Friday, August 22, 2014

What Happens When They Acquit Officer Wilson?

Yishai Schwartz thinks it's going to be almost impossible to convict Darren Wilson in a court of law:
The power to indict rests with local prosecutors and pliant grand juries, and as Jonathan Cohn has pointed out, a prosecutor will usually refrain from indicting altogether if the accused faces a low likelihood of conviction. In this case, a combination of entrenched racial and occupational biases, and most importantly the details of Missouri law, all but ensures that a conviction is off the table.
As things are approaching a period of nominal calm, The Omnivore wonders: what happens when, a few months from now (maybe), they don't convict him--what if they don't even charge him? The obvious answer is riots (and maybe not just in Ferguson). Anything else?

Well, ISIS thinks it can use Ferguson to recruit black Americans. Can they? Erm ... maybe?
But probably not all that successfully--ISIS's brand is killing children, beheadings of journalists, and religious mass executions. That's not going to sell as well as they might hope in the USA. Still, the fact that they think they might be able to make inroads with Ferguson is troubling.

Is This A Race / Class War?
No--and for the most part, people have been reluctant to call it one. Firstly, it's not a war--despite the militarized appearance and some hardware, it isn't a war if there isn't actual for-real combat. Despite what you have seen on TV, what is happening in Ferguson does not count as actual combat. Secondly, we know what a race or class war would look like (assuming that it's race-class meaning people of a given race and class are fighting against the majority): IEDs and asymmetrical forces.

Given that we already have a model of what an actual class/race war would look like (insurgency with irregular militants) we can be pretty certain this is not it.

Could It Be?
So that's the question: what would it take to ignite one? Could Wilson being acquitted (or not even charged) do it? Well, we will likely see charges--that seems almost a given (even if the attorney would lose, failing to charge Wilson at this point would, The Omnivore thinks, make them lose harder). But actually convicting him? If Schwartz is right, it seems that any even remotely credible defense would allow him to walk.

Could that spark a race war?

The Omnivore thinks: probably not. This is based on the following:

  1. The lack of video. If we had video of Brown being gunned down, that would be tangible and visceral. The story is not. This is the difference between Rodney King and Treyvon Martin. A lot of people think video from Vietnam is what brought that war to a close by putting it in our living-rooms. Martin's killing was 'on radio.'
  2. The larger expression of solidarity with black / poor people in Ferguson. Granted, a lot of people do have support for Wilson (the GoFundMe raised 225k thus far and had its comments section closed down) but the mass media has, after being arrested and tear-gassed*, decided to side with the people of Ferguson. This gives people a voice that didn't exist so much in the Treyvon Martin case (yes, Zimmerman was tried in the media--that is true--but the expose of militarized police in Ferguson has been, to the Omnivore's mind, unprecidented). This raises the question of who, exactly, you would race war against.
There are a lot of different theories floating around concerning the events. A story holds that Darren had his orbital socket broken by Mike Brown before Brown ran off. Current reporting says this is not true:
On the other hand, things are still in flux and the eventual story could well change (right now, to The Omnivore's read, a shot was fired from inside the police car and Brown ran off after that--this leads to the 'Brown turned and charged' story or the 'Brown turned and gave up' story--the idea that Brown, after being shot at, decided to come back seems far less likely to The Omnivore--but you never know).

In any event: while this may not lead to nation-wide fighting, this may get worse before it gets better.

1 comment:

  1. > Still, the fact that they think they might be able to make inroads with Ferguson is troubling.

    Or perhaps simply delusional (on their part).

    And absent more detailed facts, I do think it likely that the police officer will be acquitted.