Last night, they burned the town. Thousands of people milled around in downtown Ferguson, Missouri. Many were good folks who had come to protest the decision of a grand jury not to indict Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen ager.
But some of them – indeed, many of them -- were there to make trouble. And they did. Millions of dollars of property damage. Stores looted. Automobiles and buildings torched. Shots fired. People injured.
Most of the rioters were black and young. They had been given a pass. Responsible people, adults, even white folks, were incensed about the shooting of Michael Brown. The TV, the newspapers, the Internet were all hyped up to react to the grand jury’s decision.
And so they came. Bearing, sticks and stones. And gasoline, and guns.
Most of the Ferguson rioters had not yet been born when Detroit was burned. On a summer night in 1967, police raided a blind pig on 12th Street. The patrons refused to be taken downtown and the ensuing scuffle exploded into an uncontrolled rampage.
Four days later, 43 people were dead, 1,189 were injured, 7,200 were arrested and more that 2,000 buildings were destroyed.
In 1967, we lived in Detroit, on Berkeley Road near Seven Mile and Livernois. The stores just a few hundred feet from our back door were looted. We could smell the smoke and hear the gunshots.
Anarchy isn’t pretty. It’s scary. It’s insane.
Bron Cruz is not a white man. His name and his photo suggest that he is Hispanic. He is a Salt Lake City police officer who shot and killed an unarmed white teen ager two days after Michael Brown died in Ferguson, Missouri.
The family and friends of Dillon Taylor, the Utah teen ager, have organized several protests in an effort to get answers about Dillon’s death. South Salt Lake police have refused to comment. No grand jury has been convened. Only the local media gave the matter any real attention, and that has pretty much died down. Hardly anyone cares in Utah. Nobody cares in America.
On April 23, 2012, a 29 year old, unarmed Hispanic pedestrian named Daniel Adkins was shot and killed by a black man who was sitting in his car in front of an Arizona Taco Bell. No charges were ever filed against the shooter. In fact the name of the gunman has never been released by the police.
As far as I can find on the Internet, the friends and supporters of Daniel Adkins and Dillon Taylor have not looted any stores, burned down any buildings, overturned any vehicles or pranced in front of network television cameras.
The administration of criminal justice is not perfect. But civilization requires that we do the best we can, and that the people who are dissatisfied with the system work responsibly to improve it.
Often protesters are not concerned about the system. They don’t object to the way we do things; they complain about what we do. No one claims that the Ferguson grand jury was tainted or improperly constituted, or that the constitutional requirement of grand jury indictment is not a valid and valuable civil right.
No one says that the grand jury didn’t hear all the evidence. No one is saying that they didn’t listen, or were in any way corrupted or compromised.
No sir, what we hear coming out of Missouri is the voice of the mob. Black or white, a mob is never rational, never reasonable. No doubt there are some protesters in Ferguson who want Darren Wilson indicted and put on trial, but the majority would not be satisfied unless Wilson is actually convicted.
One can only imagine what would have happened to Darren Wilson if he had been seen walking out of a police station or a courthouse last night.
A mob has no conscience. Black Americans should be keenly aware of the horrors of vigilante justice.