Human Rights and Police Violence in the United States:
The Lack of an Indictment in the Killing of Michael Brown
On Monday, November 24th, 2014, it was reported that the grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri that met to decide whether or not to indict officer Darren Wilson decided to not indict the officer, who killed Michael Brown. Following this, many in Ferguson, and elsewhere in the United States took to the streets to protest the decision made by the grand jury.
What many have been upset about is the fact that this is another case of a police officer or person of the law killing an unarmed African American individual. Human rights organizations have written about this for some time, talking about how this is clearly a human rights issue, and not merely a domestic issues, but an international one with implications for the global society, as well as the domestic issue in the United States.
For example, in investigating what transpired with regards to the incident between Wilson and Brown, Amnesty International reported on October 24th, 2014 that there was deadly force used on Michael Brown. And despite the debate surrounding what exactly happened, “…international standards provide that law enforcement officers should only use force as a last resort and that the amount of force must be proportionate to the threat encountered and designed to minimize damage and injury. Officers may only use firearms when strictly necessary to protect themselves or others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury. Even then, the intentional lethal use of firearms is justified only when “strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.” They went on to say that “Irrespective of whether there was some sort of physical confrontation between Michael Brown and the police officer, Michael Brown was unarmed and thus unlikely to have presented a serious threat to the life of the police officer. As such, this calls into question whether the use of lethal force was justified, and the circumstances of the killing must be urgently clarified.”
This is what is so troubling about this situation. That there was not even an opportunity for a trial with regards to officer Wilson’s actions. Yet many believe that this is yet another example of the discrimination against African Americans in the United States. As Amnesty wrote, “The shooting of Michael Brown highlighted on a national level the persistent and widespread pattern of racially discriminatory treatment by law enforcement officers across the United States, including unjustified stops and searches, ill treatment and excessive, and sometimes lethal, use of force.”
This is why so many are upset with this decision by the grand jury. Here, an unarmed youth was killed, and the citizens of Ferguson and throughout the United States do not even see the possibility of a trial. Now, of course, none of this justifies the violence that has transpired the night of the decision in Ferguson. These actions were clearly wrong.
But what must continue to be remembered here is that there are feelings that African American citizens are continued to be unfairly treated in the United States. It is quite sad that in the United States unarmed youth are shot and killed, and individuals get off without even a trial. The discussion must continue to focus on the discrimination that exists in the judicial system against African Americans. We must continue to demand justice for all aspects of society, that include jobs, education, a fair judicial system, etc… Now of course this is not a statement on all police officers, the vast majority of which do their job faithfully and with complete observance to correct protocol. However, when a person such as Wilson kills a person without a weapon, and does not get indicted, it seems that the system continues fail in that it does not provide a true avenue for justice to be reached.
This is a heartbreaking day. Let us hope that individuals will continue to examine the discrimination that exists, and continue to work towards a just system in which individuals can feel completely protected, and if they are not, then there will be a legal system that will bring violators to justice.