Many people remember that Douglass said: "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." But it is what came next in that 1857 speech that ought to make blacks in Ferguson rush to register and vote to elect a government — and compel creation of a police force — that's more reflective of their interests. "Find out just what any people will quietly submit to," Douglass went on to say, "and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them."
For too long, blacks in Ferguson submitted to their misgivings about the value of elections. They stayed away from the polls in droves and largely left it to a white minority to pick the city's leaders. For too long they acquiesced in maintenance of a police department that made traffic stops of black motorists at a disproportionately high rate, even though they seized more contraband from white motorists. The heavy-handed use of tear gas and rubber bullets to scatter crowds of protesters in the wake of Brown's death simply pressed the limits of what blacks in Ferguson were willing to submit.