Nel's New Day

August 13, 2014

Protests Might Make a Difference – Stop the Brutality

Ferguson, Missouri, is a suburb of St. Louis. Two-thirds of its population of 21,203 is black, but four out of five city council members are white. The black superintendent of schools was forced out for unknown reasons last November and replaced by a white man. Of the 53 police officers, 50 are white, yet blacks account for 93 percent of the arrests.  Of the 54 police officers, 52 of them are white. As Rachel Maddow pointed out in this video, the police officers’ prejudice against people of color in this town has been rampantly open for many years. The situation came to a tipping point four days ago when a town police officer killed Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, possibly by shooting him in the back ten times.

When people gathered in protest after the teenager’s killing, police fired tear gas at them, sometimes when people were standing in their own backyards. The FAA banned air travel under 3,000 feet over the town from August 12-18. Yesterday morning, police claimed that the man who was shot and critically wounded by a St. Louis County police officer had pointed a handgun at the officer. A woman was also shot in the head and wounded. Looting has been reported, but townspeople say that these are not by Ferguson’s residents. These photos show the police in this small town.

Police Shooting Missouri

Witnesses to the killing say that Brown and a friend were stopped by a police officer for walking in the middle of the street. Brown’s hands were in the air when the last shots were fired, according to the witnesses. Police claimed that Brown was fighting over the officer’s gun.

One of the peaceful protesters tear gassed Monday was Missouri State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal. Yesterday afternoon she asked Police Chief Tom Jackson if she would be gassed again. There was no response until he discovered she is a State Senator when he looked shocked and said, “I hope not.”

tank with people in front

The armored mine-resistant vehicle and riot gear-clad officers give the impression of a war zone rather than police employed to protect citizens. There was no violence when police lobbed tear gas into groups of demonstrators and journalists. Journalist Radley Balko wrote in his book The Rise of the Warrior Cop:

“Law-enforcement agencies across the U.S., at every level of government, have been blurring the line between police officer and soldier. Driven by martial rhetoric and the availability of military-style equipment—from bayonets and M–16 rifles to armored personnel carriers—American police forces have often adopted a mind-set previously reserved for the battlefield.”

The federal government sent billions in surplus military equipment during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to state and local police departments. Since 2006, they have acquired 435 armored vehicles, 533 planes, 93,763 machine guns, and 432 mine-resistant armored trucks–$4.3 billion worth of equipment. Military equipment in these police agencies increased from $1 million in 1990 to almost $450 million in 2013.

With all this hardware, police departments are looking for more reasons to use SWAT teams and other heavy-handed tactics. Search warrants seem to be a good excuse; 79 percent of SWAT deployments from 2011 to 2012 are for this purpose. The result is sometimes death, as in the case of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, a seven-year-old killed during the SWAT team attempting to deliver a search warrant in Detroit.

swat police girl in teal shirt

Recruiting videos for SWAT teams feature images of officers “storming into homes with smoke grenades and firing automatic weapons,” according to The New York Times. SWAT teams resemble occupying forces and enact repressive, punitive policing.

Police have attempted to keep media out of Ferguson. St. Louis Alderman Antonio French wrote, “A line of police cars with high beams on greets anyone trying to enter #Ferguson. It’s shut down. No media allowed.” Two journalists, Ryan J. Reilly of The Huffington Post and Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post, were arrested. Although both of them were released unharmed, they were roughed up as they sat working in a McDonald’s. Reilly reported that the restaurant was quiet until the police officers came in.  Lowery had just filed this story when he was arrested.

loweryEarlier tonight, when asked on Twitter who he feared more, protesters or police, Lowery (right) replied: “easy answer, i’m a black man – the police.” L.A. Times reporter Matt Pearce said on Twitter that when he informed Ferguson’s police chief what he knew about the reporters’ arrests, he replied, “Oh, God.”

The police requested people to disperse at dark, but the town has no legal curfew. Snipers pointing their guns at unarmed civilians throughout the afternoon. As I write this, police are firing tear gas canisters into the crowds who are using the hands-up signal of “don’t shoot.” It looks like a war scene out of Iraq.

Otherwise, there’s little news coming out of Ferguson. The police have said they will not release the name of the police shooter—although many people know the name in this small town—and will not reveal any other information until after the toxicology report which could take at least four weeks.

Two days after the killing of Michael Brown, two LAPD officers shot and killed Ezell Ford. Mentally handicapped, the 24- or 25-year-old was unarmed and shot in the back, according to his mother. The first shooter, LAPD Cmdr. Andy Smith said, “Mr. Ford basically tackled one of our officers and went for his gun.”

Although the Ford shooting generated very little media notice, the killing of Michael Brown has gone around the world. The difference is that people protested. It’s time for us to worry about the injustices in the United States as well as in other countries.

1 Comment »

  1. Reblogged this on Civil Rights Advocacy and commented:
    Racial Brutality. Injustice. This all must stop.
    I think it’s way past time for every police department in this country to look at the racial, gender, and sexual orientation make-up of their law enforcement team. Unless the team truly look like, experience and understand the people they serve, this type of brutality will continue.


    Comment by civilrightsactivist — August 14, 2014 @ 8:03 AM | Reply

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