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A message lost

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It is disheartening when something strong, something important makes many stand up to rally and protest, but the selfishness of few lessens the value of the message many work to make public. 

The selfishness of some takes an important message and makes it a joke, a cause for more controversy and the reason why so many have come together is forgotten.

Days after Michael Brown was shot and killed by police in Ferguson Mo., videos of what started as peaceful rallies and protests turned into images of rioters setting fires, damaging property and looting. These so-called protestors standing up for “the cause” broke windows, started fires, damaged people’s livelihoods and then claimed it was all in the name of a young man’s death.

It is no joke when a young man dies – no matter what the reason. It is no reason to steal, destroy, set fires or break the law in retaliation.

I will say it again - a young man died. No matter the cause – some perspective should be required before anyone stepped foot in the street in the name of protesting.

I’m not-so-quick to say the cop was wrong. I wasn’t there. All the evidence hasn’t been collected, the official autopsy (not one commissioned by the family after the body had already been examined) has not been completed, and too many details are still being sorted out for me to lay blame, claim wrongdoing by officers or jump on the racial-profiling bandwagon.

However, I do believe those living in Ferguson have a better handle on how they feel than I. I do believe that even if I were to disagree with the message, those who felt passionate enough about the matter had every right to walk the streets with signs and host protests and rallies. They had the right to want to remember, celebrate and stand up in the name of someone’s life.

However, the message was quickly lost. What became the nightly images in Ferguson was no longer about a teenager’s death. It became about how police were dressed, how many so-called protesters were acting like fools and how many took an important matter and made it nothing more than morning-radio debate, political posturing and a nation divided over what may or may not be a racially-driven situation.

For me, the message was lost when a video showed an African-American man running from a Subway with food in hand, stepping away from the smashed-in window. How is he honoring Michael Brown, or spreading the message on race being unfairly treated by breaking the law, stealing food and running through the streets at night?

While there were many others doing the same thing – smashing windows, stealing and disrupting the town altogether, the Subway image was enough for me to get angry.

It’s hard for many to stand up for your cause when you are acting like the same stereotypes you are trying to fight. Actions speak louder than words, and unfortunately, the message sent was not a good one.

Many question the use of police force – It’s their job to keep the peace and preserve law and order. While the minutes leading up to Michael Brown’s death may still be under investigation, it’s hard to be down on the police department when so-called peaceful protesters were shooting guns, setting fires and damaging businesses along main street. At this point, it’s the police department’s job to step in.

The police in Ferguson have been far from perfect in how this tragedy has been handled, but at that same time, the actions of protestors have been less than heroic in trying to fix what many see as an issue that needs society’s attention now.

—Thelma Grimes

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