Column: Hands up, don’t pass on justice

Chikezie Anachu

“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech … and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Unfortunately, those in the St. Louis Police Department are either unable to read properly or have decided that the First Amendment is just a load of bullshit. How else do you explain their released statement so laced with vengeance that it reads like a message off of a KKK manifesto?

Five St. Louis Rams players came out of a tunnel with their arms up in the now famous “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” pose for their game against the Oakland Raiders. By the end of the game, they had obliterated the Raiders 52-0.

But all that mattered to the self-described fine policemen of St. Louis was that these players had chosen to show their solidarity with a community they are a part of.

St. Louis Police Officers’ Association business manager Jeff Roorda released a statement saying that the SLPOA was disappointed with the Rams and calling for the players in question to be disciplined and for the NFL to publicly apologize.

“Somebody needs to throw a flag on this play,” Roorda said. “If it’s not the NFL and the Rams, then it’ll be cops and their supporters.”

Since the Michael Brown shooting, several groups have displayed their support for a movement that simply seeks to keep the Darren Wilsons of the world away from law enforcement — a noble campaign that should not be discredited or confused with the violence and looting that has made headlines.

Trigger-happy men do not deserve state licenses, disguised as police badges, to carry out shooting practice on human beings, even if they are suspected criminals. That is the idea behind calls for reform in the “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality that pervades American policing.

If officers had been trained to be more hesitant in shooting or to carry a video camera, then Brown might still be alive, perhaps preparing for a few months in jail as opposed to being dead.

Let’s forget about Brown for one moment and talk about the big issues here. In fact, limiting the conversation to Brown and not seeing the bigger picture is where many, including St. Louis’ finest, have greatly failed.

The key to preventing situations like the one in Ferguson is not to wish them away but to understand the lapses they point to: lapses of inclusion, training, profiling and in neglecting stereotypes. And this is where more voices are needed, including those that can be uplifted through the most powerful channels of the African-American community: the NFL, NBA, Hollywood, hip-hop and academia. They should be the starting point for a Mike Brown law.

If nonviolence is the best form of protest, then it doesn’t get better than the NFL platform. Millions watch the NFL, and if it can bolster commercials for insurance and Doritos, why not a simple message of reform of a system that affects the majority of its workforce?

In fact, with African-Americans constituting over 60 percent of the NFL’s player population, it’s surprising that we haven’t seen a mass endorsement of the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” movement. Perhaps this is not so surprising when you look at the reaction of the St. Louis police, bristling with fangs, fire and brimstone.

These players are too scared of people such as Roorda who feel that the police alone should say when and what a protest should be. People like Roorda are the bullies that give confidence to future Darren Wilsons that it’s OK to shoot when you think you’re up against an imagined monster larger than Frankenstein’s.

Dear Mr. Roorda: A grand jury decision does not amount to a ban on any discussion remotely related to a case; neither is it always foolproof. Either Roorda already knows that, or he skipped some classes in the police academy.

Roorda does not deserve to be a police spokesman or an officer. In an already volatile situation, he has just stoked outrage instead of deflating tension. The answer to people like Roorda is for a mass NFL endorsement of the move started in St. Louis.

The apology should come from Roorda but, sadly, he’ll find lots of supporters in a not-so-post-racial America.

So, keep this in mind: When you are jaywalking in a peaceful protest and an officer stops you for keeping your hands up, remember Roorda, and say to them, “Don’t shoot.”

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Chikezie Anachu is a first-year law student studying international trade and business law. Follow him on Twitter.