Monday Reads: Black Lives Matter News and NonBlack AlliesPosted: August 10, 2015 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: #BLM, Black Lives Matter, Ferguson MO protests 19 Comments
It’s Monday! The heat wave continues! We’ve also had another police involved shooting during peaceful protests at Ferguson. There is additional news on the Black Lives Matter (#BLM) protesters that have staged events at Bernie Saunders rallies. I’m going to focus today on the movement and its actions to bring further attention and action to the criminal justice system’s unequal treatment of Black Americans.
Both BB and I have felt highly compelled to write about the incredible challenges black communities face with law enforcement and the criminal justice system. We’ve both lived in communities with noticeable systemic racial injustice. The militarization of the police along with “broken windows” policing has taken a toll on police-community relations. Additionally, the FBI has warned that white supremacists and radical right influences have infiltrated police departments across the country which has likely had an impact on many of these killings and brutal behaviors.
Because of intensifying civil strife over the recent killings of unarmed black men and boys, many Americans are wondering, “What’s wrong with our police?” Remarkably, one of the most compelling but unexplored explanations may rest with a FBI warning of October 2006, which reported that “White supremacist infiltration of law enforcement” represented a significant national threat.
Several key events preceded the report. A federal court found that members of a Los Angeles sheriffs department formed a Neo Nazi gang and habitually terrorized the black community. Later, the Chicago police department fired Jon Burge, a detective with reputed ties to the Ku Klux Klan, after discovering he tortured over 100 black male suspects. Thereafter, the Mayor of Cleveland discovered that many of the city police locker rooms were infested with “White Power” graffiti. Years later, a Texas sheriff department discovered that two of its deputies were recruiters for the Klan.
In near prophetic fashion, after the FBI’s warning, white supremacy extremism in the U.S. increased, exponentially. From 2008 to 2014, the number of white supremacist groups, reportedly, grew from 149 to nearly a thousand, with no apparent abatement in their infiltration of law enforcement.
This year, alone, at least seven San Francisco law enforcement officers were suspended after an investigation revealed they exchanged numerous “White Power” communications laden with remarks about “lynching African-Americans and burning crosses.” Three reputed Klan members that served as correction officers were arrested for conspiring to murder a black inmate. At least four Fort Lauderdale police officers were fired after an investigation found that the officers fantasized about killing black suspects.
The United States doesn’t publicly track white supremacists, so the full range of their objectives remains murky. Although black and Jewish-Americans are believed to be the foremost targets of white supremacists, recent attacks in Nevada, Wisconsin, Arizona, Kansas and North Carolina, demonstrate that other non-whites, and religious and social minorities, are also vulnerable. Perhaps more alarmingly, in the last several years alone, white supremacists have reportedly murdered law enforcement officers in Arkansas, Nevada and Wisconsin.
As I mentioned, there was a police involved shooting last night after a day of peaceful protests and remembrances of the one year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death. Brown’s death was the start of the Black Lives Matter Campaign.
A peaceful day of protest and remembrance dissolved into chaos late Sunday when a man fired multiple shots at four St. Louis County plainclothes detectives in an SUV. The detectives fired back and the shooter was struck, said county Police Chief Jon Belmar. He was in critical condition.
Tyrone Harris identified the victim as his son, Tyrone Harris Jr., 18, of St. Louis. Harris said shortly after 3 a.m. that his son had just gotten out of surgery.
He said his son graduated from Normandy High School and that he and Michael Brown Jr. “were real close.”
“We think there’s a lot more to this than what’s being said,” Harris Sr. said.
In a 2:30 a.m. press conference, Belmar said there is a “small group of people out there that are intent on making sure we don’t have peace that prevails.
“We can’t sustain this as a community,” he said.
Belmar said two groups of people exchanged gunfire on the west side of West Florissant Avenue at the same time the shooting took place, shortly after 11 p.m. Shots were heard for 40-50 seconds, Belmar said. “It was a remarkable amount of gunfire,” he said.
The people doing the shooting “were criminals,” Belmar said. “They were not protesters.”
Investigators recovered a 9 mm Sig Sauer that had been stolen in Cape Girardeau, Belmar said.
Protesters had blocked West Florissant Avenue north of Ferguson Avenue, and the detectives were tracking a man they believed was armed, along with several of his acquaintances, whom they also thought were armed.
In a chaotic scene, police officers, reporters and protesters ran for cover. People sprinted across the street and dived behind parked cars.
Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders continues to experience #BLM protests–most recently 2 days ago in Seattle–at rallies and campaign events. Sanders held a campaign event in LA today. Clinton continues to have overwhelming support in black and Hispanic communities as Sanders struggles to communicate his civil rights messages and agendas. Clinton discussed college affordability in New Hampshire today. Sanders LA event included black community leaders who specifically addressed #BLM concerns. This is a first for Sanders whose events tend to focus on middle class populist economic issues.
Sanders and the lawmakers who introduced him mentioned racial inequalities throughout the event, a nod to the Black Lives Matter movement and the Vermont senator’s earlier speech in Seattle that was shut down by protesters.
“Brothers and sisters, what a turnout,” Sanders said at the start of his speech. “It doesn’t seem true but we began this campaign about three and a half months ago, and the momentum has been unbelievable.”
The latest turnout, which was verified by arena staff, supersedes the more than 11,000 people who attended a Sanders rally in Phoenix in July. Doors were closed at the venue, according to arena staff, before the rally started. Sanders’ campaign said the candidate also spoke to around 3,000 people outside the venue who were not able to get inside.
The energized audience, many of whom lined up hours before the event, cheered at nearly everything he said. Sanders, his shirt soaked with sweat, said the turnout proved that “people are tired of establishment politics, establishment economics and they want real change.”
The atmosphere was markedly different than Sanders’ first event of the day, where Black Lives Matter protesters confronted the senator and shut down his event.
Though he did not directly address the earlier disturbance, Sanders cast himself as a lifelong fighter for civil rights.
“No President,” he said, “will fight harder to end the stain of racism in this country and reform our criminal justice system. Period.”
Later in the speech, Sanders touched on an issue Black Lives Matter protesters want to hear more on.
“It makes more sense to me to be investing in jobs and education for our kids than in jails and incarceration,” he said.
Sanders was introduced by a series of speakers, nearly all of whom mentioned Black Lives Matters.
“Sen. Sanders knows, as do I, that Black Lives Matter,” state Rep. Luis Moscoso said. “Racial inequality is as serious as economic inequality. No one should be dehumanized by their race.”
State Sen. Pramila Jayapal said Sanders knows “it is not enough just to say we care, it is not enough. What we have to do is call out personal, individual and institutionalized racism at every opportunity.”
Sanders’ campaign also announced Saturday that Symone D. Sanders, an African-American woman, has been hired as its national press secretary.
Jayapal wrote this Guest Editorial over the weekend.
1) This is one small result of centuries of racism. As a country, we still have not recognized or acknowledged what we have wrought and continue to inflict on black people. The bigger results are how black kids as young as two are being disciplined differently in their daycares and pre-k classes. That black people are routinely denied jobs that white people get with the same set of experiences and skills. That black people—women and men—continue to die at the hands of police, in domestic violence, on the streets. That black mothers must tell their children as young as seven or eight that they have to be careful about what pants or hoodies they wear or to not assert their rights if stopped. That this country supports an institutionalized form of racism called the criminal justice system that makes profit—hard, cold cash—on jailing black and brown people. I could go on and on. But the continued lack of calling out that indelible stain of racism everywhere we go, of refusing to see that racism exists and implicit bias exists in all of us, of refusing to give reparations for slavery, of refusing to have our version of a truth and reconciliation process—that is what pushes everything underneath and makes it seem like the fault is of black people not of the country, institutions, and people that wrought the violence. That is the anger and rage that we saw erupt yesterday on stage. But it’s not the problem, it’s a symptom of the disease of unacknowledged and un-acted upon racism.
As I’ve mentioned, I’ve found some Sanders supporters to adopt over the top misogynistic and racist tones that are unbecoming and unrelated to the candidate himself. I certainly hope that we can continue to see a Democratic Presidential Campaign season that shows the benefit of focusing on issues and not personalities. I have no idea why some supporters for some candidates feel the need to bully voices raising issues and narratives. This isn’t some Aldous Huxley reality where we all mouth phrases to ensure our choices comply with some internal need for ego stroking.
Sunday’s Washington Post featured a compelling narrative of “Black and Unarmed” and how simple policing activities have lead to the deaths of many unarmed black people around the country.
So far this year, 24 unarmed black men have been shot and killed by police – one every nine days, according to a Washington Post database of fatal police shootings. During a single two-week period in April, three unarmed black men were shot and killed. All three shootings were either captured on video or, in one case, broadcast live on local TV.
Those 24 cases constitute a surprisingly small fraction of the 585 people shot and killed by police through Friday evening, according to The Post database. Most of those killed were white or Hispanic, and the vast majority of victims of all races were armed.
However, black men accounted for 40 percent of the 60 unarmed deaths, even though they make up just 6 percent of the U.S. population. The Post’s analysis shows that black men were seven times more likely than white men to die by police gunfire while unarmed.
The latest such shooting occurred Friday, claiming Christian Taylor, 19, a promising defensive back on the Angelo State University football team. Police said Taylor crashed an SUV through the front window of a car dealership in Arlington, Tex., and was shot in an altercation with responding officers. The case is under investigation.
The disproportionate number of unarmed black men in the body count helps explain why outrage continues to simmer a year after Ferguson — and why shootings that might have been ignored in the past are now coming under fresh public and legal scrutiny.
“Ferguson was a watershed moment in policing. Police understand they are now under the microscope,” said Mark Lomax, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association, which represents police rank-and-file.
Video shot by bystanders or captured on police camera, meanwhile, has served in some cases to undermine trust in police. So far this year, three officers have been charged with crimes after fatally shooting unarmed black men. All three were caught on video. One — the April shooting of Eric Harris in Tulsa — appears to have been an accident. But in the other two, the footage contradicted the officer’s initial account of what happened.
“Prior to Ferguson, police were politically untouchable. Ferguson changed that calculus,” said Georgetown University professor Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor whose book, “The Chokehold: Policing Black Men,” is scheduled to be published next year.
Jamie Utt writes about “Interrupting Bernie” and the tone-deafness and insensitivity of many white liberals and democrats to black concerns.
Notably, Black Lives Matter activists haven’t been successful (though I am sure not for lack of trying) in interrupting Hillary Clinton in the same way (that secret service protection and massive campaign budget for private security sure is handy), but even she has had little choice but to pay attention to Black Lives Matter as a movement.
And there is a great deal of disagreement within Black communities (we as White folks would do well to remember that people and Black organizations aren’t monoliths) about whether the action was strategic and whether targeting Bernie was the right move. And that dialogue should continue to take place within Black liberation spaces, but White folks – that’s not our business.
Because here’s the thing – what’s powerful about these interruptions from Black women is less how it has changed the tone of the Democratic campaigns and more about what they have exposed in the White left.
I see these protests as less about the individual candidates themselves and more about how their White base refuses to center Black lives and Black issues. It’s notable that White Bernie supporters, who consider themselves the most progressive of us all, shouted down and booed Black women who dared to force Blackness into the center of White space.
Because let’s be honest, every Bernie rally is White space.
In watching the over-the-top angry response from White liberals about Bernie being interrupted in Seattle, I can’t help but think of the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on White moderates:
The MLK quote is shown on the image reproduced here. I hope as the Democratic primaries continue we can focus on the issues that involve our many communities. I also hope that the we can get whatever group of people who feel the need to censor other people’s concerns because they feel the need to be right about everything.
What’s on your reading and blogging list?
Lazy Saturday Reads: Immigration Facts and Ferguson FearsPosted: November 22, 2014 Filed under: Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Civil Rights, court rulings, Crime, Criminal Justice System, Eric Holder, immigration, legislation, morning reads, The Media SUCKS, U.S. Politics | Tags: Congress, corporate media, Darren Hutchinson, Darren Wilson, FBI, Ferguson MO protests, Michael Brown, police brutality, police riots, Racism, US Constitution, Watts riots 31 Comments
President Obama’s executive action on immigration tops the news today. Ferguson is a close second. I’ll be focusing mostly on those two stories in this post.
Before I get started, I want to point you to a new post by Darren Hutchinson of Dissenting Justice. It will give you some reality-based ammunition to deal with crazy wingnut friends, relatives, and Facebook and Twitter followers.
FACTS: President Obama’s Immigration Policies Are Absolutely LEGAL.
ATTENTION: Before you can argue that the government has violated a law, you must actually READ the law.
FACT: Congress has the exclusive power to pass laws regarding immigration (U.S. Const. Article I, Section 8, Cl. 4).FACT: Executive Power of the US is vested in the President, which means the President, not Congress, executes the immigration laws (U.S. Const. Article II, Sect. 1, Cl. 1)….
FACT: Consistent with the Constitution, the INA gives the Executive Branch (President, Homeland Security, Attorney General, and Secretary of State) the power to enforce immigration laws (8 U.S.C. Sect. 1103-1104)….
FACT: The Executive Can “Cancel” the Removal of Certain Deportable Individuals.
The INA allows the Attorney General to cancel removal (deportation) or adjust the status of certain categories of undocumented individuals. The statute explicitly spells out the criteria for doing so. Thus, the statute provides an “intelligible criteria” for the Attorney General to follow. (8 U.S.C. Section 1229b(a)-(b))….
The Executive Can Give Temporary Protected Status to Certain Deportable Individuals. The INA also allows the Attorney General to grant “Temporary Protected Status” (TPS) to deportable individuals from certain countries that the Attorney General has placed on a TPS list. As required by Supreme Court doctrine, the INA gives SPECIFIC guidelines – or an intelligible principle – for the Attorney General to follow when determining whether to give TPS designation to a country. The statutory factors include serious conditions in the individual’s home country, like armed conflict; natural disasters; a request for temporary protected status by the country; or “extraordinary and temporary conditions” that preclude the safe return of the individual, so long as TPS does not conflict with the interests of the US.
(8 U.S.C. Sections 1254a-i)
Those are the highlights. There’s more at the link. I plan to save Hutchinson’s post for future reference. I’m thinking of printing it out in case I get in a political argument with my brother over Thanksgiving dinner.
Obama has been vilified from day one by people who obviously have never read the Constitution or any U.S. laws dealing with their various political hobby horses, and I’m sick and tired of it.
You all know I not a fan of Obama when he ran for president in 2008, and I still think he’s a conservative technocrat who is far to willing to support privatization of public services. But he is the President of the United States now. I support his efforts to reform immigration laws. He’s only taking executive action because Congress is full of stupid and irrational people who are too lazy or stubborn to cooperate with him. Sadly, the DC media is largely made up of wealthy, privileged people who got their jobs because through nepotism and/or because they attended elite universities and are too lazy or stupid to provide accurate information to the public. Therefore, people who don’t focus on politics like we do get false information from TV news or “journalists” who do not understand what journalism is.
A few more links on the immigration story:
Washington Post Wonkblog, Flow chart: Who qualifies for Obama’s immigration offer?
The president’s executive action would delay deportation for the undocumented mother of a child born in the U.S. on Thursday — but not an undocumented mother who gave birth here one day later. Similarly, the president has offered deferrals to children brought to this country by their parents before their 16th birthday — but not a few weeks after.
Such deadlines serve a purpose: They’re meant to discourage new immigrants from coming in the future, or to dissuade women already here from giving birth with the goal of securing deferrals. But they also show that the president’s action falls far short of a comprehensive solution. It offers, instead, a fragmented answer that will leave many immigrants disappointed.
Check out the flow chart at the link for details.
Greg Sargent at The Washington Post, Bringing perspective to Obama’s move on deportations.
Now that President Obama has announced his executive action to temporarily shield millions from deportation, confirming the administration’s view that this move is well within his authority, the battle now shifts to a political fight over the policy itself, and over whether it violates “political norms.” Is this action so provocative an affront to Congress that it sets a precedent for future GOP presidents to use discretion to selectively enforce laws liberals like?
Embedded in the legal opinion that the Office of Legal Counsel released to justify the move is an important nugget that should, in theory, help take the steam out of the idea that this move is a flagrant violation of political norms.
Obama’s action temporarily shields from deportation the parents of children who are U.S. citizens and legal residents, and also expands the program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) to protect people brought here illegally as children. But it excludes parents of DACA recipients.
The reason for this offered by the OLC memo is that protecting parents of legal residents is in line with Congressional intent, as expressed in statute, while protecting DACA parents isn’t:
[T]he parents of DACA recipients are differently situated from the parents of U.S. citizens and LPRs [Legal Permanent Residents] under the family-related provisions of the immigration law. Many provisions of the INA [Immigration and Nationality Act] reflect Congress’ general concern about separating individuals who are legally entitled to live in the United States and their immediate family members….But the immigration laws do not express comparable concern for uniting persons who lack lawful status (or prospective lawful status in the United States with their families…Extending deferred action to the parents of DACA recipients would therefore expand family-based immigration relief in a manner that deviates in important respects from the immigration system Congress has enacted.
This legal opinion probably precludes any future expansion of this program to cover parents of DACA recipients. And it underscores two things: First, that the proposal is heavily focused on providing relief from humanitarian hardship endured by U.S. citizens and permanent residents, a longtime intention of Congress, as expressed in statute. Second, it shows that the proposal’s legal rationale is tightly circumscribed to reflect that Congressional intent.
Follow me below the fold for much more . . .
Read the rest of this entry »
Lazy Saturday Reads: Governor, Police, and Media Stoke Fears of Riots in FergusonPosted: November 15, 2014 Filed under: Civil Rights, Criminal Justice System, morning reads, racism, The Media SUCKS, U.S. Politics | Tags: 1965 Watts riots, Darren Wilson, Ferguson MO protests, Gov. Jay Nixon, grand jury, John Crawford III, Jon Belmar, Levar Jones, Mary Sanchez, Michael Brown, MIssouri National Guard, police shootings, Rodney King, Sean Groubert, slavery, Tom Jackson, Trayvon Martin, US Department of Justice 11 Comments
A Grand Jury decision is imminent in the Michael Brown shooting case in Ferguson, Missouri. For the past couple of weeks the media has been full of reports of how police departments in the St. Louis area are preparing for what they predict will be violent protests.
The general assumption is that Ferguson police officer, who killed Brown at about noon on August 9, will not be charged. The simple truth is that white police officer who kill black people are rarely charged and almost never convicted. Furthermore, the LA Times reports that law enforcement officers who kill citizens in Missouri are given “wide latitude.”
Missouri law provides wide latitude for police to use deadly force, particularly if the officer believes it’s necessary to protect his or her safety or the safety of others.
But that law might not shield Wilson. “If Michael Brown was trying to surrender at the time, that makes this defense not applicable,” Washington University law professor Peter Joy said. “So the question is: Was Michael Brown clearly trying to surrender at the time that the fatal gunshots were fired?”
Several witnesses who saw the shooting reported that Brown’s hands were in the air when Darren Wilson shot and killed him, but, as far as I can tell, most media sources recently have changed the narrative to the police version–not based on direct observation–in which Wilson supposedly feared for his life because the unarmed Brown “charged” at him after being hit with at least two bullets.
There is another investigation by the Justice Department into whether Darren Wilson violated Michael Brown’s civil rights, but
Joy said a federal indictment seemed unlikely, at least according to the publicly reported accounts of the shooting thus far.
“That would require that Officer Wilson intentionally planned or intentionally meant to violate the civil rights — that is, take the life of — Michael Brown because of his race,” Joy said.
The media narrative has gradually been revised since August, when we saw what were essentially police riots in which Ferguson and St. Louis police used military surplus equipment to control peaceful protesters and reporters and photographers who were covering events on the ground. Now we’re repeatedly being told that Brown was the aggressor, with the unwritten implication that he deserved to die. Back in August, some law enforcement officers threatened to kill protesters and even arrested numerous members of the media who were simply doing their jobs. But that’s all forgotten now. Now the corporate media appears to be fully behind the Ferguson and St. Louis police; and both the police and the media are preparing for what they expect–and apparently hope–will be violent and dangerous riots.
Since the Grand Jury decision may come very soon, I thought I’d gather the latest updates on this important story for today’s post. I’ll admit up front that I’m not an nonpartisan observer in this case.
First, the LA Times article I linked to above has a good summary of the two sides to the story of the shooting, Back Story: What happened in Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Mo.?
Also from the LA Times, a report of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s recent announcement about government preparations for what he apparently assumes will be riots, National Guard on call if Ferguson grand jury decision triggers violence.
The National Guard will be ready to assist law enforcement in Missouri if unrest erupts after a grand jury announces whether to indict a white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Gov. Jay Nixon announced Tuesday.
“Violence will not be tolerated,” Nixon said at a news conference with officials from the Missouri State Highway Patrol, St. Louis County police and St. Louis Metropolitan police. The governor said the agencies would form a unified command to deal with protests. “Residents and businesses of this region will be protected,” Nixon said….
Nixon said that the rights of peaceful protesters would be respected but that officials would have no tolerance for violent agitation. “Our dual pillars here are safety and speech,” Nixon said in the televised news conference from St. Louis. The National Guard, he said, would be available “when we determine it is necessary to support local law enforcement.”
Nixon added: “The world is watching.”
Nixon did not say whether there have been any efforts to diffuse anger on the part of local police officers or prevent more police overreactions to peaceful protests.
The story also quoted St. Louis police chief Jon Belmar.
“The community is on edge. … There is a large sense of anxiety out there. This is a little unprecedented,” St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told reporters in a televised news conference. Belmar added: “If you talk to chiefs around the country [as I have], they’re concerned and prepared for this to perhaps lap into their communities also.”
Gee, I wonder why? Could it be because police shootings of unarmed black men are so common in this country? Belmar also defended the use of military equipment to control protests.
Belmar defended the agency’s response by saying that such gear was necessary for his officers’ protection and pointed out that no protesters lost their lives during August’s demonstrations, which were occasionally marred by looting and gunshots. “My goodness, could we be that fortunate moving forward?” Belmar said of the absence of fatalities.
The St. Louis County Police Department has spent about $120,000 to replenish equipment such as shields, batons, tear gas and flex handcuffs after weeks of unrest in the aftermath of the shooting depleted supplies and damaged equipment.
Here are some recent examples of white policemen shooting unarmed black men:
The New Republic, A Dash Cam Didn’t Stop This White Officer From Shooting an Unarmed Black Man (fortunately, this officer was arrested and charged. Whether he’ll be convicted or not, we don’t know yet)
Mother Jones, August 13, 2014, 4 Unarmed Black Men Have Been Killed By Police in the Last Month.
Here’s piece on this subject by Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart, The terrifying police shootings of unarmed black men.
One of the burdens of being a black male is carrying the heavy weight of other people’s suspicions. One minute you’re going about your life, the next you could be pleading for it, if you’re lucky. That’s what happened to Trayvon Martin in February 2012 and Michael Brown last month. And two other recent shootings add further proof that no standard of conduct, it seems, is too good or too mundane to protect a black man’s life particularly from a police officer’s bullet.
John Crawford III was talking on his cell phone in the Beavercreek, Ohio, Wal-Mart and carrying an unloaded BB air rifle he picked up in the superstore on Aug. 5. “There is a gentleman walking around with a gun in the store,” Ronald Ritchie told the 911 operator. “Yeah, he’s, like, pointing at people….He’s looking around, waving it, waving it back and forth….He looked like he was trying to load it. I don’t know.” Fair warning: As the graphic video shows, Crawford was shot and killed by police. Ritchie has since changed his account of what happened.
You can watch the video at the link. Capehart also discusses the Brown case and the case in South Carolina (story linked above).
Levar Jones was pulled over for a seat-belt violation by now-former South Carolina state trooper Sean Groubert on Sept. 4. Thanks to the startling and graphic dashcam video we get to see every African American’s worst nightmare unfold in seconds….
Groubert asks Jones, “Can I see your license, please?” Jones, who was standing outside his car at the gas station convenience store, turned and reached inside to retrieve it. “Get out of the car! Get out of the car!” Groubert shouts before opening fire on Jones at point-blank range. After being hit in the hip, Jones can be seen moving backwards away from his car with his hands in the air as two more shots ring out.
Instead of using these recent cases to highlight and deal with the problem of police shootings of unarmed people, it seems that local and state governments like those in Missouri are simply doubling down on the people who protest them. I’m really concerned that all the talk of “riots” being inevitable in Ferguson is going to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Caitlin Dickson of The Daily Beast reports that at least one expert agrees with me: Riot Prep Could Fuel Ferguson Violence.
Despite a concerted police effort to quell demonstrations, protesters have carried on consistently and, for the most part, calmly since Brown’s death at the hands of police officer Darren Wilson this past August. But the impending grand jury decision on whether Wilson will be indicted in Brown’s death—and leaks of evidence suggesting he won’t—has law enforcement, residents, and business owners preparing for violence on the streets.
In addition to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s announcement on Tuesday that the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the St. Louis Metropolitan police, and the St. Louis County police will join forces (with the National Guard on standby) in handling demonstrations following the grand jury decision, almost every national news organization—from CNN to The New York Times, the Associated Press and Reuters—has reported that Ferguson residents and business owners have been taking matters into their own hands. Gun sales are up, local gun-shop owners told reporters. People like Dan McMullen, whose insurance agency is located near a spot where the few instances of vandalism and looting took place following Brown’s death, was quoted by both the New York Times and CNN as saying he’s stocking up on guns in case of a riot….
Despite Governor Nixon’s declarations that “violence will not be tolerated” and “residents and businesses of this region will be protected,” some experts wonder whether all the emphasis on preparedness—from the $120,000 spent by the St. Louis County Police on riot gear to the sudden demand for guns—may do more harm than good.
“I don’t think this is the way we should be thinking about what might happen,” American University professor Cathy Schneider told The Daily Beast. Instead, Schneider, who is an expert on social movements and racial tensions, argues that what we should be thinking about is, ‘how do we convince a community that the police will act to serve them, that the justice system will defend their interests, and that the verdict will be just?” [….]
“If one side is buying guns and preparing, what do you think the other people are doing, who think those guns are going to be used against them?” Schneider asked. Instead of acknowledging that Ferguson’s black community “is in pain and wondering whether justice will be done,” Schneider said, such intense preparation sends the message that “we think your community is dangerous and we’re armed and prepared to kill you.”
It also doesn’t help that Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson–who should have been fired by now–has announced that Darren Wilson, the man who killed Michael Brown, will be welcomed back to the local force if he isn’t indicted by the Grand Jury.
Here’s an excellent op-ed by Mary Sanchez of the Kansas City Star: The fire next time … may engulf Ferguson, Mo.
By every indication — from both the street and civic offices — Ferguson, Missouri is expected to blow.
The grand jury decision on whether a white police officer will be charged in the shooting death of an unarmed 18-year-old black man could come any day. Many are expecting no indictment of the officer, no criminal charges alleging that he went too far the day Michael Brown died.
If that’s the outcome, God help us all. Keeping the lid on the public reaction will be a gargantuan task.
Of course local leaders fed the outrage from the very beginning by trying to protect Darren Wilson and by leaving Michael Brown’s body lying exposed in the street for four hours.
Sanchez refers back to the riots in Los Angeles in 1965 as well as those in 1992 after the failure to indict police who beat Rodney King within an inch of his life. Why don’t government leaders deal with the root problems at work in these cases?
In Watts nearly 50 years ago the name was Marquette Frye, not Michael Brown. Frye, 21, was pulled over in a traffic stop, suspected of being drunk. When other family members arrived, a fight broke out with police. Word spread, alleging police had over-reacted.
For six days people rioted. There were 34 deaths, more than 1,000 people injured, $40 million in property damage and more than 1,000 buildings were destroyed.
In 1992, the person at the center was Rodney King. He’d led police on a high-speed car chase, fleeing after fearing that his probation would be revoked from a robbery conviction. When he finally was stopped, what happened next shocked the nation. The video of the officers assaulting King without mercy when they could have simply handcuffed him was played over and over on television.
When those officers weren’t indicted, the city erupted again. This time, 53 people died, more than 2,000 were injured, the property damage was pegged at $1 billion and another 1,000 buildings were destroyed.
In both cases, commissions were formed and good people went to work unraveling how one incident could ignite such violence. The underlying causes were found to be similar despite the nearly 30 years that had passed: the burdens of poor education, lack of jobs, poverty, racial tensions, and inferior housing and transportation.
Sanchez goes on to recommend changes that local and state governments will most likely either ignore or respond to with lip service.
We’ve seen over the past several years that virulent racism is alive and well in this country, and we simply are not dealing with it.
This nation was founded on the enslavement of black people, and despite the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, efforts to desegregate schools, and affirmative action, black people are still treated as second class citizens by many Americans. A number of states have even instituted voter ID laws that essentially act as poll taxes did in the Jim Crow era to keep black people from voting, and the Supreme Court has affirmed the right of states to do this.
We are now on the verge of another flashpoint in the history of race conflicts in our country–the possibility of violence following a failure to punish Darren Wilson for essentially ignoring the humanity of black teenager Michael Brown.
When will it end?
A few more reads to check out if you’re interested:
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Protesters prepare for the worst in Ferguson.
Huffington Post, Beyond the Indictments: Black and Brown Deaths at the Hands of Police Are a Crisis Boiling Over.
Fellowship of Reconciliation, Ferguson Under Indictment.
Juan Williams at Fox News, Are liberal news outlets begging for a race riot in Ferguson?
Ben Swann, Michael Brown’s Parents Testify Before UN Committee Against Torture.
Michael Martinez at CNN, Ferguson case raises question: Where’s the data on officer-involved killings?
Christian Science Monitor, Ferguson verdict: Why St. Louis schools will know first.
AP via Boston Globe, Churches prepare for possible Ferguson unrest
What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a great weekend.