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EDITOR'S DESK: Local Ferguson protesters owe Coronado High School $3,000

By Kenyon Jordan

       The Ferguson tragedy reminds me why I no longer put much faith in political protests.
       And I'm a guy who helped organize a peace march in college, joined a few too. Then I realized that laying down our arms is exactly what America's enemies would like us to do. But that took a while.
       So let's consider the Ferguson incident as if I still were “on that side,” so to speak.
       If so, I would have to be certain that an injustice occurred, even though the no-indictment decision was reached by an objectively appointed grand jury.
       To be that certain, I would have to ignore the grand jury's findings, that

Michael Brown made repeated decisions to break the law that day and ended up attacking a police officer.
       To ignore those facts, I would have to adamantly believe that minorities can't get a fair deal in America.
       But wait, don't we have a black president? A Bill of Rights? Numerous black mayors, police chiefs, congressmen, scientists, engineers? And don't illegal immigrants sneak in by the thousands because America's so cool? Hush, I'm making a point here.
       To believe that American blacks can't get a fair deal, I would have to believe that it's because I myself (as a white person) am a racist, and no matter what efforts I or other white people have made in the past to end racism - including decades of taxes, programs and laws, not to mention thousands of Union soldiers dying in the Civil War - none of that is enough and never will be enough. Further, I would have to believe that the only people who can decide what remedial actions are required by myself and other white people are the black leaders who assert that an injustice occurred in Ferguson.
       That's a curious sort of loop, isn't it? Does it sound like America to you? Like any way to think? Oops, I forgot. I'm still in conditional-liberal mode.
       But seriously, that is where, back in the old days, I ran into trouble (and eventually out of the “movement”), because of trying to think things through. It would seem pretty obvious that following the logical steps of my if/then construct above would not be thinking at all. And yet there are clearly many people like that, who believe that what actually occurred that day doesn't matter - only the symbolism that can be extracted from it. “Hands up, don't shoot!” That's not how Michael Brown died. But protesters miming such a scene make nice drama on the evening news. The complaint about “snow-white” police departments? It sounds plaintive, even though no one making that claim could cite a single PD in America that wouldn't gladly hire (not to mention train) minority cops.
       But if you're a white protest sympathizer, you ignore such contradictions because that's not your job. Your job is to buy a bumper sticker that says “Black lives matter” or “Remember Ferguson,” or support higher taxes for societal-improvement programs (which of course will fail, but that's not the important part), or maybe even join a protest yourself to show how much you care. And secretly dread that Al Sharpton will knock on your door one day and shake you down for everything you've got, in the name of race relations. At least you can hope he'll let you keep your 20-speed bike and multi-gig smartphone.
       So then why would anyone choose to see the world that way? Here's a little secret. It can be fun. You can get away with things. Big things. Ask the looters in Ferguson. Michael Brown's problems started when he stole some cigars. But the
Of all the Ferguson-related photos - most showing shouting, looting and destruction - this photo, taken by free-lance photographer Johnny Nguyen at a rally in Portland, Oregon, is the only one that seems to illustrate what I think is the "real" America. Sgt. Bret Barnum of the Portland Police Department, shares a meaningful moment with a 12-year-old boy who had been in tears beside a sign he'd brought to the rally that said "free hugs."'
Johnny Nguyen photo
looters “protesting” his injustice upped the ante. They broke into stores, walked off with major items and then burned the stores to the ground. Oh, sure, a few got arrested, but most did not. Meanwhile, the Missouri politicos twiddled their thumbs, apparently afraid that enforcing the law would make the lawbreakers mad. That manufactured guilt can be a powerful weapon. And even if you're just a sympathizer rooting on the sidelines, you can experience vicarious glee at seeing the authorities squirm. Stick it to the man, etc.
       We got a taste of the Ferguson protest experience here in Colorado Springs. The night the indictment was announced, indignant Colorado College students marched down the middle of Tejon Street. The photo made the front page of the Gazette. An accompanying article explained that police helped out by blocking side traffic and then standing by while the protesters moved their parade from the sidewalks (where it was legal) to the street (where it wasn't).
       This is the same Gazette, by the way, that I don't believe has ever covered the annual Coronado High School Homecoming Parade through Old Colorado City. Maybe the event is not interesting to the daily because the Coronado student government actually follows the rules for holding a parade. These include filling out paperwork and meeting months before with a designated Parks Department officer (called the “special events coordinator” - formerly under the Police Department) to make sure that the event follows safety protocols in closing off Colorado Avenue, with adequate barricades and off-duty police officers and ensuring that the students pay something on the order of $3,000 for the privilege (which by the way does not come from the school budget; they have to fundraise for it).
       Do you think the protesters paid any fees for their parade down Tejon Street? Even though, as the Gazette article also revealed, they had advised the PD in advance of their plans? I contacted the Police Department the next day (Nov. 26), hoping to get answers. I have yet to hear back from the “special events coordinator,” let alone Police Chief Pete Carey, whom I'd specifically asked to talk to. Who knows, maybe I'll get some official statement back one of these days. Good thing the Westside Pioneer doesn't have deadlines like “real” newspapers such as the Gazette. Ha-ha.
       So gosh, thinking about all this, I'm starting to wonder if maybe I've misread some tea leaves here. What if I hadn't “changed sides” after all? I mean, what's the use in following the rules when others can guilt-trip their way into politically charged dispensations from the government? I don't know. Blame it on a weak stomach. Blatant dishonesty has a way of making me want to throw up.

(Posted 12/1/14, updated 12/2/14; Opinion: Editor's Desk)

Addendum, Dec. 2: The day after this article was initially posted (Dec. 1), a City Communications employee contacted the Westside Pioneer, apologizing for not having responded sooner and confirming that the protesters did not take out a permit nor pay any costs for their event. The Pioneer has now submitted a question to Police Chief Carey as to why this "free march" was allowed, in apparent violation of multiple city codes.

Addendum, Dec. 4: The police chief responded to the Pioneer question. See news article.

Kenyon Jordan is the editor of the Westside Pioneer.

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