‘It was a matter of time before something happened to set off the Ferguson riots’
RT:The police have also come in for heavy criticism over their heavy-handed actions in Ferguson. Do you think their conduct was appropriate?
Ted Rall: Unfortunately, I think that their behavior and their attitudes are all too typical of a lot of members of law enforcement in the United States. Certainly we have hundreds of thousands if not possibly millions of police officers in the US. So it is hard to generalize. But certainly there is a reactionary culture in a lot of police departments in the US. And so I cannot really say that this is surprising.
RT:So why do the police act in such a heavy-handed way?
TR: This is the culture of police departments around the United States. It is really macho, it is very male. Like many countries, people who become police officers tend to be very dogmatic. And it takes strong leadership from the civilian political leadership to send the message that this is the kind of behavior that will not be tolerated and to remind law enforcement that they are not in charge of the citizens, that they serve the citizens, and that they are servants, which all too often is easy to freak out when you wear a uniform and you carry a gun.
RT:Many have blamed the intensity of the protests on racial tensions between the law enforcement and civilians. In your opinion, what is the main issue of the clashes?
TR: Certainly no country likes it when there are political protests against their government policies. The United States is no exception. But what is different about the US is that we have a lot of high flying rhetoric about freedom of speech and the right to protest. Now the last time we have really seen true freedom to protest in the United States was probably in the 1960`s and in the 1970`s. And ever since then these rights have been continuously circumscribed whether it was the so called free speech zones that have been set up outside of meeting of the World Trade Organization, and the major political conventions, the Democratic and Republican national conventions where protesters are herded far away from the side of the actual event, where they cannot be seen by television cameras, and they were put behind wire fences and guarded by police officers. And it makes it a travesty of the right to protest. There were many abuses during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City where the police gathered peaceful protesters and beat them and jailed them for days at the time. We saw more abuse of protesters in 2011 during the Occupy Wall Street movement when the US Department of Homeland Security coordinated under the aegis of the Obama administration simultaneous closures of the various encampments around the United States. About using the most brutal means against peaceful non-violent protesters, certainly Ferguson is a continuation of that pattern. I would say that it was a little bit more extreme than the examples I have mentioned before because in the previous examples the protesters were mostly white. In this case protesters are mostly black. So the oppression is that much worse. They like to talk about how the protest is something that looks legitimate and acceptable. But in the reality they do everything possible to crash it and eradicate it.
RT:Almost all leading media has been distributing information about the incident in Ferguson. Do most of them describe the situation in the correct way?
TR: What is interesting is that whether you are on the Democratic or Republican or Liberal or Conservative sides in the media in the United States it seems that the Ferguson coverage largely depends on how you felt about the man involved, Michael Brown and the police officer who shot him to death. And it seems that this is about trying his case, or the case of the police officer in the media. Was Michael Brown a robber, was he a bad person, was he an innocent man. I think what all of this coverage misses is that what we are talking is a powder keg that was ready to explode. We are talking about a predominantly black community that had been harassed and abused by a predominately white police force for many, many years. And in a city that had declining economic status for most people who lived in it. So it was only a matter of time before something happened to set that off. Michael Brown may or may not be an angel. We are probably not going to know the truth there. He is dead, he can`t speak for himself. But in the sense it doesn`t really matter. What matters is that the overall situation that created those riots was going to create a riot from something at some point. It just happened to be about Michael Brown. I think the media is missing that.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.