By Christian stellakis
Edited by Shambhavi Singh,Senior editor,The Indian Economist
On August 9th, Micheal Brown, an 18 year old African American, was shot to death by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. While the death is certainly a tragedy in and of itself, what followed has since overshadowed the loss of the young man’s life. It is becoming a crisis that has threatened the stability of the city itself. What was initially a sad and unfortunate incident has escalated to a complete city-wide disaster. The true tragedy in Ferguson is no longer the untimely death of one African American boy, but the horrific response that has brought the suburb to its knees.
Swiftly following the death of the young man at the hands of the Caucasian officer, controversy swelled as pundits, community leaders and members of the suburb declared race a factor in the killing. Racial tensions flared, as the African American community and others perceived a terrible injustice in the death of the reportedly unarmed Micheal Brown. The very next day, what began as a humble candlelight vigil to honor the life of the deceased youth quickly turned for the worse. In light of reports that Brown was shot multiple times, and other, admittedly flimsy claims that the officer had murdered Brown “execution style” following his surrender, public anger boiled over.
Protesters turned violent, and many began to take advantage of the tragic situation. For the next few nights, looters and other troublemakers proceeded to desecrate the memory of Micheal Brown by destroying property and robbing stores. Mayhem erupted in the streets of Ferguson, as the once docile suburb nearly fell into anarchy. Looters were caught stealing food, alcohol, and even toilet paper from local businesses, forcing small business owners to defend not only their personal business from the likes of robbers, but also fend for their own lives.
The police were sent out in force to respond to the epidemic of violence that plagued the small town, and respond they did. On August 11th, in an attempt to disperse the increasingly violent crowd, police in full riot gear flexed their might by firing tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd. While such action was, in all reality, necessary to regain order in the crumbling community, it did little to quell the outrage. More than likely, it exacerbated it. The issue was no longer the saddening death of a teenager, but a racial war between the police and the public.
Faulty reporting only served to worsen the situation. Instantly a national news story, the crisis in Ferguson was subject to countless amounts of speculation and biased reporting. Many prominent pundits spoke out harshly about the issue, trying the case in the court of public opinion before any serious and legitimate investigative work was completed. Multiple stories wove different narratives, confounding the issue and further enraging the public.
As the real story unfolds, the people of Ferguson can only wait, hoping for the violence to dissipate and the anger to dissolve. Until then, America waits, and mourns both the death of Micheal Brown, and the unfortunate response that followed.
Christian is a Junior at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. As an honors student and member of the Dean’s List, Christian is pursuing a degree in Economics and Government. He was accepted into Hamilton after graduating Valedictorian of Chittenango High School, where he served as the Opinion Editor for the school newspaper. Christian is an avid member of the Hamilton College Debate Society and a frequent contributor to the political discourse at the college.