THE BLOG

Now Is the Time to #BreakTheCycleOfViolence

26/11/2014 11:35 GMT | Updated 25/01/2015 10:59 GMT

On Monday, in Ferguson, Mo., a Grand Jury composed by nine whites and three blacks declined to indict white police officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of unarmed black kid Michael Brown.

2014-11-25-fergusonunrest.jpg

Loavesofbread under CC Licence

As protests ignite across the United States;

As politically elected prosecutors proceed to blame the media for the current unrest - although, in 2000, McCulloch had already been the protagonist of a less than transparent case regarding the killing of two unarmed black men on the part of public security officers;

As Brown's family has invited protesters to keep demonstrations peaceful;

As all this is happening, a few considerations are still in order.

We have forgotten about context.

We have forgotten that we are talking about an exchange between an unarmed kid of a traditionally abused minority and a mature, trained police officer who is also strong of his white privilege.

We have forgotten about the proportionality of actions that defines the fine line between legal and illegal conduct.

We have forgotten about how unacceptable it is for politics and the law to become one, as the former is subjective and the latter should be objective, and we have ignored the fact that this result is inevitable when prosecution is left to the arbitrary power of an elected official rather than an impartial figure, as it is the case in the US.

USA Today reports Wilson's following words, explaining how the police officer felt when he was dealing with Brown:

'When I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding Hulk Hogan'.

This ancient, racist narrative of beastly black characters and powerless white victims is rather outdated and unrealistic, but what it also does is allowing us to forget for a minute that this grown man was dealing with a kid. An unarmed kid.

We need to put this case into perspective. Brown, I'll say this again, was unarmed, so officer Wilson wasn't in life danger. There was physical violence exchanged, maybe abusive words directed at the police officer, but at no point was Wilson risking his life. And that is the only case in which taking someone's life in self-defence is legal, if all else fails.

This is what USA Today further reports:

He had no Taser weapon [because, he told investigators, it wasn't comfortable to carry around because of its size] and felt his mace spray would not work, Wilson said: "So the only other option I thought I had was my gun." He drew it, he said, and told Brown to "get back or I'm going to shoot you." He said Brown grabbed the gun with his right hand and twisted it, pushing it down into Wilson's hip, before the officer fired.

We don't know what really happened in this exchange, and that is why there is a Change.org petition that aims to require St. Louis county police officers to wear body-mounted cameras. Even if the above narrative were true, there was only one gun involved, Wilson's, so when he managed to shoot six times, he was in control of his weapon and he wasn't risking his life. As a result of this, the killing of Brown wasn't the consequence of a reasonable belief that his life was being exposed to a realistic danger, and his shooting could not possibly amount to self-defence.

Even if it were self-defence, why the six shots? One lethal shot would be unacceptable most of the time, as there are so many other steps to consider on the proportionality scale before taking someone's life. But six shots? Oh, wait, that's right, he was dealing with Hulk Hogan.

Leaving speculations aside, what we know for sure is that Wilson's job, for which he got training, a wage and a contract, is to guarantee public safety and enforce the law, so he had all the instruments to take the necessary steps to understand what was happening, stop the vicious cycle of violence and react proportionately.

Anything short of this must be considered unacceptable if we want a healthy society. Why? Because Wilson is a trained police officer acting on behalf a country that has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, for which the right to life is absolute. Because a trained police officer has the skills to kindly educate a kid who has grown up in a society that regularly allows police officers to get away with violent behaviour towards minorities. Because he has the lucidity and maturity of a grown man. So he is the one expected to break the cycle of violence.

How come Wilson's contextually disproportionate reaction was not considered by the Grand Jury? How is it that McCulloch was allowed to become the protagonist of this case notwithstanding his past controversial handling of a similar one? How come the majority of jurors selected in a case that might involve civil rights violations were white?

In his Monday statement, whilst inviting the crowds not to engage in violent conduct, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay also warned everyone that 'the world will be watching us'. That is quite right, Mr. Mayor. Today, the whole world is looking at you. We are staring and wondering how faulty your criminal justice system must be to offer a similar finale in 2014.

Be brave and #BreakTheCycleOfViolence, as Brown's family has inspiringly asked.