August 14, 2014

Ferguson USA

It's hard to describe what's going in Ferguson. Partially because it appears so surreal, but mostly because the police there have attempted to impose a news blackout and the media have largely capitulated, depicting the aftermath of the murder of unarmed 18 year-old Michael Brown as rioting, when the real story is the militarized response of the police.

While the it is disturbing to see comfortable the local police are brutalizing their citizens, arresting reporters, tear-gassing politicians, and placing Ferguson under martial law, the most distressing aspect so far is the federal government's acquiescence. Watching Obama equivocate was a very sad moment. All the worse, the plateful of nothing the president delivered was just about all I had expected.

The facts behind the shooting of Michael Brown are still a little hazy, although it is clear that an unarmed young man was shot and killed for seemingly no good reason. It appears that  Brown and a friend were confronted by a police officer while walking in the middle of the street. The police claim that Brown assaulted the officer and tried to wrestle away his gun, causing at least one shot to be fired inside the police car during the struggle. Brown’s friend, offers a substantively different version of events. He has told reporters that the officer initiated the confrontation and grabbed Brown by the neck while trying to pull him into the police car. Brown broke loose and he and his friend were running away when Brown was first struck by a bullet. He turned and raised his hands in surrender only to be shot several more times. One account is that more shots were fired into him while he was on the ground.

Even if the police account were true, it asks more questions than it answers. Scott Greenfield's blog has an excellent post on the subject, and I recommend it. (Simple Justice).

Greenfield opens with, "There may be a good explanation for why Ferguson, Missouri, a mostly black working-class suburb of St. Louis, had a white mayor and police force." The probable answer involves redistricting. The dichotomy helps explain why the police reaction to the public outcry has been to fire rubber bullets into crowds of people, arrest journalists, and generally stomp around like jack-booted thugs. It also suggests why the mainstream media outlets and federal government have chosen to down play the blatant trampling of our Constitution.

One bright light in this story has been Anonymous, the hacker collective that has published the name of the police shooter, obtained the dispatch recordings, and wreaked havoc on the local government. The Ferguson police claim the shooter was misidentified, but refuse to identify him.

If ever there was a time for transparency, this is it.

( Video of police using tear gas against news crew)
(Wash. Post: Reporter Wesley Lowery's Account of His Arrest)
(CNET: Anonymous Hacks Police Site for Dispatch Tapes)
(Wash. Post: Why the police-shooting riots in Ferguson, Mo., had little to do with Ferguson)
(Gawker: Two Journalists Reportedly Arrested Without Cause, Assaulted in Ferguson)
(Huffington Post: State Senator To Ferguson Police: 'Will I Get Tear-Gassed Again?)

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