Feature: Between the Peacekeepers and Protesters in Ferguson
The following post is from Truthout. It was written by Raven Rakia.
By: Raven Rakia
From the very beginning, the movement in Ferguson, Missouri, has been youth-led and locally initiated. It was spurred after neighbors saw a young man dead in the streets for four hours after he had been gunned down by police officer Darren Wilson. After the first three or four nights, people deeming themselves “peacekeepers” began appearing at the protests.
“I feel like they’re trying to heal a broken arm with a band aid.”
The “peacekeepers” are of an older generation. Just about all of them are middle-aged. Some wear black shirts that say “peacekeeper” across the chest; others wear orange shirts that say “clergy;” some are politicians; some are clergy members; others have labeled themselves “community leaders.” Many protesters – especially people who have been out in Ferguson since Day One – have questioned their motives and are often at odds with their goals.
Spook, a 24-year-old writer who attended the protests since they began on August 9 told Truthout, “there’s a rift there,” describing the relationship between peacekeepers and protesters. “People didn’t see eye to eye.” King D Seals, a 27-year-old resident of Ferguson, told Truthout, that while he respects them, he sees them as “disingenuous.” Another St Louis resident and organizer, who was out during the protests, described the peacekeepers’ tactics to Truthout: “I feel like they’re trying to heal a broken arm with a band aid.”
As Percy Green, a 79-year old, longtime activist in the St Louis area explained to Truthout, the role of the peacekeepers is one that has been seen in movements historically over and over again: “Nothing has changed in terms of the establishment . . . you’ll get ministers to say, ‘Oh lord, you shouldn’t do none of that.’ You get some people to say that violence will get you nowhere. ‘Don’t engage in violent demonstrations.’ But yet, still the establishment will perpetuate violence against you in an attempt to stop it. Now what sense does that make? It doesn’t make any sense . . . What they want to do is make the demonstration [as] ineffective as possible.”
The reasoning behind the peacekeepers is understandable. They are concerned with the unrest in their community. They don’t want to see children tear gassed. They don’t want to see businesses affected. They want people to be able to go to work without being stopped or halted at police checkpoints. They are concerned about the image of Ferguson and black people in St. Louis, at large. Some of these are valid concerns – no one wants children to choke on tear gas, and it is a common agreement that that situation should never occur. However, the fault that many find with the peacekeepers are that they aren’t identifying or focusing on the largest agent of violence.
For most of the protesters, a return to normal is a return to the same routine that brutally killed Michael Brown – as well as the system that harasses them on a regular basis.
Instead of focusing on the violence of the police, peacekeepers are focused on silencing and quelling the crowd – to the point where they pinpoint the issue being a person throwing a plastic water bottle at a police line in riot gear, equipped with helmets, body armor and armored trucks. Percy Green notes, “Why aren’t they talking about the police not being peaceful? But instead, when the demonstrators sitting in the streets, or however way they express themselves, it always looks like the burden of peacefulness is always on the people that are protesting and never on the folks that are trying to prevent the protest.”
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