by Mike Ferguson
(St. Charles, MO) – A half-hour television interview show includes about 26 minutes of actual “talk time”.
That’s not enough to cover all facets of the controversies and investigations related to the August shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The death of the black teenager came as a result of shots fired from a white police officer’s gun.
What happened prior to the trigger being pulled remains unconfirmed at this point. That’s is the focus on one investigation. The United States Department of Justice has now launched another investigation into the practices of the Ferguson Police Department.
Protesters continue to be active in and around Ferguson and supporters of Officer Darren Wilson, who fired the fatal shots, have now begun to organize to defend him publicly and financially.
On “Missouri Viewpoints”, two guests from opposite sides of the political aisle agree on the need to heal the emotional pain centered around the shooting, the behavior of the police in the aftermath and what one State Senator says is a long, boiling history of a community feeling injustice and poverty.
Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, a Democrat, represents Missouri’s 14th District, which covers St. Louis County.
“Really, what the issue has become is an experience of young, African-American men…they have been intimidated, they have been harassed, they have been treated differently for so long. And then you have the killing of Mike Brown and the body laid there [in the street where he was shot] four hours or more. This community is so angry because they see themselves as a Mike Brown.”
She says that’s what fueled the start of the protests that resulted in businesses being damaged, looting taking place and in clashes with police. She is also highly critical of fellow Democrat, Governor Jay Nixon, for what she says has been too slow and too little of a response to the situation in Ferguson.
Chris Arps hopes the violent protests are a thing of the past at this point. He’s the co-founder of Move On Up, a network of black conservatives.
“Let’s have cooler heads prevail. Let’s have the investigation play out and see what happens. Then if people aren’t satisfied with the conclusion, then you should take further action.”
Part of that action he wants to see is political at the local level. He is encouraged by seeing more Ferguson residents register to vote and showing a desire to get involved in local government.
Sen. Chappelle-Nadal says she wants the community’s response to be based on facts and justice and she takes issue with part of the claims in support of Officer Wilson’s actions. Specifically, she says the convenience store security video purported to show Michael Brown committing a strong-arm robbery is irrelevant to the discussion of the shooting that ended his life in August.
“That video that was release [as being] the same day as Officer Wilson, the date on it was in June. It was not in July or August.”
Protests continue and some organizers say they plan to block traffic on I-70 in St. Louis next week. A smaller protest blocked traffic on I-270 recently. Senator Chappelle-Nadal seems to not be sold on the I-70 shutdown idea but understands the motivation to protest.
“From my constituents’ viewpoint, they want to do a complete shutdown of businesses, not go to businesses that are in Ferguson. They want to protest in the neighborhood streets. The highway, I’m not too sure what that would accomplish. I know in trying to express themselves, my constituents want to release some of that negative tension that they have on the inside.”
Arps, who grew up near Ferguson, says he believes some of those getting involved in promoting some of the more controversial protests may not be from Ferguson but, instead, are possibly outsiders who are agitating the situation for a variety of social and political goals.
“I don’t think that boycotting businesses or shutting down the highway doesn’t really do anything other than tick people off.”
Chappelle-Nadal says she hopes the chain of events that sparked protests, violence, political upheaval and a national discussion on race, politics and culture are able to also launch something positive.
“I think Mike Brown gave this community a gift. He gave us a gift to wake up and participate and not be lax or passive. So, the gift that he gave us is a movement for young people to become more aware and actively engaged at every single corner.”
Arps adds that the ongoing conflicts highlight the need to focus on solutions as the goal of political debates.
“Even though we have different political beliefs, we have to come together. Maria is a Democrat, I’m a Republican but we’re friends. We don’t agree on much politically but we can still talk about things. We need to foster more of that.”
On the web:
Missouri State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal: http://www.senate.mo.gov/14info/members/mem14.htm