Opinion: Attacking the system peacefully

Bruce Walton is a columnist and assigning editor for The Kent Stater. Contact him at bwalton4@kent.edu.

Bruce Walton is a columnist and assigning editor for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

Bruce Walton

I knew the grand jury’s decision hours before it was announced. There was too much fluff and too much time taken for police to organize themselves for it to be a decision to indict Darren Wilson.


I know many who criticized the riots and protests after the announcements. The destruction of buildings and public property weren’t the voice of those who wanted change. It was the lashing out of the few opportunists who took advantage of a situation. I speak for those who stood and fought peacefully.


If you agree that Wilson shot Michael Brown past a reasonable point of his safety and that it was wrong for him to not be tried, you support the same cause of those who protested.


I, like many others who have seen this, am beyond anger, beyond rage, beyond any emotion that could leave our minds over time. Many are done talking or crying and decided it cannot be given to them by asking. We want to act and march to demand justice, true justice.


As I write this column, protests have erupted in more than 35 states across the nation, demanding justice, including in our own city of Kent.

Why do you think there are so many protests? Why have people blocked roads, gathered together and acted to make themselves known? When people feel upset and helpless, they do desperate things. I, just as many others, feel that a lot of our enforcers have become our oppressors.


I know there are many officers who do their jobs and are fair and make an effort to enforce the law, and I acknowledge that. But it’s not enough. A good officer is not one who does exactly what they’re supposed to do. A good officer is one that goes above his expectations, and puts himself and others of his position to serve the people, not to be above it.


If we all saw this coming — so many of us feel that this was wrong — then you must agree that the system should change. That’s what Brown’s supporters want because this is the product of frustration because the system has failed them. And they are tired: tired of being ignored by their peers and intimidated by their enforcers; tired of victim after victim who have been shot and laid to rest with a killer exonerated.


There should be more officers who claim to be for the people who are able to treat their fellow officers with the same distinction as any other suspect of a crime punishable by law. Officers need to understand — with complete unbiased certainty — that their colleagues are at fault and should not be protected or hidden under any circumstance.


That is the real problem that should be assessed. Even though there are some who protect and serve, are they putting the needs of safety and peace of mind for their own more than the people who they serve? We need to question that authority because enforcers have shown they cannot enforce themselves.


When people feel like they are not being cared for and demand to be heard, they take drastic steps in order to be heard, to be known and to be acknowledged through civil obedience, to be in the public’s way, to make a problem and to inconvenience others. That’s the only way those being ignored will gain attention, challenging the order.


Brown was shot six times by police, and the government feels only the victim is at fault. And the fact that this happened before shows the problem and frustration many have felt. Trayvon Martin, 17, Eric Garner, 43, Ezell Ford, 25, John Crawford, 22, Tamir Rice, 12.


Responding to hate with hate is foolish, but expressing dissatisfaction with one’s government by means of peaceful organization should be celebrated.


This is the fifth time an unarmed black male has been shot to death in the name of the law for doing what many other citizens would hardly get any punishment close to the death penalty.  


I don’t want to say this is only a race issue, because when you make a claim like that, lines are drawn and many throw away any prospect to actually help because they want to make sure their race is dignified in this issue, and we become distracted. But the fact of the matter is that it’s definitely a race-issue, but not the only issue.


No matter what skin color an officer or victim has, an unarmed teen was shot several times by an officer who went out of his way to pursue him. A gun is a last resort in the arsenal of an officer of the law, but we see it’s being used as if it’s the only weapon.


When you do anything in that uniform, it can be done in the name of the law, and that fact almost exonerates law enforcement and some civilians of murder. Is the blood really wiped clean if it’s in the name of keeping the peace?


This is the corruption we face as the American people. As Americans, we have a right to question and confront our government, but why is it that we hardly want to question our law enforcement?


What matters is our collective presence and that this is what has pushed us — our people, Americans — to the edge. We all know this was wrong, ethically, not by the definition in a book. It felt wrong.


When the system has rejected its citizens, we in turn must reject it. All lives matter, and mine is no more important than yours, regardless of race, creed, religion, or background. We know that death is to be respected, not expected. The state doesn’t decide what is justice. We, the people, decide what is justice, and there was none on Nov. 24. It is our time to tell the government it was wrong.


This is a time to challenge the system. Because the system has failed us time and time again leading us to fear for our very lives and the lives of our children. Why is it that my parents tell me to be careful, not for criminals, but for police officers? To avoid not getting mugged, but to be arrested, beaten or shot by police for a crime I did not commit?


This is not misdirected rage; a teen is dead. Someone’s son is dead, a brother is dead, and his killer now walks free with only the burdens of his conscience to imprison him. Challenge authority, fight to make things right. This is what our nation is based on: challenging a system that favored themselves more than us to make a better institution. We are above the establishment because it works for us, not the other way around. We can change a nation by lifting our hands, not bricks, and only using a lighter for candles at vigils.


Contact Bruce Walton at [email protected]