by John Powell
Pax Christi St. Louis


An unarmed African American teen is shot by a white police officer in controversial circumstances.

Civil authorities release information in controversial ways.

People react by going to the streets, marching and chanting in protest.

Authorities use tear gas and other weapons to quell protest.

People burn or loot businesses in reaction to police tactics or for reasons only they know.

People yell “F_____ the police!” in front of police officers at a protest.

People stereotype and discuss the “opposing” side on social media and spread mistruths or half-truths.

Residents just want things to get back to “normal.”

Which of these do you consider “violence?”  Which do you consider “peaceful?”  Which are moral?  Which are legal?  Which of these can lead to justice?  Which can really bring “peace?”  What is “civil disobedience” to you?

As a Ferguson resident and Pax Christi St. Louis member, I have been struggling to reflect and act on my understanding of these questions.  So many people have different definitions of “peace.”  I have been in discussions with people on all sides, and many different interpretations are out there.

Is it not peaceful if you make people feel uncomfortable?  If you show up at events and protest?  If you interrupt the “normal” course of peoples’ routines?  Can one chant?  Can one shout?  What can one shout?  At what time in a neighborhood of sleeping residents?

Should the protesters be blamed for “disturbing the peace” if police helicopters are flying overhead? Should they be resented for stopping traffic?  What if they surround a car that is trying to get through their occupation of a street?

What would Gandhi, MLK, Dorothy Day, and Abraham Heschel counsel?  How can we be the “change we wish to see in the world” if we are invisible to the general public?  What are the pros and cons of a particular protest tactic?  Even if we sincerely believe a tactic is “peaceful,” should we change course if most people don “get it” and actually turn against us based on a tactic?

How can we blame protesters for cursing when a young man is dead and left to bleed for four hours in a street?  Can citizens proud of a nation that was forged in revolution and often lauds its founding fathers and mothers for standing up to unjust systems really equate cursing with physical violence done to minority group members?

What would Jesus do?  What would Jesus think?  What would Jesus counsel?  Pray, Study, Act…in humility.

5 thoughts on “REFLECTION: What is peace? Questions from a Ferguson resident

  1. Sir, if you are a Ferguson resident you know the truth is that the looting and burning began on a Sunday night and the police were so overwhelmed they could do nothing but stand back and watch, even after calling in support from other departments. A convenience store was looted and bumped to the ground. A black owned beauty store completely emptied of expensive hair extensions. A custom wheel shop cleared out. Liquor and cigarettes taken from immigrant owned quick shops, shoes lifted from a sporting goods store and much more.

    These actions don’t represent all of Ferguson or all the protestors, but they were done by local residents who are criminals. These criminals are responsibile for their actions not the police. Violent crime a reality in Ferguson as Mike Brown’s strong armed robbery illustrates. A man was shot and killed last weekend outside a chop suet shop, not sure if it was random gang shooting or a targeted execution.

    What’s your solution to address this violence? Less police?

    To the moderators of this site go ahead and delete my post: you can’t handle the truth.


  2. I think you miss the point of my questions, Woody. I’m not saying I have the answers. In no way am I endorsing looting. But I wonder if you are concerned about the shootings of young, unarmed black men in America?

    1. When I first heard the news of the Mike Brown shooting, my reaction was what the heck happened, did this cop snap. My first reaction wasn’t oh yeah another racist white cop killed an unarged black man. So, perhaps that makes me a racist.

      Then when I learned more about what witnesses were saying, specifically Dorian Johnson, who claimed that the cop reached out the window of hte vehicle and grabbed Mike Brown by the neck, I thought that that claim sound a bit off. Then when it was revealed that Mike Brown robbed and assualted a store owner half his size shorlty befoe his encounter with police, my conclusion was this situaiton requres a fact finding before anyone draws conclusions.

      I have a concern with people who wern’t there that day and use the siuation to push their own agenda. This is happending around the country.

      And as you know in St. Louis unarmed black men, womem and children are being shot almost on a daily basis by people who are not cops.

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