In this blog, I will talk about the events surrounding Ferguson, Missouri and how I can apply the ideas of Ericson and Agamben to this situation. On August 9 2014, Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer. Protests have erupted as a response to Brown’s death. Most of these demonstrations started out peacefully but escalated to a point where people started vandalizing and looting stores. This resulted in the police responding by firing tear gas and rubberized bullets at people and arresting dozens of them. It doesn’t help that the racial tensions were getting high as the dominant black community had to answer to a majority white police force. Although some of these police measures have caused most demonstrations to simmer down, there are still a small pocket of demonstrations happening. There are many that have criticized the way the police have handled the situation, seeing that they have begun to be more militarized. The use of the military to enforce civilian law requires congressional approval, but what happens when the police become so militarized that you can no longer distinguish between military forces and police forces? “Though Ferguson has already been under an unofficial state of martial law, there is no more debate. The militarized police state is not technically the military, but now it can not be denied. Ferguson is under martial law” (Garrison, 2014). Missouri Governor Nixon had declared Ferguson a state of emergency and deploying national guards in anticipation to the results of the grand jury that would determine whether or not Darren Wilson is guilty.
Due to the increasing civil unrest within Ferguson, it has led to Gov. Nixon to enter Missouri into a state of emergency and imposing a curfew and deploying the National Guard fearing the result of the grand jury’s decision. A state of exception is where a persons right is temporarily suspended. In this state of emergency, we can see how the rights of these citizens are being suspended as a form of national safety in case the decision of the grand jury upsets the citizens. The events surrounding Ferguson Missouri have been one of the most televised in media and has been a powerful way of framing the position of the government on this whole situation. Due to current state of Ferguson where there are some protestors that actively loot and vandalize properties, it was deemed that Ferguson was in need of reinforcements. However, are heavily armed soldiers that have sniper trained on protestors really necessary? According to Ericson, we are now relying on the state to reduce our fear by creating environmental and political initiatives to change our perceptions of the world around us. Even though much of our fears embedded through the use of different tactics by the state (Ericson, 2007). Society is shown via the media that they are under some sort of dangerous threat by the state that can lead to irrational fear and the only way to deal with this is by letting the state handle it by using their own initiatives. Sometimes It can be good that society is preparing for the unknown danger ahead but can it be justified? According to Ericson, Counter law takes on two forms. Law against law and surveillant assemblages are where “new laws are enacted and new uses of existing laws are invented to erode or eliminate traditional principles, standards and procedures of criminal law that get in the way of preempting imagined sources of harm (Ericson, 2007). According to Agamben, he characterizes the West as a totalitarian, in which exceptional measures have become normal, so that states of exception are more or less models for their governance (Pavlich, 2011, p.158). Agamben goes on to say how normal legal principles, standards and procedures are suspended because of a state of emergency. It becomes a slippery slope when legal order is broken in order to preserve social order. Agamben fears how the state of exception is no longer an exception but is now a normal state (Agamben, 2005). We can see how this has being introduced to our society be it post 9/11 America where counter law is used to manage terrorism risks. One could say that by issuing Martial Law it could be used as a preventive measure if the people were to riot after the decisions are released. However, the people of Ferguson have their rights essentially stripped away from them as a preventive measure for riots if the decision of the grand jury prove to be unfavourable.
- Garrison, D., (2014). It’s Official! Martial Law in Ferguson: Governor Brings in National Guard taken from: http://www.dcclothesline.com/2014/08/18/governor-brings-national-guard-ferguson-now-officially-martial-law/
- Pavlich, G. (2011). Law and society redefined. Don Mills, Canada: Oxford University Press.
- Ericson, R. V. (2007). Crime in an insecure world. Cambridge: Polity.
- Agamben, G. (2005). State of exception. Nova srpska politička misao, (1-4), 135-145.