After peace, Ferguson cops again incite disorder

After two nights of peaceful demonstrations under the supervision of the Missouri Highway Patrol on Thursday and Friday nights, things in Ferguson took a turn for the worse after midnight last night, when heavily armored local police unexpectedly returned to the scene (on the orders of the St. Louis County Prosecutor, which seems bizarre).

Prior to this surprise development, there was no looting happening or any kind of violence, despite the local authorities spending all of Friday disseminating objectively false information (as well as highly dubious claims) about the original shooting of Michael Brown. Most people and reporters were actually going home or leaving for the night by the time the riot police appeared unexpectedly and started antagonizing people, pointing guns at them, and firing “less-lethal” devices at them, including smoke grenades. The police also explicitly tried to order media members to disperse in particular.

This turn of events prompted a small minority of the people assembled (predominantly young people, by most accounts) to start breaking into stores to steal and destroy stuff. A much larger proportion of community members began frantically trying to block access to halt the looting, with mixed success. Meanwhile, the police just sat in their vehicles for at least an hour and didn’t do anything, as the chaos began unfolding and the property damage figures started mounting quickly. This is a very obvious provocation, and in no way was the police presence a response to the looting (since they arrived well before it).

Of course, the national media immediately tried to revise the timeline of event to imply that the renewed presence of armored police was a response to (rather than the catalyst for) looting. Here’s a sample headline from the middle of the night / early Saturday:

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Saturday afternoon’s development is that Governor Jay Nixon has declared a State of Emergency and proclaimed a curfew in Ferguson tonight from 12-5 AM. This is completely the opposite of a logical reaction, given that the community clearly wasn’t the problem and there had been two evenings of peaceful demonstrations under his original solution of bringing in uniformed highway patrolmen from outside in place of armored SWAT divisions. Thursday night was a pretty solid confirmation that people will calm way down if you stop deploying armored police to attack them and instead send regular uniformed officers from outside to help them march safely. Friday night proved that taking away the supportive force and bringing back the militarized units will rile people back up again.

Meanwhile, there has been very little progress toward a credible investigation up to now, which is all that the protesters have been demanding this entire time, yet they are the ones being punished. It seems fairly likely there will be mass civil disobedience against the curfew order tonight.

Ferguson police occupation, community resistance continues

A summary of major developments in Ferguson, Missouri from Tuesday through Thursday afternoon (August 12-13, 2014), as the community continues to peacefully resist occupation by militarized police presence.


New York Times home page prominently featured an examination of the U.S. media trend of automatically showing unflattering images of Black Americans when killed by the police. Black social media users were speculating whether their “respectable” photos would be used if they were gunned down or more casual photos from parties and the like, which could be misconstrued. (Everyone has a dichotomy of available photos like that, of course, but the media tends not to use the unflattering photos of White victims, or often even assailants.)

Screenshot from U.S. Edition of home page at 1:15 PM ET on August 12, 2014

Screenshot from U.S. Edition of home page at 1:15 PM ET on August 12, 2014

Beyond the racialization of it, I think it’s super creepy in general that the U.S. news media feels comfortable taking and using people’s Facebook profile pictures without permission for use in news reports.

We also saw British news media start to emerge as an important source of accurate reporting on the ground in Ferguson, particularly on the subject of what weapons were being used on unarmed civilians. The Guardian reported on Monday’s police crackdown with evidence photos in an article headlined: “Missouri police fired wooden bullets at crowd during protest over teen’s death”

Local news reporters and news bloggers from St. Louis and Ferguson, of course, also remained critical sources of news. A blogger for the Riverfront Times reported on a development from Monday night: Police in Ferguson Fire Tear Gas on Protesters Standing in Their Own Backyard

Photojournalists continued to capture countless examples of militarized police overreach in downtown Ferguson, which have rapidly gone viral. TIME posted this AP photo (which I’m using here due to its newsworthiness, despite the copyright).

Riot police walk toward a man with his hands raised in Ferguson, Mo. (Jeff Roberson—AP)

Riot police walk toward a man with his hands raised in Ferguson, Mo. (Jeff Roberson—AP)

On Tuesday night a second person was shot and critically injured by police in Ferguson. Police claimed he had been brandishing a handgun threateningly, but they also began making extremely fanciful claims about the circumstances surrounding the original shooting of Michael Brown (which was seen by multiple eyewitnesses), so it was not an easy claim to buy on face-value.

Wednesday and overnight to early Thursday morning

The Atlantic’s CityLab blog reported that the militarized and violent police presence was not only going against the FBI manual for defusing such situations but was also a very one-sided “clash” that could obviously not be deemed a “riot.”

Media outlets have used the word “riot” dozens of times, even hundreds of times, to describe the crisis in Ferguson. Yet despite last night’s violence, three days after the death of the unarmed 18-year-old resident, Ferguson does not yet resemble the notable riots from the 1960s to the present day. Rather, it is starting to look like an occupation.

On Wednesday night, the police response escalated yet again. It was already clear that they weren’t thinking logically or strategically, but then they arrested and assaulted a Washington Post reporter and the Huffington Post’s reporter for The Department of Justice beat, this is some next-level self-immolation. The two detained reporters were only released when a Los Angeles Times reporter called the local police chief to ask why they had been arrested, and he was surprised to learn of the information. The immortal quotation was “Oh God.”
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Resistance against the police in Ferguson MO

Over the weekend, a cop in Ferguson, Missouri (in St. Louis County) shot and killed an unarmed Black teenager in the back. The local Black community, which has borne the brunt of law enforcement activities in recent years (especially as the city has rapidly gone from almost 50-50 Black and White to being two-thirds Black), was quite understandably very angry about the situation and began protesting. Despite the FBI being brought in to take over the investigation of the case, the situation has continued to escalate as Ferguson’s police department mobilized very aggressively against the protesters.

After some property damage occurred yesterday (though most of the protests were peaceful and undeniably reasonable), the standoff being the police and protesters became even more tense until this evening when the police began corralling and attacking the assembled community members.

Below are some firsthand videos posted by a City of St. Louis Ward Alderman, Antonio French:

And here’s a report from NBC St. Louis:

This aggression toward the community they are supposed to be protecting is yet another demonstration of the terrible results of Department of Homeland Security handing out grant money like candy to provide military-grade equipment and riot gear to local police forces all over the country.

Meanwhile, the U.S. media seems hellbent on driving the narrative that this story isn’t about the cold-blooded street execution of an unarmed child — or about the wider problem of police aggression and occupation of American black populations, or about legitimate resistance to unfair and violent practices. Rather, they’re obsessed with the idea that there might be “looting” happening or that there is a “riot.”

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Here’s the reality of the situation: Unarmed Black American kids keep getting shot to death for no reason on the false assumption they’re packing, and there’s rarely any justice. Meanwhile, unhinged adult White American men with avowedly anti-government views can walk around unchallenged in public places with assault rifles, telling you all about their “rights” and how important those are.

Is this country ever going to stop perpetrating and ignoring outrageous daily violence against and extrajudicial executions of Black Americans?

And I don’t think the media gets to decide who has the right to decide who has the right to resist (or how) when police keep targeting and fatally misjudging a population and then refuse to uphold the First Amendment’s guarantee of “the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”