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.
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.
Some representative articles to read about recent events in Ferguson.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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, 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.
Royal Mayo, who has lived his entire life in Steubenville, Ohio spoke to a conservative publication, International Business Times (IBT) and made some shocking remarks about the victim in the high profile Steubenville rape case. Mays is a former president of the local chapter of the NAACP–he left the post in 2010–and is still a member of its “executive committee.” According to a statement given to IBT, he does not speak for the NAACP.
Mayo used the words “alleged victim,” referring to 16-year-old “Jane Doe” (whose name has not been published because she is a minor), despite the fact that two teenagers have already been convicted of raping her. He claims Jane Doe is at fault because she got drunk and willingly left a party to be with Trent Mays.
In a phone interview with the International Business Times, Mayo described the 16-year-old girl as the “alleged victim” and said she might have been having consensual sex. “She said her mother brought her to the party, at 3 o’clock, with a bottle of vodka,” Mayo said. “Where did you get it, young lady? You brought it from home? Where’d you get it? You came to the party with your mother.”
Mayo added that she might have been a willing participant, apparently unfazed by the inflammatory nature of such statements. “They’re alleging she got raped; she’s acknowledging that she wanted to leave with Trent. Her friends say she pushed them away as she went and got into the car, twice telling them, ‘I know what I’m doing; I’m going with Trent,’” Mayo said.
Mayo also claims the girl arrived at the party with her mother and a bottle of vodka. I’m not sure where he got that information. Mayo knows Ma’lik Richmond and his family and has counseled Richmond in the past.
“Back in August, when the rumors first started going around, I talked to Ma’lik, and he said, ‘No, Mr. Mayo, we didn’t do anything to that girl. I don’t know what these rumors are; I don’t understand it.’”
Naturally, I find Mayo’s victim blaming repulsive and way way beyond inappropriate, but I do think some of what he says about the police could have some validity even though he isn’t the best source for cover-up charges. He suggests that Mays and Richmond were singled out to be “sacrificed” because Richmond is black and poor and Mays is not from Steubenville–he was recruited from another county.
“You hear local people saying, ‘We got this out of the way, let us just heal, let the community start to heal.’ It’s like these two were sacrificed, the poor black kid and the white kid who is from the next county, in the next town over, who were sacrificed over all the other dirt and corruption that would be uncovered if you come into Steubenville,” Mayo says.
He claims that police had other DNA samples that were ignored and that a witness who testified he saw Richmond digitally penetrate the Jane Doe when she was unconscious–Evan Westlake–refused to give a DNA sample and police didn’t compel him to do so.
It’s true that the Steubenville Police Department has a history of corruption and racism. It was
the target of 48 civil-rights lawsuits over a 20-year period regarding issues such as false arrests, excessive force and police misconduct. As a result, it became only the second city in the country to be subject to a consent decree from the federal government. In its 1997 ruling, the Department of Justice stated, “The United States alleges that officers of the Steubenville Police Department have engaged in a pattern or practice of conduct that deprives persons of rights, privileges or immunities secured and protected by the Constitution and the laws of the United States and that the city of Steubenville, the Steubenville Police Department and the Steubenville city manager (in his capacity as director of public safety) have caused and condoned this conduct through inadequate policies and failure to train, monitor, supervise and discipline police officers and to investigate alleged misconduct.”
Mayo’s victim-blaming is getting the most attention in media reports so far; but some of his points about police misconduct may well have some merit. A Grand Jury will begin meeting in mid-April with a judge appointed from another Ohio county. There certainly are indications of a cover-up that may have benefited students whom Mayo calls “connected.” In addition to Westlake, you have to wonder why neither the boy at whose home the attack took place nor his parents have been charged with anything.
Let’s hope such suspicions will be thoroughly aired before the Grand Jury.
NOTE: At Salon.com, Mary Elizabeth Williams published a detailed statement from the national NAACP:
”The NAACP abhors the remarks attributed to Royal Mayo regarding the rape victim in the Steubenville. The remarks are Mayo’s own, and do not reflect the position of the NAACP and its membership.” Mayo is a member of the Ohio NAACP executive committee. The statement added, “Mr. Mayo is not the president of the Steubenville NAACP and is not a spokesman for the NAACP. The article attributing him as such has been corrected by the International Business Times. Rape is a despicable crime of violence. The NAACP understands that comments that blame victims for the actions of their attackers contribute to and perpetuate a culture of acquiescence to rape. The NAACP advocates strongly for a society where victims of rape and sexual assault can come forward and seek legal redress without further retribution from the community, media or society at large.”
UPDATE: Mayo is now claiming he never made any statements blaming the victim. From WRTF.com
A member of the Steubenville NAACP is claiming an article by the International Business Times is false when it claims he told them he blamed the victim of the Steubenville rape trial for the assault.
Royal Mayo tells WTRF.com he “absolutely never said that,” in reference to claims made in the article. In the article, Mayo also claims that other teens involved that night were let off easy, because they were “well-connected.”