One thing we ought to do, in discussing the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, is define the word “protester.”
People who bust windows and burn and loot businesses are not protesters.
There is no legitimate reason to destroy or to steal someone else’s property to express your disgust at a grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting Michael Brown, who had no weapon, on Aug. 9.
The owners of those businesses didn’t kill Brown.
And they didn’t serve on the grand jury.
They’re innocent. And they’re victims, just as Brown is.
Real protesters, those who are truly aggrieved by the grand jury’s decision and who want to effect change, can also gather in the streets.
They can march and chant and they can even yell at the police officers whose job it is to preserve a semblance of order.
Indeed, protesters did all of those things in Ferguson.
We understand why they’re outraged.
No matter how legally sound the grand jury’s conclusion might be — a decision not to indict a police officer in a fatal shooting is, after all, the most common result — a reasonable person recognizes that something went wrong in Ferguson.
We’re certainly not satisfied with the notion that when a police officer has an altercation with an unarmed man — even a man who, like Brown, punches the officer and later charges at him — that the unarmed man must end up dead.
Nor can we dismiss the racial issues. Wilson is white, Brown black. A disproportionate number of fatal police shootings involve black victims.
No sane person wants these tragedies to continue.
But we’re less likely to make meaningful progress as a society if some people use the death of someone they didn’t even know as an excuse for causing mayhem.
That’s the act of a coward, not a protester.