On August 8, political leaders, national activists and hundreds of people including Cornel West and the relatives of Eric Garner and Oscar Grant came to Ferguson, Missouri. They chanted, sang and marched in a vigil to commemorate the death of a young black man who was shot in the act of attacking a police officer, because a false account by one of the young man’s pals created racial division, began an unraveling of trust in police nation wide, ruined the police officer’s career, prompted attacks on the grand jury system, and launched a lie, “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!,” that dominated protests in many cities for months. There are many destroyed businesses and lost lives because of the events in Ferguson last year.
Why is anyone commemorating them?
Because, in this issue, facts don’t matter. Or “Facts Don’t Matter.” This will be a regular mantra on Ethics Alarms, until they do.
Activists urged the crowd not to let Brown’s death “be in vain.” What does that mean? Mike Brown threw his life away. He was no martyr, no hero. Can an ethical and positive movement be constructed on a false narrative and a phony hero?
Sunday’s event in Ferguson was duplicated in New York, where protesters gathered on Sunday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and at a government building in Harlem before a planned vigil in Manhattan’s Union Square; in Ypsilanti, Mich., where demonstrators gathered at a library park for a rally demanding an end to racial injustice; at Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and even in London. More demonstrations were planned for Monday in St. Louis and in Philadelphia.
“Every city, I want us to close it down!” Anthony Shahid, a local activist, shouted into a microphone before leading the crowd in a chant, “If we can’t get it, shut it down!”“They didn’t give us no justice, so they ain’t going to get no peace,” Bud Cuzz, another activist and leader of the group, Lost Voices, told the Ferguson crowd. How so? What would have been “justice” for Shahid, Cuzz and the rest? Trying Wilson on imaginary charges?
Apparently so. At one point during the march, Brown’s father, Michael Brown Sr., said, “This moment was sponsored by Darren Wilson.”
No, in fact it was sponsored by Dorian Johnson, a biased news media, a corrupt local police force and cynical politicians seeking to get votes by “energizing the base.” Now the murder rates are sky high from coast to coast, good cops are afraid to do their jobs, bad cops are still illegally shooting suspects of all colors, and race relations, polls show, are perceived as being the worst it has been in decades.
And whites are being made to apologize for suggesting that “all lives matter.”
Good job, all.
The protesters spoke of the need to overhaul the system, to end racism and unfair treatment of blacks by the police. These are crucial issues, and need to be taken seriously. They will not be taken seriously, however, as long as the false Ferguson narrative is continually set at the center of the discussion. If these are legitimate concerns, then there must be genuine examples of racist police bias against black citizens. There are. Those, and not the manufactured Ferguson lies, need to be the sources of rallies and symbolic anniversaries. Ferguson symbolizes exploitation, scapegoating, bad journalism, political manipulation and “Facts Don’t Matter.”
Integrity has to matter.
No respectable, successful, ethical movement can grow from such poisoned ground.