The shooting of Mark Brown and the subsequent riots that are occurring in Ferguson, MO started out for me quietly. If I’m honest I wasn’t paying that much attention; its sorry to say but a young Black man being shot (regardless of reason or cause) is no longer shocking news.
In many ways there is a script for when a questionable shooting occurs. There is the event itself. The interviewing of the parents. The police officer or officers in question are put on leave or arrested. Local representative and/or a mix of the NAACP, Al Sharpton, or Jesse Jackson hold a press conference condemning the shooting. Then a rally, march, or vigil caps the event until a trial. In the script the victim becomes less a part of the story as more people come in until they are a symbol or a martyr.
Ferguson hasn’t followed the script and now everyone is scrambling to understand its meaning. I really hate looking at this story because a boy was shot and that is no longer the story. The Ferguson riot may have started with the shooting of Mark Brown, but it was sparked by something that obviously been simmering longer.
That much anger, especially with the night protests, doesn’t sprout up overnight. Just as the actions of the Ferguson police isn’t coming from nowhere.
Part if my reluctance to write about the shooting has been simply due to the fact the situation is unclear. Everyone is walking into this cold and the riots illustrate the situation on the ground is more complicated. For example a lot of the protesters have talked about the police force being comprised of people coming outside the city. It also seems that the city government is also composed of people outside Ferguson.
If both of these claims are true it would explain the police reaction to protests; they’ve adopted a siege mentality and view Ferguson as foreign territory. It doesn’t explain the almost media blackout that’s happened or the glacial response by local and state government. But it may explain why this went from zero to warzone in almost 24 hours.
The weird thing about Ferguson is how much it wasn’t a news story for cable news. I blame that partly on the death of Robin Williams and ISIS if only because it seems cable news can only handle two big events at a time. Also because the 24 hour news cycle favors burrowing in on one thing even if nothing happens for long periods.
The fact that the only way to follow the story was through Twitter, other social networks, and live feeds makes you wonder why you need channels dedicated to the news.
This one of those times, one of those situations where I don’t think anyone watching has anything to add except to be observers.