Ferguson: Does The National Guard Qualify As An ‘Outside Agitator’?

Since the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer two weeks ago, residents have demonstrated in the streets demanding justice. But also in the streets are protestors who don’t call Ferguson home, and of course the news media. Many local officials have referred to “outside agitators” as the driving force behind violence, civil unrest, and looting in Ferguson. Even the much hallowed Captain Ron Johnson said as much. Never mind that the local Ferguson police, and the St. Louis County police played a huge role escalating tensions in the days after the killing of Brown, local and state officials would instead like us to focus our attention on these “outside agitators.”

But who qualifies as an “outside agitator”? And a more important question, why does it matter that we classify someone as an outside agitator? Are the news media outside agitators? Are people coming from surrounding jurisdictions outside agitators? Are people coming from other states outside agitators? And if any or all of these people are indeed outside agitators in the minds of local and state officials, what exactly does that mean to them? And what would they like us to believe?

I’m trying to figure out what narrative they are attempting to frame for us. I mean, it would seem if you call someone an outside agitator, that means you are saying without this foreign element things would be fine in Ferguson, Missouri. Is that the message from local and state officials? Fine for who? Things are not fine in Ferguson. Things are not fine in America when it comes to the militarization of police forces. An unarmed teenager was shot dead by at least six bullets from a police-issued weapon that was supposed to be used to protect the community, not assassinate members of the community who seem threatening. And this is not an isolated instance. Terrifyingly similar events have played out around the country with alarming frequency, usually ending with a black boy or man dead on the street, many times unarmed.

So is the attempt to frame the demonstrations and clashes between protestors and police as a problem of “outside agitators” a way for local and state officials to undercut the real reason people in Ferguson, Missouri are so upset? It should be noted that the governor of Missouri, Jay Nixon, who said the unrest was “attracting bad guys across the country,” deployed the National Guard to Ferguson this past Monday. Of particular note here is that if we use the logic and language of local and state officials, we can safely say the National Guard are from the “outside,” and well, I’m sure some residents of Ferguson were “agitated” by their presence. So does this mean the National Guard are also “outside agitators” Mr. Governor?

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