Both the verdict regarding police officer Darren Wilson and the immediate violent aftermath in Ferguson were entirely predictable, of course.
Ferguson has essentially been under military occupation for the passed week in preparation for the disturbances that were bound to occur. One wonders if the sight of military vehicles moving into civilian areas is something that might be commonplace in America some day.

Watching the violent footage of angry protestors burning buildings and police vehicles – images of a city in flames – would’ve no doubt reminded many people, especially among the black community in America, of the Los Angeles riots of twenty years ago; with the obvious observation having to be that little has changed in the intervening two decades.

The scenes personally reminded me more of the widespread UK riots in 2011, which began on my very door-step and started as a protest against the police’s shooting of a criminal in Tottenham, London, but evolved into a broader protest against police discrimination against the black community (it then expanded further into an all-out, greed-driven looting fest and became an extreme symptom of children raised in a harshly commercial society, but that’s beyond the point of this post).

In the case of the Tottenham riot, I’m of the slightly complex view that at least half of the original protestors had legitimate grievances against the police, while everyone that later followed were mostly feral youth and opportunist looters who should’ve ended up in prison, and also that Mark Duggan – the man initially shot by the police – was a dangerous career criminal who may or may not have been armed at the time of shooting.

In the case of Ferguson, the situation is evidently much clearer cut: Michael Brown appeared to have been unarmed, surrendering and shot dead for no legitimate reason (other than some strange, vague quote about an “aggressive look”). And although there is a continuing persecution complex among black youth in the UK regarding police discrimination – which certainly has basis in truth, but is also exacerbated by the American influenced gang culture that has criminalized a substantial portion of the UK’s youth, particularly in the black community – in American cities this institutional racism is so evident, so obvious and so widespread that its existence isn’t even questioned.

The fatal shooting of black citizens in public settings isn’t a rare occurrence; there’ve reportedly been several similar incidents in different locations just between the Michael Brown shooting in August and now.

Endemic racial injustice carried out matter-of-course and under the guise of a supposedly impartial legal system is practically designed to create long-term resentment and antagonism. A system where a white police officer can legally shoot dead an unarmed black teenager and essentially get away with it can basically be said to amount to a tyranny in everything but name. And it’s a disparity in American society that never, ever seems to evolve or improve. I was recently watching a documentary about America in the sixties and about the riots that broke out following the assassination of Martin Luther King. The state of relations between the authorities and the black community in American society seems to reach these boiling points every generation; a perception of racial inequality and state injustice that  gets passed on from generation to generation and is continuously reinforced by both experience and by flashpoint events like Ferguson.

What steps are going to be taken to address this problem? And when? How many more generations have to pass before something changes? It would seem that the case of Darren Wilson provided just such an opportunity for something to be done to change the widely held view that ‘black lives are worthless’; but instead it was seen to have played out like a pantomime, with the inescapable impression of the excessive law-enforcer being favoured over the innocent citizen in a system that can no longer legitimately claim to have its citizens’ best interests as priority.

Which is not to speak in favour of public acts of violence and vandalism; most of the protests in various US cities were peaceful, though Ferguson predictably wasn’t. Going back to 2011, I’ve been in a city subject to mass rioting and violence and it isn’t pretty; I remember a very uncomfortable few days in which I was highly reluctant to even leave the house. But the point is it doesn’t work to simply try to quash the riot; there’s no point in trying to put out the fire every few years when what’s needed is to address the causes and the grievances.

I’ve wondered, personally, whether these kinds of situations – these simmering tensions and breakdowns in law and order – are being deliberately engineered and provoked by higher powers for the purposes of further, future curtailments of civil liberties and enhancements of law-enforcement powers.

In other words, the more riots that occur periodically, the more images of police cars burning and shops being smashed in, the more the case can be made in both government and the media for more state control and more ‘cracking down’ on protestors and trouble-makers. That may be a very cynical view, but it’s difficult to be anything other than cynical when observing a situation like this one.

Don’t be surprised if incidents like this increase even further in years to come, and don’t be surprised if we see more, even more violent, riots and breakdowns in order in the coming years. More towns and cities in flames.


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