Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson has a seriously bad attitude towards the people who are protesting the shooting death of 18-year old Michael Brown. The Huffington Post covered a press conference in which Jackson provided reporters with few answers for why police wore riot gear, threw tear gas and smoke bombs into the crowd, and fired rubber bullets at them.The chief said,
If individuals are in a crowd that’s attacking the police, they need to get out of that crowd. We can’t individually go in and say, ‘Excuse me sir, are you peacefully protesting? Are you throwing rocks? Are you throwing a Molotov cocktail?’ It’s a crowd. If the crowd is getting violent and you don’t want to be violent, get out of the crowd.
While what he says makes sense on a certain level, what he needs to understand—and clearly doesn’t—is that saying something like that will not make the situation any better. It won’t make the protests more peaceful, and it won’t increase the safety of his officers. That’s a fantastic way to further escalate tensions, particularly when most people in the crowd, are, in fact, protesting peacefully.
The officers haven’t kept their use of tear gas strictly to violent situations though. Police told a group of protesters standing in their own yard, on their own property, to disperse. When they didn’t, police gassed them, too, even though they were still on their own property. There has been some vandalism, some looting.
They also tried to kick everyone out of a nearby McDonald’s, according to tweets from reporters Ryan J. Reilly of HuffPo, and Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post. The police asked them for their IDs when they took pictures of the scene, and arrested them. Lowery tweeted that they’d slammed him into a soda fountain when he expressed confusion about which door he should exit.
Ultimately, they were released without charges or paperwork, but told they were arrested for trespassing. In a McDonald’s, for taking pictures? Apparently, the chief thought releasing them without charges or paperwork was doing them a favor.
This is the behavior we should expect from police officers when we’re trying to protest? It’s all our own fault because we had the audacity to be there? We’re responsible for the actions of the police, and others in the crowd, but police aren’t responsible for their own actions when it comes to deciding whether to shoot or not? What kind of country have we become?