Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hands Up! Don't Shoot!

Linked in this post and shown below, some of the news coverage of the last couple of weeks in Ferguson, Missouri where unarmed 17 year old Michael Brown was gunned down in the street by police officer Darren Wilson in front of eyewitnesses.  The Saint Louis teen was in town visiting his grandmother just days before beginning college, with an autopsy confirming reports that he had been shot at least 6 times, also showing that he was shot twice by Wilson in the head.  

The teen and a friend were walking in a quiet street when they were trailed by Darren Wilson in a police vehicle and told to get off the street.  Somehow Michael Brown wound up inside the vehicle with the police officer, a struggle ensued, and the teen got away, fleeing the officer, still unarmed, and before he was shot and killed from a distance.  Here, Michael Brown's friend tells press what happened.

As a horrified community gathered on August 9th at the grisly scene, authorities then left the teen's dead body lying in the middle of the street for at least several hours:

One young witness was on twitter when he saw Michael Brown shot and killed, sequentially reporting his observations in real time, as the gun was fired again and again and again into Michael Brown's body, and then, while confined to his nearby building by police, as he continued to witness the slain teen's father arrive and react.
Community leaders have been demanding that the officer in question be arrested for murder and that Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson resign.  Currently, Wilson has been on paid administrative leave, and Wednesday, as Attorney General Eric Holder arrived in town, having promised action, a grand jury has been scheduled to convene that same day in an investigation that could reportedly take months, while a police union representative stepped forward to (ironically) urge respect for Darren Wilson's due process rights.  
A number of civil rights leaders (e.g. Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, and Philip Agnew of Dream Defenders, among others) have flown into Ferguson, marching and meeting with community residents. 

Michael Brown's parents at a rally in Ferguson:
Some discussion of various issues below by local community leaders and activists:

Protests have been taking place day and night in this Missouri area just outside Saint Louis where most residents are black, yet practically all police officers are white.  Racism is reportedly such an issue in the local police department that one of the few African American police officers in Ferguson, 27 year veteran Captain Ron Johnson, was himself moved to join in with the marching protesters before taking a lead community role urging calm, speaking at a local church gathering, and later seen negotiating order between demonstrators and law enforcement authorities.  

Photo from a livestream:

Some Ferguson protest scenes below, including a makeshift voter registration table urging civic involvement.  Protesters also turned out the following morning to help clean up from protests the night before.

The raised matter of calm appeared questionable, as most protesters have been peaceful, with the issues they demand justice on, quite legitimate.  On looting, interestingly enough, Walmart electronics was reported as a major Ferguson target - perhaps what really inspired this massive militarized show of force - against people for things - not even against looters, but citizens exercising their Constitutional rights.  

Indeed, many of these protesters were observed protecting smaller businesses seemingly before the police did so, the police at that point, seemingly more concerned with the marchers - any looters, by then, the raison d'ĂȘtre for quashing innocent protesters' Constitutional rights. 

Below, Ferguson Market shown protected by "Hands Up! Don't Shoot!" protesters:

In the tweet below, community members peacefully but firmly protect a local beauty business:

I don't know if the following photo shows the same beauty business, or a different small beauty business, but this later tweet shows police in charge of guarding a local beauty business,
Walmart, now shown below, after massive militarized police response was summoned, and while meanwhile, over in Ohio, a 21 year old Walmart customer is shot and killed by a policeman in the store.

Protests against Michael Brown's killing spread quickly throughout the U.S., from New York City, where numbers swelled considerably, to a light brigade over a midwestern highway, a silent Pacific Northwest vigil, and captured with a defiant fist thrust in the air, to New Orleans where protesters (seen in the youtube below) entered the police department itself vigorously chanting, "Hands Up! Don't Shoot!" - while holding their hands up in surrender - and expressing the unified sentiment of this coast-to-coast outcry - that an unarmed individual who had, at the most, been jaywalking, had, for all purposes, been summarily executed for doing so, in the middle of that street, in the United States of America.  Most certainly, among reasons, because he was black, and the police officer, a white racist.

The racists of all racists seemed to agree, declaring with their usual ugliness that they were heading into Ferguson, and that they were fundraising for Wilson:

In all fairness to descriptions of public sentiment, the Pew Research Institute released poll results showing that whites tend to view race as an all-too-pervasive emphasis in the Ferguson story, while blacks tend to view race as all-too-relevant to the issues.

Here, I'm not sure what happened to all the other groups.  The poll also does not indicate, on the "face of things," whether or not subjects saw their own due process rights at issue in discussion (and as to what must surely and also concern penalties for jaywalking).  

For a great deal of mainstream coverage centered on the growing militarization of police departments around the U.S., and as the police response in Ferguson often resembled more of a military response to demonstrators protected under the First Amendment, than an initial response to angry looters and occasional bottle throwers.  For example, while some certainly resembled police officers (engaged in a questionable crackdown nevertheless, along with now widely criticized police training),

others, like county police, appeared virtually indistinguishable, at a close distance, from U.S. armed servicemen setting foot in .. perhaps Iraq?  The uncomfortable collective sentiment, that they were being set down, this time, say, not on foreign soil, but amidst their very own fellow Americans .. and to quell Constitutionally protected and legitimately growing dissent.  

In the meantime, more journalists were cursed, threatened, and arrested, and Amnesty International observers came in,

All, too, as *armed forces* shot at peaceful protesters and journalists, among other projectiles, late Cold War era tear gas canisters landing on residential streets and front yards, and as citizens fled, collected, photographed, tweeted, and analyzed the remnants.

The short end of that tale that, not only is this stuff "no joke," to begin with, but that stuff was phased out by the U.S. in favor of "safer gas," though it landed in the hands of Yemini security forces, too, who used it against spring 2011 protesters "causing extreme reactions including convulsions and muscle spasms. The physical effects among protesters were so severe that they initially believed they were being hit with nerve gas."

So went the response in Ferguson, Missouri to justifiable community outrage, and even as the majority of U.S. protesters were non-violent, with many restoring any needed order themselves. A curfew, also known as martial law, was imposed by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon under wide spread criticism, opposed and then removed, while the National Guard was also summoned in.

The hauntingly eloquent J. Cole Michael Brown tribute, Be Free, that has gone viral:

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