A stunning change happened overnight in Ferguson, Missouri after the government took a different approach to people’s civil liberties in the area.
Gone were the SWAT trucks and snipers. Gone were the riot shields and militaristic outfits. Gone was the hostility. And guess what? Gone was the violence.
Yesterday the Missouri Highway Patrol was given responsibility over the area. Patrol Capt. Ronald S. Johnson, who is a Ferguson native, marched in front of the crowd and set clear priorities for the marchers which respected their civil liberties. Governor Jay Nixon had vowed to take a different approach to the event, which has spurred national interest after police were caught tear gassing and arresting reporters.
“When I see a young lady cry because of fear of this uniform, that’s a problem.” Johnson said. “We’ve got to solve that.”
Johnson vowed not to blockade the street, and even went so far as to set up a staging center for the media. The officers were careful to ensure that residents had the right to assemble and the police were told to take off their gas masks while working crowd control.
Johnson, who is also African American, hugged and kissed his fellow community members as they walked by. The Washington Post reported that when one man asked Capt. Johnson what he would say to his niece who was tear gassed, Johnson replied: “Tell her Capt. Johnson is sorry and he apologizes.”
Protesters said they were still angry, demanding justice for Brown and answers from local police about why he was shot and who the offending officer was.
But, they said, Johnson’s willingness to physically interact with them, rid the streets of heavy police equipment, and help them coordinate protests was a welcome change in tone.
“Thank you so much for being here,” said Karen Wood, who fought back tears as she held both of Johnson’s hands imploring him to bring answers to residents and maintain calm in the streets.
“This is about human rights, about human beings,” she cried. “It takes cooperation…our youth are out here without guidance, without leadership.”
Moments later, as he rallied the crowd and demanded justice and information about the shooting, the man with the megaphone declared:
“They respect us,” referring to police. “ So let’s respect them. They’ve given us the sidewalk so lets stay out of their street.”
… Organizers worked through the crowd, handing out “community talking points” outlining the goals of the protest.
“This is what our community was like before a child was killed in our streets,” said Jerroll Sanders, one of the protest organizers. “But what we’ve seen is a change in the policing approach. The aggression was never brought on by us.”
Isn’t it incredible what happens when the government actually respects civil liberties?
Our sister site, The Libertarian Republic, produced a podcast this morning on how libertarian politics are informing policies in places such as Ferguson. Have a listen: