Despite the decision of the grand jury not to indict former police officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, violent protests took place in Ferguson as well as other parts of the country. Regardless of a dedicated police presence, it was the protestors who took advantage of the situation and turned what was supposed to be a peaceful protest into violent vandalism that endangered the community.

People were upset and understandably so. What happened in Ferguson was tragic and the events that followed even more so. The shooting of Michael Brown not only set a divide between Ferguson’s police and citizens, but also brought to light racial tension between citizens and the predominatley white police force. So when on November 24, a St. Louis County grand jury announced that it would not indict Wilson, it set off protests that resulted in looting and damaged property.

U.S. citizens have the right to protest. However, there’s a difference between protesting peacefully and rioting.

In response to the grand jury’s decision, some protestors decided that violence was the right action to take despite the Brown family and local officials asking for a peaceful protest. There were bricks thrown through windows, an empty police car set on fire, and businesses set on fire and looted during the hours the rioting took place. In the end, 21 buildings and 10 police cars were destroyed.

As the community of Ferguson tries to come to terms with what happened back in August, it is acts of violence like this that only hurts the community more. And regardless of a large police presence and more than 2,000 additional National Guardsmen in the St. Louis area, it is hard to police a community with a police force that has become the symbol for oppression, either real or perceived.

People have to remember that the police are doing their job and if that means arresting protestors that are engaging in harmful activity then so be it. Ferguson’s police officers have to deal with more than just verbal threats these days. Many of them have had to wear riot gear for the first time in their lives and have been pelted with bottles and rocks. A few have even relocated their families after activist hackers made public the names and addresses of officers.

Ferguson’s police didn’t sign up for protests and riots. They certainly didn’t sign up for threats and verbal harassment. Yes, there should have been more transparency about the case of Michael Brown and there should have been more of an outreach on the part of the police force to the African-American community. However, citizens in Ferguson and elsewhere need to remember that these officers are also part of the community which has been through so much since the death of Michael Brown.

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