The British sentry was nervous. Dozens of American colonists surrounded him, throwing insults, then snowballs, then ice balls, during a cold March day in Boston, 1770. He called for backup, and was joined by eight fellow “lobster backs” (a Colonial insult in reference to the red uniforms). They stood strong, and armed, before a mob that soon grew to more than two to three hundred.
More insults. More ice balls. A soldier struck with a club, according to several accounts. A gunshot – then numerous gunshots – cut loose. Five Americans died that day, six others were injured.
The Boston Massacre became a rallying point for Colonists, who hated the Crown.
Fast-forward to Ferguson, Missouri, 2014. A confrontation between Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man, and a white police officer also ends in gunfire and death. Protests, riots, and looting ensue.
Speculation continues as to whether this was an execution by a racist, or at the very least an overreaction by officer Darrel Wilson, or self-defense by one the “thin blue line” who had been beaten, his gun almost taken, and then charged by the 6 foot-four, 290 lb. “Gentle Giant.”
I cannot say. You cannot say. We were not there.
Nor can Eric Holder say, despite his recent appearance in Ferguson – but according to a former employee of the nation’s ‘top cop,’ the Attorney General is not, as should be the case, an impartial actor in the drama. J. Christian Adams, author of “Injustice…exposing the racial agenda of the Obama Justice Department,” says his former boss has carried a card in his wallet for thirty years, written with an odd phrase – that he (Holder) “shares common cause with the black criminal.” This, despite the American tradition that justice (and the Attorney General office), is blind to race, station of life, sex, political party, and raw emotion.
Only due process and the rule of law can eventually say what truly happened.
Another Adams – John Adams, then an aspiring attorney in Boston in 1770 – hated the British invaders as much as anyone. Still, he believed in the American way of seeking truth and justice so fervently he dared defend the “lobster backs” at trial.
Six British soldiers were acquitted. Two were convicted of manslaughter, branded on their thumbs for their deed.
Still, the Boston Massacre became a rallying point for the American Revolution. You have probably seen the engraving by Paul Revere that traveled the thirteen colonies.
Conflicting details of Brown’s death are now traveling the nation. Consider the New York Times News Service, referring to the “video that appears to show Brown shoplifting the day of his death.” Many who have seen the video say it appears more likely to have been strong arm robbery, which may have contributed to Brown’s confrontation with Wilson. That same confrontation, says the news account, “left Wilson with a swollen face.” Other reports say it was a broken eye socket, a much more serious injury, one that would have certainly heightened the officer’s fear.
These are details that must be left to an impartial grand jury, and if it returns a true bill, an impartial criminal jury – assuming one can be found.
My heart goes out to the family of Michael Brown, and, as a father, I cannot imagine the loss. But let us not judge the officer from the sidelines and kill the foundation of due process as well, based only on as yet unproven racial charges.
John Adams, who dared defend those hated British, went on to let due process and the jury decide their fate – and then became our second President.
We should do no less to honor our foundation of seeking truth and justice in the “show me” state.
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