The shooting of unarmed, 18-year-old Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson has dominated news circuits across the country over the past few weeks.
This story has polarized families, communities and seemingly the entire country while raising questions about racial inequality and the militarization of police forces.
The perpetual release of new facts and conflicting eyewitness reports from police officers and the citizens of Ferguson, Mo., have done little to shed light upon how the events preceding the death of Brown actually occurred.
Lauren Johnson, sophomore from Murray, said while she has not been affected directly by these events, she has been unable to avoid the numerous news reports and articles, especially on social media, about the case. Johnson said she believes Wilson should not have shot Brown.
“To be honest, I feel like there have been so many other cases involving the police like this that there should be some sort of training so they could learn how to handle things a lot better,” she said. “A lot of police just automatically think someone is doing something wrong and if they already suspect that something is going on they act more aggressive.”
Jennifer Siner, junior from Selmer, Tenn., said she feels sad that Brown was shot, but that riots are not the appropriate answer from protestors.
“I feel like it is one thing to protest peacefully, but to turn around and start destroying things, that’s not the answer and that won’t bring him back,” she said. “I know they’re hurt and I know that they’re mad and that’s understandable, but there are different outlets to let all that out, not destroy businesses and affect other people.”
Joshua Adair, assistant professor of Humanities and Fine Arts, said students should be interested and concerned in what is happening in Ferguson for a number of reasons.
He said this case has highlighted the issues of entrenched racism in the U.S., the value of civil disobedience, engaged citizenry and the power held by our police forces. He said Murray is not immune to these issues.
“In the years since Barack Obama was elected it has become fashionable among many people to suggest that we’re currently living in a post-racial society in which we’ve moved past the struggles that catalyzed the Civil Rights movement,” Adair said. “We’re nowhere near achieving such a society and suggesting otherwise undermines and/or preempts the possibility of facing racism head on and attempting to dismantle it.”
The escalating violence in the nights following Brown’s death between police officers and protestors, rioters and in several cases the media, have culminated in the destruction and robbery of several stores in the small St. Louis suburb.
According to a recent survey of the freshman class, Murray State students from the St. Louis area make up one of the largest porportions of the population. Almost three percent of survey respondents said they were from St. Louis.
National Guard troops were temporarily deployed by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon because of these clashes, but have since been withdrawn.
“The larger context here is that these incidents and numerous others like them send a message that black lives are of less value in this country than the lives of white folks,” Adair said. “That has to change, without question.”
Thousands of mourners attended Brown’s funeral Monday where his father, Michael Brown Sr., and other family members called for peace and justice. Investigations into the shooting are currently being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Justice and on the local level through a grand jury trial, which is expected to conclude deliberations in October.
Lauren Carter, graduate student from Louisville, Ky., agreed with Siner and said people should respect the wishes of Brown’s parents to protest peacefully.
“I know the parents just want the (legal) process to go as it should and to not have another Trayvon Martin situation,” Carter said. “Hopefully the justice system will prevail and that’s all you can really ask for.”
Story by Ben Manhanke, Staff writer