Open Letter to Public Officials in Ferguson, St. Louis, the State of Missouri, and Washington, DC

I have been closely following the events in Ferguson since the shooting of Mike Brown back in August. Instead of holding a fair and transparent investigation, the St. Louis and Ferguson authorities have attempted to stifle opposition (as evidenced by the initial, heavy-handed, militarized police response to legitimate protests) and they have kept the public in the dark about what happened. The only information we have about the shooting comes from eyewitness reports, and from very selective leaks of information from the authorities (most of which charitably can be described as intended to smear the name of a dead boy).

The reason I am writing now is that with the grand jury decision approaching, I am seeing a campaign of intimidation ramping up, from the public displays of military-type vehicles being transported around St. Louis, to the media reports instilling fear over the expected non-indictment of Darren Wilson. On social media, I have seen increasing levels of violent rhetoric from supporters of Darren Wilson, and I am deeply concerned that there are factions in the law enforcement community that are welcoming a chance to “pay back” protesters for “daring” to speak out against them.

As someone who moved to the United States and became a naturalized citizen nine years ago, I’ve always admired this country’s ideal of free speech and free assembly, guaranteed in its own constitution. The constitution isn’t worth the paper it was written on if those ideals are not upheld by the people elected to follow them. It’s not a question of jurisdiction. It’s a question of human rights, and it needs to be addressed from all levels of government.

Mike Brown is only one of many black men who have been kiled by police with no public accounting for what lead to his death. The fact that the state is willing to use its power to intimidate, obfuscate, and threaten is deeply disturbing.

I implore you, from the bottom of my heart, to use the power of your office to try to defuse the situation in Ferguson, to speak out against the culture of fear and hate surrounding this issue, and to chart a new course of action. Our governments should not be using their strength to stifle dissent and to protect inequality. If you believe in the notion of public duty that brought you into politics, this is a moment to put that belief into action.

Sincerely,
Brian Haigh

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