What is happening this night in the U.S.? Is our southern neighbour engaged in protest against law-enforcement, or is it rioting in the interest of wilful destruction?
Blazing buildings and looted businesses are thuggish behaviour clearly planned and executed. Setting fire to a grocery store or looting an electronics outlet isn’t protest, it’s criminal behaviour deserving of direct intervention by the very police legitimate protesters are accusing of systemic racial bias.
Ty Pruitt is Michael Brown’s cousin. An eloquent, thoughtful young man who makes his case in a reasoned and earnest manner. Ty Pruitt disagrees with the Ferguson, Missouri grand jury’s decision to not criminally indict officer Darren Wilson, but he also called the arsonists and looters “opportunists” and encouraged police to act to save the businesses.
This past weekend I spoke with prominent U.S. civil rights lawyer Barbara Arnwine. Ms.Arnwine argues passionately and eloquently for change in the relationship between American police and the African American community. She is strong-willed and determined and identifies solutions. Exactly the kind of person with whom to confer
I’m not an African American, or African Canadian. Nor am I a member of a visible minority community, so I cannot speak to the relationship that exists between law enforcement and particularly young black males in the United States. Clearly the relationship is fractured. Just as clearly, it must the repaired. Now.
Perhaps the deaths of Michael Brown and/or Trayvon Martin might provide the motivation for people with an interest in establishing trust to begin the process of dialogue and negotiation.
I understand the visceral reaction for many on both sides might be to produce a list of grievances of long-standing and write off as impossible the creation of a relationship of understanding and cooperation. Maybe they’re correct. If so, more Ferguson’s and fallout of the Ferguson variety will occur; and after this night and what may follow, with greater frequency and destruction.
None of us yet know what the scars the Ferguson, Missouri death of Michael Brown will ultimately leave. Scars both physical and emotional. Perhaps events will slam shut the door to any opportunity for improvement..
If there is though the will to work toward a better understanding of and willingness to work with police it must begin at the community level and hopefully with a new cast of negotiators. People whose history with each other isn’t rife only with dispute and conflict and who are willing to engage in negotiation for an improved future.