There are three types of people shaping the situation in Ferguson. Let’s start with “the good.”
For all the chaos flooding our TV screens, the community activists working to cool tensions have offered hope. They’re on the front lines of the protests. To be sure, many are angry at what they regard as absent justice. But they’re subduing that impulse in the cause of peace.
This leads us to “the bad.” The worst are the criminals. Let’s be clear: Peaceful protest and violent looting aren’t the same thing. Where the former pursues a better society, the latter seeks advantage from social chaos. These criminals care nothing for Mr. Brown or for the innocents they use as human shields. They are thugs, plain and simple.
Still, it’s also true that a minority of police officers have fallen short. The use of tear gas as a first resort, the failure to distinguish between agitators and bystanders, and the selective leaking of information have invited unneeded controversy. While Captain Johnson appears to have stopped these acts, the freedom to protest policing is of profound importance. The First Amendment is first for a reason.
In the end, Ferguson carries lessons for us all. Just as conservatives must realize that most community organizers are public servants undeserving of derision, liberals must accept that most police officers are courageous citizens doing challenging but critical work. Most of all, we must recognize that the situation in Ferguson isn’t black and white.