In Ferguson, Mo., will civil rights of the police officer be respected?
There’s still a lot we don’t know about the Ferguson, Mo., shooting death of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson.
But there’s plenty we’ve learned in the aftermath, including the realization that people don’t learn easily from past mistakes.
The Brown shooting drew an immediate response of violent protests in Ferguson in a rush to popular judgment based on the headline, “White cop shoots unarmed black teenager.”
The situation was almost immediately exacerbated by Missouri governor Jay Nixon, who called for a “vigorous prosecution” — notice he didn’t say investigation — of the case.
It took days for more facts to slowly filter out of Ferguson, but the opportunists were already at work based on the early overreaction to the initial myth of that story line, as race baiters like the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson quickly descended on Missouri and destructive criminals took advantage of a chance to loot the town’s businesses with impunity.
The history of Sharpton and Jackson should have provided an expectation of immediate appearances given their roles in cases simply known as “the Crown Heights Riot,” “Tawana Brawley,” and “the Duke LaCrosse Case.”
All were instances where the initial response gave way to the realization that these inciters were misleading people based on the emotion of victimization rather than facts.
Sharpton immediately labeled Brown a “gentle giant,” a description belied a few days later with the release of video showing the 6-foot-4-inch, 300 pounder manhandling a convenience store owner who tried to stop him from stealing a box of cigars.
Despite their deceit, Sharpton and Jackson have gone on to repeat their tired act innumerable times to the detriment of the very people they profess to help, trashing the reputation of police everywhere by falsely suggesting our nation has an epidemic of white cops killing unarmed black kids.
The Ferguson disturbances which followed their appearances drew opportunistic outsiders whose actions will leave the city with permanent damage.
On Tuesday night, 75 arrests were made and only 4 of the detainees were residents of Ferguson.
But it’s their city which saw businesses looted and burned, the aftermath of which will unquestionably be what we have seen in other communities where such lawlessness has scarred the landscape.
Detroit is a perfect example — the 1967 riots led to the closing of businesses, robbing residents of jobs and shopping conveniences.
The city has still not fully recovered from what happened nearly a half century ago.
Just ask around at some of the remaining convenience stores/gas stations in Detroit about the problem and cost of frequent theft from their businesses.
The arrival of Attorney General Eric Holder in Missouri doesn’t engender confidence that racially based unrest will be eased after his promised federal investigation of the Brown shooting.
Holder, the top law enforcement officer in the United States, quickly revealed his mindset on the case when he told the story of his own experience of being stopped for speeding on the New Jersey turnpike, leading to a search of his car that still leaves him angry.
That hint of an animus toward police has to frighten officer Wilson as Holder promises to make a determination of possible civil rights violations in the Brown case.
What Holder missed was a glorious opportunity to do more, to head off such tragic confrontations in the future and to discourage the vandalism and crimes we’ve witnessed in Missouri in the aftermath of the shooting there.
Holder never mentioned the possible violation of officer Wilson’s civil rights when, according to witnesses, Brown attacked the officer in his patrol car and tried to grab his gun.
Holder never mentioned the unlikelihood that a police officer with a spotless record would suddenly enter an irrational, racist rage and for no reason shoot an unarmed young black man in broad daylight in the middle of a neighborhood street while leaving the suspect’s companion, another black man, unscathed as a potential witness against him.
Holder never mentioned the civil rights of the shop owner who got throttled by Brown.
The attorney general never mentioned the civil rights of other business owners who saw their inventory looted and their stores burned during the nights of violence in Ferguson.
And Holder never mentioned the civil rights of police officers who put their lives on the line in Ferguson — and every place else in this country — every day to protect communities from the kind of destructive behavior we witnessed in Missouri.
The facts of the Brown shooting will eventually emerge. Whether they exonerate or convict officer Wilson, the conduct of those who have trashed Ferguson may already have done too much damage to overturn.
Frank Beckmann is host of “The Frank Beckmann Show” on WJR-AM (760) from 9 a.m. to noon Monday-Friday.