Truth vs. Meaning – When rubber bullets aren’t rubber, or bullets

This piece was originally posted on Wednesday, November 19,  on the Center For Story Based Strategy blog, where I am currently a Worker Justice Fellow. 


Last Friday St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson and St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar went on live public radio  to fire the latest volley in the battle of truth vs. meaning, which started with the first protests in Ferguson when people took to the streets calling for #JusticeforMikeBrown.

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Referring to the early days of protest in Ferguson, Belmar said, “We didn’t use rubber bullets. If they’re actually rubber bullets, they’ll kill you. We did use tear gas. We did use smoke. We did use pepper balls — different things such as that. We did use armored trucks. But you know what? We didn’t use those on peaceful protesters. We used that on unfortunate criminal activity that spun out of the protest.”

This statement is a doing a few things at once:

  • Distancing police from violence that leads to death.
  • Bullets = death, so they deny any type of bullet was used.
  • Replacing the idea of rubber bullets with weapons that are not automatically linked to death, such as pepper balls.
  • Advancing a core frame of criminals and criminal activity.
  • Police force is justified when dealing with criminals.

Read the rest of the post here.