Ferguson and the rule of law - English

Law and Order

By Juliane Mendelsohn26.11.2014Global Policy

The case of Darren Wilson shows that a legal decision, whether made by justices, tribunals or juries can be wrong, both as a matter of law and as a matter of morality.

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Growing up in South Africa, my parents knew someone that had accidently run over a black kid in a tragic turn of events, late one night, during the apartheid years. It was a terrible, horrific accident, no mens rea, no mea culpa, he would not have gone to jail for this. But instead of filing a report, the police of the time scraped the boy from the tarmac and forgot about the incident.

Having no evidence or proof of karma or otherworldly justice in the afterlife, I secretly hoped, that this man, this friend of the family, hadn’t had a happy day in his life since. This is the kind of guilt and trauma you need to learn to live with in a post-segregated society. Justice won’t be served and these incidents will not be revisited. No records remain.

In his speech, after the Grand Jury Ruling on the indictment of Darren Wilson – the officer who shot down Michael Brown in August – President Obama tried to call both Ferguson and the rest of America to order: _„First and foremost“_ he said, _„we are a nation built on the rule of law. And so we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make.“_ First and foremost, this a very formal and narrow definition of what it means to be a nation built on the rule of law. The rule of law is meant to serve the justice and not the perpetuation of its and society’s dysfunctions. Secondly, a legal decision, whether made by justices, tribunals or juries can be wrong, both as a matter of law and as a matter of morality – it can be barbaric or out-dated or unsuited to the interests of a particular nation at a particular time.

Obama ought to know

Indictments of police officers are not plentiful in an America, where white privilege and the use of brutal force by police officers is commonplace. But that doesn’t mean that this time could have been different. That the tragedy in Ferguson did not deserve to be given a moment of attention – a moment in which “black lives matter”. This is something a man who once ran around chanting for both hope and change ought to know.

Obama still wants America to change. _„However“_, he said, _„(this) won’t be done by throwing bottles, won’t be done by smashing car windows (and) won’t be done by using this (event) as an excuse to vandalize property, and it certainly wont be done by hurting anybody.“_ What kind of consolidation is this to a community of second-rate citizens, who have no voice in greater American society and that have been given no evidence of the fact that change in any form is possible through any means other than violence?

Citizens who get searched and harassed on a near-daily basis. Citizens who don’t get asked before they get touched down, questioned, or put under observation. Citizens, who rightly fear they may get shot down in the middle of the street, be it in broad daylight, without any greater consequences. Citizens (and numerous eye-witnesses) whose version of the events won’t be heard in a court of law?

Without an indictment the “only version of the event()”:http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2014/images/11/24/darren-wilson-testimony-snippet.pdf to make it to the records are Wilson’s:

bq. _„He turns, and when he looked at me, he made like a grunting, like aggravated sound and he starts, he turns and he’s coming back towards me. His step is coming towards me, he kind of does that stutter step to start running. When he does that his left hand goes in a fist and goes to his side, his right one goes under his shirt in his waistband and he starts running at me.“_

Memories of yet another fallen man

This is not the story of a man who is tired of white law enforcement. This is the story of his opponent, depicting him as a wild animal.

Maybe someday someone will illuminate the injustice that defines Ferguson. And perhaps one day it will change. Until such time, all we have are the memories of yet another fallen man: _„When he fell, he fell on his face. And I remember his feet coming up, like he had so much momentum carrying him forward that when he fell, his feet kind of came up a little bit and then they rested.“_

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