Hudson Valley Reacts to Events in Ferguson

Why Ferguson is Important

Pat Gareau, Editor-in-Chief

For Hudson Valley students in the process of finding a way in the world and finding a role to make society better, few problems are as daunting as those raised by the events in Ferguson, Missouri during the last few weeks.

The ugly aspects of American history are unavoidable and still lingering. Historical injustices of past generations are still present in the form of higher incarceration rates, lower graduation rates, and lower average income for African-Americans.

Despite claims to the opposite, he have not yet overcome a discriminatory history. An unarmed African American teenager being killed by a police officer brings these tensions and inequalities to the forefront.

College campuses have always played a major role in carrying out the intellectual discussions that lay the groundwork for societal progress. While this particular incident happened far from Hudson Valley, many of the factors that have contributed to the events are present nationwide, including in the Capital Region.

Activists in the city of Troy protested police brutality following an incident at Kokopellis, a Troy nightclub, last spring. Those involved voiced their concerns that the Troy Police exhibit a pattern of misconduct toward African-Americans in the city.

Any significant local event will find it’s way to Hudson Valley in some fashion, and this one was no exception, with the Black and Latino Student Union hosting a discussion shortly after the incident.

This week, the staff of The Hudsonian asked students around campus for their thoughts on the incident in Ferguson. Our goal is to provide a forum for discussion on the big issues of the day. While many of the details are yet to be authenticated in the death of Michael Brown, there is no disputing the larger societal concerns that are involed here

By taking these issues head on, we can find the best answers and build up to a common understanding that allows for continued progress.

From St. Louis to Hudson Valley: A Local’s Take on the Chaos

Jake Baker, Staff Writer

Being from St. Louis, I am not at all surprised that the Michael Brown shooting happened, and neither is my family, who live about ten miles away from where the incident took place. The Police Department’s ability to fund itself with the revenue they get from all the tickets they dole out is one of the reasons why this incident took place. This is not something that should be dismissed; it is an issue that needs to be addressed.

I was born in St. Louis and I have known from early on that there was a difference between people of different races, but I was raised to believe otherwise. Not until I grew up did I realize how big the difference really is, especially in my hometown. St. Louis may not have “whites only” bathrooms and restaurants, but you are restricted on where you can go by the color of your skin.

A friend of the family once told me: “You can’t go through Bellefontaine, you are a white kid so you will be pulled over by the cops, because they will assume you are up to no good in a black neighborhood.”

St. Louis still shows it’s history of segregation. There is North City and South City, north being the “black” half and south being the “white” half.

Something I thought was crazy is how apparent it is when I drive through these areas – not only would I be the only white guy, but I would be the center of attention, with people staring at me from other cars and on the street because I simply didn’t belong in the area.

A white cop in a black area is already on edge, but the majority of the Ferguson Police Department is white, and they use their white privilege to keep the citizens that they are supposed to protect and serve from being able to do anything to get out of St. Louis. The police are notorious for ticketing citizens for nonsense “crimes” such as jaywalking, the very “crime” Michael Brown was committing which got him Officer Wilson’s attention.

I walked around the Hudson Valley campus to gather some opinions on the incident, and this turned out to be more difficult than I thought due to the sensitivity and nuances of the subject. Nevertheless, here are a couple of my favorites: “His hands were up, they should not have shot him. They say he stole cigs but that doesn’t give them the right to shoot,” from Shaquille Kelly, Liberal Arts Major & jaywalker and “I know he was executed,” from Terri-Ann Findley, Biological Sciences major & jaywalker.

The public campus consensus is that “some kid got shot,” but I believe there is more to it, and people are either unaware of the nonsense, or are just afraid of making their true beliefs known. That worries me. I am worried that people will refuse to talk about it, that it will become one of those things that we just don’t mention. There have been too many times where police brutality has been a big issue but has been justified as their Duty.

It is nobody’s Duty to mace crowds of protesters, it is nobody’s Duty to use fire hoses on citizens, and it is nobody’s Duty to execute a young man for jaywalking. If the people that did those things weren’t in uniform, and did not have glorified buttons on their chests that say “Protect & Serve,” they would be considered murderers and thugs. Instead, our children are taught to admire them as if they were firefighters or doctors.

I used to assume that it was expected for everyone to hate cops just because they give out speeding tickets, but now I realize that people have a problem with cops because some cops use their power to do whatever they want and hurt whoever they feel. Wilson is on paid leave and over $250,000 has been raised for his family, which sounds like a reward for killing someone.

As a native to the St. Louis area, I am appalled, but in no way surprised by the Michael Brown shooting. Brown shouldn’t have even been stopped, just told to get on the sidewalk, but the Ferguson P.D. has to keep up their revenue somehow. This is not the first time our police force has gotten out of hand and I know it won’t be the last. The perversion has become tradition.

Students React
Tyler McNeil, Creative Editor

The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. has touched the entire nation, even raising many questions that have reached the Hudson Valley campus, 1,031 miles away.

“It’s not all about race, it’s also about class,” Luke Laupheimer, CIS major explains, “When people are pushed, they lash out. I think race makes us distracted by the issue of poverty.”

“What we’ve seen with the protests, there is a feeling that there are racial issues that have come into play but it is so much more,” said Cylon George, campus chaplain, who described the events in Missouri as both racial and cultural.

“I think this case is as serious as many others that we’ve seen,” he said. George mentioned similar cases of racial tension between law enforcement and African Americans in the past like the 2012 death of Trayvon Martin in Miami, Florida.

“If you ask, ‘Is this the turning point for massive change?’, I suspect not, but I think it is one in a continuation of serious events that have happened that are causing us to think of [new] ways to combat this issue,” said the George.

He related racial tension to tobacco addiction, “It will be a long term change. Racial tension is a matter of changing bad habits. Some people might go out cold turkey and some people may wake up one morning and realize they can’t breathe or walk up stairs anymore and then they quit but that’s rare.”

Nick Seaburt, Business Administration major, had a slightly different take on the incident. “I think it’s less about racism and more about police brutality than anything,” and added that the location was the primary factor in the tone of the case. Seaburt believes the officer, “would’ve shot anybody in that situation. It doesn’t help that it just happened to be black youth and the history behind it.”

“The hope is that this will move us forward toward the long term goal of everlasting peace, fairness, justice and lack of fear especially when it comes to a bunch of people on both sides being afraid for their life,” said George.

“I see the updates on Twitter [about the case] but I don’t really know enough to take a particular side yet,” said Cydney Prest, Individual Studies major, “I think most people are that way.”

“Some cops are obviously racist and that’s never okay but I think it’s ridiculous because the media never shows the whole situation,” said Royce.

“Somebody in that circle could know somebody that’s in the KKK or knows somebody that’s bigger that will make the case seem like it never even happened. I see this a lot in the media too often,” said Rashad Umoh, Construction Technology-Building Construction major.

Umoh mentioned that he believes the case is developing too slowly for, “the media to make us choose a side.” On Aug. 24, an autopsy showed that Brown was shot six times including twice in the skull.

“The problem with the Ferguson case is [police enforcement] were the ones who threw all the tear gas, smoke bombs and caused all the chaos,” said Jacob Parslow, CIS major. He believes the protesters were peaceful until Ferguson police arrived on the scene. Parslow also compared the events in Ferguson to recents examples of police brutality in California, Utah and New York.

“They took confusion and took it a step further,” said Jacob Lamere in response to Parslow’s comment.

“When the National Guard rolled in, everything calmed down. The police had no role in trying to control what were seemingly peaceful protests,” said Lamere. The last members of the Missouri National Guard left Ferguson on Aug. 27.

“I think the riots are obnoxious. That’s unnecessary and if it was true that cop was racist, I think that is something that their department should handle,” said Royce.

Some students also believe that police militarization greatly contributed to the conflict in Ferguson. “It’s a little overkill. If the war is domestic it makes sense. Otherwise, it’s unnecessary,” said Royce.

“We have small town police departments that have freaking tanks. When our police force receives military technology, they also receive a military mentality,” said Seaburt.

Initiated in 1997, the “1033 Program” has transferred billions of dollars in military equipment to local law enforcement agencies nationwide. In June, house legislators shot down Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) proposal to stop the program with a three to one margin.

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