Black Friday is a tradition that families and friends across America enjoy. While shoppers may have been united by the great deals, many people were united by injustice.
On Monday, Nov. 24, a grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson, a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., who shot and killed an unarmed teenager, Mike Brown. There have been protests since the incident in August from a community that believes Brown’s life was undervalued by the police force and, now, by the judicial system.
I believe the peaceful protests of communities around the country seeking justice are justified and, furthermore, warranted.
First of all, all Americans have the right to let their government know that they feel as though their right to due process is being compromised. There is a sincere belief by many members of the Ferguson community that their civil rights are in the hands of the police officers and, with no indictment, there is cause to be concerned.
Second, I question the moral implications the grand jury’s decision holds. The lethal force that Wilson used in this case was unwarranted, despite claims of self-defense. No matter the reason this particular case is receiving such national attention, no officer should be able to get away with that.
According to a Washington Post article that cites two legal experts, two Supreme Court cases in the 1980s established a legal standard that allows police officers to shoot to kill as long as they believe their life is in imminent danger, which Wilson said he believed.
However, he was faced with an unarmed man and fired multiple shots at Brown. Wilson said in his testimony that Brown continued to approach him and at 10 feet, Wilson’s final round of gunfire killed Brown. The preliminary autopsy report released reported Brown had been shot at least six times. The second of the two shots that reached Brown’s head is reported to be the fatal shot, according to a CNN news article.
Where are the less lethal means of stopping an attacker? Where is the stun gun? Where is the pepper spray? The autopsy reported most of the wounds were on his upper body. Even if Wilson only had a gun available to defend himself, why not first try to aim for the legs, preventing Brown from continuing forward? There are other unlethal methods of subduing an unarmed man.
Brown did not have to die, taking away his right to due process, for Wilson to defend himself. On Black Friday, protesters peacefully demonstrated that it is more important to focus on justice rather than consumerism. Protesters were communicating that they cannot sit by or go shopping while a police officer goes legally unscathed for killing an unarmed teenager.
I commend protestors for remaining unwavering in their endeavor since August, especially in light of the grand jury’s decision. It seems that violence in Ferguson following the Grand Jury announcement has abated and hopefully it remains that way. While rioting, looting and violence should never be condoned, it shows the depth of injustice that the people of Ferguson feel.
It is hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It is hard to say objectively who is wrong or what is right. What matters is that all sides are shown compassion, whatever your opinion on the subject may be.
Emily Balan is a junior diplomacy major from Wilmington, Del. She can be reached at balanemi@ shu.edu.