Another day, another young black man dead.
Saturday afternoon, Michael Brown was walking home with a friend in Ferguson, Missouri, a predominantly black suburb of St Louis. According to the friend, a cop pulled up to them in a truck and yelled at them to get back on the sidewalk, to which they replied that they were close to home anyway & weren’t holding up any traffic. Since going by the pictures of the area it’s a residential neighborhood, this makes obvious sense. However, rather that swallow his pride & head to the nearest donut shop, the cop according to multiple witnesses — the friend with Mike and others — got enraged enough to swerve his vehicle in front of them, fling open his door so quick it hit Brown & bounced back, then reach out the window & grab Brown attempting to choke him.
Now, naturally when someone is trying to strangle you, you try to get away, which he did. The cop reacted by firing multiple times at someone running away, unarmed. Hit but still alive, Mike stopped, threw his hands up, & proclaimed that he was not armed. With ones hands up in the air, and already with a bullet wound, you would think that the idea of being a threat would be absolutely Looney Toons. Well, not to that cop: he stood over Michael Brown and fired several more times.
Michael Brown, 18, was merely walking in the street. For that, he was executed in public, then his corpse was left exposed in the road for several hours. Like roadkill. Try to imagine the psychological effect of that, the message it sends about the perceived worth of their lives. I’ve literally seen squashed armadillos picked up faster.
A protest & vigil came up, as tends to occur whenever this happens (and it does happen a lot). The reaction of the police to this was to run their vehicles over the vigil & threaten the protesters. By the way: you may have heard from some media sources that the protesters were chanting “kill the police” — this has already been debunked by others who were there. Though honestly I wouldn’t blame them if they did.
Amidst images of cops wielding dogs at peaceful protesters with their hands up, SWAT vehicles rolling around and the deployment of pretty much military gear, somewhere along the line some rioting and looting took place. I admit, I used to be more skeptical of such things. I had partially internalized the view that concerned itself with Sending The Wrong Message, the view that playing ball with respectability politics was the thing to do. That was a long time ago though. I see how people that follow that idea are treated no different, and have concluded that to the police, to the system, to the state, dissent is in and of itself seen as a violent act regardless of the actual behavior conducted. If we are going to be brutalized regardless, why bother with the distinctions? Desperate times an’ all that…
To just be brutally honest here, only bone I have to pick with those that did the rioting aspect was their target. I recall reading about a situation in Mexico awhile back where a town long abused by a corrupt police force actually armed themselves and ran the cops out. If the ostensible point of the 2nd Amendment is indeed as tea party types describe it, as defense against tyranny at the hands of the state, then surely they’d sympathize if the people of Ferguson did such thing, maybe even support them, right?
(insert sound effect of crickets here)
In the days since, the police state has ramped up in its visibility like a giant moth emerging from a cocoon. Cops are waving around automatic weapons and in full gear for war:
They’ve taken to threatening, then banning media from the area (so much for that 1st Amendment, huh…). Ferguson, Missouri even has its airspace restricted for the benefit of the police. You know, the terrain may be different, but this whole thing shrieks echos of the IDF invasion of Gaza, or the US invasion of Iraq. When hawkish politicians speak of places overseas as training areas for violent extremists though, I strongly doubt this is what they had in mind, despite its truth. Even torture is a line that has long been crossed, as the case of former Chicago police commissioner Jon Burge proves. The streets of America are treated like war zones, and people are beaten or slaughtered for approaching someone with a badge & uniform with anything beyond “Yes, massa”… yet police act puzzled when Stop Snitching is a thing. Well, who wants to be seen as a collaborator with the occupying forces, with the enemy?
The scene at the top, with the officer’s quote to the protesters, is illuminating. Animals. That’s what they think we are. We’re animals in a cage, & they are the zoo keepers. Well, Mr zoo keeper, here’s our response: we’re getting hungry.
Update 8/13/14: Ferguson’s chief of police happened to mention today during a press conference that the town hasn’t had a murder in the past year (except for, y’know, the one that cop committed in broad daylight with witnesses). In fact, the amount of murders there going back to 2000 don’t even break single digits in a year, with the peak being five in 2011. There were also zero murders there in 2010 — Branson, MO was actually a more deadly place to be that year. Place that with the dehumanizing warmonger attitude the cops have towards the residents, & let the two bounce around in your noggin a bit…