WTF, Ferguson?


If you're not sure of what's going on in Ferguson, Missouri, you're not the only one. The eye witness and police reports don't mesh, but there are some points that are agreed on. Two kids, one of them being Mike Brown, an 18 year old who would soon have started college, were walking down the street when an unidentified police officer told them to move onto the sidewalk. They replied that they were almost to their destination, and the police officer started to exit his vehicle. The witness (the second kid in the situation) says the car door bumped into Mike and then swung closed, the cop says he was pushed back into the car - whatever happened, the situation became physical and perhaps Mike and the officer tussled, with the cop allegedly sustaining a hit to the face - nothing too bad, some swelling, some bruising. Mike started running (apparently when the officer pulled his gun and/or began shooting), and the officer shot him. Then Mike stopped, put his hands up, asked the officer to stop shooting and said he was unarmed. Multiple eye witnesses have stated that Mike was surrendering, hands up, unarmed, when he was shot again. And again.

The officer continued shooting him, eventually killing him. He was about 35 feet from the vehicle when he died. He was shot between four and eight times, from gathered accounts, but police aren't releasing that detail. Police are also not telling who the officer was, and have been very slow to release emergency dispatch calls (although Anonymous may have done that for us). We do know that the body was in the street for four hours and Mike did not receive immediate medical attention. In fact, it appears the officer was more concerned about crowd control than the victim. We don't have video from the officer's dashboard or wearable cameras because, while Ferguson owns such devices, they haven't installed them. (I have no idea what's stopping them from using the wearable cameras, though.)

Protests have turned into riots, and the police are reacting badly - they've taunted protesters, fired tear gas and rubber bullets, and refused to answer questions or provide more information. In addition to the general mishandling of the situation, they've tear gassed a Senator, arrested and assaulted reporters, and arrested an Alderman. The situation has deteriorated to the point that the Missouri Highway Patrol is taking over, and the Justice Department and the FBI are going to investigate.

Also, recently, John Crawford was shot and killed by police in Beaverton, Ohio while holding a toy gun in WalMart. He informed the police that the gun was "not real" just before they started shooting; they told him to "get on the ground" after he was down, screaming and bleeding. Eric Garner was assaulted and choked to death by New York City police who approached him for allegedly selling illegal cigarettes. Garner also had put his hands up and was obviously unarmed. Ezell Ford - a mentally challenged, unarmed man who was already on the ground - was shot by Los Angeles police three times and killed. All four of these unarmed black men were killed in the last two weeks - by police.

I didn't know Mike, John, Eric, or Ezell - but I know plenty of other men just like them. Men who are wary around police officers, whose first instincts are not to trust the police and to expect unfair treatment and/or violence from cops. And, yes, it's because they're black. I don't think anyone can realistically pretend otherwise.

A cop sees a couple of white boys walking down the street? Sure, he might tell them to get on the sidewalk, but he probably isn't going to arrest them for it, much less shoot them dead and leave their bodies on the street for hours. A cop might even let a white kid sass him while toting a shotgun, and still not shoot him. An unarmed white man puts his hands up and tells cops not to touch him? The officers are probably going to continue talking to him, maybe arrest him, if he's doing something illegal - but they're not going to choke him to death. And white guys buy toy guns in WalMart all the time without people getting paranoid and calling the cops, much less having said cops kill them. Heck, white guys carry real guns around department stores without police interference!

And it isn't just black men who face "issues" with police - just ask Marlene Pinnock and Ersula Ore. Nope - we all know, it's a "black thing." It's also a "cop thing," and it's a thing that needs to be faced and fixed, before another unarmed man gets killed.

Here are some links on Ferguson that are really worth reading:

If you haven't read it before, I also encourage you to read Why Black Men Don't Open Carry. Read this, as well:  Don't Give Special Rights To Anybody! Oh, Except Cops. That's Cool. Another important article - I Don't Know How to Talk to White People About Ferguson - discusses the difficulties in beginning a conversation we really, really need to have. You should also read What Happens to #Ferguson Affects Ferguson: Net Neutrality, Algorithmic Filtering and Ferguson



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