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News :: Police and Prisons : Race
Ferguson. Over one week in.
20 Aug 2014
Reposted from Anti-State STL

What began as a protest movement after 10 days of sustained defiance, has taken a couple shaky steps towards revolt. The situation here is still fluid and ripe with potential. Locally, people are surprised that similar unrest hasn’t sparked off in other cities. If it were to spread, the scope here would likely widen. It’s difficult to get a sense of how people outside the metro area interpret what’s happening here. What follows are some observations from St Louis residents and participants in the struggle who might give a clearer picture of this strange new reality.
Cars, Guns, and Revolt in America

West Florissant is a major street that cuts across North St. Louis County and North City. A quarter mile stretch of the road has been the primary gathering place for protesters. Just outside that stretch, in a strip mall parking lot, is the joint staging area for the Police (City, County, as well as dozens of smaller municipalities), the Highway Patrol, and the National Guard. The small stretch is home to many looted and burned (to various degrees) businesses including the QT – which has become a landmark, tourist destination, and gathering place for protesters. Canfield Drive intersects with this stretch of West Florissant, a road that leads to subdivisions and the apartment complex where Mike Brown was killed. Police fear to venture too far down Canfield.

On the days when the police allow traffic to flow, West Florissant becomes congested with vehicles, many of which are loaded down with passengers, both inside and out. Routine activities include blasting music, squealing tires, and taunting the police by way of insults (“fuck the police”, “fuck 12”), doing doughnuts, and taking runs at them, just to break at the last minute. People jump from car to car in celebratory fashion, chanting, flirting, singing, drinking, and smoking. When police lines shut down the street on either end of the stretch, cars pour in from side streets to do more of the same. And when the protesters get rowdy enough, people openly ride their cars up to stores, fill them with looted goods, and escape back into the neighborhoods.

A significant number of protesters are armed. In the first few days, a common tactic was to fire shots in the air to scare the cops off when they got too close. Some openly talk of going to war with the police and don’t hide the fact that they are carrying. The last few days people have begun shooting at the police. Tragically, the only people hit so far have been a handful of protesters- some of them with life-threatening injuries. People are beginning to advocate for more restraint with the gun fire and better aim.

The rebels (and the police) have no experience with such a situation. Revolt like this hasn’t been seen in America since the 70’s. People are learning how to make and utilize Molotov cocktails, barricades, projectiles, and fire, as well as when and where it makes sense to attack. Coordination and communication are difficult outside moments of rioting. Perhaps it’s because there’s no safe and comfortable place to gather and share ideas. The QT could potentially serve this purpose, however just today it has been entirely fenced off. The second night of unrest must have involved some exceptional coordination as crews smashed up stores all over the metro area, filling their cars with all sorts of goodies.

Repression, Respectability, Race, Gender, and the Generation Gap

The police are caught in a bind and are seeing the limits of using force. If they keep their distance protesters riot, but when they come with force they inspire more people to come into the streets, which lead to more riots. At this point, if they want to crush this thing they have to convict Darren Wilson (the cop who shot Brown) of murder. But the wheels of justice are slow. In the meantime, they’re going to have to work to divide the protesters. In their desperation, all of the time-tested dichotomies are being deployed- protester vs criminal, honest vs opportunist, resident vs outsider. Unfortunately the police have a long list of accomplices willing to do the work for them, most of whom are fully aware of what they’re doing. From the New Black Panther Party to the Nation of Islam. From HOT 104.1 to FOX News. From MORE to OBS. From Jesse Jackson to Al Sharpton. From Nelly to Tef Poe (Po). From current St Louis Mayor Slay to future St Louis Mayor French. And the list goes on.

While they may be succeeding on TV, radio, and social media these loudmouths aren’t having as much success on West Florissant (despite their own reports to the contrary), and that must scare the shit out of them. It’s worth mentioning that social media is where they have had the most success. They’ve become pros at getting twits who will never go down to Ferguson to retweet their fewer than 140 character self-serving reports ad nauseam. In return the twits get to feel as if they’re a part of something. Maybe these rumors, half-truths and lies will prove to be damaging to people, (and that would be terrible) but most of it is transparently conspiracy theory bullshit to anyone with critical thinking skills.

There are still far more black protesters than white on West Florissant, but there seems to be more diversity as the struggle continues. Early on comments directed at white protesters such as “why’re you here” were answered with “man, she/he hates the police too!” Now if the presence of white protesters is even noted it sounds more like “thank you for being here.” A sinister few liberal and leftist groups try to spread absurd stories that small groups of white agitators (or even KKK infiltrators!) are tricking black protesters into going on the attack. The racist underlying assumptions about the exploitable nature of black protesters makes sense when you realize that’s exactly how groups like the Nation of Islam and the New Black Panther Party view them. Back in the real world, white protesters are just now starting to catch up with some of the ferocity of their black comrades, who’re grown enough to make decisions for themselves.

The authorities engaged in some good cop/bad cop by putting Ron Johnson (a black officer who grew up in North County) in command of police operations. During the light of day, he and his officers take off their riot gear and walk alongside protesters. This trick has worked on the self-imposed protest leaders who openly work with Johnson to control the crowds.

There are countless calls from the Nation of Islam, the New Black Panther Party, and their socially conservative ilk for women to go home, for strong black men to step up, and other such patriarchal attempts divide the protesters. The first couple days these calls were met with tremendous resistance from mostly black women. “Fuck you, go back to church”. “I’ve been here from day one”. “It’s our babies who’re dying”. The constant harassment seems to have taken its toll as fewer women are out, especially after dark. But women are still out front taunting the police and rushing into stores to get theirs.

Nearly all who attempt to restrain the actions of the most confrontational and declare themselves leaders of the community are over 40. Aside from physically stopping young people from acting, they try to ostracize them from the protest. These wise elders may walk around with a paternalistic aura of authority, but the youth aren’t fooled: “I can’t listen to these old heads, been sayin’ the same thing for years.” “This peaceful marching ain’t workin’, without the looting nobody would’ve gave a shit about Mike Mike.” Still they continuously call for the boys to grow up and be men and for the young women to go home, because the streets aren’t safe for them.

Peace and Quiet

There are some indications that the liberal groups are distancing themselves from the city of Ferguson. They are beginning to organize rallies and civil disobedience in Clayton and Downtown St Louis. Maybe they’re giving up their campaign to control the angry elements. Maybe they’re trying to put a more peaceful media-friendly face on the movement. Maybe they’re trying out new strategies for getting justice. Only time will tell.

The situation in Ferguson is scary. It’s easy to understand why some, especially those who live near the activity, want a return to normal: bullets, tear gas, sound cannons, check points, fire. But despite all this, there are a sizable number of us who don’t want a return to normal. We descend on West Florissant day and night to figure out how to avoid it. To us, the struggle is not limited to justice for Mike Brown and the conviction of a single cop of murder in a court of law. We are doing this for ourselves, our friends and family, as well as Mike Brown. We’ve already found this system guilty- the racism, the class structure, the government, the police. When the “peace” you are continuously urged to return to looks like powerlessness, humiliation, poverty, boredom, and violence, it shouldn’t be a surprise many choose to fight. And to witness the ferocity with which some of us fight, it’s almost as if we’ve been waiting for this moment our entire lives. Two nights ago people took a run at the police command post forcing the authorities to call in the National Guard. Previously this would have been unthinkable, but then again just two weeks ago this whole thing would have been unthinkable.

And so we raise a shot of looted gin – A TOAST! May we continue to surprise each other.

This work is in the public domain.
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Police Officer: 'if you don’t want to get shot...just do what I tell you.'
21 Aug 2014
Modified: 06:36:51 PM
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( picture - Officer Dutta )

"If you don't want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground," warns Officer Sunil Dutta of the Los Angeles Police Department, "just do what I tell you."

The thing is, Officer Dutta (pictured) is also an Adjunct Professor of Homeland Security and Criminal Justice at Colorado Technical University. And he uttered those words not in the heat of the moment, but in an opinion piece in the Washington Post responding to widespread criticism of police attitudes and tactics currently on display in Ferguson, Missouri, but increasingly common nationwide.

Dutta continues:


"Don't argue with me, don't call me names, don't tell me that I can't stop you, don't say I'm a racist pig, don't threaten that you'll sue me and take away my badge. Don't scream at me that you pay my salary, and don't even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?"

Dutta actually comes off as a reasonable law enforcement officer, when compared to some of his colleagues who can be found venting on police-only bulletin boards or referring to Ferguson protesters as "fucking animals." Dutta acknowledges that police can abuse their authority, saying "When it comes to police misconduct, I side with the ACLU: Having worked as an internal affairs investigator, I know that some officers engage in unprofessional and arrogant behavior; sometimes they behave like criminals themselves."

He endorses the use of body cameras and dashcams to record interactions between police and the public. He counsels, "you don't have to submit to an illegal stop or search. You can refuse consent to search your car or home if there's no warrant."

And yet he demands unresisting submission to police without argument or even legal protest. Just how do you "refuse consent to search your car or home" without running afoul of the no-nos Dutta warns may get you "shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground"?

Remember, this is a thoughtful police officer, with a PhD., who teaches criminal justice.

Maybe Matthew Worden, an Enfield, Connecticut, police officer, was being thoughtful when he beat the living shit out of Mark Maher earlier this year. That incident begaan when Maher asked Worden why another person was being detained.

Worden's own department thought the officer's actions were over the top, but the state's attorney declined to seek arrest or prosecution.


Militarized policeLiveLeak
The last week has seen an enormous and justifiable focus on the militarization of police departments in this country, including tactics and equipment. Jungle camouflage, assault rifles, and armored personnel carriers have been part of an intentionally intimidating show of force in Ferguson, Missouri—the sort of display that has become all too common throughout the country.

But you don't have to have an armored vehicle to be a jerk and a danger to the public. If you have the attitude that you are owed deference and instant obedience by the people around you, and that you are justified in using violence against them if they don't comply, we already have a problem. That's especially true if official institutions back you up, which they do.

If you really think that everybody else should "just do what I tell you," you're wearing the wrong uniform in the wrong country. And if you really can't function with some give and take—a few nasty names, a little argument—of the sort that people in all sorts of jobs put up with every damned day, do us all a favor: quit.

The law enforcement problem in this country goes well beyond boys with toys. It's much deeper, and needs to be torn out by the roots.


http://reason.com/blog/2014/08/19/police-officer-if-you-dont-want-to-get
'Outsiders' in Ferguson
21 Aug 2014
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( bottom photo - a 90 year-old Jewish woman Nazi concentration camp survivor is arrested protesting the police in Ferguson)

The American Dispossessed

Since the outbreak of the protests in response to the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, there has been a lot of talk in the media and on blogs disparaging “outsiders” who are participating in the protests. These comments echo the official line: for instance, Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson referred to those arrested on the night of August 18th as coming from as far away as New York and California, implying that the “trouble” in Ferguson was caused by these outsiders. Likewise, Corporal Justin Wheetley of the Missouri State Highway Patrol asserted that “It is mostly outsiders who are coming in and destroying this peaceful community.” Even The Guardian’s headline on August 19th reads “Ferguson: outsiders spread unrest and unease in pursuit of eclectic aims.”

This distinction being made between “outsiders” and the people of Ferguson, of course, has a precedent in the long history of race relations in this country. After all, Southern whites during the civil rights movement had a standard line that outsiders should not interfere in their matters. The Freedom Riders, for example, were commonly described by Southerners as “outside agitators.” But, even more disturbingly, claiming this distinction between those who live in Ferguson and those who are “outsiders” ignores or suppresses a basic reality about the similar economic and social conditions that exist in so many minority communities across the country, eliding the bonds of solidarity that tie together people across this nation. Indeed, the economic disparities between Ferguson and the neighboring white communities, the violent behavior of the predominantly white police force toward the black residents of Ferguson, and the complete invisibility of such communities in the mainstream media and in the consciousness of national politicians is instantly recognizable to most of us who do not reside in Ferguson. Moreover, the reality of what is means to be black and poor in this nation is also recognizable to the “outsiders” who are in Ferguson. This means that these outsiders know and experience the connections between race and economics; they know about the absence of employment opportunities that offer a living wage; and they live the effects of a lack of affordable housing and health care. They also know that they are liable to be stopped, beaten, or in extreme cases, shot by police officers, and that many cops see them, as they saw Michael Brown, purely and simply as black bodies to be violently policed, regulated, and controlled. These outsiders’ lives are tied to the destinies of the people of Ferguson and to those of all of the people around the nation who live in similar circumstances.

If we are seeking true outsiders in Ferguson, then we don’t have to look very far. As we have seen in the last few days, it is Governor Nixon, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch, Mayor James Knowles, and the legions of other people in power in the state of Missouri who are the true outsiders. Indeed, the predominantly white power brokers in Ferguson and in the state of Missouri have demonstrated the irony of the insider/outsider binary. Their insider status has not prevented them from being completely surprised by the scale of the protests. They have shown that they have neither a strategy to deal with the people’s response nor a clue about what “justice” really means, other than reciting the usual pieties about “coming together.” President Obama and Attorney General Holder have done little better, offering predictable and banal remarks that obviate any attempt to link the events in Ferguson to the widespread economic disparities that exist across the nation. Predictably, the President asks us to “heal,” but we get no indication of how people are supposed to heal in the face of continued violence directed against them. Perhaps it is foolish to expect those in power to acknowledge the connections between race, capitalist exploitation, and police violence. However, if the response of the true outsiders demonstrates anything, it is that we ordinary people can’t expect those in power—the true outsiders—to solve our problems.

One could argue that the fact that there are so-called outsiders in Ferguson is a sign that a critical constellation of the dispossessed is possible in this nation, that even as the Occupy movement demonstrated, resistance and revolution must start somewhere and will include insiders and outsiders. And the outsiders should include those of us who live in relative privilege, lucky enough not to endure the oppressive conditions and the constant indignities of everyday marginality. Aren’t we all part of and responsible for what is happening in Ferguson? As soon as “normalcy” returns to Ferguson, will we go back to our lives, waiting for the next insurrection, and then lighting up Twitter and newspaper blogs with our comments of outrage? If we believe, along with Walter Benjamin, that the oppressed exist in a permanent state of emergency, then we must cease to be outsiders and join those who are dispossessed in whatever way we can in their struggle for equality.

Kanishka Chowdhury is Professor of English and Director of American Culture and Difference at the University of St. Thomas. He is the author of The New India: Citizenship, Subjectivity, and Economic Liberalization.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/08/21/outsiders-in-ferguson/