BY COLIN MACDOUGALL
On June 17, 2015, a racially charged crime echoed the cries that the United States has been hearing since the issues in Ferguson reignited race issues across the country. A shooter by the name of Dylann Roof entered Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina and then took the lives of nine churchgoers. A vigil was held the next evening in the city of Ypsilanti, where this story begins.
“The group I work for is called Radical Washtenaw and Ann Arbor to Ferguson organized a space for a vigil for people to be in solidarity and mourn the lives of those fallen,” said Anthony Morgan, a 37-year-old Washtenaw Community College alumni from Ypsilanti.
Despite being miles and miles away from South Carolina, this vigil would set the stage for yet another clash between the citizens and the police, now within Washtenaw County.
“After a nine-minute moment of silence people began to take to the streets,” Morgan said. Morgan was one of the activists present that night. He said he was approached by the police while on the sidewalk and taken into custody without being told why he was being arrested.
Morgan reported staying in a prison cell that night from around 9:45 p.m. – 6 a.m. Multiple times officers came in during the night but he was never told what he was being held for. He asked if he could speak with a lawyer but he was told no because he wasn’t being interrogated.
The morning following the June 18 vigil in Ypsilanti, Morgan was released and given a ticket for impeding traffic.
“I do believe that with this detainment and with some of the things that are going on, it’ll provide political education for people who are in positions of power, or onlookers involved,” Morgan said.
Aidan McLogan, a 20-year-old business major from Scio Township feels the police who pulled him out must have felt threatened by the crowd and by doing so it was the only way to calm them.
“When they take away the leader not only will it lower the crowd’s morale but make an example of him and disperse the group,” McLogan said. “Students should actively know what issues their communities are facing.”
From Ferguson to the streets of Baltimore, this social unrest has been occurring across the country for some time now. During the past couple of years there have been countless protests in the inner cities of our country advocating equal rights for African Americans.
“I don’t hear much about police brutality in the Washtenaw County but I think that it really depends on the demographics of the community,” said 18-year-old elementary education major Jared Steel from Whitmore Lake. “In communities with higher unemployment and lower education levels, then you have more instances of police brutality.”
The unrest echoes in pop culture too, particularly in the number one summer blockbuster “Straight Outta’ Compton.” The movie begins with a raid on a drug house and follows the Rodney King murder of 1991, as well as the arrest of N.W.A. in nearby Detroit for the song, “F— the Police.” The group was popular in the early 90s due to the explicit content in their lyrics and anti-establishment views. Another movie released at the end of last year, “Selma,” depicting the life of Martin Luther King Jr., shows further evidence to this social movement’s presence.
Even in the last several weeks there have been several instances of police officers being killed on the job for essentially being a police officer. WCC Sociology Instructor Diane Rosenthal comments that if there wasn’t as much of a perceived unfairness among the execution of a police officer’s duties then it wouldn’t set the stage for the social clash concerning this issue.
“The problem with the police brutality issue is that it’s become so political that we’ve lost our attention about what the problem is,” said Rosenthal. “We’ve lost our attention on the solution. We’re arguing over whose lives matter the most instead of going ‘What do we do about this? How can we make this decision much better? It becomes so sensationalized we lose sight of the problem.’”