Sometimes I come extremely late to the party, and this is one of those times. But it’s also a little timely, and you’ll see why in a minute.
Today I learned that in December 2014, Rasheen Aldridge, the youngest member of the Ferguson Commission (which was established to study the social and economic conditions that led to the unrest in Ferguson this past year) was charged with assaulting a police officer. On November 26, 2014, he and other protesters stormed the St. Louis City Hall to protest the Grand Jury refusing to indict Officer Darren Wilson for shooting and killing Michael Brown. They were barred from entering the building, and several of them, including Rasheen, tried to squeeze past the police that were blocking the entrances. In doing so, Rasheen touched him, for which he was subsequently charged. You can see a video of this interaction here (He’s the young man in a gray cap on the left side.).
During the approximately nine months that protests have occurred in and relating to Ferguson and Michael Brown, police have responded with an extremely heavy hand. They refused to allow protesters to gather, to stop, or to move below certain speeds. They arrested and beat protestors, including several members of the press and clergy and a woman in a wheel chair. They wouldn’t allow members of the media in and confiscated and destroyed phones of people recording them. They indiscriminately shot tear gas at the crowd, most famously against members of Al Jazeera (after which, they destroyed their equipment). Ryan J. Reilly, a reporter for the Huffington Post, was swiftly arrested and poorly treated. Many of those arrested were never charged much less convicted but still face harassment to this day. Therefore, it’s not a stretch to imagine that the St. Louis city government, who was complicit in these and other activities, would charge a member of the Ferguson Commission for simply being present at a lawful protest.
The more I read about the events surrounding Ferguson and St. Louis, the less faith I have in police and the law. Why is it okay for the government to bar citizens from entering a public space, but it’s not okay for citizens to assemble to protest? Why is it okay for the police officer in question to shove protesters, but it’s not okay for protesters to try to squeeze by? Why is standing up and saying your government and law enforcement agency are hurting you bad but manipulating the law and your authority in order to take advantage of others and maintain the status quo good? Why is any of this okay?
But there’s a happy ending: on Thursday, June 11, all charges were dropped against Rasheen. Officially, he’s agreed to participate in the Diversion program, which is a form of sentencing meant to keep his record clean and him out of the courts. According to his Twitter, all charges were dropped and he doesn’t have to do anything. Since participating in the Diversion program doesn’t necessarily mean he’s been found guilty or that he needs to do anything, I am inclined to believe him though I’m still pissed he even had to endure all this nonsense. Hopefully, things will be a little less stressful for him in the future.