It’s time President Obama step in to protect protesters in Ferguson, Missouri.
As long as Black Americans have had United States citizenship, we have needed the federal government to enforce and protect our rights on the local level. Such was the case in the years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, when Union troops went state by state to wrestle enslaved Blacks away from the plantations on which they were held captive. It was again the case in Jim Crow America when President Eisenhower dispatched the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army to escort nine Black students into the doors of Little Rock Central High. President Kennedy stepped in to help integrate the University of Alabama and Lyndon Johnson did it in Selma. In 2005, folks in New Orleans desperately needed the intervention of the federal government when local officials failed them in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
It’s sad but a fact of Black American citizenship is that — as a minority group in every single state and as a historically oppressed people — we are not safe without the oversight and, sometimes, intervention of the federal government. And that point is made abundantly clear when watching the absolute carnage coming out of Ferguson in the days since Mike Brown was killed by local police.
In Ferguson, protesters have had their First Amendment right to freedom of assembly trampled on by local authorities sworn to serve and protect them. Peaceful protests have collapsed into outright chaos from antagonism by police officers armed to the teeth with military-grade weaponry. The situation has only escalated as the days have rolled by with no end in sight and it’s becoming more and more clear that the city of Ferguson needs an intervention.
The people of Ferguson need the federal government to step in to affirm and protect their Constitutional rights. And in this moment, when the city seems on the precipice of a violent clash between citizens and police, the chief executive of the federal government, President Barack Obama, has been almost completely silent while in the middle of a two-week vacation to Martha’s Vineyard.
One year ago — to the day — President Obama spoke out on the crisis in Egypt, about 5,805 miles from Washington D.C., saying he was “concerned” by action taken by the government there.
“The United States strongly condemns the steps that have been taken by Egypt’s interim government and security forces. We deplore violence against civilians. We support universal rights essential to human dignity, including the right to peaceful protest. We oppose the pursuit of martial law, which denies those rights to citizens under the principle that security trumps individual freedom, or that might makes right.” Obama said. “The Egyptian people deserve better than what we’ve seen over the last several days.”
The American president was a strong voice for the Egyptian people as they protested an oppressive government from Tahrir Square. He must show the same strength in affirming the rights of protesters in Ferguson.
What little comment Obama has made was offered in five sentences Tuesday.
“The death of Michael Brown is heartbreaking, and Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family and his community at this very difficult time,”he said in a . “As Attorney General Holder has indicated, the Department of Justice is investigating the situation along with local officials, and they will continue to direct resources to the case as needed. I know the events of the past few days have prompted strong passions, but as details unfold, I urge everyone in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country, to remember this young man through reflection and understanding. We should comfort each other and talk with one another in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds. Along with our prayers, that’s what Michael and his family, and our broader American community, deserve.”
Condolences are appropriate and an investigation necessary but what is President Obama prepared to do to ensure the security of protesters who are organizing within their rights? What do they “deserve” from their government, aside from calls for “reflection and understanding?”
Like presidents Lincoln, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson before him, Obama must deploy federal forces to take control of a local situation in Ferguson, one that could very well descend into total bedlam without his intervention.