Watching Ferguson, Mo.

For the past few years one of my main interests of critical inquiry (and a a subject I am interested in reporting on) has been urban policy and conflict. As the economy has become increasingly globalized, we’ve seen a significant increase in interurban competition for infrastructure projects, foreign investment and jobs. I’ve been seeing, think we’ll continue to see, a growing conversation about who cities exists for; are they to cater to the interests of businesses and foreign investors, or are they to prioritize the interests of the people and help even the playing field for everyone? 

The media is going to be able to play a crucial role in facilitating and framing this conversation. And of the many threads in this complicated discussion will have to be whose interests the police really serve.

A few days ago an unarmed 18-year-old black kid in Ferguson, Mo. was shot to death by a police officer. According to witnesses, Mike Brown had his hands up in the air when they fired the fatal shots. 

As human beings are want to do in situations like this (which are not as rare as they need to be in America), members of the Ferguson community demanded answers from the police by protesting and even beginning to organize a boycott of businesses in Ferguson. 

Sunday night, the community held a peaceful candlelight vigil in Brown’s honor. Increasing already high tension between the wounded community and city officials, the Ferguson police showed up, allegedly to keep the peace during a peaceful vigil. They were wearing riot gear, presupposing the violence of the night.

Headlines this morning focused on vandalism, property damage and looting that ensued throughout the night. At one point I saw a story on how police had protected a Walmart from the “angry mob.” Although these types of stories offer little to help us understand underlying issues in our society that make police shootings of unarmed black men frequent occurrences, they say a lot about how many journalists view urban conflicts.

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