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).
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.
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.
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
|Redlining map of St. Louis. |
Ferguson is clearly visible in the top right.
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?
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"
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.”