A $40 million civil rights lawsuit filed by protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, against the city’s police force has been dismissed by a federal judge. The suit alleged the attending officers used excessive force during the demonstration, which began in response to the 2014 shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was unarmed with his hands in the air prior to being shot multiple times by police officer Darren Wilson, and the subsequent senseless killings of numerous unarmed, law-abiding black men across the country at the hands of law enforcement officials. The lawsuit, filed by nine people involved in the weeks-long event, claimed they were illegitimately shot with rubber bullets, beaten, subjected to tear gas and forcefully arrested while exerting their First Amendment rights to peaceful protest. The judge in the case disagreed.
In his 74-page ruling, federal Judge Henry Autry found no evidence of any wrongdoing by Ferguson police, stating the protesters “have completely failed to present any credible evidence that any of the actions taken by these individuals were taken with malice or were committed in bad faith,” adding participants repeatedly ignored police orders to leave the scene and as such, knew there would be consequences for their continued involvement. Both the NAACP and one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the case have expressed their disappointment in the ruling, with attorney Gregory Lattimer telling the press, “The decision was unfair and not consistent with applicable law,” adding he has already filed an appeal with the promise “This is a battle we will keep fighting. We will end it in the right way and get justice for these people.”
Darren Wilson, the white officer who shot Brown, resigned his position after a grand jury refused to indict him on criminal charges, which is what initially sparked the justifiable outrage within the black community. Though countless photographs and videos taken throughout the protests show heavily armed police, S.W.A.T and military officials aggressively approaching peaceful individuals, the judge believes the fault lies with the protestors themselves, as indicated in his ruling. “At the time of the events detailed herein, the atmosphere surrounding the arrests was extremely intense and had turned violent, ” wrote Autry. He also provided immunity to the officers implicated in the suit.
What seems to be missing from his judgment is why such violence erupted in the first place. Even if those first protesting peacefully were responsible for things becoming more violent in nature, how is it misunderstood? If this had been a group of white people assembled to protest the continued disenfranchisement, abuse, and killing of their friends and loved ones by black officers sworn to uphold the law, do any of us believe for one second the outcome would be the same? That a black officer who shot an unarmed white man with his hands in the air multiple times would walk free? It is this continued denial and refusal to acknowledge the core of which happenings like these continue to occur.
Anyone who says we do not have a deeply flawed, incontrovertibly biased justice system is just plain wrong. Why does this country keep trying so hard to disprove this irrefutable fact?