BTSF in chronological order (most recent articles appear first):

Monday, August 18, 2014

Michael Brown. Ferguson.

It's essential that you stay informed about what is happening in Ferguson. It's important that you hear the stories (the full stories), that you go beyond what is covered in the news. It's important that you not become entrapped by smear tactics of the empowered.

With this in mind, I am highlighting here some of the vital elements of Michael Brown's killing. So much of this is drawn on the brave reporting and lived experience of others. It's vital that you to go to the links, follow the twitter accounts, and actively support the folks I link to below.

.......

This is about the killing of young black man. He was not a suspect. He was walking down the street. Multiple independent and unrelated witness describe that he was shot multiple times from a distance with his hands up in surrender. No ambulance was called to the scene. Instead, the officer call in to dispatch for more officers, cars, and K-9s to be brought in from multiple precincts. Increased police presence incited anger and agitation, even as Michael Brown's was left on the street for hours (see this excellent video report).

Ferguson police declined to interview witnesses (but sure to listen to their testimony yourself). No incident report has been released for the shooting. The situation quickly escalated when police called in M-16s, armored trucks, tanks, tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper shots (not days later, but within hours of the shooting...before any violence from the crowd). 

Each evening, once the media packed up to go home, protestors became the targets of increased police violence. The morning news showed the protester aftermath and response, but not the police instigation of it. By Wednesday, increased media coverage revealed what the residents of Ferguson had been dealing with all along (another important video here). Even then, the media has been actively prevented from fully covering the police action in Ferguson.

Shortly thereafter, events seemed to take a turn for the better. Capt. Johnson showed a completely different approach by removing the riot gear and marching with the protesters. It set an entirely different tone. The protesters were the same, the anger was the same, the demands were the same. The police behavior changed and the situation drastically deescalated. But still no answers about Brown's killing.

The next day, there was a press conference to release the name of the cop who killed Michael Brown. They did so, but rather than releasing an incident report about cop Darren Wilson and the shooting, they released one of Brown allegedly shoplifting earlier that day. Instead of pictures from the crime scene, they showed footage from the shop's security camera. It was nothing short of character assassination of the victim.

As it turns out, Officer Wilson's approaching Michael Brown had nothing to do with the earlier incident. The videos from the convenience store are complete inadmissible in court. And police knew it. But the media coverage had already been effectively hijacked. But the court of public opinion? The biases of a jury? The perpetuation of victim blaming? The media? The video is still admissible for all those things. The narrative was crafted.

Thus, after four days of peaceful protest, the crowd was re-instigated. @thetrudz notes that "It takes a lot of practice to face the but of a gun and not physically defend yourself. They are learning as they go while under military siege...When someone harming you, the common reaction is physical self defense, if able. [Civil Rights Movement; CRM] activists were trained how not to react. This is hard...CRM had months of planning/training." (See also, The Cross and the Molotov Cocktail).

Over the weekend, curfews were imposed at midnight to stop the protests and to send the media home. These were intentionally violated as acts of civil disobedience and in a statement of free speech. Sunday evening, police fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and sound cannons into crowds with little to no warning. This was hours before the curfew was supposed to be in effect. Children were in the crowd, and were hit. Media were threatened. Residents used milk from McDonalds to treat victims' burning eyes. Monday morning the news described it as looting. The police said they were responding to  gunfire. It turns out it was fireworks.

Amnesty International has sent a delegation to Ferguson, the first time they have ever done so in the United States. Meantime, a private autopsy was released showing Michael Brown was shot six times. Several at long range (including into his palms), and some at short range (including the top of his 6'4" head).

For now, we're in a holding pattern. Each day continues a vicious cycle in which frustrated citizens are antagonized and frighted. They react. The police wait, do nothing to remedy the specific incidents of vandalism or disorder (the citizens are left to handle that), and then move in en masse against the entire crowd with tremendous force. The cycle continues. If things calm down in Ferguson, it will be because of the efforts of the clergy and key leaders in the protest, not through any of the aggressive actions of the police


#IfTheyGunnedMeDown
There are many aspects to this story. 
The criminalization of black bodies plays into this. 
This is reflected in fact that Michael Brown can be on trial for his own murder. That the surveillance videos can be used to imply that his killing was justified. White mass murderers are arrested, but a black boy will be shot on sight for walking in the street. Black victims will have their criminal records examined, their academic grades questioned, their parental upbringing challenged. It requires overcoming tremendous odds to prove to public opinion that a black victim did not deserve to be killed.

Earlier this month, John Crawford III was killed while holding a toy gun  in a Walmart in Ohio (an open carry state). He called out "it's not real," but it didn't matter. Meantime, white folk walk through Target with real assault rifles. And can you imagine what would happen if the protestors in Ferguson showed up like these guys? The double standard is extreme. And it's costing lives. The media and police can't (won't) differentiate between black/Brown bodies that are peacefully protesting and those of their criminalized stereotypes. Will you?

White media bias plays into this. 
Newsrooms are overwhelmingly white. Given well-established white undereducation about race, what makes us think they are qualified to cover these stories? Many are quick to suggest a black reporter might be biased. That itself reveals our own prejudice. Because dominant society considers a white perspective to be a 'default' and neutral stance, half the story is missing. 

Social media is often deemed untrustworthy, but in the absence of reporters, this is how most of the videos, images, and evidence has been made public. When mainstream media went home, or was turned away, this is how we heard what was going on. These platforms allowed individuals to get the word out, by providing access and amplification of Black voices that wouldn't otherwise exist.

History plays into this. 
Redlining map of St. Louis.
Ferguson is clearly visible in the top right.
All of this has happened before. The immediate decision to use riot gear and German Shepherds demonstrates the gross and callous insensitivity of the Ferguson police. And it has all been explained before (see Tupac Shakur and Malcolm X--the latter’s example played out again almost exactly in Ferguson in 2009). When Civil Rights history is glossed over in white schools and white society, the result is an uninformed, uncontextualized view of current events. We perpetuate the same violence we have been committing against Black neighborhoods for decades. This is the context for Ferguson. It's this sort of police behavior that Black citizens have dealt with years. And then Brown was shot.

White silence plays into this. 
If your family, community, or church has not consistently done the work of discussing and dismantling systems of racism, do not be 'shocked' when events like these occur or when white churches stay silent. How many white onlookers felt Brown's killing was being blown out of proportion? How many saw the protests as an overreaction? After so many calls 'to wait to get the facts,' from sources white folks could 'trust' (read: non-black sources), it turned out the facts were even worse than we feared. The more we hear the worse it gets. And in the meantime, the citizens of Ferguson have been struggling on their own.

Drew Hart reminds us (through Dietrich Bonhoeffer) that "the church was mute when it should have cried out, because the blood of the innocent cried out to heaven." Instead of sanctimoniously saying "wait, wait" (as the white clergy did in Birmingham), listen to the lived experiences of black folk that tell us the reality of the world in which we live.

Laila Lalami notes "If you want to learn about privilege in this country, you only need to ask who gets the benefit of the doubt." Take note when your mind says "yeah, but..." or "we need a balance" or "we should get the full story." Consider where these instincts come from, and in whose favor they likely are. Who does your instinct tell you to believe? Who is it your instinct to correct? Are you more likely to be directing your critiques at the oppressed or the oppressor? Do you actually want peace? Or just quiet?

Don't be tricked into thinking you're playing 'devils advocate,' when you're simply reiterating the position of power and maintaining the marginalization of the oppressed. Instead, be skeptical of your reactions. We live in an "intensely physically segregated country." White folk that believe police treat black and brown people fairly, aren't around enough to notice. Christena Cleveland notes (through MLK) that "it is hardly a moral act to encourage others patiently to accept injustice which he himself does not endure." You have a choice. Who are you going to believe? The oppressed or the oppressor? The powerful or the powerless? 

Sure, there are complexities and caveats. But those aren't the voices that need amplifying--they're already getting plenty of coverage. Many of us only get our news from the seats of power. Media that is operating under the assumption of a post-racial world. Media that arrives in with preconceived notions of who is violent and who is in the right.

..........

At the center of it all, it's still about Michael Brown, a young man who was killed in cold blood by a cop who has not been detained or arrested. Don't lose sight of that.

Take the time to read the links above. He's worth that. The lives of our sisters and brothers deserve that. And some of us have a lot of history to catch up on.

What followed Brown's death, simply revealed to the world what Ferguson (and the rest of Black America) has known for years. Decades. Centuries. And our citizens will still be stuck with a dangerous & racist police force "protecting" them tomorrow. Black Girl Dangerous reminds us that "this happens every 28 hours. There's already been another unarmed Black person killed since Mike Brown"

Don't go back to forgetting. Don't go back to being 'shocked' that something like this could happen. Black and brown folk know they still need to be wary of police, and an innocent boy is still dead. These facts have not, and will not, change over the next weeks and months of Ferguson's story.

Khaled Bey notes that "a dead teen & a decimated community shouldn't be needed for a national conversation on institutionalized racism within police departments." If you’re just starting to listen, lament that it took yet another gunned-down boy and the militarization of a city to get your attention.

What we need now is justice. We need an official autopsy report. We need an interrogation. We need an arrest. We need a legitimate trial. We need safety for our black sisters and brothers. We need the lives of murdered restored. We don't have any of these things. Some of them we will never get.

“They dress the wound of my people
as though it were not serious.
‘Peace, peace!’ they say,
when there is no peace.”
-Jeremiah 6:14


28 comments:

  1. Thank you for bringing clarity and a call ...

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  2. I've been discussing this with my husband and one of the problems we keep running into with racism/segregation is what do we do? It is one thing to know that there's a problem. But what steps do we take that will prevent something like this from occurring in the future? Because eventually this is going to fade from the media and then what? Back to the same old routine? What do ordinary people do to stop this from repeating?

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  3. These are the essential questions! Thank you for raising them! Shaun King's petition (https://www.change.org/petitions/president-barack-obama-please-enact-new-federal-laws-to-protect-citizens-from-police-violence-and-misconduct) offers some really good changes that would go a long way to affecting change. Particularly #4 has been show to drastically reduce incidents like theses:

    1. The shooting and killing of an unarmed citizen who does not have an outstanding warrant for a violent crime should be a federal offense.

    2. Choke holds and chest compressions by police (what the coroner lists as the official cause of homicide for Eric Garner) should be federally banned.

    3. All police officers must wear forward-facing body cameras while on duty. They cost just $99 and are having a significant, positive impact in several cities around the United States and the world.

    4. Suspensions for violations of any of the above offenses should be UNPAID.

    5. Convictions for the above offenses should have their own set of mandatory minimum penalties. The men who killed Diallo, Bell, Grant, Carter, Garner, and others all walk free while over 1,000,000 non violent offenders are currently incarcerated in American prisons.

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  4. Okay. I saw the petition just after I posted. I'll definitely have to get this in front of more people. Are there any other steps one can take?

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  5. This article is so thorough with so many important links and pieces of information that really shed light on what is going on in #Ferguson and in our black communities around the country.

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  6. Some thoughts:

    Donations are being accepted at the Michael Brown Memorial Fund: http://www.gofundme.com/justiceformikebrown

    There is a food drive for the students in Ferguson who depend on school lunches for meals (which they can't get now, since school has been canceled): https://fundly.com/feed-the-students-of-ferguson?ft_src=twtshare

    What Ferguson also needs is supplies (groceries, toilet paper etc...all being blocked from getting it atm). If you know anyone in the St. Louis area, contact them and see what channels have been set up for these things.

    They also need help in swaying the court of public opinion. Publicly supporting them can go a long way to getting friends to reconsider how they see the situation. There may be vigils and protest in nearby areas. If not, you may be able to start one and raise the issue of police behavior in your own community (this important for black and brown folks, as well as those living in poverty).

    You can also donate to the ACLU (https://www.aclu.org/) or the Southern Poverty Law Center (https://donate.splcenter.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=463)

    And be sure to remember all of the things we are seeing and learning when election season rolls around.

    Some other ideas here: http://heartlandunderdog.blogspot.com/2014/08/HelpFerguson.html

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  7. Thank you. I'll try to continue to keep it up to date. So many important stories that need to be heard.

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  8. Helpful and important resource. Thank you.

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  9. Diamanical JohnsonAugust 18, 2014 at 7:12 PM

    You correctly pointed out that when the officer approached Michael Brown it had nothing to do with the robbery, However, Brown did not know that, he already had felony charges with a gun from 2013, this may have been his 3rd strike. In any event he was not going to go down for that robbery no matter what and resisted, violently. The autopsy discredits all the 8 shots in the back testimony, it goes a long way to discredit the hands up in the air, because of the entry point in arm. How about some truth in your blog.

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  10. Diamanical JohnsonAugust 18, 2014 at 7:20 PM

    I'm sure that it matters none to you all but since the roles are reversed here...

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  11. Roosevelt MaldonadoAugust 18, 2014 at 10:01 PM

    IF YOU WANT TO CHANGE POLICY, PLACE CAMERAS ON POLICE OFFICERS UNIFORM, LIKE THE DASH CAM, AND I BET YOU COPS WILL THINK TWICE BEFORE THEY ABUSE THEIR AUTHORITY!!!

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  12. Stop.
    No criminal record, much less a felon: http://www.bizjournals.com/stlouis/news/2014/08/13/michael-brown-had-no-criminal-record.html

    Autopsy report: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/18/us/michael-brown-autopsy-shows-he-was-shot-at-least-6-times.html

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  13. Thanks for your kind words. Hopefully it helps spread the stories

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  14. Consider this:

    A killing spree was perpetrated on May 23, 2014, in Isla Vista, California, near the campus of University of California, Santa Barbara, by 22-year-old Elliot Rodger. Rodger killed six people and injured thirteen others before committing suicide.[1][2]

    The spree began when Rodger stabbed to death three men in his apartment. Leaving the scene in his car, he drove to a sorority house, where he shot four people outside, killing two female students. He drove to a nearby delicatessen and shot to death a male student who was inside. He then sped through Isla Vista, shooting at pedestrians and wounding several of them, and striking four others with his car. Rodger exchanged gunfire with police twice during the killing spree, receiving a non-fatal gunshot to the hip.[2] The rampage ended when his car crashed into a parked vehicle and came to a stop. Police found him dead in the car, with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.[3][4][5]

    So....the police aren't going to shoot to kill someone who is going on a massive killing spree (they shot him in the hip) but they shoot an unarmed black man five to six times to kill him? Do you not consider that a problem? Or what of the other incident of the black man who was shot for holding a toy gun? What did he do to merit death? As for the example you cite (Robert Arnold/James Whitehead)...of which you give no clarification, can you prove to us that this incident is something that happens often across communities so much so that it is a recognized pattern with countless other examples just like it...as is the case with unarmed black men? Or do you in fact have countless examples of police shooting and killing unarmed white men for bucking authority..."getting mouthy" as you said?


    You mention that the police were just responding to an attitude problem..."The policeman told them to get out of the road and on the sidewalk, since this policeman was white this was an automatic 'dis' and had to be deal with accordingly, so instead of following this legal, reasonable simple request they got mouthy " 'cause ain't no white mofo gonna be tellin' us what to do ", which is the mentality that these kids are raised by. The policeman then tried to detain Brown who reacted violently and attempted to get away because he was worried about the robbery and being apprehended for it...

    ...
    ...
    Question: When a seventeen and eighteen year old white male also gets mouthy and bucks authority...a common trait found in most men of that age...does he merit the same treatment? Or do you really think having the wrong attitude is deserving of death?


    Or do you still think the police officer was just doing his job and that this was proper procedure?

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  15. Richard Worden WilsonAugust 19, 2014 at 1:04 AM

    It really isn't clarity to use the term "murder" before the facts are presented, it is a whole lot more like incitement.

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  16. Richard Worden WilsonAugust 19, 2014 at 2:09 AM

    I would like to suggest that without the peace of Jesus there is not likely to be much justice, in this particular case or in the many other circumstances of violent conflict and loss of life today, wherever shalom is disrupted. Peacemaking in the way of Jesus requires a lot more than a litany rehearsing the problems. No peace with Jesus implies there is no godly justice to be seen in this world; no peace, no justice. Perhaps we need fewer MennoNerds and more JesusGeeks; less of us and more of Jesus. JS

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  17. Richard Worden WilsonAugust 19, 2014 at 2:12 AM

    OK, I said this as a Reply below (above?). but want it to stand alone:
    I would like to suggest that without the peace of Jesus there is not
    likely to be much justice, in this particular case or in the many other
    circumstances of violent conflict and loss of life today, wherever
    shalom is disrupted. Peacemaking in the way of Jesus requires a lot more
    than a litany rehearsing the problems or systemic solutions. "Peace without Jesus" suggests
    there will be "no godly justice" to be seen in this world; no peace, no
    justice. Perhaps we need fewer MennoNerds and more JesusGeeks; less of
    us and more of Jesus. JS

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  18. This is such a pathetic and sad excuse for journalism. You start this article by stressing the importance of staying informed and getting the "full story". You then immediately start telling ONE side of the story, and leaving out key pieces of information, to scew people's opinions and support your claims. You fail to mention how these "multiple witnesses" have been almost completely discredited by the autopsy reports. Remember he was running away and shot in the back? Maybe the racist cop also had magical bullets, who knows. You don't mention any other witness reports claiming brown rushed the officer, although the evidence we do have seems to support those claims a lot more than the he was surrendering or shot in the back claims. Also in the presser they specifically said the officer knew nothing about the robbery. It didn't just "turn out" that way later, they were very upfront that Wilson knew nothing of the robbery when he stopped brown. These two instances of blatent miss interpretation of the real story and the facts come within the first few paragraphs of you saying how important staying informed is.

    Ignorant writers like you are the reason people DONT get the full story, and don't stay informed. This article informed me that you will lie and use another death to push your race agenda. Do the world a favor and stop writing completely. Everyone who read this article is now dumber, and more misinformed. Great job.

    Try and say I'm wrong, I dare you.

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  19. This after the blogger starts off by saying how important staying informed and knowing the full story is. Then proceeds to completely missinform by only giving part of the story.

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  20. IMPORTANT NEW INFORMATION: #MichaelBrown #DarrenWilson #Ferguson "FBI agents have successfully canvassed the area around the shooting scene for witnesses and are sharing what they’ve learned with St. Louis County investigators, said Richard G. Callahan, U.S Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri. An autopsy by a top U.S. military forensic examiner was completed on Monday and “physical evidence is being analyzed.”

    "THERE ARE NO PLANS, HOWEVER, TO MAKE THE DETAILS OF THE INVESTIGATION PUBLIC before the information is presented to a St. Louis County GRAND JURY—a PROCESS THAT WILL TAKE WEEKS OR MONTHS. Callahan acknowledged the tension between the needs of investigators and the demands of the media and protesters.

    “The modern 24-hour news cycle hampers law enforcement’s ability to conduct a successful investigation,” he said, because HASTY OR PARTIAL RELEASES OF INFORMATION CAN TAINT THE TESTIMONY OF WITNESSES.

    “While the lack of details surrounding the shooting may frustrate the media and breed suspicion among those already distrustful of the system, those CLOSELY GUARDED DETAILS GIVE LAW ENFORCEMENT THE BEST YARDSTICKS FOR MEASURING WHETHER WITNESSES ARE TRUTHFUL," Callahan said. “Without those yardsticks, an investigation becomes more of a guessing game or popularity contest than a search for the truth.”

    ALL CAPS mine for emphasis.

    By withholding information gleaned from the investigation investigators can "quiz" purported witnesses and learn just how much they truly saw and remembered versus what they recently heard and are now repeating versus how much they're just making up to fit their preferred narrative based upon their inherent bias!!!!

    "St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch will likely present the information to the grand jury, which will decide whether to indict Wilson. If the officer is cleared of wrongdoing, results of the investigation will become public record under Missouri’s Sunshine Law. If Wilson is charged with a crime, it’s possible that ASPECTS OF THE CASE WILL REMAIN SECRET UNTIL HIS TRIAL."

    http://time.com/3144985/ferguson-michael-brown-darren-wilson-us-attorney/

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  21. Diamanical JohnsonAugust 19, 2014 at 4:29 PM

    He was in a car exchanging gunfire with the police, Do you KNOW they were aiming at his hip?.
    It is _possible_ that Brown continued charging the officer after being hit, in fact there is testimony from a resident of the housing project that corroborates that possibility, it is in the background of a video clip that was posted by another resident.


    Shooting someone for not getting on the sidewalk is unacceptable, it seems that you really want to hear that because you are stressing on it so, but that is not what happened.


    The policeman told them to get out of the road. Rather than just follow this reasonable request/order they told the cop that they would be where they were going in a minute. What kind of mentality does it take to want to hold everyone up for yourself, if you have any doubts or reservations that the refusal didn't have anything to do with it being a cop or a white cop or a combination of the two you are delusional. The police officer most certainly was doing his job when he asked them to get out of the road, but they were not having it and were not going to cooperate. When the police officer came at them Brown reacted, not as a person that was being confronted with something akin to jaywalking but more like someone that says "Fuck me, I'm not going down for a robbery" and there was a struggle and a confrontation. It has nothing to do with what the cop knew at the time, it was what Brown knew and thought was happening that caused him to react the way he did.


    That is the most likely scenario given all the known facts.


    We already know that he wasn't shot 3-5 times in the back , we know that he wasn't shot 6 times in the back while he was on his knees with his hands up, or 8 times in the back while running away as some of these 'eyewitnesses' have said.
    The family's autopsy at least the preliminary one disproves all of those, and is not conclusive as to whether his hands were up in the air or down but looking at the entry point I have to say it doesn't look like they were raised in the air.


    Question: Do you think that a police officer of 6 years with no prior disciplinary actions would for no other reason than he woke up that day and wanted to go out and kill him a black boy would do so in broad daylight where he was?

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  22. Let's be clear, I'm not a journalist. But the people I link to are. I'm not saying you're wrong...but they are.

    http://www.newsweek.com/what-we-learned-michael-browns-autopsy-265247
    http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2014/08/_5_eyewitness_accounts_of_michael_brown_s_shooting.html
    http://online.wsj.com/articles/police-name-darren-wilson-as-officer-in-ferguson-missouri-michael-brown-shooting-1408108371

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  23. Diamanical JohnsonAugust 19, 2014 at 5:38 PM

    Did you read the entire story?
    It has plenty of misinformation and conjecture and refers to Brown as being murdered yet all of the facts are not there. The article is laden with hatred and disdain for white people although cleverly weaved in there subtly as possible.

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  24. Thanks for recognizing the petition i forwarded to you. Thanks for your work in anti-racism. Bless you.

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  25. What we do know is an unarmed teen was shot execution style and there needs to be justice.

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  26. Thank you for passing it along!

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  27. @BTSF: Hope you pass it along as well.

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