The tragic killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown has raised many questions for the community of Ferguson, as well as the entire nation. From the ACLU’s perspective there are many civil liberties issues at play, which has prompted an immediate response both from our affiliate in Missouri as well as the entire ACLU nationwide.
First, on the ground in Ferguson, the ACLU of Missouri has been observing police conduct and educating protesters of their rights – both to protest peacefully in public, as well as to record police officers as they carry out their duties. The ACLU has also called for release of the police incident report on the shooting to resolve the dispute about whether the incident involved the excessive use of lethal force and illegal racial profiling, and to shed light on how many times and where on his body Mr. Brown was shot.
Yesterday, along with NAACP and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, the ACLU called on Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to rescind his order declaring a state of emergency and restore to Ferguson the full protections secured by the Constitution and other laws. It is not acceptable to punish the misdeeds of the few through the theft of constitutionally protected rights of the many. Thankfully, it appears that the governor has rescinded the curfew order for tonight, but we will continue to monitor developments on this front as well.
In addition to these and other steps being taken to address the immediate constitutional concerns in Ferguson, we have also continued to push for a broader national dialogue on the ongoing civil liberties issues that have been unfortunately illuminated over the last nine days. The excessive militarization of police forces is not a new concern for the ACLU, but it is harder to deny the dangerous effect after what we’ve witnessed in Ferguson. The United States’ record on racial discrimination is not a new topic either, but it has yet again been put on display for the world to see.
The questions that come out of the shooting of Michael Brown and the protests that have followed are far and wide. As we all continue to follow the developments it is important that we reflect on what it means for the community of Ferguson and the family of a young man whose life was cut short, as well as the broader civil liberties implications that have been raised by this tragedy.