It started as a vigil protest, and ended in teargas and looting. The shooting of an unarmed black teen in Ferguson, Missouri had the city on edge, and last night it exploded in anger:
CBS reported on the aftermath this morning:
A day of anger over a fatal police shooting of an unarmed black teen in suburban St. Louis turned to mayhem as people looted businesses, vandalized vehicles and confronted police in riot gear who tried to block access to parts of the city.
The tensions erupted after a candlelight vigil Sunday night for 18-year-old Michael Brown, who police said was shot multiple times Saturday after a scuffle involving the officer, Brown and another person in Ferguson, a predominantly black suburb of the city.
CBS affiliate KMOV-TV in St. Louis reports at least 12 businesses near the shooting scene were looted, including a convenience store, a check-cashing store, a boutique and a small grocery store. People took items from a sporting goods store and a cellphone retailer, and carted rims away from a tire store.
TV footage showed streams of people walking from a liquor store carrying bottles of alcohol, and in some cases protesters stood atop police cars or taunted officers who stood stoic, some carrying shields and batons. Video posted online by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch showed a convenience store on fire.
So far, it appears that no one died or got seriously injured during the riot, although that hasn’t been entirely confirmed yet. If so, consider that luck. Riots get very ugly very quickly, and usually include vendettas from old conflicts and new. That was the case in the LA riots of 1992 after the Rodney King verdict, which resulted in 53 deaths, more than two thousand injuries, and 11,000 arrests.
In the end, though, the LA riots did what the Ferguson riot did last night — damage the community that had the grievance in the first place. Riots are about rage and insanity, not justice or accountability, and it drives people away rather than heal, regardless of whether the underlying cause is just or not. It destroys investment, usually in areas which already suffer from a lack of investment in the first place, and mires the area even deeper into poverty and dysfunction. It’s senseless and harms the people that were allegedly victimized in the first place.
The riot will transform this shooting into a national issue now, if it hadn’t already. It will be interesting to see whether the police cars had dash cams or other surveillance technology that could have captured the incident (or perhaps cameras from nearby businesses), but it will most likely hinge on the eyewitness testimony. Don’t expect that to convince either side of the other’s arguments.