By Doug Porter
In Ferguson, Missouri an unarmed young man was gunned down in the street last Saturday by a police officer. According to multiple witnesses 18 year old Mike Brown was shot multiple times, even after he faced the officer and raised his hands. His body lay in the street in the August sun for four hours after the shooting.
People who live in that community believe the shooting was just another example of the racism they face everyday. Ferguson’s population is near two-thirds African-American; just three of the 53 officers on the police force are not white. The authorities have done nothing but confirm their worst fears at every turn.
For the past four nights there have been confrontations between police and demonstrators. Last night things escalated. Following a announcement from a bulhorn on top of an armored vehicle saying “your right to demonstrate is not being obstructed” there were unprovoked police attacks on crowds and in the surrounding neighborhoods using smoke bombs, tear gas, stun granades and rubber bullets.
Much later in the evening, according Reuters, molotov cocktails were thrown back at police. There were definitely rocks being thrown from the crowd facing police. Not that the police sniper up on top of the armored car was provocative or anything.
The police also turned on the press and even elected officials observing the confrontations. Reporters from the Washington Post and Huffington Post were roughed up and detained. A TV crew from Al Jazeera (well out of the way) was fired upon with tear gas and police then dismantled their equipment. (Picture of cameras being dismantled below)
Here’s Jelani Cobb, writing in the New Yorker, on last night:
What transpired in the streets appeared to be a kind of municipal version of shock and awe; the first wave of flash grenades and tear gas had played as a prelude to the appearance of an unusually large armored vehicle, carrying a military-style rifle mounted on a tripod. The message of all of this was something beyond the mere maintenance of law and order: it’s difficult to imagine how armored officers with what looked like a mobile military sniper’s nest could quell the anxieties of a community outraged by allegations regarding the excessive use of force. It revealed itself as a raw matter of public intimidation.
This morning Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced that St. Louis police would be pulled out of the community.
People in more than thirty cities around the country are participating in a national moment of silence, scheduled for 4pm PST this afternoon. The San Diego gathering place is at 3791 Fairmount Ave in City Heights.
Join us in San Diego, CA at the City Height Performance Annex. If you can, bring posters with the names of the fatal victims of police shootings and brutality both here in San Diego and nationally. No bullhorns or violent messages. Feel free to bring candles for the vigil. This is a peaceful event in memory of the victims.
The most comprehensive coverage of events in Ferguson that I’ve seen is being curated by Dana Lind at Vox.com.
Here’s the USA-Today account of eyewitness Dorian Johnson:
Johnson said the incident started around 1:40 p.m. Saturday when the officer pulled up beside the pair as they were walking down the street near his grandmother’s house.
“He didn’t say freeze, halt or anything like we were committing a crime,” Johnson told KSDK. “He said, ‘Get the ‘F’ on the sidewalk.'”
He said the officer, whose name has not been released, shoved open the car door, grabbed Brown around the neck and tried to pull him through the window. He said Brown never tried to reach for the officer’s weapon.
“The second time he says, ‘I’ll shoot.’ A second later the gun went off and he let go,” Johnson said. “That’s how we were able to run at the same time.”
Johnson said he ducked behind a car as the officer continued shooting at them, hitting Brown in the back.
“His (Brown’s) hands immediately went into the air and he turned around to the officer,” Johnson recalled. “My friend started to tell the officer that he was unarmed and that he could stop shooting (him). Before he could get his second sentence out, the officer fired several more shots into his head and chest area. He fell dramatically into the fatal position. I did not hear once he yell freeze, stop or halt. it was just horrible to watch.”
— nevena jovanovic✨ (@nevenator_) August 14, 2014
Here’s a long video taken last night:
Here’s a snippet from the Associated Press story fed to readers at UT-San Diego this morning. Notice how the molotov cocktails are mentioned as the event triggering police reaction. I watched this confrontation last night from a half dozen live streams: this AP story is utter bullshit.
Protests in the St. Louis suburb rocked by racial unrest since a white police officer shot an unarmed black teenager to death turned violent Wednesday night, with people lobbing Molotov cocktails at police who responded with smoke bombs and tear gas to disperse the crowd.
Not everybody jumped on the “this violence is horrible” bandwagon. Robert Stephens II posted “In Defense of the Ferguson Riots”at Jacobin, saying “The protesters in Ferguson aren’t irrational or apolitical. They are calling attention to their basic, unmet needs.”
From the Boston Tea Party to Shays’ Rebellion, riots made America, for better or worse. In the past, white rioters have had access to institutional power, which allowed some of their grievances to be legitimized and politically resolved, at least to extent possible in a capitalist society. The key for the Ferguson uprising, as with any unsustainable political moment, is to transition outrage and disruption into constructive political organization.
Easier said than done — but it’s a better reaction than dismissing the riots and only making it more difficult for the people to accomplish this herculean task.
Malcolm X reminds us that media is a key instrument of subjugation because it determines which acts are respectable and which are extreme and thus illegitimate. Instead of following that familiar script, let’s push back against narratives about rioters being devoid of politics. Let’s find ways to honestly observe and discuss their political needs, rather than simply criticizing the nature of their response to social violence.
Joan McCarter at Daily Kos has a posting up speaking to the issue of militarization of police in this country.
The same gear is being used on American streets because a monster was created in the defense industry and the monster must be fed. Since 1996, “the Department of Defense has transferred $4.3 billion in military equipment to local and state police through the 1033 program.” Then the equipment was intended to help fight the war on drugs. With that much firepower in the hands of local police, it was only a matter of time before they began to be used in such obscene excess against Americans.
At The Intercept Glenn Greenwald does a great job of putting this militarization into perspective:
It is the destructive by-product of several decades of deliberate militarization of American policing, a trend that received a sustained (and ongoing) steroid injection in the form of a still-flowing, post-9/11 federal funding bonanza, all justified in the name of “homeland security.” This has resulted in a domestic police force that looks, thinks, and acts more like an invading and occupying military than a community-based force to protect the public
As is true for most issues of excessive and abusive policing, police militarization is overwhelmingly and disproportionately directed at minorities and poor communities, ensuring that the problem largely festers in the dark. Americans are now so accustomed to seeing police officers decked in camouflage and Robocop-style costumes, riding in armored vehicles and carrying automatic weapons first introduced during the U.S. occupation of Baghdad, that it has become normalized. But those who bear the brunt of this transformation are those who lack loud megaphones; their complaints of the inevitable and severe abuse that results have largely been met with indifference.
If anything positive can come from the Ferguson travesties, it is that the completely out-of-control orgy of domestic police militarization receives long-overdue attention and reining in.
Decline to Sign
Following is the Press Release from Raise Up San Diego, distributed at an 8am press conference this morning:
Basketball great Bill Walton appeared with hard working San Diegans and local business, community and political leaders on Thursday to kick-off a campaign to urge city voters not to sign petitions seeking a referendum on the city’s new minimum wage and earned sick leave ordinance.
“We stand for a San Diego in which hard-working people aren’t locked in poverty and in which they can earn a few days off a year for when they get sick or need to care for an ill child or other loved one,” Walton said. “We know the vast majority of San Diegans feel the same way, and we urge them to say no to the signature gatherers.”
Sponsored by City Council President Todd Gloria, the wage and earned sick leave ordinance is backed by a growing coalition of local businesses, and nonprofit civic and social service organizations. It was passed in July by a majority of the City Council and, public opinion surveys show, has broad support among voters.
At the forefront of the coalition working to preserve the ordinance are Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs and former Regional Chamber of Commerce Chairman Mel Katz, who was scheduled to appear with Walton at the campaign kick-off. A local minimum-wage boost and the ability to earn sick leave, Katz says, are good social and economic policy and good businesses because it improves productivity.
“We know that a raise given to minimum wage workers will be spent locally on necessities like housing, food and travel, and will recirculate through the local economy many times over,” said Katz, co-owner of Manpower San Diego. “We also know that a healthier and happier workforce is more productive workforce and contributes to business stability and performance.”
At the current $9-an-hour state minimum wage, full-time work pays $1,560 a month before taxes, barely enough to cover the $1,032 average monthly rent on a one-bedroom apartment in San Diego.
Regardless, some local business interests, with the backing of national restaurant and hospitality chains, are threatening a referendum to try to keep it that way in San Diego. The first step now in the works is a planned petition push to block enactment of the law and force an election on the ordinance sometime next year.
Andrea Tookes, a minimum-wage security officer and mother in San Diego, says the ability to earn sick leave would mean not having to choose between job security and a pay day, and taking care of one her four children when one of them becomes ill and can’t go to school.
“That’s a terrible choice,” said Tookes. “You don’t want to send your kids to school sick. You can’t leave them home alone. And you can’t afford to forfeit pay or give your employer the impression you’re not a dependable employee.”
Jessie Thomas, a college student and part-time restaurant employee, says the cost of living of living in San Diego and minimum wage are getting so out of whack she worries she soon might have to put her dream of a college degree on hold so she can work and earn more.
“I’m trying to raise myself up but feeling dragged down,” Thomas said. “The ability to earn a little extra each month without giving up my classes would make a world of difference.”
On This Day: 1935 President Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act, providing, for the first time ever, guaranteed income for retirees and creating a system of unemployment benefits 1980 – Members of the upstart Polish union Solidarity seized the Lenin shipyard in Gdansk. Sixteen days later the government officially recognizes the union. 1989 – Bon Jovi’s “New Jersey” album became the first U.S. album to be released legally in the Soviet Union. The Russian label Melodiya paid the group with a truckload of firewood since rubles couldn’t leave Russia.
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