By Doug Porter
(I’ve published two versions of the Starting Line today. One on the stadium deal and one on events taking place in Ferguson.)
It’s hard for me even to write about what’s going on in Ferguson, Missouri on the first anniversary of Michael Brown’s death.
On the one hand there’s been the rise of a new civil rights movement taking aim at the institutional underpinnings of racism in this country.
From Vice News:
The protests, die-ins, and marches proceeded throughout the winter and into what some have called a “Black Spring” — a new civil rights movement led by a by a social media-wielding youth contingent. Occasionally, as more incidences of police killings came to light, the actions broke out in violence in Ferguson and in Baltimore, where 25-year-old Freddie Gray’s spine was crushed while in police custody in April.
Since then, the rallies for justice have not abated, and neither have the number of deaths at the hands of police. At least 1,083 Americans have been killed by cop since August 9, 2014, according to comprehensive research and data collected by VICE News — an average of nearly three people a day.
Brutality Takes Many Forms
Repeated inquiries into the back story of this St Louis suburb have painted a picture of what institutionalized racism looks like in the 21st century. This study by the Economic Policy Institute paints a picture of desperation and economic oppression that cannot be ignored.
From the EPI announcement of their study last fall:
Policies enacted by federal, state, and local governments to create racially segregated metropolises are at the root of the events that occurred since August in Ferguson, Missouri, a new Economic Policy Institute report finds. In The Making of Ferguson: Public Policies at the Root of its Troubles, EPI Research Associate Richard Rothstein tracks the history of residential segregation in St. Louis and Ferguson.
He shows how government actions such as racially explicit zoning, public housing segregation, and federal requirements for white-only suburbs systematically segregated African Americans, and laid the groundwork for Michael Brown’s death and the resulting protests and racial tension. The report notes that these policies were not unique to Ferguson and St. Louis, but national in application.
“A century of explicitly segregationist public policy created our racially divided metropolitan landscape, and this history is wholly inseparable from the recent tragedies we’ve seen such as the one in Ferguson,” said Rothstein. “The conventional media narrative underestimates the major role of public policy, and instead attributes racial segregation to private prejudice and suburbanites’ desire for homogenous middle-class environments.”
Mostly Peaceful Demonstrations
Sometimes the media even acknowledges that everyday racism amounts to more than police brutality and Confederate flags. And sometimes they don’t.
From the Guardian:
Hundreds of people had descended on Ferguson, a suburb of St Louis, for the anniversary on Sunday of Brown’s death. Commemoration events over the weekend were followed by a so-called Moral Monday, comprising acts of peaceful civil disobedience.
The philosopher Cornel West and the prominent young protest leaders DeRay McKesson and Johnetta “Netta” Elzie were among 57 demonstrators detained in plastic handcuffs and arrested by officers from the Department of Homeland Security and St Louis metropolitan police at the federal courthouse in the city’s downtown district after sitting in front of the entrance and refusing to move. All three were later released.
Later on Monday, 64 protesters were arrested by police after blocking interstate highway 70 in both directions near Ferguson. Traffic was held up as police forcefully confronted demonstrators. Two reporters covering the protest action were briefly detained before being released, they said.
There were acts of violence. A shoot out by rival factions not related to the protests ended Sunday night with the wounding and arrest of Tyrone Harris, Jr. The 18 year old’s father disputed the police account, saying his son was merely trying to escape the crossfire.
Some rocks and bottles were thrown at police in riot gear. Pepper spray and smoke bombs were used on the crowd.
From the Los Angeles Times:
“Those who terrorize communities with gunfire and commit violence against police officers are criminals, and their reprehensible acts must not be allowed to silence the voices of peace and progress,” Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon said.
“Over the last year, people of good will across the community have worked tirelessly to bridge divisions, restore trust and build a brighter, safer and more united future for the region,” he said.
Johnetta Elzie, 26, was at Sunday’s demonstration when the gunfire erupted. She was mystified why such shootings often seemed to happen where protesters and media gathered, and she criticized police for donning riot gear before anything serious had happened.
The vast majority of protesters were peaceful. But that doesn’t bleed, so it won’t lead on the 11 o’clock news.
Assault Rifles Are Okay, If Carried by Whites
Responsible officials in the area were quick to condemn rocks and bottles being thrown.
Then a bunch of heavily armed men arrived. The police stood down. Really!
The men were right wing Oath Keepers.
The St. Louis County chief of police did issue a press release saying their presence was “pointless and inflammatory.” A CBS affiliate reported that law enforcement officials were seeking legal advice regarding the display of weapons during a declared state of emergency.
The St. Louis Post Dispatch gave another example what might be called bad judgement:
A Facebook posting declaring Sunday “Darren Wilson Day” in this college town brought protesters to the police station on Monday and strong criticism from city leaders.
A post on the Columbia Police Officers Association’s Facebook page, which appeared on the one-year anniversary of the fatal shooting of black teenager Michael Brown by white Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson, called Wilson “an innocent, but persecuted, officer.”
The post included a message saying that support for Wilson has nothing to do with race. The author of the post said the police union supports Wilson because of “the fact that he was thoroughly investigated … and found he did NOTHING wrong.”
— Jeff Tiedrich (@jefftiedrich) August 11, 2015
On This Day: 1884 – Federal troops drive some 1,200 jobless workers from Washington D.C. Led by unemployed activist Charles “Hobo” Kelley, the group’s “soldiers” include young journalist Jack London and William Haywood, a young miner-cowboy called “Big Bill” 1952 – Hank Williams was fired from the Grand Ole Opry and told not to return until he was sober. 1984 – President Ronald Reagan was preparing for his weekly radio broadcast when, during testing of the microphone, he said of the Soviet Union, “My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you that I just signed legislation that would outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”
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