From Dred Scott to Michael Brown

It has been fairly obvious from the beginning that the predominate belief in Ferguson and St. Louis was that Darren Wilson, the killer of Michael Brown, was not going to be indicted by a Bob McCullough-led grand jury. Political & legal authorities in the area have not been preparing for a trial. They have been preparing for civil unrest. And just as the legal authorities & police initially mis-reacted to the shooting, they then overreacted to the community’s protest of the Michael Brown killing – which contributed to the civil unrest in the face of mostly peaceful demonstrations. The legal & political authorities have mostly said & done all the wrong things.

Instead of a public trial with the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, the legal authorities in Ferguson & St. Louis put Michael Brown’s character on trial and decided that his murder was justified. Recently the armed White cop killer in Pennsylvania, who was trying to kill more cops, was captured alive, but an unarmed Michael Brown was shot down in cold blood.

Michael Brown’s murder can only be described as justifiable homicide. The issue is not the protests that will follow. The issue is the lack of Federal uplift of the community. The issue is the lack of Federal enforcement of the law. The issue is that Ferguson’s police & fire departments do not represent the people, yet they receive Federal funds. Ferguson’s police department, fire department and contracts issued are all subsidized by the Federal government – including the equipment that will be used to put down the protests – yet there is not enforcement of the law. Ferguson and St. Louis are under military occupation & martial law. It does need Federal involvement & occupation, but for the purpose of denying federal funds to its police and fire departments because they are in violation of the law. The EEOC should enforce the law in Ferguson. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Office should enforce its laws in Ferguson – money must be denied to Ferguson at every point that it has violated Federal law.

This Federal ghetto policy of reckless, unaccountable police behavior & military occupation must end. It’s a policy of community containment rather than community development. USA Today reported that Blacks are arrested 10 times more than of Whites. Community development in the ghetto is new jails, for profit jails, judges, courthouses, police stations, police and military equipment, not new jobs and job training, not new schools and teachers, not business development that would lead to permanent economic stability for the community.

This is about Michael Brown’s murder, but it’s not just about Michael Brown’s murder. It’s about a national ghetto policy – guns in, drugs in, jobs and services out, contained with military occupation like South African apartheid. This Federal ghetto policy is true whether you are in Ferguson, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Seattle, Atlanta, Birmingham, Milwaukee or wherever. It’s the Federal Government’s ghetto policy.

In other words, the legal atmosphere in St. Louis seems closer to Dred Scott and 1857 than to a commitment of equal justice under the law of Brown in 1954. RIP Michael Brown.

Jesse Jackson is the founder of Rainbow / Operation PUSH.


Jesse Jackson is the founder of Rainbow/PUSH.