In The News – Teen’s Shooting Leads to Violent Protests
Ferguson, Mo.—Confrontations between police and demonstrators have roiled this St. Louis suburb, following the police shooting of an unarmed teenager. Angry crowds have taken to the streets, turning Ferguson into what Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon called a “war zone.”
On August 9, Darren Wilson, a white police officer, shot and killed Michael Brown, a black 18 year old. Accounts of the incident vary, and several autopsies are being performed on Brown. A grand jury convened this week to begin reviewing evidence in the case.
When protests and looting began, police initially took a heavy-handed approach, confronting marchers with riot gear and tear gas. After several days, however, Nixon put the Missouri State Highway Patrol in charge of protest security. As Capt. Ron Johnson, the patrol’s commander, took over, he used a different strategy: walking with the protesters.
Johnson also urged demonstrators to protest only during the day, not after dark. “Make your voice heard where you can be seen,” he said. “There is a dangerous dynamic in the night. It allows a small number of agitators to hide in the crowd and then attempt to create chaos.” Both sides have blamed outsiders for inciting violence.
President Obama said, “While I understand the passions and the anger that arise over the death of Michael Brown, giving in to that anger by looting or carrying guns and even attacking the police only serves to raise tensions.”
Ferguson residents say their community is being torn apart. Some businesses have been looted or burned, and school was canceled this week.
Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, said there’s only one way to stop the chaos: “Justice will bring peace, I believe.”
Sources: abcnews.go.com, cnn.com, nytimes.com, npr.org
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Discussion Questions for Student Small Groups
What surprises you the most—or the least—about what’s been happening in Ferguson? How can one incident spark such an uproar?
What will it take to bring peace to the streets of Ferguson? What will it take to bring racial healing to that community and to others across America?
To what degree, if at all, do you think the angry protests in Ferguson are justified? When do protesters cross the line from expressing themselves to breaking the law?
Some demonstrators say their actions are working because the country’s attention is focused on Ferguson now; how would you react to that sentiment? What might make all this chaos “worthwhile”? Explain.
What are the consequences when people—whether they’re police officers or teenagers—think they’re higher than the law? What should citizens do when they believe police officers have acted unjustly or overstepped their boundaries? How can they make their voices heard without resorting to violence?
When Capt. Johnson walked with the protesters, what message did that send? Do you think it made him seem less powerful? more relatable? other?
Why do citizens often distrust authority? What could the authority figures in your life do to seem more concerned about you or more down to earth?
What types of racial tensions exist in your community or at your school? Have you ever taken any steps to help ease them? If so, explain.
Think of a time when you felt marginalized: What did you do to try to stand up for yourself? Who, if anyone, came to your defense, and why?
In what areas of your life do you most need peace right now? How can Jesus’ light shine into an area of darkness that you’re currently facing?
Scripture links: Deuteronomy 10:12-22; Proverbs 29:11-14; Ephesians 2:11-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:21-24; Hebrews 13:17-18; and James 2:1-13.