America can’t rest on Michael Brown


Christopher Mark Juhn

Protesters gathered in Minneapolis on Lake Street the day after the grand jury made its decision in the Michael Brown case. (Photos: Chris Juhn/City College News)

Casey HeadshotBy Casey Heinisch/[email protected]
Opinion Editor

It is okay for the police to murder the citizens it is sworn to protect and to serve, at least that is the message the public is left with after the “refusal to indict” in the Michael Brown case. The outcome of the case has sparked outrage and protests around the country. What does this verdict mean for us as Americans? It would appear that police can murder citizens with extreme use of force, and walk away largely unaffected.

What actually happened on the day that Michael Brown was shot? At 11:40 AM police received a call about a robbery, and the suspect description was given. Ten minutes later, police spot Michael Brown and a friend walking, and Brown fits the description. The cop stops them and begins to question them. A struggle breaks out and, according to the cop, Brown reached for his gun. The gun fired and, by witness accounts, it was fired upwards of 15 times.   The autopsy report says that Brown was shot “at least six times.”

I can understand how a gun might accidentally fire while two people were struggling to gain control of it, but that accounts for one shot. It is outrageous that Michael Brown was shot “at least six times”. After what? Being questioned about possible involvement in a robbery? He hadn’t been arrested, he wasn’t anything more than a black man walking down the street,  innocent until proven guilty.

If the police officer was working within his rights to protect himself, and to disable his attacker, did he do so in accordance to his training? Is emptying an entire clip on the suspect standard protocol? How many times does a person need to be shot before they submit control? He isn’t Denzel Washington and this isn’t a gangster movie, the fact remains that he was shot at least six times. This seems to show intent.

It isn’t likely that the cop lost control of himself and discharged his firearm in a fit of passion. There are personality profiles and psychological examinations specifically to weed out people who may be susceptible to this type of action. These steps are in place to ensure a balanced and effective police force. This is obviously not working.

What message does this send to the public?  Be afraid of the police, because they can literally get away with murder.

Hundreds of protesters halted traffic on Lake Street in Minneapolis.

“As a young African-American male, I’m afraid of the police,” Ferguson teenager Jarrett Cross told “It’s bad enough to worry about other people, now I have to worry about danger from the very people trying to protect me. To be honest, I just do not go outside when I don’t have to and have learned to steer clear of trouble. It’s just not safe anywhere.”

The underlying issues of equality are called into the debate as well. If this had been two Caucasian or Asian boys, would the outcome have been the same? Would they have been killed and if so, would the police force have been brought to justice? I can’t say for sure, but I bet it would be more likely.

It is easy to draw parallels between this case and the Trayvon Martin case. The outrage that came along with Trayvon’s case being that a security guard was in a position where lethal force was possible, and the system not working to right and egregious wrong. Michael’s case is slightly different. His case involves a police officer, an agent of the local government, working to serve and protect its people and the system failing to secure what is right for the community.

This issue was brought to the public forefront many times with various faces in the media, Rodney King, Matthew Shepard, Trayvon Martin, and now Michael Brown. Americans like to say that we are equal opportunity, and that racism, sexism, and classism is something that we don’t have almost cured. This isn’t true at all. America is as divided as it ever has been.

We have had many opportunities to change our ways and actually become a country that practices what it preaches.  With the outrage that followed Trayvon’s murder, we had the momentum necessary to actualize change, but we became complacent. The media stopped focusing on the profound injustice, Trayvon’s killer was let walk, and then Kim Kardashian had Kanye West’s baby and the world stopped caring about injustice, or so it seems. Because of this refusal to continue the fight for justice after Trayvon, the public’s inaction lead to the death of Michael Brown, and the freedom of his murderer.

A standard you walk by is a standard you accept. If this tragedy is let fade into the background noise of the American media system, then there is little chance for improving the futures of all Americans. How many more Trayvon Martins, Michael Browns, or Eric Garners will there need to be before we actually demand change, without giving in.

Cars were nowhere to be seen as protestors moved themselves onto freeways.
Cars were nowhere to be seen as protestors moved themselves onto freeways.

How are we supposed to trust those who are there to “serve and protect” when they can literally get away with murdering us? We can’t. When we can’t trust those in authority, we stop cooperating with them. Without cooperation, it is impossible for them to effectively provide justice.

We need a government that is held accountable for its actions. One where the murderers face harsher sentences than those who are being questioned for a crime they have not been convicted of. Michael Brown paid with his life. What did the officer pay with?

If it were mandatory for all police officers to wear cameras on their body as a part of the uniform, there wouldn’t be any debate as to what really happened.  The evidence would be irrefutable, and if Brown was in the wrong the cop would have justifiably walked. However, if the cop did indeed act inappropriately, this would also be irrefutable, and justice may have been saved. In a country that spends trillions on a sustained war on terror, why would spending the money to outfit police officers with body cameras not be highly logical?

It is a slippery down-hill slope, and I sincerely hope that we can move towards equality. It won’t come without struggle. We must stand up, unite our voices, and truly understand that there is no differences between us as people. Only then can we hope to create a just and equal society.

More photos from the Minneapolis protest (Chris Juhn – [email protected])

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