Talking about Ferguson

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The events that happened in Ferguson, Missouri will never be forgotten by the country. Missouri Western held a political science forum entitled “Speaking of Ferguson” with Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch presenting as the speaker.

McCulloch was the man who decided to take the Michael Brown/Darren Wilson case to a grand jury instead of having a trial.

The local NAACP chapter worked with the local prosecutors office to invite McCulloch to come to Missouri Western to speak about what happened in Ferguson.

Having already done several talks on the subject, McCulloch agreed to travel to St. Joseph.

Political Science professor Dr. Melinda Kovács arranged for his talk to be the next political science forum held at the university.

“It is an inherently controversial and contested field that we discuss, and so we don’t shy away from saying we need to have conversations around the difficult topics,” Kovács said.

Being that the events that happened in Ferguson are controversial and emotional, the talk was set up to ensure a safe and civilized discussion.

McCulloch gave a presentation with a power point, explaining the location and sequence of events the day that Michael Brown died, along with how the legal side of things worked.

The audience was encouraged to come up with questions to ask McCulloch. They were asked to raise their hands, and student volunteers brought them note cards to write down their questions.

“The topic is such that it will undoubtedly cause a lot of emotion, but we want to have a conversation. Will not have a shouting match, because the problem with shouting matches is they give you the emotional catharsis, but they shut down the conversation. You never get answers to your questions and we want tonight to be about answers,” Kovács said.

After McCulloch’s presentation was finished, Kovács read the questions from the audience.

The questions the audience asked started out focusing on what the legal side of the issues are, what happened to the officer in question and what determines when using force is okay. The questions at the end turned more personal and shifted toward racial issues.

The audience wanted to know what whether or not McCulloch thought that Officer Wilson was guilty.

“No. based on all the evidence in this case. I believe he acted in self defense,” McCulloch said.

During his presentation McCulloch frequently referred to the physical evidence in the case. It showed that Michael brown was shot seven or eight times; he was over the legal intoxication limit with THC in his system and that his DNA was in the officers car.

“Physical evidence doesn’t change, physical evidence doesn’t duck under a car when shots are being fired, physical evidence doesn’t worry about what the media thinks,” McCulloch said.

Missouri Western’s Chief of Police Yvonne Meyer spoke about the negative impact that social media had specifically on this case.

“Unfortunately I think we have become so attuned to social media, Yik Yak, Facebook. Whatever happens in those types of media centers, people tend to believe it. It’s gossip basically. And so when presented the facts of the case, I think it is kind of difficult for people to accept it because in their mind they’ve been told repeatedly it’s something else over and over again. It’s reaffirmed by what they see on TV and when it’s all actually laid out sometimes that becomes difficult to believe,” Meyer said.

Another question that was asked by an audience member was, “Just from your language alone today it doesn’t seem that you understand black culture, why should anyone believe that you were interested in truly representing a black man?”

McCulloch responded to that question very simply.

“I almost resent that question, because a major part of my life, my adult life, has been helping victims of crime. It’s insulting to suggest that I don’t care about that, it’s just nonsense. I have no regrets and I treat victims very well and they are my first priority. If I can’t convince you otherwise, that’s fine. I certainly have no regrets about what I’ve done,” McCulloch said.

There are many different view points in the country and everyone has the right to be heard. The political science forums that Missouri Western puts on are important for this very reason.

Having this opportunity to talk and hear about what happened in Ferguson was important for students because it very timely with what kind of issues the United States is facing.

“It is important to talk about because the events in Ferguson have become a symbol and an emblem for race relations in the United States. Whoever lives in the U.S. today has to somehow be aware that there are different approaches to race relations,” Kovács said.