Immediately following the shooting of Michael Brown there was much civil unrest. Protestors took to the streets. Many chanted and yelled. Others looted business. August 9, 2014, and the days following, have been tense. The Governor declared a curfew for the state, and also declared Missouri to be in a state of emergency due the unrest.
Fast forward to November 24, yesterday. Much tension and anticipation had been building over the last 100 days, and a decision in the Wilson-Brown incident is to be rendered by a grand jury. In the days leading up to the decision, the governor called for schools in the area to be closed this week, and the National Guard was put on standby.
November 24: the verdict is in. Many are expecting officer Wilson to not be charged. Protesters are beginning to rally as the 8 p.m. (EST) televised announcement drew near. Protesters have made signs, put on masks, and spray-painted cars. Policemen prepped their riot gear and armed themselves with tear gas.
The announcement begins, and to get to what everyone is waiting for, the grand jury’s verdict is not to charge Darren Wilson in the Michael Brown shooting.
Brown’s mother, upset and in complete disagreement with the jury’s decision, urges people to peacefully protest. The President of the United States Barack Obama makes a speech urging the same. Nevertheless, the protesters begin. Things get violent. Bottles and rocks begin to be thrown at the police by angry and restless crowds. Police return fire with smoke and then with tear gas. Then it gets worse.
Protesters start to loot Toys R’ Us, McDonald’s, grocery stores and local businesses. They set fire to O’ Reilly’s auto parts, Autozone, local beauty shops, public storage buildings, and a police department. Not to mention they flipped over patrol cars, and set them ablaze. The sounds of ammunition firing due to being set off by the burning car ring through the streets. Cars are being stolen and driven through banks and other business. But it gets worse.
Eventually, after much chaos, the protesters, some armed with AR-15’s (as heard via the Ferguson police scanner), and others with handguns, begin to shoot at police officers. Somewhere in the midst of this the National Guard is called in.
An officer is shot. Homes are broken into. Businesses are completely engulfed in flames.
This was the scene in Ferguson, Missouri on November 24, 2014, and it carried on throughout the morning of the 25th. Many other protests occurred in New York City, Los Angeles, Oakland, and Washington, D.C., at the White House.
Why recreate this scene?
Because this scene isn’t new, well some of it anyway.
As a (former) student and lover of American history, one must look back to a recent time where there were many protests for justice and many activists who marched for a better future. A famous figure is Martin Luther King Jr, the pastor-activist whose voice and model shook a nation.
Martin Luther King Jr. understood that change would not come by violent expression. Violence begets violence. Protesters turn violent and then are retaliated on by the police, or by the Ku Klux Klan. King knew that would get them nowhere. He knew that the better alternative is nonviolent action in love, unity, and with forgiveness.
Martin Luther King Jr. said this about nonviolence,
Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.
And to love, he said:
Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.
We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.
And to forgiveness, King said:
We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.
Martin Luther King Jr. realized that the paths to peace and justice were laden with sacrifice, and for the Civil Rights activists that meant sacrificing their desire for retaliation, pride, spite, and hate in the name of progress.
King recognized that those who wanted racial equality had to present themselves as equals. They needed to be respectful, not animalistic. They needed to march forward with the openness of dialogue. They needed to stand firm, and stand together in order for change to come. Martin Luther King Jr. locked arms with his fellow marchers, both white and black, and began to walk.
His nonviolent tactics of marching, sit-ins, and speeches allowed for the political establishment to engage those who stood for equality. And when the KKK bombed a church and killed 4 girls in a Sunday school class in 1963, the protesters didn’t respond with violence, but with vigils and with an awe-inspiring unity, resilience, and the will to move forward without sinking to the level of their attackers. King and Co. kept their heads held high above the muck and mire of petty, useless murder. They continued to march and sit, and a multitude of people rallied behind them, joined their cause, and they saw their cause for racial equality and for justice prosper.
I’m not sure that can be said of the protesters in Ferguson.
The protesters have tried to bring about justice with their own hands, but have now shown those hands to be bloody and dirty; just as dirty as those whom they oppose. They want justice for a teenager whose life was taken and family ruined, yet they have ruined the businesses and lives of many who are not involved in the situation.
Sure, the cause for justice and equality is commendable, but their actions have greatly harmed that cause. Why loot a toy store? Why burn down a Taco Bell? Why loot and burn the local businesses owned by fellow Ferguson residents (many of whom are seen weeping today about the loss of their business and therein the means to provide for their families)? What point was made in that? Do the protesters realize how such activities discredit them, and makes them seem nothing more than barbarians? People want change and justice? Great. How can you bring about positive change effectively?
As seen in this case, there is a deep desire for justice. But flawed people are trusting in flawed systems (justice system/government) to provide something it cannot always deliver: justice. No matter which side of the situation you are on, there was going to be disappointment, hurt, anger and feelings of injustice. Peace, justice, and hope don’t come from violent protests, the American justice system, or the executive branch.
True justice, peace, and a greater hope is found only in Jesus Christ, who in time, will bring all things subject to His justice. He will restore all that is broken. He is the only true hope. And now, He brings peace amidst all fear and conflict. Though you may not have understanding as to why certain things happen, you can have hope in trusting that God is sovereign over all human affairs. Trust Him. Lean in and trust Him, and Him alone for justice, peace, and hope. The good news is that Jesus Christ, in His death and resurrection, broke the bonds of sin, and has defeated death. He reigns and is coming again. And those who trust Him will know His perfect peace and justice.
For now, as we believers in the Lord Jesus Christ anticipate His coming and making all things new, we have work to do. We must pray, and reach out, and love those who are oppressed. Pray for the people of Ferguson, Missouri. Pray for peace, and understanding. Either way, there’s going to be people who will be hurt, angry and feel that justice has eluded them, whether it was the victim’s or officer’s family. Listen to people and to their struggles. Mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep. Both families (victim’s and officer’s) need the healing and understanding that comes only through Jesus.