We set the curfew. Not the police. The police are paid to make sure that the curfew is peaceful. When the police set curfews with ultimatums and other taunts of verbal and physical violence they escalate situations to the point where bad things become inevitable. If only they realized that people can not just go inside when their spirit of constructive rage is so fierce and pure.
Personally speaking, no one can tell me when I can demonstrate. I am a free citizen. I will speak out against any perceived grievance whenever I damn well choose to. As long as I am not harming anyone or infringing on anyone’s constitutionally protected rights, it is clear to me that I should have the freedom to express myself in any way that I feel moved to. I should have this right without being intimidated by the threat of sanctioned punishment. After all, the police are not my guardians but my servants. They signed up to be my servant. They are willing to give their life because they are my servant. They will go to the ends of the earth to protect me because they are my servant. If a police officer is not signed up for the job to be a servant, they are not a true police officer. They may be a damn powerful cop, but they are not a police officer.
That being said, it should be clear that I am not against policing. Some of the most heroic and remarkable people I know are police officers. But not one of them feels superior to me as a human being. Not one of them looks at me as if I am not worthy of voicing my opinion in a constitutionally permitted way. They see me with respect and compassion. If a police officer is not showing respect and compassion to everyone they are paid to serve, they are not policing. They may be checking things out, looking for evidence, interrogating someone, or doing countless other things that look like policing, but they are not policing.
This brings me to Ferguson. What happened there was a national tragedy for many reasons. It certainly proved- on live television mind you- that some citizens are not allowed to address their political concerns in a peaceful democratic manner. Like children, the protesters were given certain hours in which they were allowed to behave like American citizens. The rest of the time they were told to go inside, keep silent and obey the law. As they heard on the loudspeaker just before every midnight: anyone on the streets will be arrested or worse.
As acceptable as this autocratic styled paternalism may sound to those unconcerned with social injustice, the systemic use of physical force and thought control in so many of our nation’s police departments is completely alien to the spirit of civil resistance which inspired our forefathers and foremothers two centuries ago. Lest we forget that we were founded by social dissidents who went outside of their home to protest, it will behoove us to remember that the time of day has nothing to do with our inalienable right to assemble. We get to decide. Not them.
As I see it, real policing never tolerates such misuses and abuses of power because it dishonors the integrity of the badge. In the end, real policing has nothing to do with power and everything to do with persuasion. It is similar in that way to the greatest aspects of our democratic political system. Flexible, tolerant, rational and unbiased. But make no mistake, as with the actions of our elected officials in government, if policing is not a defense of civil liberties, it is a traitor to them.