Before the Storm

The announcement of the Grand Jury in the case of Darren Wilson, the police officer who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, is due any day now.

Everyone is getting prepared. The Ferguson community and activists are conducting direct action trainings and recruiting medics, and clergy, and legal workers.

Governor Nixon had a press conference promising state violence and repression if private property is threatened.

The police are training and gathering the weapons of war around them.

Around the country, solidarity networks are being strengthened and actions are being planned.

How should I prepare my heart?

My fear is that I will be driven by my fears, and not by my resolve for justice. 

Given my background, if I give myself over to fear, I will drift into being more afraid of the anger of the protestors than the violence of the police. I will end up wanting things to get back to "normal."  I will be motivated by a desire for peace and reconciliation and what I call "love."

I am preparing for the storm by reminding myself that:

The anger of people of color over police killings is a good thing, not an unfortunate event. The more forcefully, persistently, and insistently it is expressed the better it is.

This is a time when there will be clear choice: Conservatives will demonize the protestors as thugs and rioters. Our mission will be to "re-humanize" them. They are ordinary people angrily fighting back against injustice with great bravery and resolve.

I have to remember that the only things that will stop police killings are anger, protest, and resistance. The only things that will motivate politicians to implement those first steps toward controlling police violence (things like a national database of police killings, Justice department reviews of every such case, vigorous prosecution of killer police) are, again, anger, protest, and resistance.

I have to remember that I don't have a satellite observation platform, where I can stand and look down on what is happening from a safe distance, detached and objective. My distance from the communities where the fear of being killed by police is ever-present does not make me more objective about what is coming, but it actually makes my perceptions less trustworthy.

I don't know what is coming to St. Louis. I pray that no one is harmed. But mostly I pray that this can be a turning point for our country, a time when forceful anger, persistent protest, and insistent resistance compels real change and a new system of justice.

We who believe in freedom must carry the flame.


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