It was quieter than I expected.
Ignoring the advice of my coworkers and defying my mother’s protests, I went to Ferguson, Mo., to see the race riots for myself.
I was traveling to St. Louis for a weekend vacation planned weeks in advance — fine dining, trips to the museums, plenty of photo ops. But when the weekend itself came, I changed my plans. I chose to spend time witnessing what had been described as a race war.
The thing is, there’s no race riot in Ferguson. In fact, last Friday evening the city was nearly silent.
But why? I’d seen the news, read the online reports. Hadn’t Ferguson erupted into a constantly violent, racially charged war? Molotov cocktails still smoldered and tear gas still burned in residents’ eyes. Buildings were burned, angry gangs roamed the streets day and night. The protests had gotten ugly and vicious. At least, that’s what I’d seen on TV.
Large homes with manicured, shade-tree yards welcomed us to Ferguson. But these postcard homes on the hill quickly transitioned to economically depressed, flat road neighborhoods. It was only when I reached the main drag that we heard the chants.
I finally found the rally: a 100-person group of white and black residents calmly holding signs and demanding justice for their fallen son. They stood on Florissant Avenue calling out to all who passed. There was no police force on hand, no riot gear. It was a scene I’d witnessed in my own hometown during the Iraq war: a protest.
Returning Sunday afternoon, just after a night of defied curfews and tear gas, I found the town in a similar state as Friday. Hundreds of protesters walked the streets and stood in front of the burned QuikTrip shouting “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot.” Men, women and children cried and held signs. Blacks, whites, Hispanics and Asians stood together, crying out for acknowledgment from the town’s neglectful officials. They were demanding answers. They were begging for them. It brought tears to my eyes.
But it was no riot.
There is no race riot happening in Ferguson, Mo. What’s going on is a protest — a rebellion against a years of maltreatment by an overpowering police force. It is a crying out for equality. A cry for peace in a southern city long torn apart by years of real and perceived racial targeting.
Despite the nightly violence, the protesters I saw protesters are exercising their right to assemble and should continue to do so until satisfied. They should continue to protest the indiscriminately imposed curfews and violence inflicted by local police. They should have our support, not condemnation.
These protests are a representation of what the strength of a community and the will of a people can do to the status quo. The citizens of Ferguson are standing together to protest the racial inequality that has marred that city for decades and to develop a town wherein all citizens are truly treated equally. This town is a representation of what makes America work. This is how citizens make societal changes possible.
This challenge of racial inequality is not a race war, riot or uprising. It is a revolution.
Link to the article can be found here.