Column: Ferguson protesters riot to make point, but violence should not be the answer

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Photo by loavesofbread, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license.

A scene from the riots in Ferguson, Missouri.

Allegra H.

If you have been anywhere near a news source recently, you probably have seen headlines that read, “Unarmed black teenager killed by white police officer in Ferguson,” which would spark anger in any equality-loving American. Whether you agree or disagree with the Grand Jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson, the response taken by the residents of Ferguson is an atrocity for all the world to watch.

On the evening of Nov. 24, the Grand Jury of Ferguson delivered their statement that it would not indict (bring criminal charges against) Wilson with the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. As soon as this announcement was released, parts of the city fell to chaos.

According to the “New York Times,” police officers had anything from glass bottles to rocks thrown at them, businesses like Walgreens were burned to the ground, stores throughout the city were looted, and more than 150 gun shots were fired, none of which came from the police. By the end of the night, approximately 61 people were arrested and 14 were injured.

One of the most frustrating factors of this event is not what the Grand Jury decided, but is the immediate, haphazard choice that the people decided to make in response to this pronouncement. Handling their anger through acts of violence is beyond inappropriate.

I don’t understand how stealing, threatening police officers and firing guns is a justified response to “honor” Brown, especially when Brown’s parents have asked for peace following the Grand Jury’s decision. The hypocrisy alone in those actions makes me cringe, but add the fact that his parents are grieving their lost son while the city they live in turns to avenge him with violence, and I feel sick.

No matter your opinion on this decision, the reality is that in our American judicial system, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. In this instance, 12 impartial community members from Ferguson making up the Grand Jury felt that there was not enough evidence to indict Wilson.

We, as outsiders to this situation, cannot attempt to take matters into our own hands through brutality because we don’t know the full story. If you are upset by a decision made in our judicial system, by all means protest, but do it peacefully. Go ahead and say the Grand Jury was right or wrong in your opinion–the first Amendment gives you the right to have freedom of speech. But there is not one Amendment that allows anyone to utilize terrorism as a form of expression.

Many people in Ferguson and across the country were upset by the Grand Jury’s decision and wanted to protest to express these feelings. However, what resulted from these once peaceful protests became an unacceptable aggression to the court’s decision that should never be mirrored in our future. When emotions run high, peace often falls to animosity.

The kerfuffle of Monday night continued into Tuesday and Wednesday as the National Guard was called to help quell the protesters. Unfortunately, these hostile protests have not been contained to Ferguson, and thanks to media coverage, have spread to cities like New York City, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

Although beginning peacefully, the protests in Ferguson have gone too far. Violence and crime should not be the way to show dissension–peaceful demonstration is far more powerful. What we must remember is feeling wronged will never justify wrongful acts.