Thursday, May 18, 2017

Peaceful Protest?

In another racially charged case, a Tulsa police officer, Betty Shelby, killed a motorist with PCP in his system, Terence Crutcher. She was charged with manslaughter and the trial ended with a verdict of not-guilty. As is universally the case the result of a jury of her peers (9 White and 3 black jurors) has been declared a miscarriage of justice, etc.

The merits of the case, which include a great deal of conflicting video evidence, the presence of PCP in Crutcher's system and his extensive criminal past, are not my primary concern. Having a very extensive criminal past doesn't mean it is OK to shoot someone. Being on drugs, even something as serious as PCP, doesn't mean it is OK to shoot someone. But when you start to combine enough issues, you find an unfortunate but completely preventable situation. The father of Terrence Crutcher stated that the police officer "got away with murder" and lamented that his four grandchildren "have lost their daddy", with no mention of their father being a criminal and drug abuser which no doubt didn't provide a great home life for his kids. A local Tulsa clergyman, Rodney Gross of Morning Star Baptist Church, stated 3 times in 3 sentences that Terrence Crutcher was murdered even though the officer in question was not even charged with murder and the crime she was charged with, felony manslaughter, she was also found not guilty of by a jury of her peers. As someone who claims to be a Christian minister, Mr. Gross should be more temperate in his pronouncements as his comments seemed more designed to elicit a favorable response from his listeners than speak the truth.

The response is what I am concerned with.

CNN reported that there were demonstrators outside of the courtroom, which is not surprising. This is how CNN described them:

Shortly after the ruling, demonstrators gathered outside the courtroom in a peaceful protest.

Fair enough. The next two sentences are of more concern:

"Bring her out," the crowd yelled, referring to Shelby. "No justice, no peace, no racist police!" 

Gov. Mary Fallin said that while residents have a right to express their opinions, they should do so in a peaceful manner.

Bring her out? Why would they yell that? That certainly sounds like a essentially unveiled threat. I don't think it is outside of the realm of reality to read between the lines and see "We disagree with the verdict so bring her outside where we will dispense justice". Whenever the cry of "No justice, no peace" is heard it is a clear threat of unrest and violence, i.e. a lack of peace, when a jury decision goes against the wishes of the crowd.

Imagine if a similarly charged situation were reversed and a black man was on trial for raping and murdering a White woman. When he was found not guilty, a crowd of Whites gathered at the courthouse and shouted "Bring him out!". Would any reasonable person not see that statement as ominous and laden with threats of violence? What historically literate person would not hear echoes of lynch mobs of the early 20th century? Does anyone think that CNN would have described the crowd as "peaceful protesters"?

We are in a racially charged environment and it is getting worse, no thanks for 8 years of Obama. It is incumbent on people of all races to try to ease tensions, not to cry "Murder" when no murder was committed like Rodney Gross, who as a minister should know better. The death of Terrence Crutcher is tragic because it was so preventable, in part preventable by a different response from Betty Shelby but mostly from a man with a lengthy criminal record not getting stoned and driving a car leading to a tense standoff.
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