Since the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown on Saturday in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, the media has reported on the violence in the area. Photos and videos from Ferguson show police in riot gear dealing with looters and protesters in the streets. While Brown’s family has publically pleaded for nonviolence, so-called leaders like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have been adding fuel to the fire with their divisive rhetoric.
There are, however, nonviolent protesters in Ferguson as well. There are thousands of individuals who have obeyed the family’s wishes and are respecting Brown’s memory through peace. On Tuesday, a 74-year-old Vietnam vet named David Hoech became the face of that movement. On radio this morning, Glenn spoke to the man who is gaining national attention for his unique display of leadership.
“We are a nation so devoid of any kind of leadership that anybody trusts that the average citizen is starting to stand up,” Glenn said. “David Hoech is a Vietnam veteran. Two nights ago, he showed up [in Ferguson] unarmed… I'm going to let him tell the story.”
Hoech is a veteran and widow who lives about 60 miles from Ferguson. After serving during the Vietnam War, Hoech traveled to Japan where helped develop a sales network to sell the P-X patrol aircraft. He went on to become a consultant for Japanese and American companies and is now retired.
After getting a better sense of Hoech’s background, Glenn asked him to explain what led him to Ferguson and what transpired Tuesday night. As Hoech explained, what the mainstream media is reporting about the state of the community is not necessarily representative of what he saw.
“Well, I've been involved in watching things. And when you go there sometimes, it's not what you see. I went and talked to people, and they were all very nice. Of course, there are some people [who are] the agitators,” Hoech explained. “I said, ‘If you see Al [Sharpton] tell him to go back to the east coast.’ He's only here because the TV cameras are here. And [the people] said, ‘Right, he should leave.’ So that's not just the mayor [saying that]. That's some of the protesters.”
When Hoech first arrived in Ferguson he was met by the police officers in riot gear who were blocking off the perimeter of the town. While he was initially denied access, Hoech ultimately made it through the officers to the crowd that was gathered.
“I said, ‘I want to go and talk to the people.’ They said, ‘You're not going back there.’ I said, ‘This is America. I'll do what I want, and I'll go where I want… You're just going to have to shoot me because I'm going.’ And I did,” he explained. “They said, ‘We're going to put this guy to walk with you.’ And I said, ‘No, I'll walk myself.’ But they were polite.”
While Hoech did not see any of the violence that has been reported first hand, he does understand there is a more radical element to the group. With that said, however, he believes the media is the biggest agitator of them all.
Glenn asked Hoech if what he saw bears any resemblance to the riots of the 1960s, and he does not believe there is a correlation.
“No way… This is taking place in a couple blocks. They got barricades back there, but they're not burning right now. It was just that [for] one night or two nights,” Hoech said. “But the more it gets fanned – there's going to be fires in every city because people are upset about a lot of other things. And they use crap like this as an excuse to go out and vent anger. And anger is the wind that blows out the candle of the mind. While everybody is angry, we accomplish nothing.”
Ultimately, Hoech has a simple message he wishes to share with the people of Ferguson and the country at large: We are all Americans. Until we recognize there is more that unites us than divides us, we cannot begin to heal.
“We're all Americans… [When] I grew up, we weren't Jewish Americans, Catholic Americans, German Americans. We were all Americans,” he concluded. “And now they got us all branded as whatever and you can't have unity when everybody wants to put a tag on you. We're Americans. There's only us. We're really creating a mess for us.”