Why We Can't Blame Protesters for Ferguson Police Shooting

Jessica Renae Buxbaum
Protesters are frequently blamed for police killings, and it is a tired excuse.

Ferguson police shot

Last night, President Obama told Jimmy Kimmel that there is no excuse for the gunfire that wounded two police officers in Ferguson, Missouri during an otherwise peaceful demonstration.

“What had been happening in Ferguson was oppressive and objectionable and worthy of protest, but there was no excuse for criminal acts,” Obama said during his appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

While Obama did recognize that the shooters are “marginalized. They’re not the majority” of the demonstrators, his comments sadly reinforce the media assumption that these shooters were associated with the protesters.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar claims the shooters were embedded in the group of protesters, yet there is not one piece of evidence that points to his assertion.

“I don’t know who did the shooting to be honest with you right now, but somehow they were embedded in that group of folks,” he said.

Witnesses, however, took to social media to dispute Belmar’s claim.

“The shooter was not with the protesters. The shooter was atop the hill,” activist DeRay McKesson said on Twitter.

“I was here. I saw the officer fall. The shot came from at least 500 feet away from the officers,” he added.

While no evidence connects the shootings to the protesters, three people were still detained and questioned because the police thought they were “acting shady” when driving away from the incident and reactions took Twitter by storm convinced that the shooters were indeed part of the demonstrations under the hashtag BlueLivesMatter.

In wake of the United States’ epidemic on police brutality on communities of color, our white-washed media and law enforcement are trying to spin the issue into a crisis of cop killings. The truth is police killings have declined over the last 20 years, with the 2000s being the lowest this century.

Yet the media sensationalizes cop killings like the one in New York that killed two officers in December as fuel for the fire. The lone wolf using eye-for-an-eye tactics to fight against police brutality gets branded as the poster child for the BlackLivesMatter activists, when largely the protests are made up of peaceful demonstrators who often face tear gas, rubber bullets and batons simply for advocating for justice.

The real problem is police treatment of people of color and those who actively dissent. And when the media dials down that treatment and dials up protester violence, the issue remains at a standstill and public’s perception unchanged.

Read more: Five Days, Three States, Three Dead: Police Continue To Gun Down Unarmed Black Men