From the looks of the television footage, you might think the scenes were from Iraq. Instead, they are from Benton, Mi., a small town with a predominately black population of 12,000. After the death of 28-year-old Terrance Shurn during a high-speed police pursuit, the people of Benton have taken things into their own hands and they have gone about it the wrong way.
It all started in the early morning of June 16, when Berrien County deputies saw two motorcycles speeding at over 100 mph. A chase began, and eventually one of the suspects crashed into a building and later died.
The incident sparked two nights of violence. Rioters have torched buildings and cars, and as many as 15 people have been injured, including one shooting and some stabbings. One can only sit back and wonder what is going through these people’s minds when they go out and destroy their own town?
The actions over the past two days have been labeled as “race riots” because the majority of rioters are black, and the majority of police are white. Benton Township resident Evette Taylor said, “The police harass us, they pull us over for nothing. We are fed up.”
Although there have been allegations of police harassment in the past, there is no evidence to suggest this particular case arose from racial profiling. The black suspect was dangerously in excess of the speed limit as he was being pursued. The police vehicle wasn’t even close to the suspect when the crash occurred. It is irrelevant if the person is black or white. If someone is driving at speeds over 100 mph, the police have every right to go after them. Why is nobody in Benton condemning the suspect for driving so fast and putting innocent people on the roads at risk?
The riots have done nothing to improve the situation between the residents and the police. In fact, it has worsened conditions. Violent rioting is unlikely to change any policy in any instance. However, peaceful meetings with authorities can pave the way for changes that will ease tensions between the police and the residents they protect.
In an already impoverished city, the costs of these riots are going to be an unforeseen blow to the town’s residents.
The citizens of Benton may genuinely believe they are victimized by the local police force; nonetheless, they should avoid knee-jerk reactions to incidents such as this, because in this instance the authorities are blameless.