On August 9, 2014, a young black male named Michael Brown was gunned down by a white male police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The town is predominantly occupied by black residents, whereas, the police force is occupied by “53 commissioned caucasian officers in the Ferguson Police Department, in which four are black”(NY Times,2014). Darren Wilson, the police officer that shot down 18 year old Brown has been on trial for murder, and in response to the delayed decision of the case, riots and protests have emerged by the predominantly black community. The argument that surrounds this entire case involves the fact that Brown had chosen to surrender to the officer, excessive use of force was portrayed on Wilson’s behalf, and due to this situation, racial tension has now erupted.
In defence of a constable from the Ferguson Police Department, a video was released on behalf of the department, to display that their officer was not fully at fault. This video was found to show Brown stealing a pack of cigarettes before the altercation and shoving an employee that had tried to prevent him from leaving the store with an unpaid product. This video received a lot of negative media attention and back lash on behalf of the police department as they were trying to defend the officers actions in a way and also display Brown’s violent state of mind leading to the shooting. In this shooting, officer Wilson states that he was in fear of his life due to the behaviour of Brown. He has stated that a scuffle, initiated by Brown, led to Brown trying to reach for Wilson’s gun and trying to shoot him. However, Brown’s friend, Mr. Johnson, who was present at the scene, states the story to be completely false and alleges that Wilson had tried to choke Brown and then shot at him twice, missing once. The shots fired by Wilson caused Brown to run for his life and Wilson to pursue him while firing 6 more rounds of shots.
The protests that have surfaced mainly comprise of the black community,and the situation has been worsening due to the fact that an all white police force have been given the duty to “wear riot gear, flanked by armored vehicles, fired rubber bullets and deploy tear gas to break up crowds”(Wallis, Wulfhorst,2014).In response to the riots and protests in anticipation of the jury decision, “Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the ruling and called in the National Guard, a move that some activists called unnecessarily heavy-handed”(Wallis and Wulfhorst,2014). The state of emergency,in this case, allows sovereigns to exercise excessive amounts of power, above the rule of law, to control a state. In the use of a state of emergency, Nixon has given power to the National Guard, a reserve military force, to enforce peace and control in Ferguson, Missouri. As Agamben states, a state of emergency is a situation in which,”questions of citizenship and individual rights can be diminished, superseded and rejected in the process of claiming this extension of power by a government”(Lentin).In this case, individuals that are fighting for their rights, and defending their race in a sense, will have to give up on what they believe is right because the state doesn’t want this situation to escalate. The black community feels as if they are being treated poorly, and the shooting would not have occurred if the victim was a caucasian male.
I agree with the activists and Agamben, in which he states that “state of exception and its measures have become normal”(Pavlich,2010:158). In the case of Nixon, I feel that he has made the situation even worse than it was as it is causing even more media attention on the case of Brown and Wilson, and the behaviour of protestors and riots will only increase if things do not go in favour of them. I feel like the subject of race will continue to escalate as the declaring of a state emergency by Nixon displays power and control of a white male over black residents because the decision of the case has not even been made yet but he believes that they will act violently and riot. Under Missouri law, the governor can lawfully call a “state of emergency” on the “actual occurrence of a natural or man-made disaster of major proportions in the state, when the safety and welfare of inhabitants are jeopardized”(Nelson, 2014).Nixon, due to the declaration has given himself authority to create a curfew that allows the residents of Ferguson to be home from 12 am until 5 am–this decision did not clearly take into consideration the fact that there are individuals that work night shifts or have to travel home after work. In this case, the state of emergency is called due to man-made situations and I feel that Nixon fears, or has made up his mind to believe, that Wilson will not be accused of his murder case and this will cause tremendous backlash among the black community in Missouri.Although the declaration of a state of emergency could have been filed if the protest became violent, I don’t think that it was necessary to do this a week before the actual decision of the case. I feel like this gives a negative sense of hope to the individuals that feel like this case will be in Browns favour, and this action, no matter the outcome, will always be remembered internationally due to the actions by Nixon.
this link shows how preparations are being made in anticipation of the decision of the case.
Lentin, R. (n.d.). Racial State, State of Exception. State of Nature. Retrieved from http://www.stateofnature.org/?p=6464
Pavlich, G. (2010). Law and society
Wallis, D. (2014). Missouri grand jury has made decision in fatal shooting of black teen: report. Retrieved from https://news.yahoo.com/grand-jury-expected-resume-ferguson-police-shooting-deliberations-100538544.html