Ferguson, MO continues to smolder as it waits for justice

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A lot has happened since those first days after Michael Brown was shot. News from Ferguson still trickles out of the news media from time to time, but with the news of ISIL, and now Khorosan (whoever those guys are), Ebola and the lax security of the Secret Service, Michael Brown and Ferguson, MO is old news. Not for the families of the victims, and it’s plural because more young Black men have been shot and killed by law enforcement since then.

Twenty-two year old John Crawford III was shot and killed in an Ohio Wal-Mart while talking on his cell phone because, as police claim, he did not respond to officers who told him to drop what turned out to be a pellet gun he was holding. Surveillance video from the store shows a grim scene: Crawford walking through the aisles carrying a gun—in a non-threatening manner — talking on his cell phone when a police officer rushes towards him and fires several shots into the young man.

The grand jury voted not to indict the officer, who happens to be White. The man who made the 911 call that got police to the store later said he never saw Crawford point the unloaded pellet gun at anyone, a direct repudiation of his call to 911.

Makes you wonder: why wasn’t law enforcement so quick to shoot White folks who were clearly brandishing real firearms in an attempt to intimidate federal officers in Bunkerville, Nevada? When law enforcement was there specifically because one of those White people, Cliven Bundy, was breaking the law?

And a few days after Brown was killed a 23-year old Black man in nearby East St. Louis was killed in what some people described as a “suicide by cop” incident.

State Police Take Over

Protesters in Ferguson, MO (YouTube)
Protesters in Ferguson, MO

After a night of rioting and looting and then a week of clashes between militarized police and peaceful protesters, the governor of Missouri, Democrat Jay Nixon decided enough was enough and ordered the State Police to take over the security of Ferguson. The militarized police pulled back from Florissant Road and the protests became celebrations — for about 24 hours, until the police officer’s name was released — along with a report that Michael Brown was a suspect in a strong-arm robbery of a convenience store that occurred about 30 minutes before he was killed.

So that touched off even more angry protests. As far as the Michael Brown supporters were concerned, that was just the police department trying to add some justification for the killing of Brown. He was a bully and a thief, don’t you know?

The governor condemned the release of the convenience store video, as did the protesters. Many supporters of the Brown Family may have been a little crestfallen to see Brown caught on camera being bad, even if they didn’t want to admit their feelings about it. As far as everyone — including the police — was concerned, what happened at the convenience store was not connected to the shooting. The police confirmed Officer Wilson did not know Michael Brown was a suspect in any crime at the time Officer Wilson pumped six bullets into Michael Brown.

The Extreme Right Wing Press Chimes In

Well, the extreme right wing news media, starting with Fox News, loved that bit of information. They have been doing all they can to smear the character of Michael Brown. They pull out pictures of him flipping the bird at the camera —  as if nobody else has ever done that — they got him throwing hand signs that could possibly be gang signs, but like these knuckleheads in the extreme right wing media, I can’t read urban sign language so who knows? It could be your standard hip-hop sign language for “Wha’dup?” or maybe in this decade it’s just, “S’up?” I have no idea, to be honest. I’m a hopelessly aging hippie baby boomer. I still listen to and watch Grateful Dead videos all day.

Last month I opined on Facebook that I should watch the Teen Choice Awards just to see how out of touch I am with that generation. Several of my friends assured me I was quite out of touch with the teen set and I didn’t need an ADD-inspired TV program saturated with acne removal commercials to know that. That’s what you get for trying to be open-minded.

Back to Michael Brown: I know there’s one sign that means, “In the house,” but I forget which one. So anyway, they got all these photos of Michael Brown looking bad, as a wee child no less, and his high school graduation photo in which he’s got that scowl on his face — the same kind of face recruits are taught in Marine Corps boot camp. I should know, I got a “B” for my tough guy scowl. I would say Michael Brown gets an “A” for his.

At any rate, when a Black man looks like that, hells bells, you just gotta kill him. Everybody knows that.

Cliven Bundy and supporters defying federal law enforcement, using loaded firearms. Double standard here? (YouTube)
Cliven Bundy and supporters defying federal law enforcement, using loaded firearms. Double standard here?

The Double Standard

There are of course the chimers on the right who want to insist the killing of Michael Brown has nothing to do with race! He coulda been a White kid running away from Officer Wilson … and most likely Officer Wilson wouldn’t have tried to stop him in the first place. Statistically, Blacks are more likely to be stopped by the police than Whites and yet, statistically, Whites are more likely to be in possession of illegal drugs or guilty of committing other petty offences.

It begs the question: how can White people walk up and down the street, in and out of stores, brandishing firearms and not even get stopped by police, let alone arrested? How can a selfish old welfare king of a rancher get away with brandishing firearms at federal law enforcement, with 200 well-armed followers — and not one of these White people are arrested, even though there is ample video and photographic evidence of these White people pointing loaded weapons at the federal officers?

Where It Stands Today in Ferguson

Where it stands today? The soon-to-be-retired Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, visited Ferguson to assure the citizens the justice department would hold its own investigation, with a third autopsy performed by DoD medical examiners. He told Ferguson’s residents, “Why would I be anywhere but right here and right now?”

Eric Holder meeting with residents of Ferguson, MO. (DoJ)
Eric Holder meeting with residents of Ferguson, MO.

Holder has been the Obama Administration’s outspoken mouthpiece on matters of race. The Right considers him a race-baiter because Holder chose to address racial inequities in our society.

According to the kooks on the Right, any person on the left who talks about racial issues is a race baiter and a racist.

For the right it’s about keeping all that race stuff shoved under the rug, out of sight, maintaining the status quo. Racism is over don’t’cha know — we got us a Black president! Accept of course racial inequity continues, especially when it comes to law enforcement and the justice system.

Last month a federal judge (appointed by Clinton) ruled the “rule” by the Missouri State Police that protesters had to keep moving in order to protest in Ferguson was unconstitutional. Now protestors are marching through the streets and standing in place to protest. As long as the protestors do it peacefully law enforcement cannot stop them.

Law enforcement in the area had their peaceful demonstration as well — they wore arm bracelets that said, “I am Darren Wilson.”

Well that stirred up some unhappy feelings. The upper command of the Ferguson Police Department told officers they could not wear the bracelets while on duty.

The “I Am Darren Wilson” wrist band. (YouTube)
The “I Am Darren Wilson” wrist band.

The St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCullough decided, rather than bring charges against Officer Wilson (even though there is ample evidence to do so) he would use a grand jury to decide whether the police officer should go on trial for some kind of wrongful death charge.

McCullough is not considered inclined to prosecute police officers, his colleagues when it comes to convicting the other criminals of the county. Just flat out indicting Wilson probably would not have sat well with the law enforcement community, the people McCullough relies on to do his job … so let’s have a grand jury do the dirty work and who knows — maybe they’ll come back with a recommendation not to pursue any charges against Wilson. The claim of “self-defense” goes a long way when it is a cop doing the killing.

The surprise witness for the grand jury was the suspect, Darren Wilson. Of course he shot Brown in self-defense. Any other reason would constitute murder, so Wilson has to make that claim. According to Wilson, Brown had reached into the police SUV to … we don’t really know.

According to Dorian Johnson, Michaels Brown’s friend who was right there when the incident happened, Wilson grabbed Brown by the throat and then pulled out his gun and started shooting. Which is consistent with some of the forensic evidence — Brown’s blood was found on the vehicle.

But it doesn’t explain why Wilson put five more bullets into Brown, the last 2-3 when he and Brown were 20-25 feet apart.

The people of Ferguson, Missouri are still marching, demanding justice for Michael Brown.  There have been some nights of unrest, but nothing compared to that first week. Protesters from other parts of the country who showed up to get in on the action were disappointed there was no daytime violence. If you’re looking to start a fight with the police, maybe you should do it in your own backyard.

But most protesters from outside the Ferguson area are content to follow the lead of the locals, lending their feet and voices to the march for justice. There was a sit-in at St. Louis University on Sunday, October 12 in which more than 1,000 protestors participated. Ferguson protesters briefly clashed with St. Louis Rams fans this past Sunday. Someone was upset about an upside down American flag. Someone spit on another and was bonked on the head for doing so. Two people were arrested.

In the coming weeks the grand jury will make their recommendation to the county prosecutor. Then it is up to Robert McCullough. Will he, the son of a slain police officer, prosecute one of his own?

Maybe it will be up to Eric Holder and the Department of Justice to bring charges — or not.

Michael Brown in widely circulated photo
Michael Brown in widely circulated photo

Where it stands today is this: young Black men are routinely singled out by law enforcement simply because of the color of their skin. Black men congregating together must mean … they’re up to no good?

The thought crossed my mind the other day as I gave into the urge to have a Big Mac. As we were waiting in line to get our not-so-fast food, a young Black teen struck up a conversation with me, an old White man. It was one of those pleasant conversations about it being a nice day and the San Diego Chargers. We got our food, I went to a little table and the young kid went to share a table with his friends, the group acting like teens have acted since the days of Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Elvis Presley on the jukebox. Probably like teens have acted for centuries.

The kid and I were just two people getting along in the world, waiting for our Big Macs.