St. Louis – 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.
Amnesty International called on law enforcement not to restrict peaceful protests and to show restraint.
“We are monitoring the events in Ferguson and the St. Louis area closely and urge the authorities to take an approach that leads to de-escalation,” Jamira Burley, senior campaigner for Amnesty International USA, said in a statement. “They should avoid threatening appearance or behavior, inappropriate equipment and arbitrary arrests.
“Equipping officers in a manner more appropriate to a battlefield may suggest that conflict is inevitable rather than possible, escalating tensions and placing people at further risk.”
The person shot in Ferguson by a police officer has been identified by his father as 18-year-old Tyrone Harris Jr. of St. Louis, who was “real close” to Brown, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said that a man opened fire on plainclothes detectives on Sunday evening. He was then pursued and shot by officers. The police chief did not identify the suspect, but said he was in a “critical” and “unstable” condition in hospital and undergoing surgery, according to RT.
“We think there’s a lot more to this than what’s being said,” Harris Sr. said, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, adding that his son had graduated from Normandy High School, just as Michael Brown had.
“It was a poor decision to use plainclothes officers in a protest setting because it made it difficult for people to identify police officers, which is essential to the safety of community members,” Kayla Reed, a field organizer with the Organization of Black Struggle, said in a statement.
“After a year of protest and conversation around police accountability, having plainclothes officers without body cameras and proper identification in the protest setting leaves us with only the officer’s account of the incident, which is clearly problematic.”
Later Sunday night, police made several more arrests after protesters blocked a traffic lane on West Florissant Avenue. Officers with bullhorns directed protesters to clear the roadway, and others in riot gear forced people out of the street. Some demonstrators threw water bottles and other debris at officers.
Police Chief Belmar told The Associated Press: “They’re not going to take the street tonight. That’s not going to happen.”
Several people were handcuffed and put into vans. “What did I do?” one woman asked repeatedly.
As officers were clearing the road, one officer fired pepper spray into a crowd of people, hitting an AP videojournalist. It wasn’t immediately clear how many others were hit or why the pepper spray was used.
After Sunday night’s gunfire, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger declared a state of emergency, authorizing Belmar to take control of police emergency management in and around Ferguson.
Mass arrests on Monday
In a rally the next day sponsored by Moral Mondays, dozens of protesters were arrested Monday outside the U.S. Attorney’s Office in downtown St. Louis during a demonstration against police brutality.
DeRay McKesson and Johnetta Elzie – prominent activists in the Black Lives Matter movement – were among the 57 people detained during the sit-in. They were released after being issued a summons alleging obstruction of the courthouse doorways, U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan said in a statement.
The rally, which Callahan said included as many as 200 people, was a part of Moral Mondays, a nationwide social justice movement that began in North Carolina in response to the state legislature’s conservative shift. The campaign moved to St. Louis this week, calling on the Department of Justice to take action against police violence toward Black people.
This is the first time McKesson or Elzie has been arrested during a demonstration. Cornel West and the Rev. Osagyefo Sekou were arrested as well, according to Think Progress.
An arrested protester from Detroit told The Huffington Post she knew this was something that could happen, and that although the officers were nice during the day Monday, she didn’t think it would carry over as night fell.
The Rev. Renita Lamkin told HuffPost that while in holding, women who had been involved in civil rights demonstrations for a while shared wisdom and encouragement with younger protesters.
“In terms of eventfulness, it was really uneventful,” she said. “What’s beautiful is that we had an opportunity to share stories, to encourage each other and learn more about the movement.”
Lamkin also said authorities took DNA, Social Security numbers and two sets of fingerprints from the detained protesters – and that it wasn’t optional. If protesters declined, they were told they would remain in jail, go before a judge and be ordered to comply. If a detainee still refused, she said, the DNA and fingerprints would be taken by force.
Before she was taken into custody, Elzie tweeted this in reference to the Sandra Bland case: “If I’m arrested today please know I’m not suicidal. I have plenty to live for. I did not resist, I’m just Black.”
Monday marks the fourth consecutive night of protests marking the anniversary of the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Ryan J. Reilly is a justice reporter and Julia Craven a staff reporter for the Huffington Post. Bay View staff contributed to this story and acknowledges Voice of Detroit for compiling information from several sources.
Faith community speaks on continued police terror in Ferguson
Ferguson, Mo. – The events of Aug. 9, 2015, that marked exactly one year to the date that Mike Brown was murdered, are deeply upsetting and troubling. There continues to be a lack of police coordination, transparency and measured response to protests and acts of civil disobedience, deteriorating even more at night under the cover of darkness.
One year later, there is still the use of police dogs, armored tanks, chemical agents and flash bang grenades. The continued use of military style tactics to respond to large gatherings of African Americans is deeply problematic, immoral and un-American.
On this anniversary, a man was shot by unidentifiable plain-clothed police officers in Ferguson, leaving the majority of media to describe the one-year anniversary events as “a peaceful protest turned violent.” This is irresponsible journalism and reporting considering all of the unanswered questions about what happened last night, but most importantly the man shot was not a protest participant and the shooting was separate from the protest.
There are many questions still to be answered. Who are these supposed unidentifiable plain-clothed police officers? If they were in the process of making an arrest, did they identify themselves?
Why would a young man supposedly fleeing from police run away from the large crowd, making himself more isolated and vulnerable? We continue our yearlong call for the demilitarization of policing of communities of color.
We call for measures to deescalate responses to nonviolent civil disobedience and protest. Law enforcement should prioritize public safety while honoring the dignity, humanity and constitutional rights of civilians.
We call on the Department of Justice and the federal government to use all mechanisms at their disposal to put an end to militarized policing, over policing and the unnecessary use of lethal force. We believe these mechanisms include defunding of police agencies, ending the 1033 Program, and removing militaristic weapons from local police departments, and expanding the capacity to provide oversight and patterns and practices investigations.
We continue to stand with the community of Ferguson and the greater St. Louis region to demonstrate non-violent protest and expressions of freedom to assemble in the midst of daily police terror and arbitrary violence.
Supporting faith leaders include Pastor Michael McBride, PICO National Network, Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, Pastor of Trinity UCC in Chicago, and Rev. Tony Lee of Community of Hope AME Church, Temple Hills, Md. They can be reached via Heather Cabral, firstname.lastname@example.org.
DOJ’s ‘Ferguson Report’ illustrates campaign of terror against African Americans one year after Michael Brown and the urban rebellion
by Abayomi Azikiwe
A Department of Justice (DOJ) study completed earlier this year and released to the press has been published in paperback book form. Entitled “The Ferguson Report,” this 173-page study shows clearly the systematic denial of fundamental civil rights to African Americans in St. Louis County, Missouri.
Utilizing internal communications among law-enforcement personnel and the courts, the study makes a strong case for holding the authorities criminally liable for their premeditated plans to exploit and socially control African Americans through unwarranted stops, excessive fines and jail sentences.
According to Theodore M. Shaw, Julius L. Chambers distinguished professor of law and director of the Center for Civil Rights at the University of North Carolina, in the introduction to the report, surmised that the DOJ conducted the study to unravel the political and economic context under the developments in the aftermath of the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Even though the white police officer, Darren Wilson, who killed Brown, was not criminally indicted, in the overall context, the City of Ferguson, Missouri, the municipality stands guilty for its illegal, nationally oppressive and racially discriminatory policies conducted through its daily interactions with its African-American residents.
In a quote taken directly from the “Ferguson Report” as it relates to the ostensible Fourth Amendment rights of African Americans which are supposed to protect them from illegal search and seizure, it says:
“In reviewing Ferguson Police Department records, we found numerous incidents in which – based on the officer’s own description of the detention – an officer detained an individual without articulable reasonable suspicion of criminal activity or arrested a person without probable cause. In none of these cases did the officer explain or justify his conduct. Many of the unlawful stops we found appear to have been driven, in part, by an officer’s desire to check whether the subject had a municipal arrest warrant pending. Several incidents suggest that officers are more concerned with issuing citations and generating charges than with addressing community needs.”
The reasons in part for the aggressive policing operations against African Americans in Ferguson and St. Louis County stem from the desire to reap economic gains through excessive citations, which are often reinforced by an already biased court system. Despite these observations by the DOJ investigators, no criminal charges for civil rights violations were filed and consequently the situation will remain the same until the realization of a mass revolutionary movement that can effectively challenge the system of racism and national oppression.
What has changed in the last year?
This report was published on the eve of the first anniversary of the brutal killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9, 2014, which triggered mass demonstrations and rebellions in Ferguson along with a revival of the anti-racist struggle in the United States. A small suburb of just over 20,000 people, mainly African Americans, became the center of the struggle to recognize the value and sanctity of Black life in the United States.
As a result of the Ferguson rebellion and mass demonstrations, the ongoing national oppression of the African American people was returned to its proper place as the major issue that exposes the contradictions within the U.S. capitalist system in the 21st century. The White House was forced to pay lip service to the problems of police brutality and arbitrary killings in light of protests involving millions throughout the country and the world.
Newspaper editorials even within states that are allied with the U.S. questioned the ruling class’ commitment to tens of millions of people who were said to be “citizens” but were treated as prisoners of war through arbitrary stops, beatings, arrests, injuries and killings. Nevertheless, despite this international political pressure coupled with burgeoning domestic unrest, there has been virtually no change within the system of repression and exploitation.
Newspaper editorials even within states that are allied with the U.S. questioned the ruling class’ commitment to tens of millions of people who were said to be “citizens” but were treated as prisoners of war through arbitrary stops, beatings, arrests, injuries and killings.
During the first seven months of 2015, over 500 people have been documented as being killed by police. Many more have been beaten, tortured, thrown into jails and railroaded through the courts to long term prison sentences.
Local prosecuting attorneys and grand juries have by and large refused to file charges against police who kill African Americans. The exception to this was what has taken place in Baltimore in regard to the death of Freddie Gray, where a rebellion occurred that caught the ruling economic interests and surrogate politicians by surprise.
The shooting death of Sam DuBose at the hands of the University of Cincinnati authorities resulted in an indictment of a police officer. There was no reason for DuBose even to have been pulled over leading to his deadly encounter with the white cop.
Nevertheless, most killings of African Americans, Latinos and poor people go unpunished. These blatant acts of terror are justified through the criminalization of the victims, utilizing the corporate media and law-enforcement spokespersons.
Obviously the White House administration of President Barack Obama along with the Congressional Black Caucus does not view this crisis as a primary issue. Democratic and Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential race have not provided any indication that policy initiatives are in the works to restrain, prosecute and imprison police and assorted racists for the killing of African Americans and other people on a broad scale.
At the same time, the U.S. maintains the highest per capita prison population in the world, where the oppressed and the poor make up the bulk of inmates. Political prisoners such as Mumia Abu-Jamal, Sundiata Acoli, Leonard Peltier, Oscar Lopez Rivera and many more still languish in the dungeons of the U.S. Freedom fighter Assata Shakur continues to be denied amnesty and has relied on revolutionary Cuba for political asylum.
In the state of Michigan, Rev. Edward Pinkney was sentenced to 30 to 120 months in prison in December over trumped up charges deriving from a successful recall campaign against the mayor of Benton Harbor, Michigan, who is perceived as an agent of the Whirlpool Corp., headquartered in the southwest region of the state. Pinkney is appealing his case with the support of thousands throughout Michigan and around the U.S.
National movement needed to fight racism and capitalism
Ferguson, Baltimore, Charleston and other cities typify the plight of African Americans in 21st century U.S. capitalist society. The death of Sandra Bland and others who are dying in detention lays bare the hypocrisy of the so-called “human rights agenda” of the Obama administration and previous U.S. regimes.
However, until there is a revolutionary organization and movement to vigorously fight racism and class oppression at its root, then there can be no real hope for the African American masses and other people of color communities in the U.S. Violence against the oppressed is carried out in a myriad of ways including economic deprivation and the destruction of public education in the cities and suburbs.
A political organization and movement led by the working class and oppressed is the missing element in the current reemergence of the popular struggle. Such an organization could fight on both the domestic and international front.
The massacre of nine African Americans in Charleston, South Carolina, at the Mother Emanuel African Methodist (AME) Church on June 17 should be answered with massive demonstrations and economic consequences for the capitalist class. Also, the double-digit jobless and poverty rates prevailing among oppressed youth could not escape the full attention of politicians and the ruling class interests that provide direction for their actions, if there were hundreds of thousands of organized youth and workers prepared to engage the system in a way that would not be defined by the confines of the two mainstream political parties.
The repressive and exploitative character of U.S. and world capitalism in its present phase is a reflection of weakness and not its strengths. The system is in decline and a well-organized revolutionary organization and movement could, with proper tactics and strategies, severely weaken and topple the ruling class, setting the stage for the reconstruction of the U.S. and the world in the interests of the majority of the people.
Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of Pan-African News Wire, where this story first appeared, can be reached at email@example.com. Pan-African News Wire, the world’s only international daily pan-African news source, is designed to foster intelligent discussion on the affairs of African people throughout the continent and the world.