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Ferguson: Just waiting to happen

The outrage following the shooting of a young black man by the police in Ferguson, Missouri, ought not come as a surprise given what we know how the Afro-American community is still treated in the USA.     One can only hope that there might be a positive outcome from the tragedy of what occurred in Ferguson.    All too sadly, racism remains rife in the USA despite progress having made on some fronts to eradicate it.    Just look at the epithets directed at the country's own President.  

This piece from Bloomberg BusinessWeek puts things into context.

"Early this year, before the summer weather in Ferguson, Mo., turned to a fog of tear gas and a hail of rubber bullets, before the downscale suburb began to share national airtime with Sierra Leone and Iraq, a legal aid firm called ArchCity Defenders prepared a white paper that accused several municipalities in St. Louis County of stopping black drivers disproportionately for traffic violations, fining them in court sessions that were closed to the public, and jailing them when they were unable to pay. Singled out as “chronic offenders” were three neighboring towns in the northern part of the county: Florissant, Bel-Ridge, and Ferguson.

The untitled paper was still sitting in Executive Director Thomas Harvey’s computer on Aug. 9, awaiting finishing touches, when Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, was shot dead by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer.

Who’s to blame in the confrontation that led to Brown’s death has yet to be sorted out. But the ArchCity Defenders report is the clearest evidence to date that Ferguson’s justice system was discriminatory in practice, if not intent, long before the police force’s heavy-handed response to the riots that followed the fatal shooting. Harvey and his co-authors found that middle-class drivers stopped by police routinely hire lawyers who knock speeding tickets down to non-moving violations; poorer drivers, mostly black, who can’t afford lawyers, often find themselves caught in a downward spiral. They get points on their licenses, they can’t afford their fines, they’re jailed, they lose their jobs, they drive with suspended licenses and get into deeper trouble."

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