Monday, August 18, 2014

Missouri Burning

Why there? Why now? Why this? Why Ferguson?

On Thursday, we discussed how the history of de jure and de facto racial segregation have shaped the turmoil that's come to define Ferguson today. Desert Beacon just dove deeper into the St. Louis region's troubled past. Needless to say, it's a troubled past full of racial discrimination, municipal government turf wars, and sharp economic transitions.

Yet even as we're starting to understand how and why this is happening, we're still shocked by this. Why is this happening in America?

We've witnessed the incredibly disturbing trend of police militarization. Why are "peace officers" using weapons of war, sometimes even against unarmed civilians? Back in June, Congress had the opportunity to support bipartisan backed legislation to curtail a US Defense Department program that ships excess inventory of heavy artillery to local police departments. When it came to the House floor for a vote in that chamber, it failed by a huge margin. (And for the record, all of Nevada's House Members voted against this amendment.)

We now have a better sense of what Ferguson's and other police forces are using against civilians, but we must also address why they are using these military grade weapons against civilians. Why did Officer Darren Wilson shoot Michael Brown? It certainly wasn't because of the alleged robbery that the store never reported to police. So why did this occur?

And why have there been so many other "officer involved shootings" (and beatings) of unarmed civilians? Why are police officers allowed to commit acts they tend to arrest other people for? And why are we being told to just "submit" to this type of abuse?

And remember, we're not immune to this here in Nevada. Particularly in Southern Nevada, Las Vegas Metro Police has a disturbing record of "officer involved shootings" and excessive use of force. This is an issue that reaches far beyond Mississippi River.

But for the time being, Ferguson has become the epicenter of this horror. This corner of Missouri has become the burning reminder of something far too many of us have been far too afraid to publicly address. And it remains to be seen what else must occur (and who else must be hurt) before we finally take seriously this threat from within.

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