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Conservative Black Preacher Says We “Protect Thugs” and That Black Criminals are Given “Benefit of the Doubt”

The protests in Ferguson, Missouri and the overzealous police response captured the attention of the nation this week, specifically wondering why the police on our television screens looked more like soldiers in an invading army. In spite of all this, it’s easier to forget how this all started. Michael Brown, an 18 year-old, was shot to death by police, who stopped them for “walking in the street.”

Along with the name of the police officer who killed Brown, news also broke that earlier in the day Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson allegedly tried to rob a convenience store. Because of this, those who support the actions of police in Ferguson have painted Brown as a criminal, implying that if he wasn’t shot that day he’d have ended up dead or in jail anyway.

According to Right Wing Watch, Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, a black conservative radio host, told Steve Malzberg, “I just think it’s a shame that in America today, that criminals are given the benefit of the doubt – especially black criminals because white criminals are not….” With all due disdain, this argument is absolute idiocy.

Rev. Peterson has obviously never heard of the “broken windows” theory of policing. It was first put in place by current NYPD Chief William Bratton, who was also police chief under Rudy Guiliani. He argued that if you allow a window in a building to remain broken, soon the rest of the windows in that building will be broken too. So, he instituted a policy of zero tolerance for petty crimes.

Arguably, this led to a policy of police arresting (mostly black) people even before such petty crimes were committed. The charges they would get – “disorderly conduct” or “obstructing pedestrian traffic” if they could find nothing else – are rarely if ever fought in court, but of those that are a significant percentage are tossed out, according to The Divide by Matt Taibbi.

Rev. Peterson asked Malzberg, “Why are we protecting thugs?” The short answer, of course, is we aren’t, but we damn well should be. The law is there to protect all citizens, not just certain “classes.” But the reason we should protect “thugs” is that by suspending for certain citizens the presumption of innocence and fair access to all of their rights, including their right to counsel, makes it easier for those rights to be eroded for others as well.

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About the author

Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. Along with news and current events, he writes about parenting, art, and personal stories. His serial fiction story "The Prophet Hustle" is available at JukePop.com and a forthcoming independent ebook about the cam-modeling industry "Dirty Little Windows" will be available later this summer.