Let’s talk about The Constitutional and how it relates to Ferguson as well as we can during a few short breaks at work, shall we? Ya girl is just gonna have to proofread and include citations later. First, let’s look at what the Declaration of Independence has to offer for the people of Ferguson as far as the right to revolution is concerned:
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…
The Ferguson police, who are receiving Federal dollars and assistance at the moment (not that it would matter because I believe every amendment I’m going to discuss has been incorporated), are a government force. We don’t refer to the police as being part of the Armed Forces in the way we do the Marines because it makes us feel good that our Armed Forces are used to protect us from other nations, not the U.S. citizens we don’t like all that much. And even that does not really matter because the police force has been militarized with gusto (para-militarized if we are feeling nice, but we aren’t). So let’s construct a brief Constitutional laundry list to demonstrate exactly how robustly the Ferguson police have infringed the constitutional rights of its citizens…
- Speech— police have refused to take statements from eyewitnesses to Michael Brown’s execution
- Assembly— the violent attempts to force the dispersal of protestors
- Press— the blockading, detainment, arrest, threatening, and literally assault of journalists
- Protection against unwarranted search and seizure (and by extension privacy)— the closure of a peacefully occupied McDonalds, and though harder to argue, tear gas canisters being tossed upon the yards of private homes
- Due Process— numerous arrests made (notably members of the press) without proper justification or any official charges made
- Protection against cruel and unusual punishment— virtually any violence committed throughout this ordeal, up to and including the execution of Michael Brown. I’m a little hazy about the 8th, but it’s possible these actions occurring before a trial constitute Due Process violations.
So from this, we have abundant proof that the government is not acting within its limitations by a long shot and is, as a consequence, committing severe and dangerous violations of rights. What are the citizens of Ferguson to do about this? I’ll start with the more harrowing example, that being the Second Amendment. I hate guns with all my heart, but let’s just go ahead and read it:
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
One popular interpretation used to portray this amendment in a more righteous light is that because the U.S. must maintain a militia to ensure security of a free state, the people have the right to bear arms against an excessive and/or corrupt militia. So, by definition, the black citizens of Ferguson should have the right to protect themselves against unconstitutional police action with armed weapons. A flagrantly unconstitutional police presence is not a legitimate power. Surely an amendment protecting the right to bear arms does not merely protect the symbolic power of holding a gun, but also its utility as a weapon. Does this mean that through some crazy combination of rights and circumstance, people have the right to shoot back at these cops with guns? The livelihood of these protesters is certainly at more immediate risk than the shooter of Michael Brown ever was. I’d rather remain many many lightyears away from that black hole, but let’s avoid sounding crazy by airing on the side of, “theoretically, maybe…practically, not a chance in hell.” What I will do is use this information to assert that people must not commit violence against the police, armed or otherwise. Do not participate in, encourage, or even tacitly condone protest which goes beyond peaceful civil unrest. This is an especially crucial point to communicate as the identity of Michael Brown’s shooter becomes public knowledge.
I know it’s hard for the black people of Ferguson to believe in the justice system, seeing as it is currently quarantining them. The very term “black justice” is more often than not oxymoronic. Even the powers above don’t give great reason for hope. Our constitutional law professor of a black president is literally on vacation as he approves neutral, by-the-book statements. Justice Thomas, the one black associate justice of the Supreme Court, virtually never speaks while on the bench (seriously). Still, the lasting legal ramifications of this ordeal have the potential to be sweeping and momentous. However, immediate violent retribution against officers will negate any hope of this. The protestors in Ferguson have a lot going for them, despite how dreadful things are now. Due to the staggering amount of constitutional transgressions and video evidence to that account, virtually any black person in Ferguson who wants to has the standing to sue until the earth runs dry. As in, class action lawsuits against the Missouri and Federal governments, mothafucka (see update). As in, get this money, mothafucka.