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Which Way Do I Go To Get To Your America: Thoughts On Ferguson and Michael Brown

By TK | Think Pieces | August 14, 2014 | Comments ()


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Last night, my wife went off to work and I stayed home with our two year-old son. We played “find the bug” with the toy bugs I’d just bought him. We wrestled a little, rolling around and giggling. We read stories and talked about our day. I took him upstairs, got him into his firetruck pajamas, sat with him in my lap and read some more. Then I put him in his crib and softly sang him a few songs as he slowly drifted off. And I sat there for a few minutes, awed at where my life has taken me.

Then I went downstairs, turned on my computer, and watched as part of America tore itself to pieces.

There are inescapable truths about Michael Brown, the young man who was shot to death by a still-unnamed police officer in Ferguson, MO this week. He was 18 years old, college-bound, a good guy, and black. He was walking down the street with a friend of his. There was some sort of altercation with a police officer, several shots were fired, and Brown, unarmed, was shot to death. Now, the city of Ferguson burns, under siege by police. The police response has been maddening and terrifying — tear gas and rubber bullets fired into crowds, SWAT officers aiming rifles at angry, unarmed citizens, reporters being denied access, then harassed, attacked, and arrested (actions even right-wing blowhards like Ted Cruz have decried). The imagery has been horrific, as if a foreign tyranny took over a small town.

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The protests were often — but not always — nonviolent. Most remarkable and memorable was the image of a black man, dressed in an American flag, hurling a gas canister back at the police.

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As for Brown himself, you have a choice at this point of what you believe. You can believe that he attacked a police officer, tried to wrestle his gun away for no reason whatsoever and was shot in the ensuing struggle. Or you can believe that the officer became enraged when Brown and his friend did not immediately comply with his order to “get the fuck onto the sidewalk”, and opened fire. I choose to believe the latter, and if you try to tell me that it’s too soon to pick a side, then you’re kidding yourself. Because you should also know that Monday night — Monday night, in the midst of all of this chaos — a young black man in Los Angeles was shot to death by a police officer. He, too, was unarmed.

America has problems. It’s a great country, but sometimes it feels like it’s deeply broken. It has problems with guns, problems with race, problems with law enforcement and power and youth. Young black men die in droves, sometimes by each other’s hand, and sometimes by the hands of cops. It happens far too often. If you have watched the events of the last few days unfold and you do not think that America has a race problem and that black people don’t still face unfathomable prejudice and hatred and violence, then congratulations: you are officially part of that problem. Because to not see it is to wander through the world with blinders on. Worse still are those who say that it’s tragic, but “why didn’t he just get onto the sidewalk?” It’s the sort of de rigeur victim blaming that has become prevalent in conservative media outlets, misdirecting you from the issue, sowing seeds of doubt and prejudice into people’s minds. On the other side of the coin, we are now reading about how Brown did not have a criminal record. Or even (and I’m admittedly guilty of using this factoid as well) that he was going to college. These are all some popular hot topics on the news right now.

It doesn’t matter. None of that matters. It doesn’t matter if he complied with the order, just like it doesn’t matter if he had a criminal record a mile long. It wouldn’t have mattered if he’d gotten out of jail that morning.

An unarmed black man was shot to death by a police officer. Again. And then a few days later, it happened once more.

The next media hot button was the rioting and looting. I don’t condone it, but I understand it. There’s a line in Living Colour’s “Which Way To America” where, after repeatedly lamenting the divide between the America you see on TV and the America that’s outside the window, singer Corey Glover shouts “Where’s my picket fence? My long, tall glass of lemonade? Where’s my VCR, my stereo, my TV show?” If you want to understand looting, that’s a start. It’s opportunism, and it’s small and petty and stupid and ignorant. But it’s also rage and fury and resentment and a way of expressing that which you have no way of expressing, that which you perhaps don’t even fully understand.

All of that is a distraction. The facts about Brown’s background, the looting — they’re all background noise slowly getting louder, distracting you from the truth.

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An unarmed black man was shot to death by a police officer. Again.

In Ferguson, 65 percent of the population is black. That 65 percent accounts for “86 percent of traffic stops, 93 percent of arrests after stops and 92 percent of searches after stops.” Similarly, “blacks in Ferguson were twice as likely as whites to be arrested — even though police found contraband for 34 percent of whites they stopped and searched, versus 22 percent of blacks.” Despite 65 percent of its population being black, Ferguson’s 53-member police force has three black people on it.

What you are seeing is a small community that is perfectly, shiningly, resplendently emblematic of America’s race problems. Stripped bare and hurled into the street for all to see. All of the race problems, complete with tear gas, riots, rage, and rubber bullets. People are shocked, they say. People don’t know what to do. How could this be our America? I suppose I get that. But I look at Ferguson, and you know what I saw at first? I saw Soweto, and Sharpeville, and Cape Town and Johannesburg.

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Nothing about this week has shocked me, because I’ve seen it before. Hell, Americans have seen it before too, in Detroit and Chicago and Montgomery and every other city. Some of us just forgot, or we were lulled into thinking that the problems had fixed themselves.

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Ferguson is a reckoning, a terrible, awful, tragic sacrifice made so that the rest of us could clearly see one of the divides that threatens to once again tear the country asunder. It’s a burning monument to racism, suppression of speech and the press, and all of the things we thought our country stood against, but in fact still infects it like a cancer. We need to watch it happen. We need to flinch and cry and get angry and upset and confused. We need to write about it and talk about it and vote about it and we need to never stop and never forget. It’s the way we find a solution. It’s the way we get to a place where I don’t fear the police. Where I don’t get searched every. single. time I go through an airport. Where I don’t have to worry that the life I’m trying to build for my child isn’t just an illusion, a bandage covering a gaping and horrible wound beneath. Where black men don’t get shot for being black, where police aren’t feared but respected, where rage doesn’t explode into the street and where the response isn’t to terrorize the citizenry. It’s the way we fix it. It’s the way we heal.



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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • e jerry powell

    At my age, I'm less worried about getting shot in the street for WWB as I am getting pulled over for DWB.

    TK is right (not that I need to tell TK that), it's flashbacks to the riots of the sixties and seventies. I didn't even jump back to the 1992 L.A. riots, rather to Watts in 1965 "seemed" much, MUCH worse, even though fewer people died in 1965.

    I dunno. I'm getting numbed to things, because otherwise I'd go so negative that I'd probably try to overdose on my antidepressants. I need the woirld not to suck right now.

  • Jo 'Mama' Besser

    I'll have that drink, too.

    I made the mistake of listening to the news while tidying up and guess what? Someone who didn't know him before communicated with the police officer who shot Mike Brown and said during the press conference that he is a 'gentleman' and well-mannered. Well, how are you going respond when being interviewed about someone you killed? 'I did it for kicks, I'll do it again, too'? And our favourite police chief says of the officer that he is 'devasted and heartbroken'. Oh, no. Now there all of these (white, what else?) cops being interviewed for television and pretty much saying, 'Weellll, he didn't deserve it, but he deserved it.'

    Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but, isn't this Jackson fellow such a fuck-up do-nothing that the FBI took over the case? So, why in fresh hell is anyone supposed to care what he thinks, now? He abdicated that authority and isn't even part of the case now, so again, why is he giving press conferences? And what did he flap his gums about? Sympathy for the shooter. Stop interviewing him.

    People aren't getting shot (as much) in Canada, for obvious reasons, but the mentality is exactly the same. There are good things about this country but it's not some scepter'd isle and something nasty is constantly bubbling up to the surface of this melting pot. I've seen WAY more sympathy from Americans about this than Canadians, who essentially say, 'Well, that's just how black people are, they're always bringing this on themselves then playing the race card because they love to play victim. It's not my problem.' Yeah, because what black person doesn't want to be shot to death?

    I was chatting with a black woman from America and she said, 'I thought Canada was supposed to be post-racial.' It is 'supposed' to be, and the glaciers are 'supposed' to not melt, but, here we are.

    I don't know why it's not getting more coverage, but I wish more people would pay attention to the story of Ezell Ford, the 24-year-old man with developmental delays (delays known to the police who confronted him) who was shot to death while laying on the ground with his hands behind his head. They treated his mother horribly, too. When she saw her son down there, her request for information resulted in them (there were two officers there) threatening her with a beating as they pulled out their billys. For the life of me, I can't find out why they approached him. Maybe the story won't catch on because you can't spin two officers shooting a man they knew was mentally challenged in the back into being his own fault. He's not like that monster at Wal-Mart who was--I can barely say it--buying toys for his child. Wait a minute--

    This must be part of the reason as to why I'm a pianist. Right now, I get to spend hours focused on Debussy, alone.

    Make my drink a Seroquel Smoothie, on the rocks.

  • e jerry powell

    I'm cleaning up the score for the Dohnányi sextet. The score is in two files because whoever scanned it somehow lost five pages. I don't play the piano well enough to real-time it, so I'm plugging along a bar at a time in step-record. If I had a MIDI pickup for my cello, this could be much easier.

    Right now, even SportsCenter is annoying me, and I'm beginning to lose faith in even Al-Jazeera. THeir claim of "no noise, just facts" is really starting to ring hollow with their hours upon hours of rotating coverage of the world's general suckitude. Ferguson, Ukraine, Iraq, Gaza, and back again. Maybe their signal-to-noise ratio within their "journalism" seems okay to them, but their anchors are beginning to sound as willfully hyperbolic as judges on a reality competition. I already have too many demands for perpetual outrage from the gay blogosphere as it is, and I am plumb wore out with the racism, primitivism, tribalism, sexism and every other "-ism" that the media can throw against a wall..

  • Jo 'Mama' Besser

    That's really interesting, do you specialize? I can be made to do other stuff, but I specialize in late ninteenth/early 20th century France. More because it's what I interpret best in my playing than anything else, but it helps that I love the music. I end up with a lot of Satie, Debussy, Les Six (though mostly Poulenc), you know the drill. Lately I've doing more writing than playing, but I'm on the hook for a Debussy Préludes mini concert/seminar. That wasn't a terribly interesting comment, but it's not every day that I come across another black classical musician.

    We're all tired, friend--especially since I'm finding The Man in the Iron Mask only to be 'pretty good' as I'm starting to willfully withdraw into avoiding things that will encourage sudden outbursts in my own personality. For a few hours, at least. I will never find another One Hundred Years of Solitude, Sweet Fanny Adams, that book is just incredible!

  • e jerry powell

    Well, I was a composition major, specializing in electrionic and experimental; I also hosted an avant-garde/contemporary/performance art radio show for about six years (radio was still a thing when I was younger). As far as performing, I play whatever people put in front of me as long as the checks don't bounce. Musical theater, symphonic rep from baroque to post-modern. Right now I'm getting dragged along in chamber ensembles, but I try to stay away from anything before Beethoven for the most part.

    Oddly enough, my iTunes has been full of the complete Ciccolini recordings of Satie all day. I ended up in early French keyboard collections (and Satie in particular) because of a deep-rooted love of Dadaism, which I came to in turn through the concrete poetry of Apollinaire.

  • Jo 'Mama' Besser

    You're spooking me out. Right now, I'm doing revisions on a Poulenc paper I'm submitting next month on suite that uses Dadaist poetry in one of the movements. I have a great big tome on Dadaism, the name of which I can't remember, but I can make the trek to the next room over if you're interested. You're more versatile than me, as far as studying, writing about and performing goes, if it doesn't show up in a Norton, I probably haven't dealt with it. I used to end up premiering new works for friends, but I haven't in quite a while. At present, the closest I get to capital-C Classical is Neoclassical, which is fine by me as I have little care for a minuet by Mozart: I want to hear Ravel's take on it.

  • e jerry powell

    I'm not as deeply into Poulenc as I am, say, Milhaud. I've played the Gloria, and I'm familiar with Dialogues of the Carmelites, but I have been familiarizing myself with his chamber music over the past, say, thirteen to seventeen months; I gifted myself the Naxos box set of Poulenc's complete chamber music that Alexandre Tharaud curated. I mostly remember Poulenc for the flute sonata, because all my ΜΦΕ big sisters (yes, I'm a guy who was in Mu Phi Epsilon instead of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, go ahead and roll your eyes) were flutists who seemed to be alternating between the Prokofiev and Poulenc flute sonatas among themselves for their recitals.

    The thing about Dada with me was that I kind of embarrassed the chair of my music school's music lit faculty by asking him a question he couldn't answer. He loved to carry on about the connections between Debussy and Ravel to the Impressionist painnters and Schoenberg, Berg and Webern to the Expressionist writers and painters, but he had no idea that Satie was directly connected to the Dadaists (among others); he was a little weak on much that happened between 1915 and the death of Bartók (and forget about anything after that). That, combined with the fact that during his sophomore survey class, I sat at the back of the classroom and read along with his lectures in the unabridged Oxford D.O.M. (which, of course, was another embarrassing fact about his career) led him to ask me not to take his Symphonic Lit. class and register me in the graduate seminar in Mahler (which I hated at the time, and I'm not completely reconciled to Mahler yet, despite having cashed a paycheck for playing Mahler's 2nd).

    Now that I think about it, my music school is a serious disservice to music. Most of my "real" lit. background has been self-taught, but for one class I took in 20th-century music (which did a lot to strengthen my understanding of Expressionist serialism and a limited amount of neoclassicism -- specifically Stravinsky, because as we all know, nobody gives a flying rat's ass about Prokofiev, right? -- and the Lendvai analysis of axial tonality in Bartók).

    Ah, I remember Norton. I also remember being thrilled when the radio station I was at acquired a complete Grove's. I have never read as much since, really. I think I cleared about half the volumes just randomly during my Met Opera shifts.

    See? Now I'm not thinking about Missouri at all.

  • Jo 'Mama' Besser

    Regarding Poulenc, obviously the greatest familiarity that have is with the piano work or piano-inclusive works and that's what pulled me in. Piano was his instrument and it shows. That said, the final scene of Carmelites is my favourite in all of opera--it just guts you. It's not currently in fashion to enjoy the staging done at the Met in 1987, but I can't imagine why. Just watching that scene on YouTube is really affecting, but I guess those are the same freaks who don't like Jessye Norman's Four Last Songs.

    I would skip the chamber ensembles and head towards his sonatas and concerti. The concerto that he did for two pianos is a good one, the second movement is beautiful. I prefer the clarinet (another lovely one) and violin sonatas and Concerte Champetre has another beautiful second movement. Suite francaise is another one I really like, the Pavane, Complainte and Bransle de Champagne are the standouts to me.

    Prokofiev effectively photobombed Stalin's death, who could deny that?

    I enjoy Stravinsky's neoclassical period too much to get burnout. The Cantata, Symphony of Psalms, Concerto for Wind Instruments etc. are just too damned good.

    And the second Mahler symphony is one the shortest. I thought Turangalila Symphony (which I love) was long, but oh, man. I like the first three movements of the Mahler, but the last one is too much for me. It's like the Hammerklavier Sonata, I can't take it.

    I guess your teacher had a different sense of the era because I would never put 'Ravel' and 'Impressionism' in the same sentence, not musically, at least. He died in 1937, so he was, if nothing else, too young to be clumped with Debussy. The music is just too pristine for that. The poets makes more sense to me as he set Symbolist texts to music--a personal favourite being 'Un grand sommeil noir' on Verlaine. It almost makes you forget what an utter bastard Verlaine was.

    I don't even know what to say about the Satie gap, the man was in a movie with Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia and created a readymade with Man Ray. And his completely batshit -crazy directions to the performer is a pretty dead giveaway. Or, should be.

  • MissAmynae

    Astoundingly well written. Thank you for this. Will be sharing the eff out of this one.

  • Maddy

    What I would like to know where are these so called 'men's rights' activists when unarmed black men get killed? Where are those libertarian anti government people? Oh wait I think I know the answer

  • manting

    The mens right activists you speak of are like westboro baptist church - A pathetically tiny number of people with views no one agrees with that somehow get much more attention than they deserve. Let it go. I never seen a men rights march, or a mens rights recruiter, or a mens rights anything. All they are is internet trolls.

  • Maddy

    I mean I do realise this and agree lol

  • _Alexander_

    You know as horrible as it is for a innocent black kid to get killed I wished Americans and most Europeans paid half the attention and showed even 1/10th of the outrage when literally hundreds of children are constantly killed in Palestine or when countless people are going through hell in Ukraine because of Putin's ambitions. I mean yes I know obviously what hits closer to home is always more emotionally important but as a neutral third party observer on the internet the sheer massive difference in the response between the different tragedies is kind of disturbing to me. It's like we don't give a shit unless it happens in a first world country

  • Maddy

    People are capable of caring about more than one thing at once. It's also not like this was an aberration or not part of a bigger pattern about police brutality aimed at black Americans. From what I've seen it seems to be getting more coverage on social media than the mainstream media. People protesting and making a stand is the only way anyone will pay attention.

  • foolsage

    It's not that, really. Well, not only that.

    America is and long has been self-absorbed. We're the "shining city on the hill", blessed with "American exceptionalism" (two phrases endlessly and tediously abused by those who don't bother to learn their meaning). But at the same time, we remain quite influential, and so what we do here genuinely does matter internationally sometimes.

    It's hard for us to get really worked up about the terrible violence halfway across the world when we have so much still here, despite everything. We're jaded consumers of this kind of news, at this point. I'm not defending that attitude or its outcome, merely diagnosing.

  • _Alexander_

    It's not just Americans(in fact Americans have sort of excuse since from the little I saw of your media it likes to pretend that nothing outside of USA exists ). It's generally most of the west. If it's not some "hip" news which is almost always exclusively deserved for first world word countries nobody really cares and just reponds with the usual mumbled yeah that's bad. But as soon as it is something "cool" there comes this whole rollercoasters of deep emotions, outrage and anger at everything

  • Berry

    Like I mentioned yesterday, Finnish news outlets have covered the Ukraine situation pretty extensively. I'm just pissed at the way everyone seems to mostly look at it trough what the sanctions will do to our economy. Or maybe pissed is not the right word. Because people are worried about their jobs, and I get that. They have reason to be. But to suggest that there should be no sanctions is ludicrous. Would we really want to send Putin the message that treating Russia's neighbors this way is basically a-okay with us? You'd think not, but the way some people talk...

  • Austie

    I've lived in southern and central Illinois all my life, but moved to stl 5 years ago. I love this city. (My avatar is the fountain in Kiener plaza dyed red for the playoffs) I seriously love living here. I live in an area that is pretty much a diverse liberal utopia. As soon as I heard about the shooting on Saturday I knew something terrible was coming. The racial divides are unlike anywhere I've ever lived. The overt racists are worse than in the small 100% white southern Illinois town where I grew up. I could never dream of this though.

    I have been sick, literally sick to my stomach all day today. If you wish to join in my sickness read the Facebook comments from the stl post-dispatch. I so badly want to be involved with the protests but right now I'm the sole caretaker of my son while my husband is out of town. I have been having the same thoughts as you, TK, as I have been playing with him this week. By the virtue of being born to white, married, college educated parents the chances of him ever facing a gun being pointed at him by a cop is pretty much zero. Just 4 or 5 miles from here, and across this country too, there are mothers who have teach their children how to not appear to be resisting arrest. Who have fears that I can never really know.

    I can't believe there are people in this country who aren't deeply troubled by this. There are entire sections of this city (and of course stl isn't the only one) that we have collectively decided to write off. The Normandy school district where Michael brown graduated is unaccredited and broke. The Missouri Supreme Court ruled those students could transfer to other better districts. You would not believe the public outrage from the white people in the outer suburbs that their precious snowflakes had to rub shoulders with the poor black children who would "disrupt" their school. When I meet new people and tell them I live in the city they genuinely assume I live in a ghetto or friends are scared to park in front of my house in broad daylight.

    I had to turn off social media. I can't handle anything else right now. And then I feel guilty that I have the luxury of turning it off, people in north city and north county are living it.

  • The world is so effed up, all I can manage to say right now is that I'm proud to be your friend.

  • TK

    Back atcha.

  • gforcetwo

    Selah.

    ("Pause, and think of that.")

  • JSintheStates

    Well, Obama? See what Bush's paranoia and fascism have wrought? You threw out the 4th and 1st Amendments—and now you have an American Police State right out of Orwell's 1984! You're the transparent President, the Nobel Peace Prize President, the war mongering, kill an Islamic jihadist terrorist for Jesus President, aren't you? Well, damn me straight to hell for voting for you!!!

  • Can you send me a link to your newsletter? I'd like to subscribe.

  • .

  • foolsage

    Please explain how Obama "threw out" the First Amendment. I'd love to hear this in detail. Are you complaining about how the Obama administration has prosecuted security leaks, for instance, and then conflating that with the entire rest of the First Amendment?

    Or is this another one of those "my car got a flat tire; thanks Obama" bits of satire? Poe's Law makes it hard to tell.

  • I think that was the '5000 degree 'off the pigs' hot take' someone upthread was expecting.

  • ramarubia

    I'm in St. Louis city. I think we all knew something like this was going to happen soon, but I didn't think our area would be where it happened. I don't think I've ever felt so helpless. There is a deeply-seated but subtle racism and almost-deliberate ignorance about privilege around here. The community statistics showing the racial/ethnic breakdown and income level of the St. Louis region are damn depressing (and telling).

    At least this travesty has no prayer of being covered up. I hope when this is over (and please let it be soon), we really look at how we can do better by everyone.

  • Icemonkey

    Why is it easy to believe that a cop lost his mid and attacked the kid, but not that the kid lost his mind and attacked the cop? I wasn't there and I have no idea what happened. If the cop shot that kid without being provoked then he should be charged with 1st degree murder like any other killer. But if the kid attacked the cop and tried to take his gun then what should the cop have done? Both of those scenarios are equally possible.

  • Jo 'Mama' Besser

    What's crazy is that people default to, 'It makes COMPLETE sense that unarmed kids would attack people who are bigger and stronger than they are. The fact that they know that those people are carrying loaded guns just sweetens the pot. Always trying to steal people's guns.' People come up with the most nonsensical fuckery to facilitate the 'harmful, dopey black people who I don't want to see as victims' narrative. And he's going to get into a one-sided gun fight in front of thousands of people? Anything is possible, but really, that's profoundly stupid.

  • Genevieve Burgess

    The cops have already changed their story at least once (originally, they said that the cop stopped the two men due to "reports of shoplifting" until the store owner they allegedly shoplifted from said he never called the cops) and Mike Brown was dead at least 20ft from the police cruiser. This means that even if there was an altercation at the cruiser, Brown was not shot during that altercation and likely could have been apprehended without deadly force. If he was shot in the cruiser, I'd be a lot more willing to believe the scenario presented by police.

    And there are other eyewitnesses. Mike Brown's friend, and two other people from the neighborhood have all spoken about what happened and their stories don't match the one the police are telling. Hopefully the truth comes out soon.

  • The kid was shot multiple times, while the cop says only one shot was fired. Multiple witnesses have come forward to say the cop shot the kid when he was a good 25-35 feet away. The cop's story WOULD be more believable, if we actually had evidence and witnesses to back it up. The police have provided neither, just a second-hand testimony of the cop who pulled the trigger.

    Which is harder to believe, that a kid would try to take the gun of a police officer away and get shot in a way that makes physics want an aspirin, or that a cop would make up a lame story to keep from getting in trouble for firing on an unarmed civilian while being shielded by his fellow officers?

  • Icemonkey

    I completely agree and it looks awful for the cop. But I'm not going to pretend to know what happened and I certainly cannot take everything that has been reported as fact. This will not be solved quickly. No one outside of the cop and Mike Brown knows exactly what happened. I cannot bring myself to to automatically believe that one of them 100% acted in the wrong way until someone can tell me more than what has been reported so far.

  • Jo 'Mama' Besser

    I think all of the people who watched him die right in front of their faces know. Their stories match up, that's not for nothing.

  • I am simply answering your question. From the information we have been provided, it is less likely this kid tried to even approach the cop, let alone try to take his gun from him. The ONLY information the police have provided was a secondhand testimony with no corroborating evidence or witnesses. One scenario has only one person's word to prop it up, the other has multiple people and most of the only evidence released to the public.

    So no, at this point, they are not "equally possible".

    It isn't about making early judgments. It's about there begin something rotten in the state of Missouri, something that is causing the police to react with such secrecy, and when people understandably don't like that secrecy and demand answers, they are greeted with a media blackout, arrest, or tear gas.

  • foolsage

    I can believe that either party made a mistake and instigated violence. However, though we do not know how the story started, we do know how the story ended: the police officer shot a young, unarmed man in the back. There is no way in which this is defensible, no matter who initiated the conflict, no matter what happened before the shooting.

  • manting

    In the last 24 hours Ferguson police have arrested, assaulted, and detained numerous innocent people including the press. This was done for several bullshit reasons which included the police not liking citizens and journalists taking pictures of them and filming them.
    1. Two reporters - one from the HuffPo and one from the WashPo both of whom claim they were wrongfully detained and assaulted - this occurred in a McDonalds.
    2. An Al Jezeera America news crew who were tear gassed and had their cameras and other equipment forcibly removed.
    3. A city Alderman who was arrested, detained, and released on bail and charged with unlawful assembly.
    4. An undisclosed number of protestors (who were exercising their first amendment rights) and the reason its undisclosed is because the police wont release the number.
    5. Numerous people also had their cell phones confiscated and were told they were not allowed to film the police or take pictures of them. This is categorically false. You have every right to film the police and they have no right to prevent you from doing so under the law.

    Last night the police showed up in full para military and riot gear armed with assault rifles and other military style weapondry and used rubber bullets, tear gas and flash bangs (stun grenades) on protestors. The also closed the street with two fully equipped armored troop carriers with turrets. How did we let our police forces become occupying armies? Why did we allow this? If I believed in god I would be praying my ass off for the poor citizens of Ferguson and not for the Gang in Blue that are playing apartheid soldier and terrorizing the citizens of Ferguson.

  • meadowdancer

    What gets me is that this is happening in America right now. When this was first on the news I thought they were showing footage of something happening overseas again.

  • Genevieve Burgess

    Here's a good piece on how even the military in hostile territory doesn't use the kind of tactics seen in Ferguson last night. From the Army field manual on civil disturbances: "During unified action, U.S. forces should never violate basic civil or human rights. "
    http://gawker.com/dont-call-th...

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Ehhh....but let's not pretend that the military always follows its idealistic guidelines.

  • "It goes without saying that the American military is not benign or without defect. "

    and

    "For all that, the military still has plenty of ethical disasters, its My Lais and Hadithas. But it also has clearer lines of accountability in place for when such things happen. "

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I know it was mentioned in the article, but I'm not sure the latter is completely true. Or, if "clearer lines" do exist, that they end up mattering in actuality.

    The basic rules of police forces everywhere contain guidelines for not curtailing our civil liberties. I'm not sure the structure is inherently flawed, so much as the actual implementation.

    I'll add that the fact that these police forces are better armed than some of our actual armed forces...THAT is a big problem in multiple ways.

  • "The basic rules of police forces everywhere contain guidelines for not curtailing our civil liberties. I'm not sure the structure is inherently flawed, so much as the actual implementation."

    I tend to give the police mild slack on this considering it's almost impossible to do their jobs in the modern world without some bending of the rules. That said, that's a real fine line.

  • "How, then can anyone say that the police in St. Louis County, and all over America, are not militarized? Because the cops aren't acting like soldiers. They're acting like extras in a Michael Bay movie playing soldiers."

    http://cdn.gifbay.com/2013/06/...

  • My coworker's sorority sister just posted this. She was arrested and kept for 18 hours following a peaceful protest and filming.
    http://instagram.com/the4th_du...

  • foolsage

    Thanks for sharing that. More examples like hers need to be seen and heard so people understand what's happening here. It starts with an assumption the police make: this is "us" against "them" and we need to arm and protect ourselves like soldiers on a battlefield. And it leads to escalation of violence, and mistreatment of the citizenry, and suppression of the press, and all sorts of tyranny. It's dehumanizing and openly breaks several Amendments in our Bill of Rights.

  • Miss Kate

    Well said.

  • The Grand Leaf

    Ask yourself a question. If you had to walk around Ferguson at midnight tonight, who are you afraid of? Angry protest mobs? Or the police? You're not afraid at all? Yeah right...

    Personally I'd be about 10x more terrified to be a police officer in riot gear right now than a peaceful demonstrator..

    Just want to everybody to gut check how they really feel instead of running their mouths like armchair warriors. You all know we don't live in North Korea with some brutal oppressive police force. It's just a couple bad apples that make bad decisions sometimes, usually motivated by fear.

    But large groups of angry people? Very unpredictable, very dangerous. Weird hive mind mentality takes over and they do really insane stuff they would NEVER normally do as individuals.

    I'm frustrated because nothing was learned from MLK and Gandhi. Anger and violence polarizes and prevents progress. MAYBE they win the battle and the Ferguson police force gets gutted. But that's where it will stop unless everybody chills the f out and approaches the problem peacefully and intelligently .

  • Maddy

    I suggest maybe having a bit of a better look at what MLK like actually said.

    It is absolutely not my place or anyone's to tell oppressed people that they're resisting wrong.

  • DeaconG

    That's what a lot of these folks don't understand.

    For all the crying about the violence, some people need to understand that we're still RESTRAINED.

    Once that line gets crossed, a whole lot of M16's, AK47's, shotguns and revolvers are going to start showing up and getting used against the po-po-after all, if a peaceful resolution isn't happening and the propaganda arms are trying to paint you as evil...well, why not go for it at that point?

    Then we'll see how fast the Ferguson SWAT team disappears...and the National Guard gets called.

    As an add-on, I want to pass on something I read years ago on a blog that was covering the NY transit strike a few years back and how folks were frothing at the mouth about "how dare those people go out on strike, they should all be fired"...

    All the folks who were frothing at the mouth in the local papers and media were folks of the caucasian persuasion who were "inconvenienced" because the transit workers, who work a very hard, demanding and dangerous job running the NY transit system, a workforce that used to be predominantly Irish is now 70 percent black and hispanic, actually had the nerve to ask to be compensated fairly.

    One of the posts talked about what would happen if these folks were to decide to get their freak on wholesale in NY and it went like this...the population of New York is 7.5 million. The total number of NYPD including reserve officers is 60,000. If one-twentieth of the population of New York decided to slip the leash, the NYPD is history.

    Eventually, someone is going to start shooting back at the SWAT teams...and when that happens, all hell will let out for noon.

  • God Of Bal-Sagoth

    If you had to walk around Ferguson at midnight tonight, who are you afraid of? Angry protest mobs? Or the police?

    After everything you've seen and read about the last 24 hours, you still ask this question?

    large groups of angry people?

    Like, say, the Ferguson PD?

  • EllenAllen

    Nearly every single study every conducted in the aftermath of a major riot has found that they start with police brutality. Don't believe me? Google it. I have no doubt Ferguson one will be found the same.

    As a citizen, the fact that I find both the idea of a policeman in riot gear AS FRIGHTENING as an angry mob is a huge indictment on how little trust I have in the ability of the police to "serve and protect."

  • mzbitca

    who you're afraid of often just speaks more to which side you identify with than to any sort of truth. Also, large groups of angry people aren't unpredictable and dangerous. There are well documented and effective ways to deal with angry protests and crowds. They don't involve spending hours pointing guns at peaceful people and overreacting to the slightest evidence of disobediance.

  • Yes, if only the unarmed protesters would just go home and let this kid be shot to death in peace, the world would smooth itself out and these cops could just get back to writing speeding tickets.

  • The Grand Leaf

    Right, because Martin Luther King just packed up his bags and went home. That's EXACTLY what I'm suggesting. Moron.

  • Your contention that the protesters are the ones escalating this action and causing this poor police department to deploy tear gas and sniper rifles and riot gear and concussion grenades is ridiculous, and...

    Why am I even talking to you about this?

  • Nimue

    I am tired of explaining to white people how privileged they are. And I am white and privileged. I just can't imagine how minorities feel in this country.

  • Chip Johnson

    You are right. Clearly Asian Americans are truly struggling under the yoke of racism exacerbated by the fact that in three of our last five major international conflicts we were fighting Asians, and they live under the lingering hatred from those who fought in and lost love ones in those wars. Oh, wait...

    I love it when privileged white people talk about the struggle of minorities.

  • Salasalu

    You're making a huge, audacious jump there...think about the foundation of this country and races involved there...

  • Chip Johnson

    I'm sorry, what is the jump? Nimue said minorities. Do Asian Americans no longer count? Are Asian Americans among the 'lucky' races even though they are a minority?

  • Kati

    Uh...I do believe our country had no problem whatsoever putting Japanese-Americans in internment camps after Pearl Harbor. So, yes, Asian Americans too.

  • Chip Johnson

    You are making my point exactly. And as a result, have Japanese American men become an insanely criminally prone subset of the population?

    Many cities still have what you could pessimistically call a "Segregated" Chinatown and/or Koreatown (which are often fairly crime heavy areas), but are Chinese and Korean students dropping out of high school at an alarming rate? Nope. Is that a result of all the programs put in place to try and help those kids achieve? Nope. The woman who does my sister's nails has a daughter at Princeton...

    Blaming the plight of black men on racism, past or present, is like a physically abusive husband blaming his actions on his wife "bitching all the time".

  • Emily Chambers

    So in your analogy the black community is the abusive husband, and racism is the beating that the wife is getting? Who's the wife in this situation?

    Also if it's not racism, what is to be blamed for the plight of black men? If it's not outside forces that are contributing to their problems, what sort of inherent issues do they have that other communities don't?

  • Berry

    "Who's the wife in this situation?"

    That's what I'd like to know. Surely no-one could go as far as calling white people or the society of United States at large the victims of black people. Then again, people keep finding new and wonderful ways of surprising you.

  • Jo 'Mama' Besser

    Not sure who the wife is but I know who the bitch is.

  • Maguita NYC

    Haven't you heard of your right to prejudice, Because Religion?

    Sorry for reminding everyone of one of the latest SCOTUS disappointment and shame.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07...

  • Berry

    That was another thing that happened in America recently that I didn't understand at all. Like I can't even tell you what it is about the whole thing that I don't understand, because I don't understand it enough to explain where my confusion lies.

  • Nimue

    I am not trying to tell any of their stories, or co-opt their plights. They can feel however they want. As a matter of fact I go out of my way to read about their experiences and their stories. I just recognize my privilege. That is all.

  • Chip Johnson

    I completely agree, but among my privileges I put race on the bottom of the list, and health, good parenting and a good education at the top

  • Jo 'Mama' Besser

    That's nice.

  • foolsage

    It seems to me that you really aren't conscious of how much racial privilege you get, because you take it for granted, like most do. It sounds rather like you're a fish who doesn't really notice the water surrounding it. "Oh, it's there, sure, but I don't feel especially wet. And what do you mean, I'm being continually supported by forces beyond my control? I have to fly [ed: swim] everywhere I go, under my own power."

  • Guest

    Ok wow. Is this for real?

    http://uproxx.files.wordpress....

  • Guest

    Ok wow. Seriously with this?

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Wow. Just.

    Wow.

  • Maguita NYC

    Ah, brainwashing at its finest: Odd how every time a black guy appears on Fox "News", they just happen to scroll the band information full of communism and violence.

  • manting

    I love how the simpsons (on Fox owned by Rupert the d-bag himself) makes fun of Faux news (also owned by Rupert the d-bag)

  • Ted Zancha

    WHAT! Is this real? I feel like this is a joke.

  • Jo 'Mama' Besser

    It happens all the time. People also love to invoke Rosa Parks to shame naughty blacks for not bowing down to the benevolent despotism of the, 'If they can say it, I should be able to say it because Rosa Parks fought for equality!' crowd mentality. They forever dismantle the context in which these figures worked and corrupt its aims and accomplishments to justify actions that the Civil Rights movement would never have supported. Maybe I misinterpreted their aims, but something inside of me doesn't imagine that Rosa, Martin, Medgar, Maya, Malcolm, Ruby, Ozzie, Paul, Sidney, Harry, Nina, Audre, et al. would have wanted that fight to be used to perversely justify the oppression of blacks by whites. Do they really think that this very thing against which he fought and died would somehow become the thing he would most want to protect? How about the content of character present in this continued open season on blacks, is targeting and murder what he said he wanted for his girls? Oh, wait, forgive me, I think it's called welfare queen nanny state parasites?

    I don't imagine that his principles would have been inclined to support rioting, but I am sure that this black man who was killed by a white man would have been overjoyed by the lack of sympathy, action and accountability for the black kid who was killed by a white man. This man has the luxury of being protected from jail and living anonymously on paid leave while someone who is little more than a child is having his memory tarnished over no evidence at all for having the unmitigated gall of not thinking for a moment that a person whose job is to protect him could turn up and fill his body with bullets. And King would have been impressed by that? A lemon has more humanity than that.

    Or maybe not, if I imagine that 99% of King's ire would have been directed at the demon rioters who caused some property damage while the comparably tame act of extrajudicial murder would've led him to say, 'Go forth and sin no more, homie. We're cool. Let's take the rioters down, arm in arm! They are weak, but guns are strong.' Yes, King's devotion to a politic of non-violence would have led him to the conclusion that the violence committed against this young man was an act of nobility. The kid who was killed gets a footnote, but that's not the real tragedy.

    You know what it reminds me of? It reminds me of whe Dennis Duffy was talking about the horror of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and expressed his heartbreak over what those people did to the Superdome (I don't know if you watched that show, but it was on 30 Rock if you didn't).

    But let's be fair, both of the people who were killed were gunned down by people who knew they were unarmed--PLUS, both of the black guys were standing and shit... that's terrorism. Benghazi, ho!

  • Ted Zancha

    Oh, I know all about racist white people using black civil rights leaders to shame minorities. It's just that sometimes I am still shocked by the ineptitude and lack of compassion by Fox News. How they are still considered a news network is beyond me.

    I am so happy to hear that things took a turn for the better yesterday when the police actually talked with the people in the streets and weren't wearing gas masks and threatening rubber bullets.

    Oh and Dennis Duffy is the worst (and constantly hilarious)

  • Jo 'Mama' Besser

    Fox News is truly a blister on a withered wang.

  • NateMan

    Awesome.

  • Jo 'Mama' Besser

    Thank-you!

  • Chip Johnson

    Siting statistics about frequency of arrest as indicators of racism is terribly flawed logic. People don't like to talk about this, but completely impartial data shows that black commit violent crime (rape/murder/assault) at six times the rate that whites do, and non violent crime at an even higher multiple (I forget the exact number, but well into the double digits). If you doubt this, google it, or just think about how often we hear black leaders talk about the epidemic of crime in the black community. This being the case, blacks will be arrested considerably more often than whites.

    Also, no matter what color your skin is, if you engage in a physical altercation with an armed police officer there is a good chance you will get shot. I agree with everyone who says that deadly force was probably not necessary, and multiple shots were certainly not necessary, but you are a fool if you really believe this kid got shot just for walking in the street and being black.

  • foolsage

    http://ago.mo.gov/VehicleStops...

    You might want to read up on the statistics of how the police in Ferguson treat black civilians compared to white civilians. It's right there in the middle of that chart, by the way: look for the row titled "Disparity index". That shows conclusively that police in Ferguson stop, search, and arrest black people FAR more frequently than they do white people (after controlling for population, that is).

    For instance... there are twice as many black people in Ferguson as there are white people, yet black people were searched 562 times compared to white people being searched 47 times.

    Yet you really don't believe it's at all possible that there's any institutional bias here? You want us to believe that this is fair and just, and nothing else? After controlling for population, a black person is six times as likely to be searched as a white person in Ferguson. Yet you'd like to claim that there's no bias at all? Really?

  • Chip Johnson

    First, wasn't the claim that is is black men that are being unfairly targeted? This data shows that black women are more than 10% more likely to get pulled over than black men. :)

    The search ratio relative to population is meaningless, relative to # of stops has some meaning, and you are right, blacks who were stopped were searched about 17% of the time vs 10% for whites. I would agree that this points to a degree of bias, but you also can't point to that disparity and say "racism", just as you can't point to an arrest disparity and call it racism, as there are other factors involved, as in how the driver acts etc.

    One factor that is worth pointing out is that 39% of the black people were stopped for license infringement vs 22% of the white people. If someone has an out of date registration, unmatched tags, or uninsured vehicle, does it not warrant a cop being suspicious? Furthermore, if as is being claimed cops are wildly racist and take every opportunity unjustly prosecute black people, if you were black, wouldn't you make sure your tags were up to date to avoid getting pulled over for something stupid?

    I'm not claiming there is zero racial disparity, but the disparity in action by race is no where near the disparity in actual violations, so you mathematically can't call it purely race based. Blacks make up a little more than half of the population, yet were pulled over almost 7x the rate of whites. I know you would say that is because the cops are racist, but 93% of those stops were the result of committing a moving, equipment or license violation. If you don't break the law, you don't get pulled over... I'm guessing you assume the cops just let white folks speed and drive unregistered vehicles as much as they want.

  • Aaron Schulz

    I think the use of Man is more of a species indicator, not a gender indicator in this case. But please, continue.

  • foolsage

    First, no, nobody was bringing gender into this racial issue, but again, nice attempt to derail discussion. :)

    Second, consider that 20% of the black people searched had contraband compared to 33% of the white people. Shouldn't that logically lead to MORE searches of white people than black people? Whites were more likely to commit crimes, while blacks were more likely to be targeted by cops. Again, this is pretty clear evidence of bias.

    Third, if you don't break the law, you DO get pulled over, if the cop feels like pulling you over. It's really that simple.

  • Slim

    You are fool for not believing it. It has happening all the time in America these days. Jordan Davis was shot in Florida by Michael Dunn while sitting in a car a gas station-- the provocation? Playing music too loudly. John Crawford, in Dayton, Ohio, was shot dead in a Wal-Mart for carrying/trying to buy a pellet gun. http://www.motherjones.com/pol...

  • Aaron Schulz

    This is getting good

  • Chip Johnson

    Slim, the site you posted absolutely, 100% supports my statement. In every case the person who was killed was attacking the cop, resisting or failing to comply with reasonable requests. The guy in the wal-mart was waving a gun around for christ sake. I'm not validating that the force was needed, but that does not make it racism. If the same thing happened and the guy was white... then what?

  • Jo 'Mama' Besser

    He wasn't 'waving' anything around, he was holding a toy gun in the toy gun section of the store.

  • Salieri2

    "Failing to comply with reasonable requests?" Are you fucking shitting me right now? Michael Dunn didn't like Jordan Davis's "thug" music, so somehow shooting him is a valid response?

  • Emily Chambers

    We'll find out when cops start killing white men as often as they kill black ones.

  • Chip Johnson

    The first step toward that is white men will have to start committing crimes at the same per capita rate as black men, so police are given more opportunities to shoot them.

  • Emily Chambers

    Ok, not- racist. Whatever you say.

  • Jo 'Mama' Besser

    Right?

  • Emily Chambers

    What about the fact that he was approached by the office just for walking in the street and being black? Can you find an example of a white kid being approached, told to "get the fuck on the sidewalk", and then eventually shot? Does the inherent fear of a group of young black men and hostility shown towards them not count as racism in your book?

  • Chip Johnson

    I am a white male, and as a teen there were a number of time that a cop told me and friends to stop doing what we were doing, or stop walking where we were walking, or to get the hell out of wherever we were causing trouble. Teen boys are trouble makers by nature, so no matter what their race, people (and cops) think they are up to no good.

    Guess what, we never got shot. We never even got roughed up. There was at least one instance I can think of where we had to put our hands on the hood and be frisked, and we complied, and walked away from it.

    There are plenty of asshole cops out there who want a power trip, but them being a dick to a black kid does not automatically make them racist, it makes them a dick. I'm not saying it is impossible this guy is a racist, not at all, maybe he is, but it is foolish to assume he is based on this situation.

  • Maddy

    How about you stop talking and listen to what's being said about this and maybe look up some stats about police treatment of not just black men but women. It is absolutely about race. And people have every right to call it out.

    The police have systemic power as an institution and now is not the time to be like 'well some cops are ok and just the odd one is a dick'. Nope.

  • foolsage

    Nicely said!

    But I think he already has stopped talking, from his posting history; at least for today.

    And, though I've disagreed with him in rather a lot of recent posts, I will agree with him that SOME police abuses of power absolutely aren't racist, but just simple abuses of power. But sadly, many police abuses of power are clearly racist, and that's a problem.

  • Maddy

    Lol clearly I came in late on this. Look I'm a white female from Australia and I'm not gong to pretend to have any clue of what people affected by this issue are going through because I can't possibly.

    And I'm not going to pretend that this kind of thing doesn't happen in my country either or do the annoying thing where I've seen other white Australians act like we're not a racist country because OMG you must actually be joking. But anyway now is not the time to make this about Australian bullshit.

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