As the Media attention slowly winds down in Ferguson, there are thing we should all take away from this whole killing and aftermath. Next thing that blows up like this, and there will be a next time, what are we going to take from Ferguson? Here is what I will take.
1. Police left the body of Michael Brown in the street for 5 hours
One thing that sparked the backlash is the police actions immediately after the shooting. According to eye witnesses no one even touched the body for half an hour. Not even medics to check for a pulse.
Then cops left him there for 5 hours. FIVE HOURS. The residential
street residents could see the body. Kids living in the area saw this. You could have decided to take your kids away from it, gone to a movie, had dinner, came home and Michael would still be laying there.
People saw the body, got told what happened, then went to the local shops. Word spread about what happened and those people could go see it for themselves. And that repeated over and over again.
How long is too long for a kid to be lying in the street? Is it ever Okay for police not to check for vitals of someone they shot? Or the next officer on the scene? Isn’t it policy to try to save people even if they were shot by police and if not why not?
2. Attacking the media is never a good idea
I’ve been saying this for years but the media is a tool to be used. When you attack or arrest the media it makes you look bad. From protesters throwing rocks at people on live TV to cops threatening/arresting/ limiting media movements it all looks bad on camera later.
Ferguson showed this on display like we haven’t seen reported in America. Police attacking media backfired and brought more media. Made the police look incompetent. It also makes you appear to be hiding something. What are the police hiding if they are arresting people documenting what they are doing?
3. The more attention it gets the more idiots are drawn to it
Ferguson was leading the news for a week. People saw that there was looting and attacks on the police therefore people who want to loot and attack the police show up. Simple logic, the louder I yell “Free ice cream!” the more people will come.
And this goes for all types of idiots. The KKK is raising money for Darren Wilson. Dinesh D’Souza Explains the ‘Common Thread Between ISIS And What’s Going On In Ferguson.’ There are and always will be idiots saying or doing something stupid.
The key when looking at things with a lot of attention is to take things from all sides and make your own decision.
4. Many others have been shot by cops sense Michael Brown
There are no national stats kept on officer involved shootings. I did a very quick search and found those three. Some estimates state that an officer kills a person in the United States more than once a day. Is that Okay?
We have seen in Ferguson the use of “Less Lethal” force on crowds. Tasers are used all the time. Can’t we do that every day? Shouldn’t it be a rare thing for a cop to shoot someone? In Iceland they recently had their first death by a cop, ever. It was a national tragedy. It does not have to be this way.
5. Tanks and ‘Military tactics’ don’t work
I have seen many tactics used by police in protests and rowdy crowds. When you show up ready for a war, inevitably one will start. A line of cops in riot gear invites someone to throw something at them. It’s like leaving a sign saying “Don’t push the button” or leaving a bowl of chips out.
The tactics used by the police invoke response. If you trap people between police lines without an obvious exit people will respond as if they are in the trap they are in. They will attempt to get out. Trapping protesters and waiting for a response has been a police tactic for decades.
Yes there are provocateurs that will attempt to escalate violence but if there is no front line to throw things at there is no front line to throw things at. There are also police provocateurs who want nothing more than to use force. That’s where good leaders and group cohesion comes in.
A little advice to Ferguson and other cops. For a rowdy crowd have police strategically placed, like in front of businesses, to keep an eye on things. Station rapid response teams to, you guessed it, rapid respond when needed. Let the crowd know what the rules are and don’t change them.
6. Police response costs money.
Every officer out there is getting paid. You won’t hear it nationally but when the dust settles there will be a bill to pay. The city of Ferguson, the county and the state will have to pay those cops for all that keeping the peace they did.
The city and county will have to redo budgets. This can be trouble but also an opportunity. The Ferguson community hopefully will use that to push through reforms. Every dollar spent on protest response, jailing arrestees, and settlements for misconduct is a dollar that can be saved by better policing.
That’s one of the many reasons I push for cameras on cops. Burnsville, MN does and it is very helpful in convicting criminals, reducing misconduct and resolving complaints. It also saves money over time.
7. Activism has evolved
In the 21st century protesting and activism has evolved. One of the legacies of the Occupy Movement is a network of connected individuals who want to change the world for the better.
This has allowed for a decentralization of organization. When the police response to protesters turned its nastiest in Ferguson the very next day Police brutality protests happened in over 80 cities around the US. A streamer catches a cop pointing a gun at someone threatening to shoot it is clipped, shared, distributed and worldwide within minutes.
From civil rights activists to citizen media, from people on the street to people watching it at home we are all interconnected and mutually supportive. We can now do it at such an individual level and yet influence the entire network. We can witness what is actually happening on the ground without being there in video streams, live tweets, etc.
This ability for me, a white man in Minnesota, to better understand the struggle of a black teenager in Ferguson changes perspectives. Makes him less of an “Other” or “Them” and makes him more of an “Us.” We have different struggles and different priorities but we understand each other’s perspective better than we could before.
These new activist networks are forming the ties that will be needed and used to change the world. They already are.