Saturday Reads: The Shooting of Michael Brown and the Protests in Ferguson, Missouri

 

Demonstrators gather along West Florissant Avenue on Friday to protest the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer on Aug. 9. Friday’s demonstration ended with protesters clashing with police followed by more looting. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Demonstrators gather along West Florissant Avenue on Friday to protest the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer on Aug. 9. Friday’s demonstration ended with protesters clashing with police followed by more looting. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Good Morning!!

I’ve been following the events in Ferguson, Missouri for a week now. Last Saturday, 18-year-old Ferguson citizen Michael Brown was gunned down by a Ferguson police officer in broad daylight. That officer, who was finally named yesterday, is Darren Wilson. So far the media has not even been able to come up with a photo of Wilson, who had nearly a week to wipe out his media presence. He’s a complete mystery man.

After Wilson shot Brown multiple times, he stood over the body and called for assistance without informing dispatch that he had just shot someone. According to witnesses, Wilson did not check Brown for vital signs. Brown’s body lay in the street for an extended period–it’s not clear how long. No medical personnel were called to determine whether he needed assistance or to take his body to a hospital. Eventually police loaded the body into a police vehicle and took it away.

When family and others in the community protested, Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson asked St. Louis County police to provide “security.” As we all know, there was an intense police crackdown on peaceful protesters, and journalists were harassed and even arrested as were several community leaders.

On Thursday, Governor Jay Nixon ordered Ferguson and St. Louis County police to withdraw their military equipment from the streets of the small suburb and had handed over control of security to Captain Ronald S. Johnson of the Missouri State Police. Johnson is a lifelong Ferguson resident and is African American.

On Thursday night protesters were left alone to protest peacefully, and police were dressed in normal uniforms. Johnson walked among the protesters and patiently answered their questions. Apparently Chief Jackson and his men were unhappy with the peace and harmony, so they found a way to sow discord once again.

Around noon yesterday, without informing Captain Johnson of what he planned to do, Jackson released an 18 page media handout complete with still images from surveillance video, in which he accused dead teenager Michael Brown of stealing a box of cigars from a gas station convenience store in what he termed “a strong-arm robbery.” The stolen property was valued at $48.00. Jackson released this information immediately after revealing that mystery officer Darren Wilson had shot and killed Brown.

The implication was obvious. Brown deserved to die because he had shoplifted some cigars. The pictures of the young man police claimed was Brown were splashed all over the media and internet–but nary a photo of Wilson appeared.

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson announces the name of Officer Darren Wilson as the man who shot and killed Michael Brown, 18, last Saturday.

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson announces the name of Officer Darren Wilson as the man who shot and killed Michael Brown, 18, last Saturday.

Hours later, around 4PM, Chief Jackson held another press conference in which he admitted that killer cop Darren Wilson had no knowledge of the shoplifting incident that Brown had allegedly been involved in. He supposedly stopped Brown and his friend because they were walking in the street “blocking traffic.” So why was the 18-page handout released, reporters asked? Because reporters had requested it, said Jackson. But that wasn’t true either.

According to “MSNBC contributor” Goldie Taylor, who spent last night trying to find any reporter who had requested information on the convenience store robbery, no one requested it–in fact no one in the media knew about the incident until Jackson revealed it.

Reporters had specifically requested the officer’s report on the shooting and Brown’s autopsy report, but those were not released. Reporters have repeatedly asked Jackson how many times Brown was shot and the locations of the bullets, but he has refused to answer those questions.

Naturally Brown’s family and other Ferguson residents were outraged by Jackson’s behavior. He had poisoned the atmosphere in town once again.

Last night began as Thursday night had, with peaceful demonstrations and normal police presence. But early this morning, outsiders showed up and for a short time looted Ferguson businesses, including the store that Michael Brown had been accused of stealing from. From what I’ve been able to learn on Twitter from people who were there, protesters tried to stop the looters and helped to clean up damage to businesses; and there are reports of that in the mainstream media.

I thought I’d just write my own summary of events to begin with, since this situation is so complex. The racism that has been on display has been just stunning. It’s as if we’ve all been transported back to a much earlier era. But unfortunately the racism is real. You can see it on display in the behavior of law enforcement members in Ferguson and St. Louis, and in the people on Twitter and media comment sections cheering on the hatred against and even the murder of African Americans.

dont shoot2

Some representative articles to read about recent events in Ferguson.

MSNBC: Michael Brown Killing: Police in Ferguson Fire Tear Gas Amid Looting.

Armored vehicles rolled back onto the streets of Ferguson early Saturday, as riot police faced off with looters in the Missouri town gripped by protests since the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black teen.

The violence broke the brief period of calm that had settled over Ferguson, Missouri, after outrage over the shooting of Michael Brown spilled over.

Protests had started off peacefully in Ferguson on Friday night. Rev. Jesse Jackson linked arms with protesters, leading them in prayer and urging them to “turn pain into power” while fighting back non-violently, NBC Affiliate KSDK reported. Shortly after midnight, crowds got rowdier and looting began to break out, according to KSDK….
Tear gas was deployed and riot police moved in, with some locals forming lines to protect local businesses from looters.
A handful of owners stood guard this morning at their businesses, doing their best to discourage any more looting or violence.

Rain fell on the scene of broken out windows and ransacked store shelves at businesses like Ferguson Market and Liquor.

The streets of Ferguson mostly were void of protesters by 6 a.m. as dawn broke and the rain continued after the violent night.

After some of the protesters blocked the entrances to businesses and civic leaders, including St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, arrived early Saturday, the scene calmed and the brief outbreak of looting ended.

The police line was still in place near West Florissant and Ferguson avenues but had not advanced to the site of the protest line as of 2:30. Officers also did not move in during the looting.

Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man

It’s amazing how quickly a few assholes can ruin things for people who have worked so hard to bring peace and justice after the death of an unarmed young man. Chief Jackson must be very happy with his handiwork this morning.

KDSK.com: Protesters tried to keep looters out of stores.

Several hundred people congregated on a busy Ferguson street Friday night as protests continued nearly a week after 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer. It was peaceful until about midnight, when a large crowd broke into the convenience mart that Brown allegedly robbed the day he was killed. The looting continued there for several hours, with looters entering and exiting freely with as many items as they could carry, including the store cash register.

The looting took place despite the best efforts of some who said they were among the peaceful protesters who marched early in the evening.

Michael Davis was among those who were peacefully protesting when things turned violent. “It was positive. Everything was going fairly well with everyone out here during the day. But as it turned night, it got hectic and things got out of hand in front of the Ferguson Market and Liquor store.”

According to Davis, they were having some success in calming things down until police showed up and teargassed the crowd. At that point looters “broke through his protective line and into the store.”

New York Times: Emotions Flare in Missouri Amid Police Statements.

One day after roiling tensions over the police shooting of a black teenager here began to subside, emotions flared anew on Friday as the police identified the officer involved but also released evidence that the victim was a suspect in a convenience store robbery moments before being shot.

The manner in which the police here released the information, which included a 19-page police report on the robbery but no new details about the shooting, led to the spectacle of dueling police news conferences, one led by a white officer who seemed ill at ease and defensive, and the other dominated by a charismatic black officer who expressed solidarity with the crowd even as he pleaded for peace.

The white officer, Thomas Jackson, the police chief in Ferguson, gave a series of incomplete accounts that sowed confusion about whether the officer who shot the teenager knew he was a suspect in the robbery. The black officer, Capt. Ronald S. Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, expressed his displeasure with how the information had been released.

“I would have liked to have been consulted,” he said pointedly about the pairing of the shooter’s identity with the robbery accusation.

Washington Post: Protests and looting return to Ferguson overnight, but most want peace [a collection of tweets from journalists covering Ferguson last night]

Reporters on the ground in Ferguson, most of whom have been there for nearly the entire week, painted on Twitter a dramatic and sometimes frightening scene as the unrest mounted. Emotions were heightened Friday after Darren Wilson was named as the officer who shot Brown and the Ferguson police released video surveillance of Brown allegedly stealing cigars from a convenience store.

The clashes throughout the night seem to have divided the protesters, pitting some who were assembling peacefully against others who were looting businesses in the St. Louis suburb.

As of early Saturday morning, some protesters were helping store owners clean their destroyed shops and many were eager to draw a clear distinction between the angry rioters and the other protesters.

 Head over to that link to read a Twitter timeline.

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More relevant links.

The Washington Post, Seven in 10 black Americans say the criminal justice system treats them unfairly.

Mother Jones, Exactly How Often Do Police Shoot Unarmed Black Men?

Reuters Column, Less than human: Do some police take a step beyond simple prejudice?

Peacock Panache, Conservative Hypocrisy: Bundy Ranch Versus Ferguson Protest Media Coverage.

Addicting Info, Ferguson Police Excuses Destroyed As Anonymous Shares Dispatch Recordings (AUDIO).

Mother Jones, Meet the St. Louis Alderman Who’s Keeping an Eye on Ferguson’s Cops.

Washington Post, Required reading on race, Michael Brown and Ferguson, Mo.

Spocko at Hullabaloo, What’s the Media Strategy of #Ferguson Protesters? The Police Have One. 

The Atlantic, Echoes of Michael Brown’s Death in St. Louis’s Racially Charged Past.

The Atlantic, The Roots of Violence in Ferguson Run Deep.

Jonathan Chait, Joe Scarborough, Mike Allen Form Journalistic Axis of Evil.

I know there’s plenty of other news; I’ve just been focused on this story. Please feel free to discuss and recommend links on any topic in the comment thread.

 

 

 

 


The First Amendment is Well and Truly Dead.

First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

NYC Policeman reaches over barricade and pulls hair of female protester

From the New York Daily News: Wall Street protesters cuffed, pepper-sprayed during ‘inequality’ march

Hundreds of people carrying banners and chanting “shame, shame” walked between Zuccotti Park, near Wall St., and Union Square calling for changes to a financial system they say unjustly benefits the rich and harms the poor.

Somewhere between 80 and 100 protesters were arrested, and according the Occupy Wall Street website, some of them were held in a police van for more than an hour, including a man with a severe concussion. Back to the Daily News article:

Witnesses said they saw three stunned women collapse on the ground screaming after they were sprayed in the face.

A video posted on YouTube and NYDailyNews.com shows uniformed officers had corralled the women using orange nets when two supervisors made a beeline for the women, and at least one suddenly sprayed the women before turning and quickly walking away.

Footage of other police altercations also circulated online, but it was unclear what caused the dramatic mood shift in an otherwise peaceful demonstration.

“I saw a girl get slammed on the ground. I turned around and started screaming,” said Chelsea Elliott, 25, from Greenpoint, Brooklyn, who said she was sprayed. “I turned around and a cop was coming … we were on the sidewalk and we weren’t doing anything illegal.”

It’s over folks. We live in a police state. The right of the people to “peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” is no longer recognized by the powers that be. In the age of the Patriot Act, peaceful protest is no longer permitted. The government requires that groups have a permit before they can gather on the sidewalks of New York. Oh, and BTW, a number of people were arrested yesterday because they filmed incidents of police brutality.

Via Yves at Naked Capitalism, Amped Status reports that Twitter is now following the example of the corporate media in ignoring or blocking information about peaceful protests in the U.S.

On at least two occasions, Saturday September 17th and again on Thursday night, Twitter blocked #OccupyWallStreet from being featured as a top trending topic on their homepage. On both occasions, #OccupyWallStreet tweets were coming in more frequently than other top trending topics that they were featuring on their homepage.

This is blatant political censorship on the part of a company that has recently received a $400 million investment from JP Morgan Chase.

We demand a statement from Twitter on this act of politically motivated censorship.

It’s all very exciting when Egyptians or Libyans protest their governments, but when it happens here, well, the media pretends its not happening. So much for the First Amendment.

In an op-ed at The New York Times yesterday, Michael Kazin asks: Whatever Happened to the American Left?

America’s economic miseries continue, with unemployment still high and home sales stagnant or dropping. The gap between the wealthiest Americans and their fellow citizens is wider than it has been since the 1920s.

And yet, except for the demonstrations and energetic recall campaigns that roiled Wisconsin this year, unionists and other stern critics of corporate power and government cutbacks have failed to organize a serious movement against the people and policies that bungled the United States into recession.

Instead, the Tea Party rebellion — led by veteran conservative activists and bankrolled by billionaires — has compelled politicians from both parties to slash federal spending and defeat proposals to tax the rich and hold financiers accountable for their misdeeds. Partly as a consequence, Barack Obama’s tenure is starting to look less like the second coming of F.D.R. and more like a re-run of Jimmy Carter — although last week the president did sound a bit Rooseveltian when he proposed that millionaires should “pay their fair share in taxes, or we’re going to have to ask seniors to pay more for Medicare.”

I’m sure Kazin is a good guy–after all he is a co-editor of Dissent Magazine and wrote a book on the changes the American Left has accomplished. His op-ed is a fine historical article, but still, he does mention Wisconsin. It might have been nice if he had noticed that some young people are attempting to organize a peaceful protest on Wall Street and are being victimized by brutal NYC police for their efforts. Perhaps Kazin didn’t know about the NYC protests because of the media blackout.

At the Guardian UK, David Graeber had some kind words for the Wall Street protesters.

Why are people occupying Wall Street? Why has the occupation – despite the latest police crackdown – sent out sparks across America, within days, inspiring hundreds of people to send pizzas, money, equipment and, now, to start their own movements called OccupyChicago, OccupyFlorida, in OccupyDenver or OccupyLA?

There are obvious reasons. We are watching the beginnings of the defiant self-assertion of a new generation of Americans, a generation who are looking forward to finishing their education with no jobs, no future, but still saddled with enormous and unforgivable debt. Most, I found, were of working-class or otherwise modest backgrounds, kids who did exactly what they were told they should: studied, got into college, and are now not just being punished for it, but humiliated – faced with a life of being treated as deadbeats, moral reprobates.

Is it really surprising they would like to have a word with the financial magnates who stole their future?

I salute the young men and women from Occupy Wall Street who are fighting back as best they can against corporate-fascist law enforcement and the corporate-controlled media. I really hope it’s not too late for these young people to make a difference.


Monday Reads

Good Morning!

There’s some news up from Wikileaks and WAPO on the current status of detainees held at Gitmo that I thought worth mentioning.  First, WAPO had a big feature up on Sunday explaining why Obama may have difficulty dealing with the remaining detainees and why the the facility hasn’t been closed.

This account of the unraveling of Obama’s pledge to close Guantanamo is based on interviews with more than 30 current and former administration officials, as well as members of Congress and their staff, members of the George W. Bush administration, and activists. Many of them would speak about internal or sensitive deliberations only on the condition of anonymity.

The one theme that repeatedly emerged in interviews was a belief that the White House never pressed hard enough on what was supposed to be a signature goal. Although the closure of Guantanamo Bay was announced in an executive order, which Obama signed on Jan. 22, 2009, the fanfare never translated into the kind of political push necessary to sustain the policy. “Vulnerable senators weren’t going out on a limb and risk being Willie Hortonized on Gitmo when the White House, with the most to lose, wasn’t even twisting arms,” said a senior Democratic aide whose boss was one of 50 Democrats to vote in 2009 against funding to close Guantanamo. “They weren’t breathing down our necks pushing the vote or demanding unified action.”

UK’s The Telegraph  has this latest Wikileak on the detainees themselves and the loosie goosie rationale used to hold them. It now seems that many will never see trial let alone a release date.

Al-Qaeda terrorists have threatened to unleash a “nuclear hellstorm” on the West if Osama Bin Laden is caught or assassinated, according to documents to be released by the WikiLeaks website, which contain details the interrogations of more than 700 Guantanamo detainees.

However, the shocking human cost of obtaining this intelligence is also exposed with dozens of innocent people sent to Guantanamo – and hundreds of low-level foot-soldiers being held for years and probably tortured before being assessed as of little significance.

Both articles are long but well-worth the read. There is additional information in the NYT in their “Guantanamo Files” section that demonstrates the unreliability of information gained through torture. It also shows how many of the detainees were held or considered risks.  You’ll be horrified by the thin evidence. Just about anything was considered proof of Al Quaeda membership.

The guide shows how analysts seized upon the tiniest details as a potential litmus test for risk. If a prisoner had a Casio F91W watch, it might be an indication he had attended a Qaeda bomb-making course where such watches were handed out — though that model is sold around the world to this day. (Likewise, the assessment of a Yemeni prisoner suggests a dire use for his pocket calculator: “Calculators may be used for indirect fire calculations such as those required for artillery fire.”) A prisoner caught without travel documents? It might mean he had been trained to discard them to make identification harder, the guide explains. A detainee who claimed to be a simple farmer or a cook, or in the honey business or searching for a wife? Those were common Taliban and Qaeda cover stories, the analysts were told. And a classic Catch-22: “Refusal to cooperate,” the guide says, is a Qaeda resistance technique.

While we’re already reading the Brit Press, I’d like to give a shout out to a really interesting article at The Independent which looks at the mystery that is Easter Island.  Evidently there is a new theory about the moai and the ecology on the island.

In their new book, The Statues that Walked: Unravelling the Mystery of Easter Island, to be published in June, Dr Lipo and Professor Hunt present their evidence that Polynesian colonists arrived in 1200, up to 800 years later than the conventional theory claims, and immediately modified the environment with slash-and-burn agriculture. The effect this had on the giant palm forest was magnified by the rats that arrived with them. The rodent population, feeding extensively on palm seeds, exploded. Dr Lipo argues that deforestation didn’t make things much worse for humans. Rapa Nui was no tropical paradise. It’s an old volcanic island and many of the nutrients in the soil had already been washed away. Burning the giant palms actually helped, but the settlers soon turned to a technique called stone mulching, in which freshly broken volcanic rocks are planted in the poor soil to add nutrients and cut down on erosion. The same people who used rock mulching and greeted the Dutch could have moved the moai from Rano Raraku, the quarry where they were carved, to the shore, he says. The statues seem designed to allow small groups of men to move them by rocking them, as you would a refrigerator. Similar suggestions have been made in the past, but experiments indicated that the moai would have been worn away by the time they got to the coast. Dr Lipo, aided by anthropologist Sergio Rapu, the island’s first native governor under Chilean rule, thinks he has found a way around this, with more rocking and less shuffling.

In some happy news, Representative Giffords has the okay from her doctors to watch the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavor.  The congresswoman’s recovery from shots to the head continues to astound many.

Friday, the Arizona congresswoman will witness her husband’s own inspiring moment: Commanding the space shuttle Endeavour on its last launch. Doctors have cleared Giffords, who was shot in the brain at a January 8 event in Tucson, to attend the scheduled launch in Florida, a source close to her said Sunday. The source told CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen that Giffords will be accompanied by a nurse. There will be no doctor or medical assistance on board. The source was not sure what kind of plane Giffords will be going on, but it will not be a commercial airliner. “She’ll probably be going either Wednesday or Thursday,” the source said. Asked by “The CBS Evening News With Katie Couric” what Giffords’ reaction was to the decision allowing her to go, Kelly replied, “I think she said, ‘awesome’ and she pumped her fist.”

The Democracy contagion in the MENA region continues.  Peaceful protesters in Morocco are demanding constitutional reforms.

Thousands of protesters have participated in rallies in cities across Morocco, demanding social and economic reforms. They called for an end to corruption, and want more jobs for the increasing number of university graduates who face joblessness. The peaceful protests are predominately working class in tone, demanding constitutional reforms and new parliamentary elections. The marches on Sunday were organised by the February 20 movement, which has led protests for the past two months, with support from Morocco’s best-known Islamist movement, Adl wal Ihsan, which is barred from politics in the North African kingdom. Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has already pledged changes to the constitution for the first time in 15 years, but protesters remain sceptical about the possibility of real change.

The government of Kuwait has donated $180 million to the rebels in Libya. They have not yet formally recognized the rebel shadow government but are trying to help within the limits of the UN resolution.

Kuwait on Sunday gave 50 million dinars ($180 million) to the Libyan opposition Transitional National Council (TNC), its chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil said. “This amount will help us pay part of the salaries of employees,” Jalil told reporters after talks with Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah. “We are in need of urgent assistance.” Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad Sabah al-Salem al-Sabah said “Kuwait will provide large and urgent humanitarian aid through the national council.” Sheikh Mohammad said Kuwait and the TNC “will work closely so that it becomes the legitimate channel of the Libyan people,” but stopped short of officially recognising the council. “Recognition is a secondary issue,” Abdel Hafiz Ghoqa, spokesman for the TNC in Benghazi told reporters, adding that the quality of cooperation with Kuwait showed the friendly nation’s “approval” for east Libya’s nascent government. France, Gambia, Italy and Qatar are the only countries so far to have recognised the TNC, Libya’s parallel government.

Isn’t it amazing how one storekeeper in Tunisia who was frustrated with his government turned into the spark that lit a match that put so many people on fire for democratic reform?   Most of these countries are either ruled by monarchs or dictators.  The middle class and well-educated are tired of no opportunity and all the looting of national treasure for the benefit of the very few.  Even with the violence and loss of life, it is exciting to read about ordinary people who have just had enough and are taking their future into their own hands.  It makes you want to fight for what we’re losing every day.

So, that should get things started!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?