As most of you are well aware Ferguson, MO, is a mess.
People are protesting the shooting of an unarmed young Black man, Michael Brown, multiple times by a police officer. Some are looting and throwing things at the police. Mostly the Black community and people of color are angry and frightened. And how do the police respond?
With snipers and police dressed in camouflage uniforms equipped with military gradearmament and curfews…just more to fuel the helplessness, the fear, and the anger.
I know good cops. I know non-racist cops. Sarah’s first cousin became a cop when he was mistreated by DC cops at an antiwar demonstration in Washington. He was an exemplary cop.
Police, like soldiers, mostly follow orders…and much can be blamed on the people who give the orders. I was just following orders is often heard by soldiers. Both soldiers and police officers find themselves in situations where the adrenaline is flowing and fear not compassion rules them.
Looking at film footage coming out of Ferguson, I am reminded of two separate events that happened here in Nicaragua. Both events were with students protesting because of the government not allotting the 6% of the budget to the universities which is still guaranteed by the Nicaraguan constitution.
The first event was during the presidency of Arnoldo Alemán. He called upon the military to restore order. The head of the army basically said unless the president declared a state of emergency, they could not and would not intervene. It was not advantageous to Alemán to declare a state of emergency…ergo in reality the military was saying no to hurting their own civilians.
When Enrique Bolaños followed Alemán as president, there were more student protests over the 6% and over the cost of diesel skyrocketing and bus prices rising, and the riot police were called in.
During the riots, some students were hurt and a couple died, the police then had their own demonstration and proclaimed that the students were their children and they were not going to kill their own. The police declared to the mayor of Managua and the president that they were not willing to do their bidding if it meant hurting civilians. They chose to identify with the students and not those in power.
I am not saying that the Nicaraguan police are perfect...far from it. I saw them dismantle a squatter’s neighborhood and as a result two people died…but it is important to recognize those few precious moments when people with guns have chosen not to obey orders because they decided the orders were wrong…and as a result it is important that we give those particular people the due respect they are deserved…the honor. These people are not cowards...they are the true heroes.
Police are servants of the People. Soldiers are servants of the People…and it is high time the People call them and the ones giving the orders into accountability. It can be done. It should be done.