, and in the next 20 minutes of the video, the peaceful crowd was bombarded with attack after attack to attempt to end the protest. This should never happen. It was a blatant disregard of the first amendment. “Congress shall make no law… prohibiting the exercise [of] the right of the people to peaceably assemble.
Sadly it wasn’t the only one. Five days after the shooting, reporter for the Washington post, Wesley Lowery, and Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post was simply doing their jobs and acting on their freedom to report the news when officers approached them, illegally abused and arrested them. After about 15 minutes in jail, the two journalists were released with no arrest report on file. When they asked for the names of the arresting officers they were stonewalled. Apparently the Freedom of Information act is disregarded in Ferguson as well.
During the past couple of weeks many task forces has been complaining about the shooting. However, another incredibly important issue that needs to be addressed is the complete lack of respect given to the constitution by the Ferguson police and officials.
The outrage has calmed over the last couple of days, but the entire situation is sickening. These issues of racism and lack of respect for the constitution have been occurring for a long time. They need to stop. If not, America is not different than China in 1989, when similar events took place when similar events took place when an uknown amount of people were massacred for peacefully protesting in Tieniman Square. Is this where America will be in 20 years? If not, some serious changes need to occur in how situations like these are handled. We have to ensure that we don’t make the same mistakes more than once.