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As union members gathered in the nation’s capital over the Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, some of the country’s top labor leaders faced tough questions about how the movement can reconcile its support for racial justice with its embrace of police unions. Over the last year, the AFL-CIO, America’s largest federation of unions, has faced calls from some in its membership to end its affiliation with the International Union of Police Associations.
St. Louis County declared a state of emergency for Ferguson on Monday due to the officer-involved shooting that took place on Sunday. Protesters were mourning the anniversary of the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown when shots rang out. The shooting victim is Tyrone Harris Jr. of St. Louis, 18, who was “real close” to Brown, his father says. In a rally the next day, dozens of protesters were arrested during a demonstration against police brutality.
After two officers were shot, police conducted an unjustified dawn raid on a house in Ferguson. A woman and her 6-year-old son had the red laser sights of police rifles trained on their chests as they emerged into their garden under orders from the officers, who arrived in military-style vehicles.
The message for the protectors of the white corporate and financial elite is that it does not matter if you execute a kid in cold blood in front of a dozen witnesses or you are caught on video murdering Eric Garner or 12 year-old Tamir Rice; you don’t have to fear prosecution from the state. It is now open season when it comes to policing and controlling the dangerous class of poor and working class Black people.
A Ferguson grand juror who heard the case of Darren Wilson previewed potentially scathing criticism of St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch in a lawsuit alleging that McCulloch skewed the views of jurors when he delivered a lengthy public presentation to announce that the jury wouldn’t file any charges against Wilson for killing Michael Brown. The juror filed a federal lawsuit Monday anonymously to challenge a gag order.
It’s kind of fitting that police officers Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo, murderers of Mike Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York, were cleared of criminal wrongdoing in the last several weeks. The eruption of protest, activism and organizing in response to the (bad) decisions of legal bodies to not hold these officers accountable for their crimes has occurred at a time of special significance for the legacy of the Black Panther Party.
On Dec. 9, Supervisor John Avalos introduced a resolution to the Board of Supervisors to address racial profiling and the use of force by police officers, nationally and locally, as well as to uphold the right to nonviolent protest. Supervisors David Campos, Jane Kim, Malia Cohen and Eric Mar signed as cosponsors. A final vote on the resolution will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 16, and a large showing of support is vital to its passage.
The marches in the streets are not done. The die-ins disrupting traffic are not done. Any kind of closure for the families of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley and so many others is far from done. Athletic protest actions have the effect of amplifying the impact of a new struggle for human dignity in the face of racism. It has found expression in all 50 states and in solidarity actions in cities around the world, all with the message that Black lives matter.
August Wilson’s largest message is to remember. He insists we remember our song, that we do our duty to life by remembering we were born free with dignity and everything. He is a Sankofa playwright capable of making the past come to life in the present. His methodology a metaphor for remembering you must look back to move forward successfully; if you drop the ball, you’ve got to go back to get it to be successful in the end zone.
Wait. Patience. Stay Calm. We’ve been waiting for dozens, hundreds, thousands of indictments and convictions. Every death hurts. Every exonerated cop, security guard or vigilante enrages. The grand jury’s decision doesn’t surprise most Black people because we are not waiting for an indictment. We are waiting for justice – or more precisely, struggling for justice. The young people of Ferguson continue to struggle with ferocity.
The call to action here is to, while outraged, spend some time and energy focusing on what we have, who stands for us, who needs our help. So YES to #BoycottBlackFriday and yes to #InvestInJustUs. Let’s acknowledge and support our justice-seeking institutions who labor to defend us 365 days a year.
Wilson’s description of Brown as a “demon” with superhuman strength and unremitting rage and his description of the neighborhood as “hostile” illustrate implicit racial bias that taints use-of-force decisions. These biases surely contribute to the fact that African Americans are 21 times more likely to be shot by police than whites in the U.S., but the statement’s racial implications remained unexamined.
The pastor said he doubted the same people who were raging on the other end of West Florissant had burned his church. Instead, he said, he suspected white supremacists who wanted to punish him for his support of the Brown family, who had just been baptized there.
I was born and raised in Missouri, so hopefully I can shed some light on how Ferguson, a little Missouri suburb of 21,000 people, became the focus of the nation, and even the world. I am getting the stench that they’re about to pull the pin on another grenade to throw that community into upheaval, so first let’s take a hard look at what they’ve been through and why. First of all, when we think of racism, we tend to think of Mississippi and Alabama due to the events of the ‘60s. However, Missouri was one of the bloodiest states during the Civil War because it was so divided – and it is still that divided today, as we’ve seen in Ferguson.
They’re like, “Fuck it. I can die out here for nothing going at these cats from the other side or I could die for justice tonight with these police.” They’re fearless – they’re ready to be a martyr. Now all of this money that it must cost to bring all these cops in, ... all y’all had to do was put one man in jail. That’s it! A thousand police officers are going to be here in St. Louis and for what? To go out and kill another unarmed Black kid in the streets and then leave him there for four hours? I think that the ripple effect of this is going to rock the whole nation. It could be the tipping point for race relations in America when it comes to policing.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch article about the controversial leaked autopsy report quotes California forensics expert Dr. Judy Melinek extensively, but it turns out that she didn’t say what the story says she did. If you think the official autopsy report exonerates Darren Wilson, blame it on a couple of reporters who blithely misquoted a forensics expert to – apparently – support the headline they wanted to write.
For the youth, excluded from the American economy by inferior, substandard education; targeted by the malevolence of the fake drug war and mass incarceration; stopped and frisked for Walking While Black, were given front-row seats to the national security state at Ferguson after a friend was murdered by police in their streets. Ferguson may prove a wake-up call. A call for youth to build social, radical, revolutionary movements for change.
A broad coalition of activists and local organizations are calling again for Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson to resign after a new round of police attacks on peaceful protestors last night. Over 200 activists have been arrested in conjunction with protests calling for justice for Mike Brown. Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Mike Brown, still walks free.
On Aug. 9, police in Ferguson, St. Louis County, Missouri, murdered Michael Brown, 18, as he put his hands in the air to let his friend escape. Then the police aimed their full U.S. military-strength force at all the youth of Ferguson who dared to demand justice. With the world watching and their hands in the air, identifying the police as the source of the violence, night after night, young people waded INTO the tear gas and stood unflinching with guns in their faces. Oscar Grant’s Uncle Bobby, Cephus Johnson, calls them the most fearless youth of our generation. And they vow not to stop until killer cop Darren Wilson is brought to justice.
I am haunted by the words of Lesley McSpadden immediately following the shooting death of her son, Michael Brown: “Do you know how hard it was for me to get him to stay in school and graduate? You know how many Black men graduate? Not many. Because you bring them down to this type of level, where they feel like they don’t got nothing to live for anyway.”
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