“To Serve and Protect” Missouri-style

Click for another view of what peaceful demonstrators faced

Anyone familiar with the history of race and policing in the United States had to suspect from the beginning that the shooting of Michael Brown was not just a tragedy, but a crime. Yet presumption of innocence prevails and sober minds know both the need to wait for an investigation and the reality that we may never really know what happened that fateful Saturday in Ferguson, Missouri. But watching events unfold Wednesday night in the St. Louis suburb, there can be no doubt that what happened on August 13 was an outrage.

The local authorities clearly have no idea what they’re doing, and higher powers from the state or federal government need to intervene before things get even worse.

The arrest of two reporters, Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post and Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post, with whom many of us in Washington, DC, are acquainted was neither the beginning nor the most important part of the outrage, but it drives home in a visceral way the extent to which the situation is being monumentally mishandled.

Police officers, for some unfathomable reason, were pointing guns at unarmed civilians at twilight.

Crowd control is a normal complement to any modern protest. And as I remember well from the late-Giuliani days in New York, crowd control sometimes gets heavy-handed when relationships between the police and the community are strained. But you do crowd control with horses, batons, and shields, not rifles. You point guns at dangerous, violent criminals, not people out for a march…

That sounds about right. There were an awful lot of somebodies who didn’t know better out on the streets of Ferguson last night wielding an awful lot of deadly equipment. Quite a few people have been injured over the past few days by rubber bullets and rough handling (although in a Wednesday press conference, a police spokesperson insisted that no one had been injured during the protests).

Wednesday night’s outing ended for many protestors in a cloud of tear gas. In my experience, these “nonviolent” crowd-control tactics are a good deal more painful than people who’ve never been at the receiving end appreciate. There’s no real reason they should be inflicted on demonstrators who weren’t hurting anyone or even damaging property. We are lucky, to be honest, that nobody’s been killed yet. But somebody who does know better needs to take charge. And soon.

…It is clear at this point that local officials in the town of Ferguson and St. Louis County don’t know what they are doing. Of course people will not be calm while police officers charged with protecting them trample their rights.

What did you learn, today, little girl?

The first person in a demonstration that I saw shot by police was a young woman in her mid-20’s. She was carrying her baby in her arms. She took a bullet in her left arm. That was July 19, 1964 in Harlem, New York. She was shot by a cop who was part of a group trying to prevent anyone from getting to the funeral parlor where the body of James Powell lay – killed by Lt. Thomas Gilligan of the NYPD.

In the aftermath of Powell’s death the people of New York City counted 1 dead, 118 injured, and 465 arrested. Overwhelmingly Black, the uprising counted many Hispanic folks – mostly Puerto Rican, many white demonstrators. Government response was the same as it ever was. There were investigations, Congressional hearings, lots of bullshit discussion – and nothing changed.

Our politicians, our government is as worthless as ever. Courtesy of the technology revolution of the last decade or so more people get to see what happens outside their comfort zone. Perhaps that will prompt more than campaign rhetoric.

7 thoughts on ““To Serve and Protect” Missouri-style

  1. Kent State says:

    Re: “Click for another view” http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1964357/thumbs/r-FERGUSON-SWAT-huge.jpg – note the LRAD [AKA: “sonic cannon” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_range_acoustic_device see also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonic_weapon#Research ] on the tactical vehicle on the right. Also “Tear gas is a chemical weapon banned in war. But Ferguson police shoot it at protesters.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/08/14/tear-gas-is-a-chemical-weapon-banned-in-war-but-ferguson-police-shoot-it-at-protesters/ Historical footnote: “Violence in the City – An End or a Beginning?: A Report by the Governor’s Commission on the Los Angeles Riots, 1965” http://www.usc.edu/libraries/archives/cityinstress/mccone/contents.html

  2. We says:

    Meet the Missouri Highway State Patrol captain who has taken over in Ferguson http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/08/14/meet-the-missouri-highway-state-patrol-captain-who-is-taking-over-in-ferguson/
    Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) gave control of security operations in riot-riven Ferguson to Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ronald S. Johnson on Thursday. The result? Hugs, kisses and a night of peace replaced tear gas and unrest.
    “We are going to have a different approach and have the approach that we’re in this together,” Johnson, a Ferguson native, told reporters Thursday afternoon. “I understand the anger and fear that the citizens of Ferguson are feeling, and our officers will respect both of those.” One immediate change under Johnson’s command: The heavy riot armor, the SWAT trucks with sniper posts, the hostile glares were gone. Thursday night, protesters in Ferguson had a new leader: Johnson, who walked with demonstrators.

  3. Norteño says:

    Meanwhile in N.M. FBI Arrests Rio Arriba County Sheriff, son. http://krqe.com/2014/08/15/breaking-fbi-arrests-rio-arriba-county-sheriff-his-son/ (Federal Indictment @ https://lintvkrqe.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/tommy-rodella-indictment.pdf )
    “We take little pleasure in charges against any law enforcement official,” said Damon Martinez, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico. “But it is vitally important that we pursue these cases… where they violate their sworn duty to uphold the Constitution.”
    To reiterate: “…it is vitally important that we (U.S. Attorneys ) pursue these cases… where they (Law Enforcement Officials) violate their sworn duty to uphold the Constitution.”

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