It’s been just over a week since a Ferguson cop gunned down an unarmed 18-year-old man in the middle of the street, leaving his body uncovered for four hours; an incident that sparked a week of protests, rioting, looting, lawsuits, curfews, cop spin, racial divisions, police militarization and, of course, the usual attacks on media.
Statistically speaking, the killing of Mike Brown wasn’t anything extraordinary. Just another black man gunned down by a white cop in an economically repressed neighborhood. The type of incident that might wind up as a brief in the local newspaper, if even that.
But the fact that police left his body uncovered on the street for hours, allowing residents blow up the social media realm with photos, videos and commentary, left police unable to spin the usual story that a cop was in fear for his life, not that they didn’t try.
One witness even live tweeted the shooting, providing up to the minute details in the seconds after the shooting, snapping a photo of the cop later identified as Darren Wilson standing over Brown’s body (posted above).
Another resident recorded the chilling video in the immediate aftermath that captures the shock of residents and Brown’s parents upon seeing their son lying dead in the street.
As a result, police lost control of the message before losing control of the community, which only happened after the cops claimed that Brown had attacked Wilson, even though numerous witnesses said Wilson executed Brown while the teen was on his knees with his hands in the air.
A private autopsy just determined Brown’s body was shot six times; four bullets in his right arm and two to the head, including one at the top of the head, indicating the 6’3″ teenager was on his knees with his head down as witnesses stated. The shots don’t appear to have been shot at close range either, debunking the current spin on some sites that Brown had charged at the cop.
Today, heading into the second week of protests, the Missouri National Guard is on its way to Ferguson as well as dozens of activists from around the country, turning the St. Louis suburb into Ground Zero for the growing anti-police abuse movement in this country.
Already having sparked a wave of protests in cities that have seen their own citizens killed at the hands of police, it is no longer about Mike Brown, if it ever was about him.
And it’s no longer about police violence against black people, even if it is about police violence against black people in Ferguson.
It’s about Kelly Thomas and Eric Garner and Jim Boyd and Israel Hernandez and Luis Rodriguez and the hundreds of innocent people killed every year.
It’s about the woman beaten on the side of the road by a California Highway Patrol officer. It’s about the baby almost killed during a no-knock drug raid in Georgia that resulted in no arrests and no drugs. It’s about the man in New Mexico pulled over for a minor traffic violation before he was forced to endure anal probes for drugs that never existed.
It’s about those of us who have been beaten and arrested for recording cops in public, treated like enemy combatants in our own country by an increasingly militarized police force that has gone from “Protect and Serve” to “Comply or Die.”
It’s about all of us, no matter where you stand because the cops have been building this “us vs them” mentality for years now, a war they started and a war they were winning until they killed Mike Brown.
It is in Ferguson, a mostly black community served by an almost all-white police department with a history of violence and fabricated reports, that the tide started to change.
Last week, a poll indicated that 45 percent of Americans do not trust the justice system while 37 percent do and another 19 percent said they didn’t know, perhaps thinking their phones were tapped by the growing police state and not wanting to give the wrong answer.
Also, several politicians as well as the attorney general are questioning whether we have gone too far with the militarization, which is infuriating the cops on Police One.
Even USA Today, which rarely criticizes police, came out with a report that police are killing an average of more than 400 people a year, citing “very incomplete” information from the FBI, including the entire state of Florida, so the actual number is much higher.
And the fact that a prominent New York doctor stepped in to do the autopsy, knowing the official autopsy could take months and be completely falsified, spoke volumes.
People may criticize the looting and rioting, which has been done by a minority of the protesters, a few bad apples as they say about the bad cops, but it is the looting and rioting that grabbed the nation’s attention where they saw Ferguson transform itself into Fallujah.
Besides, it was the protesters themselves that stood guard around the stores to prevent them from further getting looted as the camouflaged-wearing cops threatened reporters with arrest.
When was the last time that we saw police earnestly police themselves as the protesters did Friday night? Large groups of young, black men clamoring for the live stream cameras to tell the world that they do not believe in looting their community, that they are just sick of the cops looting their community of basic civil liberties.
What we’re seeing in Ferguson has the potential to permanently tip the iceberg against the growing police state in this country, much of it a result of our country spreading freedom abroad before using those war machines to squash freedom at home.
But the battle has just begun. The cops are not about to lay down their ams. They are trained to do anything but that.
They are trained to kill instead. And many of them seem itching to kill. Begging for a movement, a look in your eyes, an assertive stance, a belligerent attitude, anything that would make them “fear for their lives.”
That is why it’s going to be dangerous in Ferguson these next few days and perhaps these next few weeks. With the national guard coming in, further militarizing the town, and the activists coming in, solidifying with the residents who have remained quiet way too long, it is very unpredictable as how this will work itself out.
But it needs to work itself out because it’s not just Ferguson, but every urban city and rural town in this country. Some more than others, but it’s gotten to the point where we can’t even call the cops for help without fearing they might turn on us.
Despite knowing the entire world is watching, St. Louis County police have arrested, attacked and threatened so many journalists, that it’s impossible to keep count, but the National Press Photographers Association has been busy.
According to the New York Times:
Police officials in Ferguson made it clear that they had no interest in accommodating news coverage. Officers in riot gear tear-gassed a crew from Al Jazeera working on a stand-up far from the action, then walked over and laid their equipment on the ground after they fled. Two reporters, Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post and Ryan Reilly of The Huffington Post, were arrested at a McDonald’s, perhaps for the crime of lurking with intent to order a cheeseburger. Antonio French, a Democratic alderman from St. Louis who had been documenting the protests and the security response nonstop on Twitter, was arrested as well.
(In one bit of irony in the aftermath of the events on Wednesday, President Obama said, “Here in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their job and report to the American people what they see on the ground.” This from an administration that has aggressively sought to block reporting and in some instances criminalize it.)
News organizations learned about the arrest and harassment of their reporters on Twitter and were able to take steps to get them out of jail. In the meantime, important information continues to flow out of Ferguson. As much as any traditional wire service, Twitter spread the remarkable work of David Carson, a photographer at The St. Louis Post-Dispatch who managed to take pictures despite being pushed around by both the police and the protesters.
Sunday night in yet another clash between cops and protesters, a cop was caught on video threatening to kill a live streamer for having a light turned on, as if they don’t shine flashlights in our faces and lenses on a regular basis.
“Get down, get the fuck out of here and get that light off, or you’re getting shot (or shelled) with this,” the officer could be heard yelling at Mustafa Hussein, a reporter from KARG Argus Radio, who had sued local and state cops earlier in the week for denying him the right to record where they reached “an agreement” that established what was already established.
According to the Washington Post:
Since chaos erupted in the streets of Ferguson, Mo., more than a week ago, journalists from all over the world have flocked to the scene. They have also, increasingly, become the target of police arrests.
Overnight, several journalists reported being detained, threatened or otherwise prevented from covering the unfolding story. The arrest late Sunday night of three reporters — Robert Klemko of Sports Illustrated, Chicago-based Financial Times reporter Neil Munshi and Rob Crilly, a foreign correspondent for the Telegraph (and no stranger to war zones) — reportedly came as the journalists attempted to gather more information while police faced off with protesters.
They were ordered arrested by Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who has been serving as a critical bridge between the Ferguson community and law enforcement.
Police claimed Sunday night that protesters were throwing molotov cocktails at them, which is what prompted them to start shooting tear gas at them, but three journalists I spoke with that were with the protesters never saw a single molotov cocktail.
I’m planning on sending PINAC crew member Taylor Hardy out there to do on the ground reporting, so it would be nice to get some financial support as we are still searching for seed money to build what is now being treated as a startup. Tax-deductible donations can be made in the upper right-hand corner of the site.
Finally, if you hear of a protest in your area, don’t hesitate to join it. And don’t be afraid of chanting Hands Up, Don’t Shoot with your arms raised next time you see a cop – the defiant chant that started on the streets of Ferguson the night of the killing and is spreading throughout the country – showing them we’re not afraid while shaming them that we are afraid.
Because look at the way they treat reporters in the video below knowing they are on camera. And imagine how they act when they are off camera.