Editorial: Both sides must show restraint in Missouri riots

Aug. 14, 2014 @ 04:20 PM

Images coming out of Ferguson, Mo., over the past few days don't look like the United States we're accustomed to seeing in the 21st century.

Depictions of looting, wide-scale protests and heavily armed police look more like something out of the heyday of the the Civil Rights movement, or news coverage of an unstable foreign country in the midst of a political coup.

But it's happening here. Right in the heartland of the United States of America.

In the wake of last Saturday's killing of an unarmed African-American teenager by a police officer, there has been outrage in the St. Louis suburb of 21,000.

Whether the shooting was justifiable isn't clear — as always, there's two sides to the story: Some witnesses claim the teen had his hands up and was backing away from the officer; some are claiming the pair struggled over the officer's firearm.

Either way, the lawbreakers who upstaged peaceful protesters by rioting and looting forced the hand of the police, and now those same police, decked out in military gear more suited for Fallujah, are going overboard with lawful protesters and working journalists.

Tuesday two reporters, one from the Washington Post and another from the Huffington Post, were arrested, only to be released later with insufficient reason for their detainment.

In another case, videographers from a television network, away from the worst of the situation, had tear gas canisters fired at them. After they fled, photos were taken of police disassembling their equipment.

There's danger in Ferguson, no doubt, but many outsiders are blaming police for upping the tension by utilizing military and SWAT tactics against unarmed civilians.

As one former war veteran said on Twitter, "We rolled lighter than that in an actual war zone."

Thursday, speaking at a meeting of religious leaders and members of the community, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said there would be an "operational shift" in the police's mission.

"You all will see a different tone" in law enforcement's response to the demonstrations in the town of Ferguson, the Huffington Post reported the governor as saying.

Tom Jackson, Ferguson's police chief, said during a news conference that officials from multiple levels were meeting Thursday to discuss the police response.

According to The New York Times, Jackson said the group would be talking not only about tactics, but also the appearance of officers, who who have been equipped with riot gear, armored vehicles and assault rifles during the demonstrations.

Hopefully a good-faith move by government officials to scale back the effort will be met in kind by protesters. 

Only when this current storm calms can the truth about the death of Michael Brown be determined.