When the riots began on Ferguson Missouri, we all began to wonder what to make of it.
Brother Ivo is a huge admirer of Archbishop Justin Welby but his response goes to prove that even our best leaders can sometimes get it wrong.
Archbishop Justin tweeted an approving link to a piece from Jim Field, the President of Sojourners , a “progressive” Christian organisation. He described it as ” powerful”. It is not, it is a piece designed to advance a political narrative contrary to the facts of the case.
On the issue Brother Ivo believes that the Archbishop and Jim Field have missed the mark and were bested by a less sophisticated National Football League player for the New Orleans Saints by the name of Benjamin Watson.
Brother Ivo reproduces the two pieces and invites readers to consider who gives the better Chritian response.
Piece 1 Jim Field
Many black families woke up this morning knowing that the lives of their children are worth less than the lives of white children in America. The deep distrust of law enforcement in their own communities that so many African Americans feel just got deeper last night — 108 days since the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown — when the prosecuting attorney announced the decision not to subject the police officer who killed Brown to a trial where all the facts could be publically known and examined.
Ferguson protests Monday night. Photo by Heather Wilson / PICO
We now all have the chance to examine the evidence — released last night — in the grand jury’s decision not to indict white police officer Darren Wilson, who fired multiple bullets into Michael Brown. But the verdict on America’s criminal justice system is already in for many Americans: guilty, for treating young black men differently than young white men.
According to veteran prosecutors and defense attorneys, many things were unusual about the grand jury that ultimately decided not to indict Wilson. But most unusual may have been the decision to hold the news until after dark — as anxiety rose and hundreds gathered on the street. The decision was reportedly in by 2 p.m., so why did authorities wait seven hours to announce it? Why did they wait until people were off work and anxious young crowds had gathered outside police headquarters in Ferguson? Focus quickly turned from the grand jury’s decision to the response in the streets. While most protestors remained peaceful, the media naturally focused on the very unfortunate violence.
Other large questions remain. Why did prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch never mention in his long statement last night that Michael Brown was unarmed? Why did a trained police officer decide he had no other option than to shoot more bullets into Brown after he had fled their confrontation? Why did anyone have to die? Why did a prosecutor, in his long 25 minutes of explanation of why Wilson was not indicted, sound more like a defense attorney for the police officer instead of an advocate for the unarmed teenager who was shot and killed? Why were the “conflicting accounts” of the confrontation between Officer Wilson and Michael Brown not subjected to a trial? The resulting decision from the grand jury was completely foreseeable in a nation where police officers are almost never indicted for the use of deadly force — especially when it is white police officers killing black people.
It was a very sad night for America. I echo St. Louis area pastor, Rev. Traci Blackmon’s words this morning: “I hurt, I really hurt for the young people who did everything they could to be peaceful and nonviolent and to raise their voice; but the anger and rage of a few made the narrative very different this morning.” Even though most of the protests in Ferguson and around the country were peaceful, it was painful to watch President Obama speaking to the nation on a split screen with scenes of violent protest in Ferguson. In his powerful speech, the president spoke the truth when he said, “We need to recognize that this is not just an issue for Ferguson; this is an issue for America.” He also reminded the nation of the recent words of Michael Brown Sr., the dead boy’s dad, words that have touched many of us so deeply.
The dad who lost his son said, “Hurting others or destroying property is not the answer. No matter what the grand jury decides, I do not want my son’s death to be in vain. I want it to lead to incredible change, positive change, change that makes the St. Louis region better for everyone.”
It’s time for us all to honor the wishes of Michael Brown’s father and mother. Whatever the facts might have revealed in the trial that will never happen, the time is long overdue to subject our criminal justice system to the requirements of racial justice. The racialization of that system and its policing behavior toward people of color is beyond dispute. The police force in Ferguson that is completely unrepresentative of the community and whose behavior has caused such deep alienation among the people they are supposed to serve and protect has become a parable. Ferguson has become a parable in America, for how black lives are less important in the ways our laws are enforced. Ferguson is not only in Ferguson.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the nation’s apostle of nonviolence, once said: ”a riot is the language of the unheard.” He also showed us that only disciplined, sacrificial, and nonviolent social movements can change things.
It is time to right the unacceptable wrong of black lives being worth less than white lives in our criminal justice system. The broken relationships between law enforcement officials and their communities are deeply felt and very real.
How law enforcement interacts with communities of color raises fundamental, legitimate issues that must be addressed by the whole nation if we are to move forward. The changes we need in both policies and practices must now be taken up in detail. Our neglect has led to anger and hopelessness in a new generation, but their activism will also help lead us to new places. It is indeed time to turn Ferguson from a moment to a movement, and Michael Brown’s life and death must not be allowed to be in vain.
25 November at 18:00 ·
At some point while I was playing or preparing to play Monday Night Football, the news broke about the Ferguson Decision. After trying to figure out how I felt, I decided to write it down. Here are my thoughts:
I’M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.
I’M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.
I’M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I’m a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a “threat” to those who don’t know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.
I’M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.
I’M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.
I’M SYMPATHETIC, because I wasn’t there so I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.
I’M OFFENDED, because of the insulting comments I’ve seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.
I’M CONFUSED, because I don’t know why it’s so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don’t know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.
I’M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take “our” side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it’s us against them. Sometimes I’m just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that’s not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That’s not right.
I’M HOPELESS, because I’ve lived long enough to expect things like this to continue to happen. I’m not surprised and at some point my little children are going to inherit the weight of being a minority and all that it entails.
I’M HOPEFUL, because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends and mentors. And it’s a beautiful thing.
I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.
You can decide whether the better leadership is being offered by Jim Field or Bengamin Watson, who has incidentally received significant abuse for his ” controversial” piece.
Since Benjamin Watson wrote we know more.
Brother Ivo is not one to step away from controversy, and regrets that the media have not put into the public domain a number of significant facts which have come out of the Grand Jury decision. Facts matter.
Michael Brown was not exactly an innocent adolescent but a huge and powerful young man – 80lb heavier than the not insubstantial police officer. He was willing and able to use that size to dominate the weak and exhibited an attitude that made that plain. He identified with gang culture.
The police Officer Darren Wilson, had never fired his weapon at a suspect before.
Michael Brown was capable of killing the officer and attempted to kill the officer, once with his fists and once by turning the officer’s gun on him.
Michael Brown had robbed a store earlier that evening and was filmed on CCTV using his size to brush aside the slight Pakistani store clerk’s protestation as he he suffered the crime.
Michael Brown and his accomplice Dorrien Johnson were correctly identified by the officer as the offenders, Michael Brown was carrying the stolen property and declined to stop when located 10 minutes later, walking down the middle of the street. He swore at the officer as he refused to step to move to the sidewalk for questioning.
In the course of the initial altercation the officer was punched twice in the face with the intent to cause serious harm. Those injuries were recorded and photographed immediately afterwards. People can and do get killed by punches to the head; having “ridden” and survived two such blows, whilst seated and contained in his car, the officer was reasonable to fear for his life at the hands of such an assailant, and doubted his ability to survive continuing blows. Under fear for his life, a person is lawfully permitted to use lethal force to stop the attack.
He was accordingly fully entitled in law to draw his weapon but Michael Brown reached into the car and attempted to take control of the weapon and turn it against the officer. In the struggle the gun failed to fire on two occasions adding to the officers anxiety, but a shot fired in the car, injured Michael Brown in the hand. It did not deter his determination to act in an un-constrained manner.
Michael Brown walked away but when the officer followed, in accordance with his duty to arrest the suspect, he turned and charged at the officer from a few feet away, and was shot as he did so. that renewed attack also entitled lethal force to be employed.
All the forensic evidence, including three autopsy reports, was consistent with the account given by the officer, who did not avail himself of the right to refuse to attend the Grand Jury or, once there, to remain silent before the Grand Jury under the 5th Ammendment, but submitted himself to questioning for four hours by the jury without having a lawyer present to protect his interests. The jury received considerable evidence, including eye witnesses and found the few that blamed the officer not to be consistent with each other or the forensic evidence, and not to be creditable. It is qualitatively no different from the decision made by Lord Justice Mitting against Andrew Mitchell, except they were the very people policed by Darren Wilson and threatened by Michael Brown and his accomplice.
The threshold of proof before a Grand Jury is very low: the mixed race jury heard all the evidence and decided there was no basis to suspect illegality on the part of the officer. The officer is entitled not to be drawn through lengthy and stressful prosecution if there is no proper case against him. We ought to support justice for all.
The riots that followed Mr Brown’s step father’s repeated call to “Burn this bitch down” paid every regard to a preconceived false narrative of victimhood, and none to the facts of the case.
Looters are not “the community”. Martin Luther King never fomented a riot. There may be many cases of injustice by police towards black citizens. This case is not it .
There is one story of hope emerging out of these dreadful circumstances.
A young black woman Natalie Dubose had her bakery store burned out by rioters: she was a wholly innocent party. She had sold cakes in the local market, saved her money and eventually been able to buy a store whilst supporting her two children. She was pictured weeping in the wreckage. She had done the right thing, worked hard following her American Dream only to have it destroyed but someone
Protesting his “civil rights” whilst violating hers.
Within days, money began to arrived from all over America. People of all races were moved by her plight, and the donations quickly topped $250k. For all the talk of a racially divided nation, one is minded to recall the words of Bill Clinton that ” there is nothing wrong with America that cannot be solved by what is right in America.”
The generosity was as colour blind as the jury verdict.
It is truly is “not a skin problem but a sin problem”.