Opinion: Violence is not the answer

Ray Paoletta is a junior political science major and a columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]

Ray Paoletta

Everybody has seen or heard about the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country, after a grand jury decided police officer Darren Wilson would not be charged in the shooting death of Michael Brown. People came together to remember Brown and to protest how the police, in particular, treat minorities.

Many protesters in Ferguson remained peaceful, and I believe they had the right to express their feelings and have their viewpoints heard. However, not all the protesters remained peaceful, despite Brown’s parents’ and President Barack Obama’s plea for a refrain from violence. The violence in Ferguson was counterproductive to the cause of the peaceful protesters.

There were two kinds of protesters in Ferguson. One group was peaceful — they stayed out of the streets and they did not use violence as an answer. Then there was a group who, in my opinion, did not care about the indictment — they were a group of selfish people who saw the protests as an opportunity to vandalize and steal from businesses without being caught. That second group of people took the attention away from the peaceful protesters and, as a result, made the lawful protests almost unheard in the media. 

The violence in Ferguson took center stage on almost every news channel, every website, every talk show and every newspaper. I do not blame people for feeling frustrated and upset after the decision not to indict Wilson came down, but the violence that took place was not acceptable in any way. When the violence broke out, the first image I saw was of people beating and setting a police car on fire, a car that the taxpayers of that community will be on the hook to replace. I then saw footage of a Little Caesars Pizza burning. The violence does not change race relations in this country, and it certainly does not fix the problems the protesters may have with the justice system.

The peaceful demonstrators were protesting for better minority relations. They believe that minorities in the U.S. are treated unfairly and they want justice to be fair for all people. The violence in Ferguson in no way helped move toward that goal. KMOV-TV in the St. Louis area reported that the majority of businesses looted during the riots were minority owned. The store that Brown allegedly stole cigarillos from was vandalized and looted during riots — that store is minority owned. Natalie DuBose is a black single mother who owns a bakery shop in Ferguson; the shop was vandalized during the riots, putting enormous stress on her to fill orders for Thanksgiving.

The riots do not make sense to me. Vandalizing minority-owned businesses does not make life any easier or fairer for minorities. The riots caused harm to the minorities of Ferguson.

In order for the discussion of race relations to move forward, it must be peaceful, and it must be civil. Violence is no answer to violence and no answer to racism. I like to believe most of the protesters would agree with that, but unfortunately a small group of selfish, violent rioters have made things more difficult. In the words of Garth Brooks, “people loving people, that’s the enemy of everything that’s evil.” Perhaps that should be the approach we take.