Rod St. Aubyn: Were The Ferguson Riots Necessary?


I am sure you are just as tired as I am of all the media coverage of the Ferguson riots and the grand jury decision.  But I feel that there is the need for one more perspective to think about.

In full disclosure, I want everyone to know that I have a son residing in another state who is a police officer.  So even though I may be accused of supporting officers for that reason, I too have had my own experience of what I would consider a “bad police experience” during a supposedly “routine traffic stop.”

I recently read about comments of Michael Brown’s mother on a recent CBS morning program in which she was asked for her reaction to the officer’s recent comments on the grand jury’s decision.  She said something like, “I don’t believe a word of it.  He (her son) would never do anything like this to provoke anyone to do anything and he wouldn’t do anything to anybody…”  Did she not see the video of her son stealing the cigars and then violently pushed the store person back when the store person tried to confront Michael?  Doesn’t that clearly show that her son DID in fact provoke someone to do something and DIDN’T Michael Brown do something to someone else disproving her statements?

Then Michael’s stepdad is seen on the news advocating through an emotional appeal in front of the gathered masses in Ferguson to burn the city down after the grand jury decision.  Many of those people did soon oblige the plea.  Though I don’t agree with their statements, I do understand that they had been dealt with such an emotional event with the shooting and killing of their son by a white police officer.  Unfortunately, they are letting emotions speak for them rather than logical thinking.  I can’t imagine losing a son or daughter like that.

But I do blame their attorneys for ratcheting up the rhetoric.  These people are supposedly educated in the law and should know better than what they have portrayed in the media.  They are guilty of spreading hate and distrust of the legal system, something that they have sworn to support.  They should be held accountable for their actions.  I fully understand that they are being paid to represent Michael Brown’s parents, but in my opinion they are only dividing the public even more.

The grand jury saw ALL the evidence related to this incident and came to the conclusion that there was NOT evidence to indict the police officer.  Many of the witnesses were black and disputed the testimony of others that said Michael’s hands were raised.  The forensic evidence clearly showed that that Michael was NOT shot in the back with his hands up, nor did it show that he was executed while on the ground.  The evidence does show and support the statements of the officer that there was a struggle in the car and shows blood from Michael Brown inside the car and on the gun.

I have had the opportunity to serve on a criminal jury trial.  I found it extremely interesting, but I can’t say that I enjoyed it.  It was very stressful knowing that your collective decision could result in someone losing their job, potentially having to serve time in prison, and possibly ruining the lives of his family.  We ultimately decided “not guilty” because we felt that the prosecution had not proven their case “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  Yes, there was a part of us that still had a lingering belief that the accused could be guilty, but unanimously we simply did not feel that the prosecutors had presented enough evidence to prove it beyond that reasonable doubt standard.

This is what the grand jury did in the case of Michael Brown.  They did not find evidence to support the indictment of the officer.  If the attorneys for Michael Brown’s parents dispute the “grand jury process” then fine, but deal with that and don’t try to confuse the public.  Advocate for changes to the grand jury process through the appropriate legislative process.  But to impugn the hard work and hours of deliberation by those jurors is totally inappropriate and does a total disservice to the entire judicial system.

Oh yeah, about my previous “bad police experience.”  Many years ago, I had bags of garbage in the back of my old station wagon that I was planning to take it to the city dump the next morning.  I was literally harassed by a “bad apple” policeman who thought I may have been guilty of some burglary because of the bags in my car.  I was not detained and I was very pleasant during the incident.  I even volunteered that he could search my car if he wished.  However the officer was a total jerk.  I later complained to the police chief in this small community in another state, who asked that I complete a complaint form about the officer because he had heard of other complaints in the past.  Several months later, that officer was terminated.  Not just because of my complaint, but because of numerous other complaints in the future about this officer.

My point is this.  Yes, at times the judicial and law enforcement systems do need to be corrected.  But our system of government allows for avenues to make these changes.  Riots, property damage, and harming others will not advance causes for change.  In fact, it could do more damage than good.  It could just cement racist views by others when people take the law into their own hands.