FORREST ROBINETTE ’16
In the wake of the Grand Jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson, many individuals took to Facebook to share their thoughts and express their frustration. I saw post after post concerning Ferguson and many of the posts spawned heated debates in their comment sections. As one might expect, my feed contained the gamut of opinions on the issue. Some defended Officer Wilson’s actions while others condemned what they saw as the institutional racism of America.
Among the many sentiments expressed, some Facebook users said that they stood in solidarity with the rioters in Ferguson. These users affixed the hashtag “#NoJusticeNoPeace” to their statuses and openly endorsed the violence and destruction that was taking place. One such user wrote, “violence is the only way to stop oppression by the police.”
I condemn this viewpoint and I condemn any Facebook user who affixed the hashtag “#NoJusticeNoPeace” to their status to mean that they support the violence of the Ferguson riots.
I do not believe that the United States government is an autocratic one. We do not live in a police state in which the only avenue for social progress is rioting. Instead, we live in arguably the most free and open society in the world. In the United States, citizens have the ability to fight with words and peaceful protest.
In the United States, violence is not a necessary evil. There is nothing necessary about violence in a free and open society. For those who are dissatisfied with the Grand Jury decision, the overturning of police cars and the burning of local businesses will not reverse that decision. If injustice has been committed, the destructive actions of an angry mob will not restore justice.
Last week, a friend and I discussed our respective opinions on the Ferguson riots. After I said why I thought the violence was unjustified, my friend responded that our nation was founded in the midst of violence.
He went on to describe the years before the birth of the United States in which members of the thirteen colonies tried to use diplomatic measures to respond to abuses by the British government. For example, members of the Second Continental Congress drafted the Olive Branch Petition, which sought to avoid war with Great Britain. After peaceful efforts like the Olive Branch Petition failed, early Americans turned to violence to achieve their political goals. My friend said that the rioters are not so different from the heroes of the American Revolution that we celebrate and deify.
For me, there is a crucial difference between the rioters of Ferguson and unruly eighteenth-century Bostonians. Colonial England is a far cry from present-day America. The early Americans who took up arms against the British were laboring under an autocratic government. Our government may be called inefficient, but it cannot be called autocratic. Our society is one in which voices are heard and individual rights are cared for. Especially in more recent history, we can see that peaceful demonstration is a powerful force in America.
One example is “The Great March on Washington,” which took place in 1963. It was one of the greatest social protests in the history of the United States and it had a massive impact on the rights of African Americans. The shooting of Michael Brown and the reaction surrounding it is part of a larger issue of race relations across the nation. To address this complex and multifaceted issue, we need to exercise care, consideration, and levelheadedness. We do not need to turn to violence.