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Mon Aug 25, 2014, 02:24 PM

We the 'People of Ferguson' [View all]

Last edited Mon Aug 25, 2014, 11:49 PM - Edit history (9)

THEY'RE burying Michael Brown today, and much has been said during his funeral that was heard and will be repeated. A few words are running through my head as I pull myself away from the coverage and reflect on this day - on the days preceding this sad and introspective one recalling the life of this young man. Among those: peace; justice; responsibility, accountability . . . A few thoughts, if I may - some old, some new.

I'm not actually from Ferguson, but I share a deep affinity with their plights; both societal and economic. It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has watched events unfold in the moments and days following his murder that there was a prominent drive to the day of his burial to justify turning away from this injustice - to try and dismiss and obscure this tragedy with yet more despicable characterizations of this young man and of those who dare to elevate his humanity and his identity above all of the hate and violence perpetrated against him and his memory, and even some hate and violence practiced in his name.

Who are we; we the people of color? We the African Americans? We Minorities, we Negroes, we Blacks? Our history in this country is rooted in slavery and oppression, but in the search for the roots we sometimes find that the more we draw closer to our black identity, the more we seem to pull away from the broader America. An insistence that our community must necessarily be at odds with white America, because of our tragic beginnings, threatens to render our successes impotent.

Yet, what becomes of a quest for a national identity when many of blacks' contributions in developing and reforming this nation have not been acknowledged or reciprocated? Can we really put aside our identification with our unique heritage and regard ourselves as 'homogenized,' even as our particular needs are seemingly ignored? Can we; even as the advancement of a person of color to the highest office in the land is openly disparaged by racism and hatred?

We the Egyptians. We the Portuguese. We the Sudanese; the Nubian; the Ashanti; the Mossi. We the Arabs; we the Spanish; we Indians; we Europeans. We the Moslem; the Muslim; we Christian; we Buddhist; we agnostic and atheist. We are all driven to roil tradition and UNITE, to prevent us from isolating ourselves into obscurity. We desperately need to move on.

These preoccupied courts of equity that are the instruments of our democracy were, in their infancy, forced to bend to the will of the governed by war, and tempered by a compact in which a united people reluctantly bestowed the force of their lives and labor to a handful of managers. From that compact, a nation was born. And from that compact, generations of Americans would give their faith and their lifeblood to defend the principles and morality which cosseted every sacrifice of their freedom and well-being that they entrusted to those they elected, for the benefit and furtherance of the common good.

These same Americans would demand today that those who profess to lead us would wield the power of our collective faith and struggle with a selfless spirit, and be humbled by the source of the awesome power that is effectively bequeathed to them with our vote. Yet through our nation's faith, and in the trust we place in our representatives that they would be humbled to serve the will of the people, and by their good judgement lead, we have been betrayed by a ruling-class oligarchy which has perpetuated its role and influence in our governance; not by the quality of their service, but through the advantages of patronage and association.

With our votes, cast for hollow promises of representation in the division and disposition of our contributions of blood and sacrifice, we get no more than spattered remains of precious meal from a pig's trough, and in turn, we assure their ascendency to that two-percent confederation of corporate interests who routinely divide the fruits of our labor for their own benefit and purpose.

As we reflect on the life of this young man gunned down in the street, let us not forget that it is these very police officers and other officials in Ferguson and elsewhere, who are supposed to be protecting and defending the rights of ALL of the citizens in their jurisdictions; and having divided themselves from the people they are supposed to serve, are presently doing little more than defending their own positions of authority over us, abusing that power we've invested in them with our votes and with our hard-earned contributions to our democratic system of governance.

It's not the peaceful demonstrators of Ferguson - under violent assault, surveillance, and arbitrary detention by these 'peacekeepers,' as they're euphemistically called - who've neglected to hold tight to those values of law and justice that cosset the foundations of our democracy. It's these abusive and self-protective officials and officers who have let go of any modicum of respect for these communities under siege and under fire from their canisters of smoke and tear gas hurled from a distance behind the protection of their taxpayer-sponsored armaments.

We are going to need to keep raising our voices above their sonic cannons and their lecturing from the elevation of the offices we've gifted them with; HOLLER if we must, until our voices are plainly heard and our demands addressed. THAT'S how "we bring about justice," and THAT'S how we "bring about peace;" by not allowing ourselves to be cowed into believing that these same indifferent officials and officers can be made to listen and bridge that gulf they've deliberately created to neuter our voices, and place themselves outside of the reach of their own responsibility and accountability to us, by muting or repressing the VOLUME of our own protests.

No one looking at the virtual army that has been arrayed and has already attacked protestors and demonstrators in Ferguson in the past week can ignore or dismiss the fact that these police forces, erected to protect and defend the community, are deliberately armed and armored for repression and deliberately positioned to suppress the very voices that are supposed to elect and guide the government and offices they serve under.

I've heard the excuses from the police and others for their tear gassing, smoke bombing, and sonic sound-blasting of demonstrators who've diligently taken to the streets every night since Michael Brown was gunned down:

One was that they were pursuing the someone who fired gunshots and needed the demonstrators to move. I find that ridiculous. Tear gas and smoke grenades scattered demonstrators and no shooters were caught or found among the peaceful protesters caught in the way of their own opportunistic violence. Cpt. Johnson tried to justify the use of smoke bombs and tear gas (which someone on the force first, incredibly, denied was used) by asserting that the crowd wouldn't disperse . . . so what? That's no reason to gas and smoke bomb demonstrators. It's the exact thing he said earlier wouldn't be resorted to.

Next excuse offered by police was that they had reports of snipers on a roof somewhere who were going to shoot at them if they tried to move the demonstrators. I find that unbelievable. Police had their OWN snipers on roofs, early on in the demonstrations, pointed directly at demonstrators. THEY were, and have been throughout, the most pernicious threat to public safety in Ferguson. It has been their own aim and desire to move protesters off of the streets which has been their pretext for most of the violence directed against the peaceful folks assembling every night.

Elon James, an entertainer who came to Ferguson to lend his presence and support to the people in the community daring to demonstrate against such incredible resistance from police and military forces, did so because, as he tweeted, he "wanted to expose the reality of what was happening in Ferguson . . . That's why I went down there to broadcast and why I kept updating y'all," he wrote.

"Folks don't understand that it wasn't just a protest at times. The police move like an army. Armed. Aggressive. And we were their enemy . . . it makes my head hurt: people mourning a man shot for walking in the street are threatened for walking in the street." he tweeted.


I'd certainly like to see much less confrontational, and much less violent tactics by police, for what is essentially jaywalking or standing in the street. These young folks are simply, understandably, testing the boundaries they are setting for these protests and it would be a wise move to make the state troopers and police less of an obstacle to those. They are being punished, over and over, for their authentic and historically valid expressions of self-determination and justice.

Some people, officers, officials, and observers have suggested that, perhaps, it would be better if the demonstrators would settle down and refrain from protesting, or, that the press is making it worse reporting on the demonstrations.

What I think has actually garnered our attention in Ferguson, though, - beyond the very real and tragic death of a jaywalking youth at the hands of a policeman, and the failure, so far, to move decisively to prosecute the killer - are the sparks of hope which have flashed from the edges of the smoke, gas, and rubber bullets hurled at the very conscience of the town as we watch the people in that community scatter and then regroup, over and over, and return again and again with the same demands for accountability from their elected and appointed officials and officers that are being so deliberately and actively ignored.

I don't think we'd be having this discussion if they weren't in the streets to begin with, and it's become clear that there's still need for even more protest actions to raise awareness and organize attention around their plights and challenges. Heck, even here at political-centered DU, you can't get much attention to strictly policy-based posts and threads. There often needs to be a spark or obvious catalyst to attention and action.

The press gathered there has caught some flak for becoming part of the story, but it should be clear to everyone looking on that there is no attention and action without that reporting. The police officers and officials looking to let this all blow over recognize that fact, as well.

I can recall a night when the press was one of the only refuges for protesting youth targeted by violent, seemingly vengeful police. The police don't want the press there witnessing their violence, and I suspect that this new narrative condemning their presence is a deliberate orchestration of a combination of a refusal of the networks to use their reports and a conscious effort by their media allies to distort them.

What I found notable that particular night was the way in which the police pushed those who were resting in a parking lot - a spot which had been a refuge ALL night for demonstrators to rest and catch their breath, get water and food, etc. - the way they lined up with their riot gear and rifles and pushed everyone into the street. Then, they began ordering protestors OUT of the street THEY pushed them in.

Demonstrators then formed a circle in that same general parking area and, after asking whatever police they were able for permission, began to pray together. At the end of the prayer, one man announced through a bullhorn that their demonstration was over and they would meet the next morning at another location. At that, most of the demonstrators started for their cars and many left.

The prayer circle seemed to agitate the police even more. They mobilized and lined up opposite the PRESS area. Several reporters began taking pictures; several were threatened at the point of guns to stop recording. There were several strobe lights held by officers lined up in riot gear opposite the press area to block the shots of their aggression. It was a futile, but an amazingly unconstitutional act.

I couldn't believe what I was seeing in the images and what was being recorded by these very prominent members of the press and also some public officials like Patricia Bynes, Democratic Committeewoman of Ferguson Township in St Louis County in MO; A delegate for MO's 1st Congressional District; who was hemmed in with the besieged media group.

The mostly young protesters who were left (not more than minutes after the prayers) quickly moved into the press area. For god sakes, it was the only place they were allowed to go. Older members of the demonstrating group quickly moved in between the line of police in riot gear who had lined up opposite the press area as if to attack and they held hands in a line and turned their backs to police to provide a barrier against the imminent assault.

That's when all hell broke loose. The police began yelling for the press too disperse. Where were they going to go? They were hemmed in on all sides. The police then began to rush in to the press area and extract youth who didn't appear to be threatening at all. The police ordered the press to move to one place and many did. The young and old demonstrators moved right along with them for protection, PLEADING with the press to not abandon them To the media's credit, they stayed right with them.

The police then ordered the press to move back to where they were, in an obvious effort to shake them off from the demonstrators seeking refuge among them from the rifles and batons and the mace that was being sprayed now indiscriminately at completely innocent protestors. The officers would rush into the press crowd with their rifles pointed directly at the non-threatening crowd and pick out young people and arrest them in the most violent way imaginable; face down on the concrete with their feet in their backs.

Reporters, photogs, and others who were incredibly there as human rights and legal observers were also slammed to the ground at gunpoint and arrested. At one point, police were literally throwing this one black man against a low metal fence until it gave way. They then took to pushing whoever was gathered there into, and violently over, that metal barrier; many unable to get over it without effort or injury.

After it became clear that the crowd wasn't resisting and was scattered here and there, the police began to dissemble their assaults as well . . . but not until after they had perpetrated the most egregious, arbitrary, and unnecessarily violent assault on an American-based media that I think I've ever witnessed or even heard of.

Ryan J. Reilly, a HuffPo justice reporter, was on the scene during the melee and made this comment to Politico on his own role there:

" . . . the media have a tendency to “protect their own,” which can result in disproportional coverage of journalists. Media personalities are also better known than the average citizen, and readers have the expectation that they can be trusted, he said.

“I definitely didn’t come down here planning on becoming a part of this story — I would have been much happier staying out of it. But that wasn’t really a choice I had, because I was locked up,” said Reilly. “As a reporter, you’re in the midst of it, and your presence is obviously going to have an impact.”

He added, “It’s tough to imagine how much worse the treatment must be for those who aren’t in the media, who don’t have that platform that we in the media do. Obviously, our story doesn’t compare to what other people have gone through.”


I'm not sure if many people realize that moderation and complacency is what's brought that community to this point - even before the shooting(s) the strife and outright indifference to this community's concerns is what marked them for the type of conflict that's highlighted today. Many articles have spelled that out in detail, but the bottom line is that Ferguson's return to 'normal' is a return to a whole host of problems which have plagued that community for decades.

It's never a clear line between where activism and action collide. It is clear though, this community needed to shout in the streets to finally be heard. Theirs is a lasting brand of hope and aspiration which will always stand and regroup long after the cynical and opportunistic blasts of smoke and gas have dissipated into the compromised air.

We are fortunate to witness such courage and resilience in the face of such unbelievable and unimaginable anguish. We are inspired by it, and challenged to stand firm in our own beliefs, and to regroup our values with every deliberate diversion and deliberate distraction. We're inspired to hold fast to our own principles in the face of derision and ridicule for not adhering to some petty political motivation or motive.

The protests and demonstrations in the streets will likely, eventually, dwindle down to a trickle - I think that's, perhaps inevitable, understandable. People in that community have more to accomplish in their lives than this very necessary defense of justice and their own humanity.

Efforts in that community, led by folks like Antonio French, a St. Louis alderman, and pols like Claire McKaskill, will be moving into an action phase where they will not only be helping keep the focus on justice in this particular case of Mike Brown, but accountability for the police department through direct actions, as well as an intense voter registration drive to empower the citizens of Ferguson and the surrounding area to force through the demands and changes they want to see in their community. That's still going to involve activism, albeit, maybe not staying out until midnight marching, but I wouldn't count these young folks and others out of the protest scene as easily as some might predict.

There are plenty of opportunities for that without keeping these people awake at all hours of the night (or in sweltering heat or eventual cold). As anyone can see, this is an energized and motivated group of citizens who have very specific demands, some of which have already emerged, others which I'm sure will develop and solidify as they transfer this protest energy into political action - and there are hosts of people there and help from outside to do just that.

So when we talk about these protests winding down, we may be referring to the clashes and other unproductive activity that marked the earlier demonstrations which brought greater numbers out late into the night (and in the day), but had less actual political impetus than I think we're seeing, even now, from participants in these direct actions and others.

Whatever the obstacle - police repression or political indifference -, there are needs and unmet expectations which won't be diverted by weather or other ephemeral barriers; nor deterred by diminishing crowds willing to stand in the streets and make themselves heard. I look for that protest effort to produce something more concrete, and that's what's going to ultimately make the difference in that community. Continued appeals and other targeted efforts will serve to keep that in the local and other spotlight as effectively, maybe more, than just marching and organizing in the streets.

If those demands aren't met, we're going to see these folks of Ferguson and elsewhere mobilize again and again until they are heard and their demands addressed. With some superfluous mechanisms of police intimidation receding and, perhaps regrouping, there is a deepening of the determination and resolve of those in Ferguson seeking justice, accountability, and even some healing.

It is an amazing thing to witness their resilience and their willingness and ability to adapt and adjust their activities to the confoundedly repressive occupation of their city by police who seem to feel it's their job to restrict the movements of even peaceful demonstrators along that avenue and others and to actually control the means citizens and others are using to organize and express their protests.

The ways in which these deadly and injurious instruments of violence and defense are being allowed by the governor and other state and local officials to be wielded against these demonstrators by officers and quasi-military forces is an almost incredible and direct contradiction of everything our nation is supposed to stand for.

ShordeeDooWhop @Nettaaaaaaaa expressed it well . . .

Darren Wilson EXECUTED Mike Brown 2 weeks ago. And for 2 weeks the police have been TERRORIZING residents trying to silence them. NEVER.


This cannot be allowed to stand unopposed with every responsible means available. This repression by officers and others in Ferguson is a direct reflection of what brought that town to the point of an unarmed teen shot repeatedly and killed over jaywalking. Again and again, that same force of violence and repression is being waged against not only teens, but each and every person who dares step out into the street to oppose it.

I can't help but well-up with great emotion at that thought and sentiment. I really don't know what's going on in my country - in Ferguson - and what we can do to make this stop immediately and to protect these youth and others right to assemble and protest without this police brutality and repression. Those aren't just catchphrases in Ferguson anymore. They are a stunning and frightening reality that we are all witnessing, seemingly helpless to make it stop.

Our social and individual activist media is progressing in prominence and ability, to the point where I believe we practically have a responsibility to exercise it wherever we find the need and whenever we are able (someone called these tweeters,'citizen journalists,' and I agree with that characterization).

I wanted to thank everyone looking in for being here and sharing these anxious days together with me. It's been a great comfort to have people here anguishing along with me for these youth and others caught in the way of this police repression and violence. A couple folks wrote that it triggers, and I'm just now hitting that kind of wall, myself. I hope for something more promising in the future that we can experience and help progress as a community, here at DU and elsewhere.

Outside of the cameras and the images which have flittered in and out of our view screens from these independent sources of live feed; in the vast area of neighborhood surrounding the sleepless edges of the target area of press and protest; there's something substantial which is transcending the long-ago faded hopes that the attention and commotion from their demonstrations for justice and accountability would produce livelihoods and futures which would lift the community out of despair and provide the prosperity and self-determination promised by the politics and politicians of past and present.

Here's to this generation's patriots who doggedly place progress over the politics of the day. Here's to this new generation's defenders of liberty, freedom, justice, and democracy! Here's to the end of the reign of this one-percent confederation of corporate interests. Here's to us!



. . . in my garden today

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Reply We the 'People of Ferguson' [View all]
bigtree Aug 2014 OP
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