DC Police Chief Kathy Lanier announced there would be civil disturbance platoons (riot squads) and electronic surveillance units in response to the supposed threat of unrest in reaction to the grand jury decision in Ferguson. Reportedly Chief Lanier has activated 17 civil disturbance platoons and told all members of the special operations division they will be working on Sunday and Monday (there is some expectation that the grand jury decision will be announced on Sunday). She also said that special operations units that include K-9, the bomb squad and the emergency response team would be activated. Lanier has also deployed the electronic surveillance unit which has the capability of recording any protest or demonstration. This is the kind of provocation that will actually increase the chance of violence. There have been many protests in response to the killing of Michael Brown and none have been violent, none have caused any property destruction or looting. Why would Chief Lanier make such an announcement?
As you know, a preemptive State of Emergency has been called in Ferguson, Missouri as the country waits to hear if officer Darren Wilson will be charged with the murder of Michael Brown. Let’s focus on another State of Emergency for a moment. Like me, you are the beneficiary of unearned white privilege. I’m not going to insult your intelligence, nor should you insult other members of this club we were born into, by cataloguing the laundry list of data that point to the clear fact that, taken as a whole, people who are or who present as white, experience privileges that are regularly denied to people who do not present as white. It is a fact. Deal with it. It is from that place of privilege that you and I will watch events unfold when the grand jury comes back with, as all indications seem to point, something less than a murder charge for another member of the white privilege club, Officer Darren Wilson.
We should understand that the violence in Ferguson is not new and is not limited to Ferguson. It did not begin with a particular shooting. It did not begin with any shooting. It began with a system of oppression that keeps people in misery amidst great wealth. Just as that injustice is inexcusable, so is any violence in response to it. . . courageous, disciplined, principled, and truly loving actions of those resisting injustice creatively and constructively. Such actions are not always successful and not always well-planned to the satisfaction of scholars. But they have long been far more common than is acknowledged on the television or in the history books. As AJ Muste told strikers confronted by the military “…Then I told them, in line with the strike committee’s decision, that to permit ourselves to be provoked into violence would mean defeating ourselves; that our real power was in our solidarity and in our capacity to endure suffering…”
A coalition of nearly 50 groups who have been protesting in Ferguson, Missouri since the shooting of the unarmed African American teen, Michael Brown, have issued a list of demands to law enforcement. They are calling it the “rules of engagement” and calling on police to accept them if they want there to be peaceful protests. Michael T. McPhearson, the executive director of Veterans For Peace, and a co-chair of the coalition said the group “must do what we can to ensure there’s not loss of life.” He added that, “we want to de-escalate violence, but we do not want to de-escalate action.” The coalition said that police are ultimately to blame for escalating tensions, as before they appeared on the streets in riot gear and the like, there had not been any instances of rioting or looting and protest leaders and activists had been successfully “policing” the crowds who had turned out up until that point. A new wave of protests are expected to erupt soon, as the grand jury decision about whether the killing of Michael Brown was justified is expected to come at any moment now. At a recent news conference about the list of demands issued to local, state and federal law enforcement, the “Don’t Shoot Coalition” said that police should be concerned with safety first, and if they are, this means they should be willing to agree to a “de-militarized response.”
At the Supreme Court, all of the court’s more than 150 police officers are trained in undercover tactics, according to a federal law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity because it involved internal security measures. At large protests over issues like abortion, small teams of undercover officers mill about — usually behind the crowd — to look for potential disturbances. The agents, often youthful looking, will typically “dress down” and wear backpacks to blend inconspicuously into the crowd, the official said. At one recent protest, an undercover agent — rather than a uniformed officer — went into the center of a crowd of protesters to check out a report of a suspicious bag before determining there was no threat, the official said. The use of undercover officers is seen as a more effective way of monitoring large crowds. A Supreme Court spokesman, citing a policy of not discussing security practices, declined to talk about the use of undercover officers. Mr. German, the former F.B.I. undercover agent, said he was troubled to learn that the Supreme Court routinely used undercover officers to pose as demonstrators and monitor large protests. “There is a danger to democracy,” he said, “in having police infiltrate protests when there isn’t a reasonable basis to suspect criminality.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ May 2013 Occupational Employment and Wages report, police officers across the country make, on average, just $28.23 an hour. Paid details nearly match that and ultimately supplement an officer’s annual income. Perhaps most important though is that residential communities and businesses want the security. In fact, a 2013 United Nations report found that the private security industry is booming globally, growing at 7.4 percent a year and on target to balloon to a $244 billion by 2016. What’s unclear, however, is exactly for whom do these off-duty cops work. Is it the residential organizations and companies footing the bill for their security services, or their municipalities and taxpayers? During the Myers incident, under what authority did the officer initiate contact with him and, ultimately, pull the trigger? And, if Myers’ killing wasn’t justified, who is liable? Who is accountable?
What does justice look like? The answers from Ms Bynes and Mr Russell were profound. Neither one of them talked about putting Officer Wilson in jail, as much as they might think that’s a good idea. They didn’t focus on the grand jury that continues to mull whether or not the Ferguson police officer will face charges in Mr Brown’s death. They talked about children. About broken institutions. About breaking down barriers. About having a job and a reliable way to get to work that didn’t involve a car breaking down or running out of gas. As St Louis teeters on the edge of whatever is to come next, much of the talk in some segments of the community is about the grand jury, and about what might or might not happen in the streets following that fateful decision. Justice is about what comes after that. It’s about Ms Bynes driving to work in Chesterfield without having to navigate a patchwork of municipalities, most of which shouldn’t exist, that rely on traffic stops to pay their bills. It’s about her neighbors having that little extra money in their pockets to feed their children, or put gas in their cars, rather than pay fine upon fine in city court upon city court that prey upon blacks in ways most whites in the community don’t understand.
#DCFerguson will hold a rally, 7pm at Mt. Vernon Square in Washington DC, the “day after” if the grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, does not indict Officer Darren Wilson for the murder of teenager Michael Brown. #DCFerguson continues to stand in solidarity with the Michael Brown family and the sisters and brothers in Ferguson that are continuing to protest and resist the police murders of Black and Latino people every 28 hours in America. ANSWER Coalition organizer Eugene Puryear says, “The murder of Michael Brown and the situation in Ferguson can and should be a turning point. Where we finally come to terms with the root causes of these issues and address social deprivation and oppression and the police brutality that comes with it.” The initial sponsors of #DCFerguson include the National Black United Front, the ANSWER Coalition, We Act Radio, the Party for Socialism and Liberation and the American Muslim Alliance, as well as independent organizing networks that have sprung up in the wake of Michael Brown’s killing.
It began when officers told the man that he was not allowed to be filming their activity with his cell phone. They commanded him to walk away and to not view what was happening behind a white wall that separated them. The man can be heard asking in the video, “What are they doing back there?” He grew suspicious of why cops did not want him to see what they were up to. Given that they are public servants and they live off of the money that hardworking Americans make to support them, cops should expect to have their every action monitored and scrutinized publicly. Just one instance of pretending to be a “tough guy” and assaulting a citizen could make a cop famous online and cost him his job and reputation. Most cops are aware of this, given that everybody nowadays can begin filming them instantly with a cell phone. But these cops still acted alarmed when they saw a man filming them. Rather than obeying the officers’ commands to walk away like a domesticated cow, this brave man took out his own surveillance drone and launched it into the night sky.
Larry Hamm, one of the great local organizers of our times, puts the killing of Michael Brown in historic context dating back to the slave trade, as well as in the context of the unfair economy. Hamm calls for people to “fill the streets” the day after the grand jury in Ferguson makes its decision. Hamm is speaking at the Black is Back Coalition event in Washington, DC this November 1, 2014. Hamm is Chairman of the People’s Organization for Progress based in Newark, NJ. Tarak Kauff, a board member of Veterans For Peace, in urging people to watch this video writes “If you care about anything, care about this. The video of Larry Hamm, perhaps the greatest, most insightful and eloquent revolutionary since Martin Luther King and Malcolm X is 14 minutes and 37 seconds short. Clear the table of all distractions. You want to watch this video and you want to listen to every single word Larry Hamm has to say and you want to get ready. Get ready just as we did in the 101st when we were on STRAC alert. Bags were packed, ready to load on planes as soon as we could get to the loading zone. I hear Larry and I hear him loud and clear. My car will have a full tank of gas and I expect to see many of you in the streets with me. As Larry says, ‘I can’t take it anymore.’ And I say, if not now, when?”
From Ferguson to Mexico, Iraq to New York, D.C. to Honduras, and beyond, let us together honor the memories of those killed by the police and military on this Day of the Dead. The Black is Back Coalition marched from Malcolm X Park, (also known as Meridian Hill Park) down 16th Street to the White House on November 1, 2014. The Coalition held a rally in Malcolm X Park decrying the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO and police abuse against communities of color across the nation. They pointed to the economic realities of being black in the United States — high unemployment, low wages, low wealth, high incarceration — and criticized President Obama for doing nothing to lift black communities. The Coalition continues its work on November 2nd with a teach-in at the Howard University Blackburn Center located at 2397 Sixth Street, NW in Washington, DC 20059 from 11 AM to 4PM.
Another anti-police brutality protest turned violent in the French city of Rennes, with masked youths and police engaging in running street battles. The unrest follows the death of a young environmental activist earlier this week. Overnight Thursday, protesters in the northwestern city lobbed flairs at police and flipped over cars, some of which they set ablaze. Police responded by firing tear gas. The number of arrests or injures, if any, remains unclear. The protests are in response to the death of 21-year-old activist Remi Fraisse. He was killed early on Sunday by an explosion, which occurred during violent clashes with police at the site of a contested-dam project in southwestern France. His death, the first in a mainland protest in France since 1986, has been blamed on a concussion grenade fired by police. France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, who came under serious pressure to resign following the incident, announced an immediate suspension of such grenades, which are intended to stun rather than kill. On Monday, outrage at Fraisse’s death sparked protests in several French cities. Violence erupted in Albi, the town close to the dam, as well as in Nantes and Rennes. Fraisse was one of 2,000 activists present in the southwestern Tarn region to protest the €8.4m ($10.7) million Sivens dam project.
This edition of Clearing The FOG Radio, co-hosted by Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, focuses on where the movement against police abuse is going. With the decision of the grand jury possible any day now, and the likely result being no indictment according to law enforcement leaks to the press, how should the people of Ferguson and the nation react? What would be a constructive to response for the lack of justice for Michael Brown? And, what should the movement be demanding. In the first half hour two guests who have worked in Ferguson as part of the movement for justice for Michael Brown discuss next steps, the mood of the community and how those of us outside Ferguson can help. In the second half hour, two African American activists in Washington, DC and New York City comment on the situation, not only in Ferguson but regarding police abuse nationally. In DC, Kymone Freeman has been part of the #DCFerguson coalition and in NYC, Glenn Ford long-time commentator on African American issues and editor of Black Agenda Report comments. Ford proposes that rather than “community policing” we need “community controlled policing” that includes the ability of communities to remove officers who are racist or abusive.