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August 14, 2014

The Consequences of Cultural Collapse

The situation in Ferguson, Missouri, shows no signs of calming down. In fact, it’s escalating.

The situation in Ferguson, Missouri, shows no signs of calming down, five days after riots broke out in the wake of a police shooting. As “peaceful” protesters reportedly threw Molotov cocktails and generally continued their mayhem, police in riot gear responded with tear gas and smoke bombs.

As we noted Wednesday, the utter collapse of black society is largely to blame for the riots in reaction to the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. The young man was black and the police officer is white. The Ferguson Police Department has refused to name the officer for fear of retribution – not without reason, given the violence and racial hatred being stoked in this majority-black community.

So what, exactly, happened? According to CBS News, “Police have said Brown was shot after an officer encountered him and another man on the street. They say one of the men pushed the officer into his squad car, then physically assaulted him in the vehicle and struggled with the officer over the officer’s weapon. At least one shot was fired inside the car. The struggle then spilled onto the street, where Brown was shot multiple times.”

But Brown’s friend Dorian Johnson, the other man in the encounter, insists Brown was the victim of unjustified police action. Brown “turned around with his hands up,” Johnson said, “beginning to tell the officer that he was unarmed and to tell him to stop shooting. But at that time, the officer fired several more shots into my friend, and he hit the ground and died.”

It remains to be determined which version is true – perhaps some of both. Brown was reportedly a big guy, and not possessing a gun doesn’t mean he wasn’t incapable of inflicting serious harm on the officer.

> Update Aug. 15: Police say Brown was the prime suspect in a convenience store robbery but that it wasn’t the reason for his encounter with police, and that the shooting officer was Darren Wilson, a six-year vet with a clean record.

Accounts of the ensuing unrest also differ. Ryan Reilly and Wesley Lowery, journalists for the Huffington Post and Washington Post, respectively, were arrested (though no charges were filed) and they claim to have been assaulted by police, though not seriously.

Others allege police brutality and an unnecessarily overwhelming response. Reason’s Scott Shackford writes, “Once again an extremely militarized police force is facing down peaceful protesters in Ferguson and trying to get them to disperse. There are dozens of officers, some counting more than 70 and reports that there are snipers with weapons pointed at the crowd.”

It’s important to note, however, the protests began with violent looting, and the New Black Panther Party is reportedly inciting more violence. All of that would justify a significant police response, and yet St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar says officers have displayed “an incredible amount of restraint,” despite being attacked by rocks and bottles, and seeing two dozen patrol vehicles destroyed.

Local news channel KMOV photographer Scott Thomas corroborates Belmar’s assessment, saying police “exercised all manner of restraint. They received verbal abuse all day long, and it wasn’t until things were actually thrown at them that they took action with tear gas and advanced. … This situation only occurred when bottles or rocks were thrown at police, and that is when they used tear gas.” Police have also reportedly fired rubber bullets.

In short, passions on both sides are running high, making it difficult to separate fact from fiction. Creating a militarized lockdown area and stamping out media coverage doesn’t help.

So what’s the answer? Clearly, violent protests solve nothing, and if there is violence, theft and general mayhem, the police must enforce law and order. As we’ve said before, our culture has devolved in dangerous ways and law enforcement officers are on the front lines.

Yet seeing police deploy MRAPs and take other militarization measures is disturbing. In a free country, higher standards are put on law enforcement officers than in other nations, and having police forces being virtually indistinguishable from an Army unit doesn’t give the sense of Liberty.

In some ways, Liberty and security are in constant tension. But, if done correctly, upholding Rule of Law is Liberty. This requires restraint and morality from civilians and law enforcement alike. As long as our culture devolves into an immoral and violent morass, law enforcement will reflect that change and it will become more militaristic. And the cycle will spiral into bondage.

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