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Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

By now I hope everyone has heard at least a little about Ferguson, Missouri. I figured I’d share some thoughts on it, since I felt like writing this evening.

There is no situation where a police officer can shoot an unarmed man six times in the back and be morally or legally justified. Ever.

Michael Brown was, and is, legally an innocent man because this is the United States of America where all suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. It does not matter what video you have, it does not matter what evidence you have, it does not matter whether or not he did commit that crime, or any crime. Police do not have the power to execute anyone. The only time a police office is justified in shooting someone is if they are a clear and immediate danger, and even then I expect a serious investigation, not because things should be difficult for cops, but because shooting a human being is not something to be treated lightly under any fucking circumstances.

To crack down on fully justified anger for what appears to be an outright murder does not help the situation, because it ignores the real problem. The real problem isn’t that lots of people are angry about what appears to be an outright murder, or that some people are using that anger as an excuse for theft or violence, the real problem is that apparently a cop felt completely comfortable with outright murdering one of the citizens he was sworn to protect, and apparently has good reason to think he’ll get away with it.

And, for some completely inexplicable reason, an awful lot of people, especially those in power, seem to be closing ranks to defend this apparent murderer. Because that’s what always happens when a cop shoots an unarmed black man. (That’s five separate links spanning the last four years. They all came from the first page of a Google search.)

There is a pretty clear message here that black people can be murdered with impunity. To scold a 70% black community for being angry about this as though they were, (to paraphrase John Oliver), an unruly class in a high school assembly is not only refusing to recognize their situation or take them seriously, but to treat them as though they are the ones in the wrong for having the audacity to publicly voice the situation.

I seriously do not understand why this country consistently treats exposing and denouncing injustice as a worse crime than the injustice itself.

Worse, to wave away or minimize the very real situation that cops kill black people with impunity fairly routinely is nothing short of saying that it is okay for them to do so. If you’ve attempted to justify Brown being shot in the back by saying he allegedly robbed a store earlier you need to accept that you are saying it is okay for a cop to execute suspects without a trial, and I want you to seriously consider what that means.

There is no way this is going to get any better until cops start going to jail for shootings like this. I feel confident in saying this because I remember how stupid I was at age eighteen, and realize that if I were a young black man I’d be thinking very hard about how to protect myself from the cops right now. Until the police start facing justice, I can only see this escalating. And frankly, if peaceful protests are met with violence and military hardware, maybe it needs to.

I’ve heard that the National Guard has been deployed. I can only hope it is there to protect the people of Ferguson from their police.

Walking while black

17 year old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed on February 26 by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman. Zimmerman is claiming self-defense, and apparently the police believe him, because he hasn’t been arrested or charged.

That’s about all I know for sure about this. But if you click here you can listen to some of the 911 calls made on that night, and they’re certainly suggestive.

At the time Zimmerman spoke to police, he was in a car and had a loaded gun. He had all the power in this situation. It seems likely that if he’s stayed in the car and stopped following the kid, as he was told to do, this would have been just another case of cops questioning a boy for walking while black. In one of those 911 calls you can hear, in the background, screams for help which go silent after a gunshot.

I’m not going to say that Zimmerman is a murderer. It’s difficult for me to believe that it was self-defense, but I wasn’t there, I don’t know. In a society that has, or at least purports to have, the rule of law it’s not my place to make that judgment, that’s for actual judges and juries to do. Not me, and not the Sanford Police. Justice is clearly not being done, here.

Here’s a link to a petition to push for prosecution, if you feel like signing.

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