I attended the NAACP rally for Michael Brown at the Missouri Capitol this afternoon. I wanted to hear what the protestors had to say and, if I could, to understand something of where they were coming from. I wanted to record some of my thougths mostly to help me organize them and process what I saw and heard. I put it on this blog because I'm foolish enough to think someone else might be interested in them also. What else are blogs for?!
This was an NAACP rally and, apparently, that is who organized the march from Ferguson. There were, however, clearly some in attendance who believed in the immediate cause, justice in the Michael Brown case, but who disagreed with the platform speakers (the chairman of the board and the national president for the NAACP among others) about what needed to be done and what channels should be used. The goals articulated by the NAACP president were to have a special prosecutor appointed to this case and to end racial profiling in the USA which includes a piece of legislation at the federal level. Personally, I think that a special prosecutor is a reasonable request but, at the very least, making the grand jury proceedings public is necessary. While I'm not normally given to agree with the govenor of New York, I heard him say this morning that if the preception of our justice system is one of inequality and prejudice then that must be dealt with no matter if it is a fair perception or not. I think he's got this one right. I should further say that I have no idea what good legal rules and precedences I am suggesting setting aside to make the grand jury proceedings public but the evidence needs to be heard.
A bishop of a Christian denomination read part of an open letter from his denomination (I'd include a link if I could remember the denomination) that I thought was interesting particularly regarding the grand jury. The letter acknowledged that a full trial might find Darren Wilson not guilty in the death of Michael Brown but that the openness of a full trial was required for there to be trust in the process. I thought that was a pretty good word.
I better not get any farther before I say that I believe being a police officer is a near-impossible job. Being responsible for the protection of law abiding people while being resented by every person you stop in their car or on the street and constantly living under the real possibility of someone agressively trying to hurt you or keep you from doing your job is more than I have to put up with ever (even on Sunday morning!). Add to this constant situation the need to occasionally make life and death decisions with no time and no margin for error and you have a job that most of us cannot imagine doing well. As sympathetic as I am to the protestors and, in general, those who feel unheard and unknown, we ought to all try to imagine ourselves in the shoes of a law enforcement officer. While being the target of the anger of some of the protestors, several officers provided escort, traffic control, and protection to the public, protestors included, as usual.
Finally, those "other protestors." There was a small portion of the marchers who called for "revolution." I did not get (or take?) the chance to speak to one of them but their interactions at the rally suggested they were not interested in simply voting their mind or influencing through the existing political channels. I did not get the impression that these revolutionaries were looters but they definitely were more militant in their speech and demonstration. I would like to brush them off as radicals but, to be fair, it is pretty easy for me (and maybe many of you) to not really think about the NAACP demands farther than today's rally because they don't sponsor "occupy" movements or the like. These, generally younger protestors, struck me as being ok with a measure of anarchy.
The NAACP clearly wanted to draw these young people and their energy into the fold while controlling their methods. This kind of reminded me of pastoring a church with some always wanting change faster and some always wanting to take a little more time to consider things. That's assuming that everyone agrees on the goals.
On the whole, I was impressed with the reliance on God clearly demonstrated from the NAACP leadership and the peaceful yet forceful statements of what needed to change.