My heart aches today.

I'm in Ferguson – supporting the incredible work of ACLU of Missouri, meeting with activists, helping out legal observers, handing out Know Your Rights t-shirts and cards to protesters.

And, as a person of color, I'm here bearing witness.

Last night, we stood with thousands of others in Ferguson, listening to St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch make his announcement.

Protesters listening in Ferguson to McCullough's statement

Protesters listening in Ferguson to McCullough's statement

There was a hush over the crowd as we all strained to hear the broadcast. And then... what is there to say? We all had so much energy during the day – energy and solidarity. There was palpable excitement – we were all standing together for a cause. But even though we were all ready for the news, it was just so hard to hear it. And then all of a sudden, everything changed and the quiet was replaced with the crying and weariness of our shared grief.

(To read the ACLU’s response to Ferguson and recommendations for nationwide police reform, click here.)

I woke up this morning to news coverage of buildings burning. But what I saw yesterday and the days before in Ferguson was the passion burning in people's hearts. Early this morning, I attended a clergy-led protest in Clayton, near Ferguson. People were still crying, saying this is not how I want to be treated as a black person. This is not the America I want.

A moment of silence at the clergy-led action in Clayton, near Ferguson

A moment of silence at the clergy-led action in Clayton, near Ferguson

I met Larry Fellows III in Ferguson – he's a 29-year old organizer from St. Louis. Larry had never seen himself as an activist before. He told me that it wasn't till he went to a protest in Ferguson where there were rubber bullets and M-16s aimed at him that he was called to action. Larry was hit with tear gas – "these weird Pokémon balls that spit out gas. All this stuff I had never seen before in my life."

Larry told me that "it just showed me we should be able to fight for our constitutional rights without being terrorized by the police." And he's done just that, becoming part of the next generation of the American civil rights movement.

Larry Fellows III, a 29-year old organizer from St. Louis City

Larry Fellows III, a 29-year old organizer from St. Louis City

Because we're not just talking about Ferguson. The demonstrations across the country are about all the unarmed black and brown civilians killed by the police. They're about Akai Gurley, shot by a rookie police officer in a stairwell last week in Brooklyn. They're about Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy shot dead by police on a playground in Cleveland two days ago. They're about Eric Garner, who died after NYPD officers held him in an illegal chokehold in Staten Island this summer. They're about each and every person of color who has experienced this nationwide pattern of police using excessive force with impunity.

Is there hope to be had? I'm not sure – it feels like a hopeless moment, but a hopeless moment can be a seed for change. We're angry and mourning today, yet we need to make this the turning point. We need to fix the system. We need to make this the America we want.

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Anonymous

Really surprised there are no comments as of yet. I would suggest that people who have been victimized by hate crimes that go unreported, all the little stuff that is done in order to harm and thwart the activities of minorities in this country, they should take an account, write down the events, what happens, what is said, I mean every little thing and send a nice letter to our President in order to bring more light to the situation on how oppression and frustration is being reaped upon the minority community at many levels, many that remain unseen and untouchable by the law and yet these events harm and are done maliciously with intent to push people to extreme anger.

Donald Lewis

The question of why the grand jury would decide that Darren Wilson should not be indicted has been on my mind for the last month or so.
I reached a conclusion yesterday while watching the protest/riot feeds from Ferguson that i think has bearing on all cases of police violence and public mistrust of law enforcement that i would like to share.

The role of the grand jury in an indictment is supposed to be a simple determination of if there is enough evidence to prosecute. In cases like this one however, that is not what is happening.

The jury knows from the beginning that the officer did the deed.
That was the starting point of this indictment hearing...
Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown, here is the evidence, the duty report, the officers statement, (confession), telling how he did it, here is Darrel Wilson himself to tell you how he felt, etc.

In reality, what exactly is the jury supposed to be deciding in this case?

No matter how many times the jury is told that it isn't their role, by the nature of how the system is currently set up, these jurors know that they are deciding if the officer should be punished for his deeds and they are only effectively hearing from the defense.

An indictment is not supposed to be a trial, but in the reality of this case, like all others involving law enforcement, only the defendant officer is present, and there was no prosecution element at all, again by nature of the current system.
Is it any wonder that law enforcement officers have an extremely low indictment level?

If a jury that is supposed to only decide if there is evidence, and the jury starts with all the evidence including the equivalent of a confession and returns a decision that there is not enough evidence...
An officer killed a man and because of a broken system, we cannot admit that he took a life at all. In public perception, is that justice?

Psychologically speaking, what is the effect on law enforcement officers if they repeatedly are shown that almost whatever they do, they will be vilified by the public 'them' and supported and defended by the 'us' system that they have already dedicated their lives to?
I believe we are already seeing the effect... how much worse will it get?

Cases involving law enforcement officers performing their duties are not the same as other cases, why do we try to pretend that they are?

If we have a justice system, why cannot we have started Darren Wilson's court case with the evidence that shows absolutely that he killed Michael Brown and in the course of the case, PUBLICLY determine if he was justified by training and or law to have done so. If he was justified, legal and he did well in the performance of his duties, to PUBLICLY applaud him and if he was not justified and or his actions were illegal, to PUBLICLY punish or correct the flaws in training, expectations or law that led to the death of Michael Brown?

This is what i personally believe is the type of common sense thinking of most who are protesting.

I am not a lawyer, not a lawmaker, I do not know what an acceptable solution will look like in the end. I am just worried that i have yet to see anyone else point out this particular problem with the justice system.

Anonymous

All you niggers need to grow up and act like human beings. Noone treats you thugs with respect because your not worthy of it. If I had my way I would drop a bomb on you violent protesters.

Stephen L . Bak...

I take exception to the email from Mr. Romero entitled "A wake-up call".

I agree that the criminal justice system need reform involving racial issues, but the Michael Brown Case is not the one upon which to build a reform movement. "Notwithstanding the Grand Jury's decision", in and of itself, speaks to that point.

If the ACLU thinks the Grand Jury made the "wrong call" in its deliberations, say so and justify your position. They were undoubtedly supplied with much more information than grand juries normally get. They spent day and weeks in consideration of a huge pile of sometimes conflicting evidence.

To dismiss their apparent honest efforts with an unjustified, dismissive "notwithstanding", is disrespectful to the rule of law, and citizen involvement as a check-and-balance on the State's law enforcement and prosecutorial duties, concepts that the ACLU has fostered and supported for many years.

Frankly, I thought the email as solicitous.

Robert Bosch

Michael Brown attacked a police officer and tried to disarm him. After being shot, he returned and tried to attack the officer again. It's tragic an unarmed young man was killed, but that's the chance you take when you attack a police officer, regardless of whether you are white, black or any other color.

Anonymous

In April of 1986, four months before my daughter was born, the two guys who raped me were given acquittals or, technically speaking, "Not guilty because there's not enough evidence to prove their guilt beyond the shadow of a doubt."
They were guilty. I didn't NEED evidence because my presence when they carried out the crime was all I required to know they freakin' did it.
But in 1985, when this occurred, the defense attorney was allowed to mount all kinds of totally stupid defenses to prove his clients' innocence and he employed every manipulation available, got them acquitted, then drove away in a Porsche 911 after the final judgment of acquittal was pronounced.

The second crime happened in 1991 and he robbed my bank, took me and the other occupants hostage, then shot me in the back three times when handing me over to police; which, incidentally, is the only reason I think he was found guilty, besides the fact that he shot me as a crowd of people, the police and God himself watched him do it.
For part of his sentence, he got 5 to 7 years for attempting to kill me; in California the most you can get for attempted murder is 10 years but he got 7. I used to think 10 years for attempted murder made sense - until I was shot with 3 bullets from a .32 calibre semiautomatic pistol, died two times clinically speaking on the way into the Trauma Center and became afflicted with lifelong back agony and other unforeseen issues. Now I think 100 years wouldn't be enough for him.

The justice system has always been for the criminal, not the victim, and until something changes about that, I'll always think so.
They didn't even have Victim Advocates in 1986. That came later.

People can read this and they won't have to wonder why I'm Republican about crime and punishment, b/c there ISN'T any accountability for the true criminals while OTOH their victims spend the rest of their lives trying NOT to appear as if they've experienced mindless violence. Making every effort not to jump 10 feet high when they hear fireworks and cars backfiring. Exhausting themselves by trying to fight the monster of PTSD that they didn't even need a battlefield in which to encounter it, and losing so often they're not fit for worker's wages more than half the time.

That's what crime does to people, and some people handle it better than others. I've never been included in the better half of those people. I've been trying to work full-time ever since I was shot and have never managed to actually work more than part time.

Anonymous

This was just another exploited story. It was a clear cut case that got blown out of proportion for others to benefit. It's amazing how much power the media has these days.

Anonymous

Hi,
I'm a citizen from PA, where two state police were recently shot, one of which died. It's a horrible tragedy for these men and their families. I also see the daily protests of police killings in very poor and even suspicious actions. It is a situation where they get 100% no-fault coverage, no questions asked by our prosecutors and blue line justice system. This flies in the face of any reasonable justice system, and defies all statistics of error!
I find this bad not only for citizens who may sometime be placed in the legal trust of these government workers, but also th0se honest dedicated policemen, who keep us safe and abide by laws of decency. What we can't do is continue to ignore the increase in this type of waistband minority homicide.

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