Tom Walters: What really matters in Ferguson
Published Wednesday, August 20, 2014 10:28PM EDT
What matters in Ferguson, Mo., is that a young man is dead, police conduct is under scrutiny, and a community is in heart-rending pain.
Reporters are not supposed to be part of the news they cover. And given any choice in the matter, I wouldn’t be.
But last night, before removing the last demonstrators from Ferguson, police insisted all media leave first.
Now, when a town fears brutality by law enforcement, and police suddenly want to do their work unseen by media observers, it’s not just a fair question but a necessary one to ask why.
It’s a question we tried to ask of the man who is the public face of law enforcement on the streets of Ferguson: Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson.
And that’s when I became part of the story -- a small one. Just one among the many arrested. The vast majority, like me, released hours later without being charged with anything.
If Capt. Johnson had been taking questions, I would also have asked whether it is appropriate for police to make arrests they have no intention of prosecuting, or whether that’s using the power of arrest merely as convenience to suppress protest or to disperse a crowd.
It is not really the question that matters, of course, and certainly not the questioner. But answers do matter, in a place where a young man is dead, police conduct is under scrutiny, and a community is in heart-rending pain.