If you haven't heard about Ferguson, you probably live under a rock. Or at least you don't watch the news or pay attention to social media.
In Ferguson, Missouri, 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot six times and killed by a white police officer, Darren Wilson, on Aug. 9. Brown was an unarmed, black male.
The morning of the shooting, Brown and a friend were suspected of stealing a box of Swisher Sweets Cigars from Ferguson Market and Liquor. It was later released that Wilson had no knowledge of the robbery, but he was responding to a nearby, unrelated call. Wilson saw Brown and his friend walking in the street and yelled at them to get on the sidewalk. The police reported that either Brown or his friend assaulted Wilson and there was a struggle over the officer's weapon. Wilson fired shots and Brown was shot in the middle of the street.
The next day, protesters gathered outside of the Ferguson Police headquarters because residents feel that this was an unfair treatment of the black community. The protests have spread to other places, like Howard University in Washington, D.C. Additionally, the "HandsUp UCF" protest will be held on Aug. 27.
"A lot of black organizations on campus had gotten frustrated with the Ferguson situation and wanted to do something to impact the situation and cause some sort of change," UCF sophomore Isel Bedgood, who will be involved with the protest, said.
Every night, protesters have gathered in Ferguson with a mix of sometimes peaceful protests and sometimes violent protests. There have been gunshots, Molotov cocktails, looting and other acts of violence. Police in riot gear have responded with arrests, tear gas, rubber bullets and even police dogs. Now, the National Guard has been called in.
Brown's death is a travesty. Violence is not a helpful solution. It doesn't make a problem go away and it doesn't make anyone feel better in the end. Someone besides the victim always loses when there is violence.
In Brown's case, there are witness reports that he was shot while he had his hands up. This is unacceptable. No one should be shot six times when they're unarmed and while they have their hands up in surrender.
There has even been some comparison between Brown and Trayvon Martin, the unarmed teen who was shot by George Zimmerman in Sanford. In 2012, Martin was shot by Zimmerman, who was acting as a neighborhood-watch volunteer. Protesters gathered to show their displeasure with the way Sanford police handled Martin's case, but all of the protests were peaceful. Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, wrote a letter to the Brown family, in which she said that she wished she could say "it will be alright," but she could only pray "because their lives are changed forever."
And while this is heart-wrenching and tragic, we think there is an even bigger problem that can arouse from this.
This is not a "cops vs. civilians" problem. This isn't an "authority vs. citizens" problem.
One questionable officer does not make all officers questionable. Just because one person uses poor judgment does not mean that every officer would respond the same way.
And the officers who are shown in full riot gear are doing their jobs trying to protect stores from looters and keep protesters and by-standers safe. And maybe there's a better way they could be doing this.
But there are officers who are just as outraged by the death of Brown as any other protester, like Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who walked with protesters to show his support.
Something can be learned from events like Brown and Martin. But this situation, and others like it, shouldn't create a distrust with the authorities. They're there to keep citizens safe and most of them do a good job.
Take a second to imagine what life would be like without the authorities.