Yesterday, I ran a column discussing the curious sight of rioters and looters demanding “justice” when what they are really describing is mob justice in Ferguson, Missouri. I noted that the evidence did not support the initial claims of the shooting of Michael Brown and that demonstrations are not substitutes for demonstrated evidence in a criminal case. The response, however, to the declination of charges has been precisely what President Obama and the Brown family sought to avoid in their public comments. In perhaps the most symbolic incident, Ferguson Market and Liquor, the store that Michael Brown robbed before he was killed, was looted by people demanding “justice” for Brown.
A security camera captured Brown strong arming the store owner after stealing from the store:
Regardless of how one views the evidence of the shooting, the store owner was clearly strong armed by Brown and did nothing beyond being the victim of a reported crime. However, he now has a ransacked store and is somehow blamed for the killing.
The media filmed as people carted out stolen merchandise out of the store last night:
The discussion of the resulting looting and rioting often seemed a bit too enabling and relativistic. There is no rationale connection between ransacking stores and seeking justice, a point that President Obama made eloquently last night as did the Brown family (though reportedly with the exception of Brown’s stepfather). Indeed, some “meanings” drawn from the incident extended all the way to federalism principles.
While St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch detailed the evidence including testimony from African-American witnesses who refuted accounts of Michael Brown’s friend, Dorian Johnson, and onlookers Piaget Cranshaw and Tiffany Mitchell. He was not shot in his back and was initially shot in a struggle with Wilson in (or partially in) the police vehicle. Nevertheless, the verdict was denounced by various commentators, including MSNBC contributor Michelle Bernard who called Brown the latest “casualty” of what seems to be nationwide “war on black boys.” Bernard curiously blamed federalism and state rights for part of the problem, saying that people see this case and say “we don’t want to hear about states rights.” She also calls on the Justice Department to “get involved” and “intervene.”
However, the Justice Department has intervened and reportedly also found no basis for charges in the case under civil rights provisions. If those accounts are accurate, the declination of such charges may trigger no violence by those who define justice as not a guaranteed process but a guaranteed punishment.