The police action in Clark County, Nevada, was cut and dry. The Feds were trying to hedge rancher Cliven Bundy in, and he wasn’t having it. The escalation and stand-off were more about symbolism and who controls this country: the people or officials of state with mercenaries at their beck and call.
It’s not as clear what the motives are in Ferguson, Missouri. Watching the videos of the police marching in formation down peaceful residential streets firing tear gas into people’s yards, “law and order” isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.
Police are supposed to protect the people from each other when the people can’t protect themselves. In a functional civil society, the people take care of themselves and the police play a minimal role. When their actions are primarily motivated by self-defense against the same public they’re supposed to “protect and serve,” they’ve lost the plot. Or they’re trying to justify themselves to a larger, outside authority.
In a dysfunctional civil society—when a community is so far gone that vigils are used as covers for looting and mischief—it’s time for police to rethink what they’re doing there. You can’t force a community to un-forsake itself.