It’s curious for a pacifist to read the headlines that link my activities with violence.
To be sure, I’ve become accustomed to the violence of the police. In yesterday’s earlier march we, a totally peaceful group, approached the Ferguson police station’s front door (in broad daylight) and were met with police in riot gear. Police shaking their batons at me, bringing out the dogs and the pepper spray, attempting to intimidate with state sponsored violence – this is common place. Tragically common.
Last night was very different and very important.
The protestors (as a group, a family, trained and dedicated) had not even arrived on the Delmar Loop when the police were executing a capricious curfew ordinance. It’s rumored that the action was a response to a (single) fight somewhere on the multi-block strip. Maybe so. What I witnessed as we happened onto the scene for our unrelated (or not so) gathering was a racially specific sweep. The kids that were being rounded up and removed were chatting with one another happily, shopping at the convenience store, and causing no harm whatsoever. Nor were they accused of doing anything wrong. They were being evicted solely (we were told) because of their age.
Of course there were others not evicted. It’s the not even hidden in plain sight truth. Young people who were dressed a certain way, holding certain skin privilege, and/or hanging out with others that had privilege were NOT evicted. Not only were they evicted, the violence with which they were removed (having committed NO CRIME) was unconscionable. Dogs, handcuffs, taken to the station, terror.
What happened next is sadly predicable and gratefully no one was seriously hurt.
The protest which would have been slight suddenly grew. Protestors weary from the events earlier in the day came out. Youth that had been evicted returned through the side streets and joined the protestors. Middle aged white folk enjoying their dinners left their tables and went to the streets. The streets belong to the people and the people took them back.
Enough is enough.
And apparently some of the kids (not from the protest group) did have a fight, apparently one had a gun. Let me be clear: no one wants kids to fight, no one wants kids to have revolvers. But for either of these tragedies to be the headline only undergirds the compounded tragedy that the mainstream media are missing the story entirely. What the youth need is not more violence (state or otherwise), they need respect, justice, and a safe place to gather.
Violence begets violence. If we insist on state sponsored violence, the results are predictable.