KIMT News 3 – What may have began as a peaceful protest against the shooting death of an unarmed 18-year-old, has now escalated into riots throughout the town of Ferguson, Missouri.
President Obama is stepping in, to call for peace in the region where tensions are rising.
It’s no question the loss of 18 year-old, Michael Brown has been felt throughout the country. It’s led to many violent protests, and some believe it’s being fanned by racial tension and the militant appearance of law enforcement.
“We don’t necessarily have to get violent for it to be a protest, but some people take it too far. There are extremes when it comes to every issue,” said Mason City High School History Teacher, Kim Metcalf.
Citing past historical events such as the Boston Tea Party, Metcalf explains how this country was founded on the concept of non-violent protests.
“Our country is based on nonviolent protest. Unfortunately a lot of the time you see through out different periods of history, that what starts out nonviolent usually ends up violent,” said Metcalf.
Mason City is no stranger to non-violent protests escalating into violent confrontations.
In fact, those kinds of gatherings happened in north Iowa in the 1970’s often. One in particular was a war protest in March of 1972 where several were arrested, although witnesses from that day say the protests were mostly non-violent.
This week, the death of Brown sparked outrage from a community, after learning the unarmed teen was shot by a police officer.
“You try to think about what you would have done in that situation,” said Mason City Police Chief, Michael Lashbrook.
Protesters in Missouri are saying that police reaction to the protests is the reason behind the tension.
However, Chief Lashbrook says, it’s necessary to have authorities monitoring the protests, and it’s in the best interest of the public.
“I don’t think they want to be there anymore then the public that is demonstrating wants them to be there. I think when you look to the interest of public safety as a whole, they need to be there,” said Lashbrook.
While Lashbrook says it’s their right to protest, people need to make sure that there is room for the investigation to be completed.
“They certainly have the right to express their unhappiness with what’s going on, and the peaceful protest is a way to do that. There are processes in place to make sure that it is due process,” said Lashbrook.
“You need to do some investigation, make sure that you’re getting both sides of the story, because there are two sides to every story. You can’t just believe whatever someone is telling you,” said Metcalf.
According to Metcalf, she says in most violent protests she has studied, it only takes a handful of people who have not heard the full story to escalate the issue.
Witnesses on the scene the day Brown was shot, say he was unarmed, with his hands in the air.
This goes against the story from police, who say there was a violent struggle, and Brown was trying to grab the officer’s weapon.
We are also learning this evening, that the Missouri State Highway Patrol will take over the supervision of security in Ferguson.
That was announced by the state governor.