A report broadcast yesterday on Fox News revealed that store owners in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson — apparently astonished with the police reluctance to stop looters — have taken up arms to guard their businesses as unrest continues, despite Gov. Jay Nixon’s imposition yesterday of a curfew.
What appears to have been lost in the past week’s violence is that all of this unrest was precipitated by two things. First, there was a strong-arm robbery, captured on security cameras, allegedly committed by 18-year-old Michael Brown. Then there was Brown walking up the middle of a street and getting involved in some sort of confrontation with officer Darren Wilson. One of several images published by the Daily Mail shows a walkway just steps away from where Brown’s body was laying on the pavement.
In a YouTube video, a man wonders why police didn’t shoot the looters who took advantage of the tragedy and the protests to steal. An investigation will determine whether the shooting of Brown was justified, but that incident cannot be used as an excuse to pillage private businesses and steal. Peaceful protest is one thing; looting and property damage are quite another.
There is something else emerging from the events in Ferguson, a community most of America was happily ignorant of prior to Aug. 9. Conflicting press reports about the incident have confused people.
Yesterday, the Seattle Times and Fox News both ran an Associated Press report that said this: “12:01 p.m.: Wilson encounters Michael Brown walking in the street, and the shooting follows. Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said Friday that Wilson did not know about the robbery at the convenience store when he encountered Brown.”
However, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Robert Patrick yesterday reported this: “The circumstances faced by Officer Darren Wilson contained both elements, according to a description Friday by Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson.
“He said Wilson was aware there had been a robbery involving cigars,” Patrick wrote, “but did not realize when he ordered two young men to stop walking in the street that they were suspects. Wilson made the connection when he noticed cigars in Brown’s hand, Jackson said.”
Which is it? Did Chief Jackson misstate the facts at some point, thus contradicting himself? Did the Associated Press get it wrong, or did the Post-Dispatch?
As all of this gets sorted out, business people who have felt it necessary to arm themselves against further crime are defending their livelihoods. It is reminiscent of how Korean businesses were defended with arms during the Rodney King riots. When all else fails, the final fallback is the Second Amendment.