Ferguson: Iconic Photo Of Defiance Against Police Brutality

In the story linked below, there is a now iconic photo by Robert Cohen, showing a man throwing a tear gas canister back at police, representing in one image the justified defiance of demonstrators who faced an over-the-top militarized police force losing control in Ferguson, Missouri. The man in the photo has now come forward, to tell his side of the story.

Subject of iconic photo speaks of anger, excitement

This is Edward Crawford.

He’s 25, went to University City High School and works at a bistro on the Delmar Loop. He’s a waiter, a roller skater and a father of three.

And, just after midnight on Aug. 13, he grabbed a sparking, smoking tear gas cylinder, fired by police at Ferguson protesters, and threw it back. —

For many, the act bottles up all the anger directed at police after the shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown. It represents defiance against police aggression. And the shirt Crawford is wearing, with the American flag down the middle, identifies the irony of the moment.

But Crawford says he wasn’t angry when he threw it. He was angry beforehand. Afterward — as he was being dragged out of a car, cuffed and jailed — he was mostly just scared.

And throwing it wasn’t an act of rebellion, he said. It was instinct.

I’m generally allergic to confrontation. I try to avoid conflict in my everyday life. I tend not to seek protest, even though I support protest as a vital means to gaining and maintaining civil rights. But I have to tell you, if I ever find myself in a protest for human rights and the police decide to use tear gas, and a canister lands at my feet, I cannot rule out throwing it back at them, just as Edward Crawford did.

Now I realize how ridiculous this sounds, especially because I’m typing this blog post from the comfort and safety of my home in suburbia, but it represents an attempt to put myself in the shoes of another human being. If I was standing where Edward Crawford was standing in Ferguson, Missouri, I cannot rule out that I would have reacted the exact same way that he did. I’m not trying to glorify what he did, or somehow attach myself to that glory, I’m simply saying that when you are in a heated moment, when you believe you are participating in something important, and when the authorities look more like thugs, I find Edward Crawford’s actions to be completely reasonable given the circumstances.

Now I have a suspicion much of white America does not share this view. They might say it is violent or disrespects the police. They might say they would never be in a situation like this in the first place, so a hypothetical reaction to the situation would never be tested. But I say that really is beside the point.

What I’m saying is simple, that if I was standing where Crawford was standing, and if police lobbed a tear gas canister at my feet, it would not require suspension of disbelief to think it possible I could temporarily dismiss that they are police officers, and then in my mind say to them, “Hey, what the fuck are you doing? I’m a human being here. Why are you attacking me? What did I do to you? This is not cool, and I’m returning this artillery back to you, so you know how it feels.”


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