I haven’t said anything about what happened and is still happening in Ferguson, Missouri for the primary reason that if I did say something, someone else has already said it better, and I’ll be linking to what I think are some important articles at the end of this post. I also haven’t blogged about it because I incorrectly assumed that if I knew about it, then everyone I know and have the opportunity to reach would also already know, would already have seen the same posts and articles and tweets and pictures that I have.
But over this weekend I found out how untrue that was. So, I’m taking a break from my review series to hopefully contribute something helpful.
So, if you have no idea what anyone is talking about when you see “#Ferguson” or hear someone mention Michael Brown, this is what you absolutely need to know.
On Saturday, August 9th, Michael Brown was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, and some of these shots appeared to have created multiple entrance and exit wounds. It is possible that the first four or five shots were not fatal, that it was only the sixth shot– which seems, to some experts, to have been delivered “execution style” to the back of the head. He was killed by a man named Darren Wilson.
Wilson was a white police officer. Michael Brown was a black teenager.
The Ferguson police department has a history of civil rights violations and also were so inept in their duties that their records were rejected for “major errors in data” by the Missouri Department of Public Safety; they also criminally charged a man for bleeding on an officer’s uniform after they beat him. The officers involved in that situation also appear to have committed perjury in open court.
Because of what Wilson did to Michael, and because of this history, the Ferguson community, which is almost 70% black, began protesting– a right protected by the Bill of Rights, and a right which is under literal, physical, brutal attack. American citizens are guaranteed the right to peaceably assemble, to petition their government for a redress of grievances. The people of Ferguson are embracing their duty as citizens to make it known that they will no longer tolerate such reckless disregard for human life and a completely out-of-control police department.
Since Saturday, many citizens have been tear-gassed, including senators, children, and news crews. After tear-gassing the Al Jazeera news crew, the police took down the video equipment and then approached the KSDK news crew with guns drawn. Multiple journalists have been arrested. Wesley Lowery, who was assaulted during his arrest, said that he was not given any names of arresting officers, would not be given badge numbers, was not told what he was being arrested for, and was released without knowing anything and without having any paperwork whatsoever. Multiple reporters have been threatened, detained and imprisoned under similar circumstances, and many have beguan wearing gas masks and bullet-proof vests because the area is so dangerous.
The police have been firing rubber bullets and tear-gassing peaceful protestors all week. These methods are technically considered non-lethal, but they are capable of doing horrific damage, like what they did to pastor Renita Lamkin and Mya Aaten-White:
And the situation is continuing to deteriorate. After two nights of trying to enforce a curfew, the governor has opted to summon the National Guard to Ferguson. President Obama has sent the Attorney General to co-operate with the Department of Justice and the FBI, who are conducting investigations into Michael’s murder and civil rights violations.
At this point, it would be easy to get caught up into all of the rights being openly attacked by our own police force– violation of the right to free speech, unlawful seizure, to peaceably assemble . . . but that would not just be a mistake, it would be wrong.
We cannot forget what the community of Ferguson is protesting, and why all of this is happening. They are protesting because their police officer, a man sworn to protect and defend their community, murdered one of their children. We also must not be distracted by the smoke-and-mirrors show that the police and much of mass media has to offer.
Those are the facts.
I would highly recommend you read the following articles. I think they would be valuable to read, as they offer an important perspective on the reality of systemic racial oppression in America. For what are hopefully obvious reasons, I’ve decided to include only articles written by black people.
“Things to Stop Being Distracted by when a Black Person Gets Murdered by Police,” by Mia McKenzie.
“Black Bodies, White Souls,” by Austin Channing Brown.
“10 Ways Racism Killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner” by Chauncey DeVega
For accurate, up-to-date information, I recommend you follow this list on Twitter.