Ferguson shooting fades from spotlight

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Do we still remember this? Should we even be taking about it now, two months later? Hell, we got NFL players beating their spouses and kids, ISIS forcing us to return our military to Iraq and now a guy beheaded a co-worker in Oklahoma? Not to mention more Black men being gunned down by police (and others) since then — Kajieme Powell right there in St. Louis County, Missouri within days of Michael Brown being gunned down. Should we even care about Michael Brown and Ferguson, Missouri now? Yes.

Another Black Teenage Killed by a Police Officer

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

It’s been nearly two months since the people of Ferguson, Missouri started marching, demanding justice for the family of Michael Brown, the 18-year old man gunned down by a Ferguson police officer on August 9. There has been no official explanation as to why the police officer fired at the un-armed teenager; the police department even withheld the name of the officer who pulled the trigger for about five days — for his safety. Apparently death threats were being made, although no one knew who the shooter was until the police department identified him: Darren Wilson.

We don’t know what transpired between Wilson and the large teenager, although one eyewitness say Brown was running away from Wilson when he was first shot.

Allegedly, Officer Wilson pulled up to Brown, who was walking with his friend Dorian Johnson in the street, and told them to walk on the sidewalk. Allegedly a scuffle broke out between Wilson and Brown while Wilson was still seated in his patrol car, a shot was allegedly fired, allegedly Brown and Johnson started running away; more shots were fired and an 18-year old kid was laying dead in the street. Uncovered for a long time so the neighborhood could see the deceased young man was dead.

But we don’t know how true most of that is because the authorities haven’t released any information pertaining to the death of Michael Brown, other than he is dead as a result of gunshot wounds (plural) and his remains autopsied by the coroner. Which we don’t know much about because the authorities have not released any documents from the coroner’s office, even though autopsies are public records. They just tell us Michael Brown died as the result of multiple gunshot wounds.

  • Michael Brown laying in street, covered by plastic
    Michael Brown laying in street, covered by plastic

    As a rule autopsy reports in an ongoing investigation are not made public until the investigation is concluded.

The two confirmed eyewitnesses both agree on this detail: Michael Brown was moving, possibly running, away from Officer Darren Wilson who was sitting in a police car. According to one eyewitness, the first shot was fired as Brown was leaning on the car.

But eyewitness accounts are notoriously unreliable. Not because witnesses are notorious liars, but because witnessing something like a fatal shooting is filled with emotion and adrenalin and the witnesses own perspective and perceptions.

We ddn’t have to wait for the authorities to release that autopsy report. The family of Michael Brown hired a private autopsy specialist, pathologist Dr. Michael Baden, a former coroner for New York, to do a second autopsy. He found that Michael Brown had been shot six times, two of the bullets entering the deceased teen’s body twice each.

The Ferguson Police Department released an incident report, written about 10 days after Brown was killed, by someone other than the officer on the scene — the man who shot Michael Brown six times.

Any police officer — every police officer — will tell you not filing an incident report after any situation is highly irregular, but especially so if a shooting is involved and most especially if it is an officer-involved shooting, like the killing of Michael Brown.

What’s up with that?

Hands Up-BBCProtests Begin With a Riot

Members of the community had been staging peaceful protests every day and night since then, with only one night of looting and property damage, which included a gas station getting torched.

Since those episodes of violence the protests have been mostly peaceful

Were you looking at the police response to the protests you’d think this was a violent war zone in the middle of Egypt. In fact, a reporter back from Egypt was stunned by the similarities he witnesses between Cairo, Egypt and Ferguson, Missouri. For more than a week it didn’t look like a police department out there watching the demonstrations, it looked like the military, complete with armored personnel carriers with machine gunners.

From the beginning the militarized police tried to suppress and disperse the protestors, throwing and shooting tear gas canisters into the peaceful crowds, as well as rubber bullets. Over a period of four days the center of Ferguson, on its main street, Florissant Road looked like Tahrir Square in Cairo or anywhere in Gaza.

Thick clouds of tear gas drifted over the town as police sent the canisters into the yards of residents who happened to be in their yards and on their porches watching. Some people were shocked to see the red dots of the laser sites on their chests as the police pointed their automatic weapons at them; unarmed people who were either peacefully protesting or standing in their yards observing.

For about four days the residents of Ferguson, Missouri no longer had the right to peacefully assemble or even stand in their own front yard. And as two reporters found out; you couldn’t even hang out at the local McDonalds, where journalists were charging phones and cameras as well as using the free wifi … and we can assume a few Big Macs were purchased and consumed.

Reporters Arrested, Press Intimidated

Reporter Ryan. J. Reilly’s tweet shortly before he was arrested and then unarrested by Ferguson police. (Witter)
Reporter Ryan. J. Reilly’s tweet shortly before he was arrested and then unarrested by Ferguson police.

A somewhat fictional re-enactment:

  • Officers enter the McDonalds, “You sons-a-bitches clear out here now!”
  • McDonalds employee: “Can you make McDonalds pay me more than minimum wage?”
  • Police Officer: Shut the Eff up and go in the back.” Looking at reporters, “I said get outa here NOW!
  • Reporter One, “But officer, I need to unplug all my gear …”
  • Reporter Two, “And I just ordered a Number One meal, the Big Mac and got it super-sized. Can I just wait for my Big Mac and Fries?”
  • Head Police Officer In Charge (HPIC), “Why you little [expletives deleted] … okay boys, lets get’em!”

So the police arrest and detain the reporters and the next thing you know … the reporters are tweeting about getting arrested in a McDonalds. Wesley Lowrey of the Washington Post and Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post. Oops … those are two of the most read publications in the world — online especially where anything can go viral.

As it turns out the police took offense to the reporters confronting the officers with that First Amendment thing that guarantees a free press and after all, they were in a McDonalds. Then the cops took offense at Lowery using his smart phone to record the moment on video. Why, those damn reporters and their effin’ right to report the news! Just who the hell do they think they are?

So the police un-arrested the two reporters who then went on to chronicle the event for the whole world to see. Lowery and Reilly were invited onto news programs to talk about the arrests and the state of things in Ferguson, MO. On the latter point things were grim in those early days of the protests.

“Here come the rubber bullets,” someone said as this video was being filmed.
“Here come the rubber bullets,” someone said as this video was being filmed.

On the second day of the protests MSNBC had a reporter in the field, Trymaine Lee, who sounded so unnerved by the violent response of the police to what had been a peaceful protest, he couldn’t talk clearly when Lawrence O’Donnell tried to interview him on the phone. On top of that Al-Jazeera reporters were gassed and had their equipment disassembled by police.

Gotta hand it to the police. Their bullshit reason for detaining the reporters and taking their gear apart was a thing of beauty. According to the police, they got a call the press was in danger so they were forcing the press away from the area. A local NBC crew caught it on tape and it appeared there were no protestors anywhere near the reporters. At any rate, when the Al Jazeera crew didn’t move the police tear gassed them and then took apart their expensive camera equipment and lighting.

The police attacked the Al Jazeera news crew to protect them from violence. That’s right up there with, “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.”

In an unrelated incident my friends and I deduced that my bullshit was indeed an art form and a virtue because it is purely entertaining. I would like to suggest the Ferguson P.D.’s bullshit has attained that level of virtuosity for being so creatively … err … contradictory.

Ferguson receives Support From Unlikely Source

A protester with Michael Brown memorial pins.
A protester with Michael Brown memorial pins.

The Ferguson protests even reached Gaza where Palestinians have been enduring a brutal crackdown by Israeli forces. Palestinians were offering words of advice and encouragement to the people of Ferguson. To avoid the tear gas as much as possible, run into the wind as the cloud of tear gas drifts in the opposite direction. Get so close to the line of soldier/police they can’t use tear gas. And this poignant message: “The Palestinian people know what it means to be shot while unarmed because of your ethnicity.”

You know your protests are getting violently oppressed when the most oppressed people on Earth are giving you words of advice and encouragement.

So, what’s up with everything in Ferguson, Missouri today?

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Part Two will appear Wednesday.
(All Photos from various YouTube videos, unless otherwise noted.)