Liberal: Michael Brown’s effect extends outside of Ferguson
The law is considered the greatest push for civil rights since the Emancipation Proclamation, which outlawed discrimination in regards to race, sex, religion and nationality. In the long history of this nation, we have come a long way from the limited freedoms minorities enjoyed. With the birth of the nation being official in 1776, one would assume by 2014 any American citizen, regardless of race, sex, religion, nationality and sexual orientation could enjoy the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that was said in the Declaration of Independence, free from hatred and bigotry personified by fellow American citizens.
Unfortunately, that is not true in many parts of the country as multiple areas of this country still tolerate legal discrimination against LGBT minorities. Fifty years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 came into effect and new generations of Americans have come into being, hate based on the color of one’s skin is still a troubling issue in this country, and this has become even more apparent in the recent events in the city of Ferguson, Missouri.
On Aug. 9, 18-year-old Michael Brown Jr. was fatally shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. The shooting is currently under investigation by a grand jury, with Attorney General Eric Holder being dispatched to Ferguson. Subsequent to the incident, protests and unrest have broken out onto the streets of Ferguson. The protests have been met with reactions both domestically and internationally.
Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, has said the protesters should enjoy protection ensured by authorities because of the basic freedom principles of freedom of speech and assembly, and that law enforcement must abide by American and international standards. Other commentators supporting the protests include Amnesty International, protesters in the Middle East, Tibetan monks and the online community Anonymous.
In a period where the United States should finally be able to join the community of nations that enjoy complete freedom for all citizens, regardless of any divisions, we are reminded of how freedom can be simply tramped upon, even domestically. Police are using military grade equipment in their attempts to stop protesters, bringing an unwanted image.
Police have moved media, journalists and reporters to a designated area, hindering what is capable of being reported. Hedy Epstein, a Holocaust survivor, was arrested while protesting in St. Louis, along with more than 150 other arrests in Ferguson, including one death.
Hadas Gold of Politico writes, “Police in Ferguson, Missouri, are continuing to arrest journalists and have said that they will continue to do so because of safety concerns, despite condemnation from media organizations that say such detentions are unwarranted.” Ferguson is essentially a civil rights disaster.
Yes, there is unlawful looting being performed by various individuals. Yes, some individuals are taking advantage of peaceful protests for malicious means. However, in the case of allowing these protests to continue, it is actually irrelevant. Many on the American right have continued to argue the Second Amendment allows Americans the right to bear arms. But the First Amendment provides the five basic freedoms every American expects to enjoy, including freedom of speech, petition and assembly; all of which have been violated in Ferguson.
The tone of these events reminds me of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, where unfortunately, a racial division was apparent among the residents in the disaster area. With the drawdown of American soldiers in Afghanistan and minimal actions being conducted in Iraq, more and more attention to the problems at home are being revealed. What right do police have to intervene in a peaceful protest?
The United States has the persona of being the leader of the free world, the paragon of Western civilization, the watchdog of democracy. Yet, inside our own borders, we are facing police brutality onto unarmed civilians, who then retaliate with an angry but peaceful protest with equipment akin to what you could find an American soldier donning in areas such as Afghanistan and Iraq. When you have a government that tramples on the freedoms of the people, it loses all credibility in the crusades of democracy and freedom it claims to wish to spread across the world. We can only hope that 50 years, further constitutional violations such as these do not arise.