Chaos in Ferguson, MO after Police Shooting

UPDATE 8/16: Governor Nixon called for martial law, a midnight – 5 am curfew.  This was in response to increased looting and unrest. The Ferguson PD is still stalling on providing Officer Darren Wilson's photo or the shooting incident report. Citizens are frustrated. Media is confined by law to a "free speech zone". Some journos are still defying the restriction, using smartphones instead of professional cameras.  At midnight after curfew, about 75 protesters are still defying curfew and a heavy rain. New Black Panthers helped to clear the streets before curfew. At least police are keeping Captain Johnson's promise – no tear gas, no over-militarized response.

UPDATE 8/15: Captain Ron Johnson of the MO Highway Patrol did a great job in resetting the tone and relieving the fears of the community. He demilitarized the operation, and people were able to continue to peacefully protest.  Today, the Ferguson PD released the name of the shooter: Officer Darren Wilson. At the same time, instead of the actual shooting incident report, the PD released a store surveillance video which purports to show the victim, Mike Brown, robbing the store. Community reacted to this as an attempt to smear the victim without a trial. "I am Mike Brown" tribute song by rapper Gage is going viral.

 

UPDATE: Governor Nixon confirms that he will take peacekeeping duties out of the hands of the St. Louis County police force. Peace will be kept by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Federal Department of Justice will investigate the shooting.

 

Is this America?

It looked like a scene that should be shown in old black and white photos from the history books about the Civil Rights movement – lines of African-American citizens, crying, "Hands Up! Don't Shoot!" (the above photo is from the Twitter feed of  Markia Holt. https://twitter.com/MarkiaHolt )

Facing them, grim lines of camo-clad and armored white police, throwing tear gas and shooting rubber bullets from tanks and armored vehicles.  Nobody talking. Nobody negotiating. Chanting: "What do we want? Justice!" Everyone else, grim, silent, running, hiding, ducking behind shrubbery. One man on a bullhorn appears to me to be a provocateur, cursing at the police. (about 5:40 into the KARG video)

Photo, below, of police forces confronting protesters. From the twitter feed of Ryan J Reilly, a Huffington Post reporter who was arrested yesterday: He tweeted: "Overkill in . Officer won't answer my question about why this is needed. " Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson said in an ABC interview that his officers were responding to violence and threats from protesters.

The scenes from Ferguson, Missouri, last night were brutal. Clouds of tear gas billowing over the streets. Reporters on live feed choking and unable to talk, continuing to cover and live-tweet the story. Brave journalists who refused police orders to "shut down your cameras", were tweeting from McDonald's restaurants  that police were rounding protesters up and forcing them into vans, while the protesters screamed and yelled for medical help. Then the journalists started getting arrested.

Flash-bang and stun grenades were thrown at unarmed protesters. You can see this about 11 minutes into the video. Almost all the police are white – what you can see of them behind the camo and the flak vests, helmets, shields.- and almost all of the protesters are black. The population of  Ferguson, a working-class  suburb of St. Louis, is 67% African-American, and complaints of police brutality and discrimination are common.  The Ferguson County Police Chief, Jon Belmar, is choosing to escalate, or doesn't know how to de-escalate, the situation. Meanwhile, according to Belmar, Anonymous hackers are threatening to shut down the police internet. Schools are closed until Monday. People from Gaza are tweeting the residents of Ferguson about how to deal with being tear gassed. 

How did it come to this?  Like the Trayvon Martin shooting, like way too many others, it started with the shooting of a young, unarmed black man.  He was shot by a policeman, and died on the street, where his body lay for hours. The police department closed ranks around its brother, denying the name of the shooter to media and to citizens. The ACLU has filed suit to get it. For five days now, peaceful protests of citizens demanding justice have been met with inaction and stonewalling from the Ferguson police department.

This is the account of witnesses:

On August 9, a young black man, Mike Brown, was walking down the middle of a quiet street, on his way to visit his grandmother, accompanied by his friend. A police car, driven by a cop who has yet to be identified, ordered the young men to move to the sidewalk. They were reluctant to comply, as they were almost at their destination. The cop didn't wait for them to comply. He drove up next to them and tried to open his door. When the door was blocked by one of the young men, the cop reached out, grabbed the kid by the throat, and almost immediately shot him. The child ran, making it 30 feet before he collapsed, face down, hands up, shot again six more times.

This is the police version:

The police gave the young men a lawful order to get out of the street, and they disobeyed. The larger of the two young men assaulted the officer, and tried to take his gun. So the cop shot him. An investigation is proceeding. Citizen witnesses, including the victim's friend, who escaped, have NOT been interviewed by the police to date.

A police chief commentator on Rachel Maddow's show said that "Everyone needs to ratchet it back down." He  said that this could probably have been avoided if the police had just given information, like the name of the police officer who shot Mike Brown, and followed procedure. Instead, decisions to stonewall have escalated into the situation you see now.

For five days, peaceful crowds have rallied and marched during the day, calling for justice. The young man's parents have called for calm and nonviolence.  There has been some looting and crime at night, from isolated individuals, but it was not widespread. The police response to this was way overblown. At least 70, per Huffpost  reporting, have come in to Ferguson, equipped with tanks, armored vehicles with gun turrets, body armor.. Police have pointed rifles directly into the crowds. Tear gas and rubber bullets appear to be how police are communicating and negotiating. Ferguson's police chief, Mr.  Tom Jackson, speaking on the Fox News Network. blamed "outside agitators" for the unrest. He has not called for a curfew.

I think the President needs to send in the National Guard to keep the peace. Otherwise, we'll see more discriminatory violence from poorly-trained police and militias who will flock to the scene.

Unfortunately,1/4  (27 out of 115) of the Missouri Sheriffs are Constitutional Sheriffs, sworn to resist Federal orders that they think are unconstitutional.  This includes Sheriff Oberkorm, President of the Missouri Sheriffs Association.  So that could be another ugly confrontation – between local and Federal authorities here. Interestingly, the Patriot groups, such as the Oathkeepers, who normally have been very vocal about police militarization and the coming confrontations to "take back America", have been silent on what is happening in Ferguson to citizens of color.

Instead of black and white, it is a scene in night vision green and black. And yes, to our shame, it is America.

 

Twitter feeds of reporters:

The best, most up-to-date reporting has been coming from social media and citizen journalists. Right wing commentators may decry liberal bias, but they have been, and continue to be, eerily silent on real-world government oppression of civilians in Ferguson.

#fergusonlivestream

http://new.livestream.com/accounts/9035483/events/3271930

@WesleyLowery @trymainelee @elonjames @mattdpearce @Yamiche @rembert @jbouie @ryanjreilly

http://www.vox.com/2014/8/11/5988925/mike-brown-killing-shooting-case-ferguson-police-riots-st-louis

http://thehairpin.com/2014/08/ferguson-on-day-five

http://www.livestream.com/globalrevolution

https://twitter.com/hashtag/ajam

UPDATE 9/15/14: We are now three weeks into the Grand Jury investigation of the Michael Brown shooting. It is completely closed to the public. Per Dana Milbank's reporting in the Washington Post, Prosecutor McCulloch, as predicted, is looking not to charge Officer Wilson at all, and hoping to blame the lack of consequences  on the Grand Jury itself. McCullough has dumped the huge pile of conflicting evidence, including multiple new eyewitness reports onto the jury with no recommendations for charges of Officer Wilson.

New protests, more distrust between the police and the Ferguson community is being set up even as you read this. Poor choice, Prosecutor McCulloch.

About kwtree

Retired teacher, aspiring writer, doting grandma. Nosy, curious, persistent.

17 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Duke Cox says:

    I will surmise that many of these local, para-military, sheriffs' deputies are members of the  "Oathkeepers". I think we have seen what happens when a local militia takes over a Police department. The guys in the McDonalds last night were short on insignia, from what I could see on the video.

    From the reports on the tube this AM, there are several agencies involved and many are of vague origin and very questionable leadership.

  2. mamajama55 says:

    If one is a member of a "Patriot" group with vague or explicit white supremacist ideology, then what is happening in Ferguson is a dream come true. Visions of being a heavily armed, Great White Hero, quelling the anonymous dark-skinned hordes – just like a video game.

  3. Zappatero says:

    excellent diary. It is truly sad what happens when the full force of the state aligns against its most vulnerable citizens. 

    • mamajama55 says:

      Jay Kang, of the New Yorker writes that ""In many instances, the receipt of these military-grade weapons is contingent on their use within a calendar year." 

      So it really may be a case of overgrown boys playing fantasy video games with their toys, which just must be tried out, whether they are needed or not. Terrorizing innocent civilians is just part of the thrill.

      This needs to stop.

      • ct says:

        What a assbackwards requirement: prov you need all this high-tech scary military war gear by making sure to use it in the next 12 months?  WTF?  Who in their right mind–other than the MIC and the death-pushers–would think that is a sensible policy??  

  4. ct says:

    This is so FU'd.  WTF?  A full on, poorly trained, military has been created to occupy ad police American citizens on US soil. Posse Comitatus has been abridged by simply going around it and building a domestic fully armed (inconsistently trained) military by 'granting' high-tech federal war surplus to all manner of local 'police.'  

    • Canines says:

      Slate:

      In his book The Rise of the Warrior Cop, journalist Radley Balko notes that since the 1960s, “law-enforcement agencies across the U.S., at every level of government, have been blurring the line between police officer and soldier. Driven by martial rhetoric and the availability of military-style equipment—from bayonets and M–16 rifles to armored personnel carriers—American police forces have often adopted a mind-set previously reserved for the battlefield.”

      This process ramped up with the “war on drugs” in the 1980s and 1990s, as the federal government supplied local and state police forces with military-grade weaponry to clamp down on drug trafficking and other crime. And it accelerated again after the 9/11 attacks and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, when the federal government had—and sent—billions in surplus military equipment to state and local governments. Since 2006, according to an analysis by the New York Times, police departments have acquired 435 armored vehicles, 533 planes, 93,763 machine guns, and 432 mine-resistant armored trucks. Overall, since Congress established its program to transfer military hardware, local and state police departments have received $4.3 billion worth of equipment. Accordingly, the value of military equipment used by these police agencies has increased from $1 million in 1990 to $324 million in 1995 (shortly after the program was established), to nearly $450 million in 2013.

  5. mamajama55 says:

    UPDATE: Finally!  Shaun King @ShaunKing tweets:

    . @GovJayNixon just confirmed that the State Police & Federal Authorities are going to relieve St. Louis County PD of their duties here.

    I don't see any regular news outlets confirming this, but if so, it's about fricking time.

  6. mamajama55 says:

    Finally, some conservatives and libertarians are starting to weigh in on the military response in Ferguson. It's in everyone's interest – police safety, public safety, politician's electoral prospects – to do so.

    The Ferguson police department reportedly had purchased cameras, (the kind police wear on-duty), but had not deployed them. Wonder why?

    Having police be accountable by wearing cameras seems like an issue which could gain some bipartisan support.

     

  7. Gray in Mountains says:

    not sure when the militarization of our police began. But, in our very small county (8,000) our last sheriff bought the all black uniforms like you are seeing on the Ukraine border. No face masks, but it really made the deputies appear unapproachable. So, he lost re-election in a primary.

    We do live in an environment, rurally, with many who think the Constitution gives them rights that TJ, Madison and the rest never could have envisioned so I do support our cops having access to vehicles that will support them and AR15s (semi). About 3 years ago a gun nut had a warrant for making threats in a gun shop. The got an APC from a neighboring county and the guy surrendered with the show of force at dawn the next day. It was a very well planned exercise by our Chief. Unfortunately, the cops that investigated are as poorly trained in investigations and reports as most rural cops and the guy got off when tried. But, his behavior has not been an issue since 

    • Canines says:

      As for when it all egan, please see my post above.

      Basically, it began to get out of hand during Bill Clinton's presidency.

      • Gray in Mountains says:

        I did.

        I've always been offended by the use of very high ranking military insignia by chiefs, sheriffs and their staff. In a county of 8,000 it offends me that a sheriff wears a genreal's 3 stars on his collar. For crying out loud, he only has 8 deputies

    • mamajama55 says:

      Gray, this militarization escalates in ratchet mode. There is no way back. North American police will never be like the British police, who patrolled unarmed until recently. The weaponization of police will keep pace with that of the threats they face. As in your community's experience.

      But there is a lot to be said for police being human beings relating to other human beings. In some ways, that takes more courage and more guts. Community policing (COPS program)  has been one of the programs which has taken the biggest hit under Republican House control.

      So there is money for militarization, but not for training in how to keep communities peaceful.

      Captain Ron Johnson demonstrated the best principles of community policing – being approachable, friendly, showing concern and empathy, having a sense of humor, not trying to intimidate as the first response.

       

  8. Gray in Mountains says:

    Small communities everywhere, in my experience (Aspen may be an exception) have few funds. So, they are forced by economic forces to keep training expenses down. We havve local cops that got POST certified following brief "academies", 120 days or so. Small communities pay less and try to reward by promoting from within with little or no additional training. It will be interesting to learn what kind of training the chief in Ferguson had. He apparrently was a cop there for decades before becoming chief. So, whatcha wanna bet he never gave a ticket to a councilman.

    Unfortunately, cops, in their "brotherhood", reinforce among themselves the belief that they are in a jungle, that we are all lawless, that no one but themselves can understand what they are up against 

  9. Gray in Mountains says:

    Wednesday evening, watching the police riot in Ferguson, I decided before dark what I'd have done had I been the mayor. I'd have gotten the chief and told him that he had to, MUST relieve the St Louis County cops and send them home. He and I would hav eentered the street. I'd have gone to the people and he would have had his police force withdraw. This did not have to happen even for one evening

  10. mamajama55 says:

    Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson's press conference today: "I've given you everything I have."

    NO, he hasn't. They released a video from a store showing a robbery, supposedly featuring Michael Brown strong-arming the owner. They did not release the incident report from the actual shooting incident.

    Obstructive A-hole. He has learned nothing from five days of protests. Jackson appears to be still protecting the officer and withholding information from the public. ACLU, go on with your freedom of information request.

    BTW, this is probably coincidence – but the officer shooter's name is Darren Wilson. An African-American officer, also named Darren Wilson, in nearby city of St. Louis, has been critical of racism in the PD in the past.

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