The rioting and destruction of property by those “disappointed” by the Grand Jury’s decision to not indict Officer Wilson, who shot and killed Michael Brown during a confrontation that included a struggle over the officer’s gun, do not seem aimed at anyone responsible for the incident itself, nor at those who made the decision the rioters find so disappointing. As far as I know, the buildings burned did not belong to Officer Brown, nor members of the Grand Jury, nor the police department, nor the prosecution. (I do not believe violence directed at those folks would be appropriate, but the businesses being attacked were not involved).
It is analogous to me burning down my neighbor’s garage because my wife got a speeding ticket and I really love my wife and am upset that a stinkin’ cop gave her a ticket. My innocent neighbor would be punished for my “disappointment” about the cop giving a ticket to my wife. It would be unlikely that the neighbor would get the connection and respond by somehow fixing the world so that my wife gets no more tickets because, after all, I am sick of tickets being issued to people I care about. While we are on the subject, my cousin Bob has gotten tickets too. I wonder if my family is being targeted. No garage is safe as long as members of my family are being ticketed. And, don’t try to persuade me by telling me that eye witnesses saw my wife and cousin speeding. I don’t want the evidence. I just want to be angry and my neighbor’s garage is in the world that has disappointed me so.
I hope this teaching moment has clarified the lesson which rioting teaches as a method of making the world a better place. The logical connection between rioting and justice is very subtle. Some of us don’t see it at all. I am in that group.