Mumia on the meaning of Ferguson

by Mumia Abu-Jamal

Written Aug. 31, 2014 – Before recent days, who among us had ever heard of Ferguson, Missouri?

Michael-Brown-rebellion-young-man-confronts-riot-cops-aiming-guns-at-him-091914-by-AP, Mumia on the meaning of Ferguson, News & Views
Soldiers and riot cops aim all their fire power at one lone protester in Ferguson. – Photo: AP

Because of what happened there, the brief but intense experience of state repression, its name will be transmitted by millions of Black mouths to millions of Black ears, and it will become a watchword for resistance, like Watts, like Newark, Harlem and LA.

But Ferguson wasn’t 60 years ago – it’s today.

And for young Blacks from Ferguson and beyond, it was a stark, vivid history lesson – and also a reality lesson.

When they dared protest the state street murder of one of their own, the government responded with the tools and weapons of war. They assaulted them with gas. They attacked them as if Ferguson was Fallujah, in Iraq.

The police attacked them as if they were an occupying army from another country; for that, in fact, is what they were.

And these young folks learned viscerally, face to face, what the White Nation thought of them, their claimed constitutional rights, their so-called freedoms – and their lives. They learned the wages of Black protest: repression, repression and more repression.

They also learned the limits of their so-called leaders, who called for peace and calm, while armed troops trained submachine guns and sniper rifles on unarmed men, women and children.

Russian revolutionary leader V.I. Lenin once said, “There are decades when nothing happens; there are weeks when decades happen.”

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.

Michael-Brown-rebellion-protesters-keep-coming-by-FM-Photography-13, Mumia on the meaning of Ferguson, News & Views
Against the full force of U.S. military might, Ferguson protesters kept coming. – Photo: FM Photography 13

Ferguson may prove a wake-up call. A call for youth to build social, radical, revolutionary movements for change.

The real ‘outside agitators’

Written Aug. 19, 2014 – As the days and nights of angry resistance rage on in Ferguson, Missouri, the corporate media embarks on its newest campaign: the proposed banning of “outside agitators.”

It is ironic in the extreme to hear Black reporters and Black cops – and, indeed, Black activists – launch verbal attacks against “outside agitators,” when, were it not for such protestors during the hottest days and nights of the Civil Rights Movement, they would not exist!

For the phrase “outside agitators” was born in the minds and mouths of white Southern segregationists, who decried the arrival of white and Black students from the North, who worked to register voters, founded freedom schools, and joined the Freedom Riders on buses, to break state segregation laws.

Remember the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)? That’s Martin L. King’s organization. When SCLC staged marches in Alabama, that state’s governor, George Wallace, called SCLC “professional agitators with pro-Communist affiliations.”

Sound familiar? How close to “outside agitators”! The phrase begs the question: outside of what? The state? America?

This country is called the United States of America, founded upon a Constitution. Do all people have the right to protest, or just some residents?

Is what happened to Mike Brown a local matter, or is this really a national issue?

It’s not the job of media to police protests, pitting “good” demonstrators against “bad” ones. Their job is to report what is happening – period.

Michael-Brown-rebellion-militarized-police, Mumia on the meaning of Ferguson, News & Views
Militarized police made war on the youth of Ferguson.

Were it not for these protests – let us be frank – the media would’ve ignored this story.

If the media was doing its job, reporting on the vicious violence launched against young Blacks the nation over, perhaps Mike Brown would be alive today.

Let us look at the cops, almost 98 percent of whom are outsiders to Ferguson. They work there; they kill there; but they don’t live there.

They dwell in neighboring, whiter counties and towns.

Who are the real outside agitators?

1-2-3 Fergusons

Written Aug. 17, 2014 – For over a week, the media and millions of viewers and readers have been focused on the ever-changing events of Ferguson, Missouri, where a local teenager, Michael Brown, was shot to death by a white cop.

What has been consistent and un-changing has been the level of outrage among Black Ferguson residents – men and women who have resisted every attempt to silence or sidetrack their efforts.

Their efforts? To achieve the arrest, prosecution and conviction of the white cop (Darren Wilson) who shot and killed Mike Brown.

They are fueled by fury and a long train of police repression.

They haven’t let anything – promises, provocations, politicians or police – turn them away from their objective.

Michael-Brown-I-am-Mike-Brown-by-AP, Mumia on the meaning of Ferguson, News & Views
A protester shows solidarity. – Photo: AP

The System has used weapons of war – sniper rifles, armored personnel carriers, submachine guns and other implements of military violence to intimidate the people, to threaten the people, to silence the people.

They only continued their marches for justice for Mike Brown.

They faced sweet talking politicians promising peace, police with dark faces promising protection, preachers praying for placidity – and they kept on marching.

They were threatened with arrests if they broke curfew and received the acrid rain of tear gas – and they kept on marching. Marching for justice for Mike Brown.

A reporter for a national cable outlet asked five teens clad in baseball hats and bright red bandanas to identify themselves. One by one, they announced their names: Mike Brown.

They were all Mike Brown.

As they marched past fear, they are indeed Mike Brown. As are we all.

© Copyright 2014 Mumia Abu-Jamal. Read Mumia’s latest book, “The Classroom and the Cell: Conversations on Black Life in America,” co-authored by Columbia University professor Marc Lamont Hill, available from Third World Press, Keep updated at For Mumia’s commentaries, visit For recent interviews with Mumia, visit Encourage the media to publish and broadcast Mumia’s commentaries and interviews. Send our brotha some love and light: Mumia Abu-Jamal, AM 8335, SCIMahanoy, 301 Morea Road, Frackville, PA 17932.