Ferguson explodes-- Is America next?By Richard B. Muhammad and J.A. Salaam -Final Call Staffers- | Last updated: Nov 25, 2014 - 5:47:36 AM
What's your opinion on this article?
Printer Friendly Page
A man takes a picture of a storage facility on fire after the announcement of the grand jury decision Nov. 24, in Ferguson, Mo. A grand jury has decided not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown, the unarmed, Black 18-year-old whose fatal shooting sparked sometimes violent protests. Photos: AP/Wide World photos
- FERGUSON, Mo. (FinalCall.com) - Physical fires and fiery passions were ignited here with the decision not to charge officer Darren Wilson in the killing of unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown.
On the 108th day after the 18-year-old’s shooting, chaos exploded at night as many felt the failure to indict the White officer was another sign of a war on Black youth and an assault on the Black community.
“It is a too often repeated message that your life is worthless in the context of the power of the state versus the individual. You can be exterminated without impunity. There are no repercussions for the state taking the life of a Black person,” said Dr. Wilmer Leon, a political science professor at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
“Why now are we seeing these increases around the country? Why now? They don’t want you to feel empowered by the election of a Black president. Don’t think you have arrived. Nothing has changed. That’s all I can figure it to be,” he said.
Protesters run for shelter as smoke fills the streets after the announcement of the grand jury decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson.
St. Louis county prosecutor Bob McCullough made the night announcement that there would be no charges from the grand jury that was first empaneled Aug. 20, some 11 days after Mike Brown was killed. Mr. McCullough defended the decision to refer the case to the grand jury because of “unfounded but growing concern” that justice would not be done. The Justice Dept. and local officials conducted joint investigations and shared information, he said. Conflicting witness accounts and the physical evidence contributed to the decision not to indict officer Wilson for any one of a range of charges from first degree murder to involuntary manslaughter, said Mr. McCullough. The Justice Dept. said its investigation will continue.
A group of protesters vandalize a police vehicle in Ferguson, Mo.
President Obama took to the air minutes after the Nov. 24 televised announcement of the decision. He urged respect for the rule of law and called for using the Brown death to deal with longstanding problems.
The president said he instructed Attorney General Eric Holder to work to build better relations between police departments and communities, including proper training for fair application of laws, creating community alliances and having police forces reflect the race of communities that they work in. Criminal justice reform is also needed, the president said.
“We have to recognize this is not just an issue for Ferguson it is an issue for America,” said President Obama.
Two days before the Ferguson explosion, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam warned Ferguson was ready to blow up. The injustices that Blacks have faced are growing intolerable and Black youth are growing as angry as unarmed Palestinians battling heavily armed Israeli soldiers, the Minister said in a Nov. 22 address at Morgan State University in Baltimore.
An armed police officer guards the area after a group of protesters vandalize a police cruiser after the announcement of the grand jury decision.
Leaders who defend the oppressive White power structure cannot lead Black youth or Black people, said Min. Farrakhan.
“Because the youth don’t want to hear a damn you say,” he continued. “You can’t feel it? When you talk to young people, you can’t feel that you’re missing them? Parents, you can’t feel when you’re talking to your children that this is a new generation—and they don’t want to hear your compromising talk? Did you hear them in Ferguson tell Jesse [Jackson] ‘Get the hell outta here! You ain’t no leader.’ ”
Rev. Jackson has worked hard but what was a good tactic yesterday is not a good approach today, the Minister said.
To reach young people you must reject the old ways and reject taking a pacifist position to please White people, he said.
Police officers and protesters.
“Tonight in Ferguson everybody is on edge. White folks have never been on edge after they killed a Black man. Tonight they’re on edge; so on edge that our president has come out from behind the curtain to ask young Black people: ‘Cool it. That’s not our way.’ I heard you, Mr. President; and I asked myself a question: What brings you out of the shadows? … I said to myself, ‘Mr. President: Why the hell don’t you go to the wicked police department? Why the hell don’t you stand up and tell them that your killing of Black youth and Brown youth is not going to hold no more,” said Min. Farrakhan.
The president spoke out because there is fear an eruption in Ferguson could inflame the entire country, he said.
Tear gas, fires and riot gear
Police officers fired tear gas, lobbed smoke grenades and fired bean bags at protestors, according to media reports. Armored vehicles rolled down streets and officer clad in riot gear moved to assert control. There were also reports of gunfire and burned out police cars. Some CNN reporters found themselves pelted with trash. Not everyone was involved in the battles with police. Gunshots were fired and people dispersed. Helicopters circulated overhead.
Lesley McSpadden, Michael Brown's mother, is comforted outside the Ferguson police department as St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch conveys the grand jury's decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of her son, Nov. 24 in Ferguson, Mo.
Police clashed with protestors in Ferguson, near the police department, on West Florissant Avenue, which is a commercial strip, and other places. Several businesses burned as firefighters fought the blazes. At one point, there were too many fires to be put out. “There was a lot of gunfire for a bit,” said CNN reporter Stephanie Elam. It sounded like a handgun, she added.
Marc Lamont Hill, reporting for CNN, said there was some over reaction from police that stoked conflicts with police. There was also a presence in one neighborhood, no police presence in the other, he said. It was like you have permission to destroy one neighborhood but not the other, Mr. Hill added. It seems like there is no response until there is a spectacle like this, he said.
“No justice! No peace!” chanted many of the demonstrators. Protestors also blocked major highways.
“Protesters should be able to exercise their constitutional right peacefully and not be attacked by the police. Because the youth are ready to fight back and die for what they feel is right,” said Spud, a young activist. Emotions were high and the fear of trouble brewed each day in this suburb and others outside of St. Louis.
Business owners in Clayton, Mo., where the non-indictment was announced, and in Ferguson, Mo., boarded up property. Fear of property damage and rioting caused a 67 percent increase in gun sales, according to the Associated Press.
But one Black woman complained of being denied the right to purchase a weapon the night of Nov. 24 though she was eligible for a firearm. Rachel Stewart, 36, told The Final Call that at a mall in Bridgeton, Mo., Blacks were told weapons’ purchases were on hold, but Whites were allowed to go in and buy weapons.
The Final Call received reports of infighting in the county police department, which led to the suspension of several Black officers because of their views on the Brown shooting. Some Black FBI agents also refused to follow some instructions or take certain assignments, sources told The Final Call.
“As mothers how do we teach our kids to deal with this? What do we tell our sons?” said Twyla Lee, who lives and works in St. Louis. There should be fear this could spread across the country, she said. Officers are getting away with fatal shootings—from the killing of a 12-year-old with a toy gun in Ohio to an 18-year-old in St. Louis. “So it’s just open season and it’s nothing we can do or say. Our children can be walking down the street and doing nothing and get killed,” said Ms. Lee.
School is out until Dec. 1 in public school districts in St. Louis and nearby jurisdictions while some private schools are making attendance optional, she said.
What happened is fulfilment of prophecy and bears witness to what Min. Farrakhan has said of Black people matching the biblical picture of a people lost in a strange land, said activist Anthony Shahid, an advisor to the parents of Michael Brown. He has been at the forefront of protests and demands for justice. The family was given a 15 minute heads up before the decision not to indict was announced and was “profoundly hurt” by the verdict. Lesley McSpadden, the mother of Michael Brown, came out and spoke to those assembled outside of the Ferguson Police Dept.
“Our people are sick and tired of being on this plantation. The genie is out of the bottle and St. Louis will never be the same. It has been so racist for so long reminds it me of the Emmett Till case. The people are tired that we are being shot down and nothing is happening,” he said.
Angry expressions across the U.S.
Protestors march up Seventh Avenue towards Times Square in New York.
Demonstrations grew nationwide throughout the late evening into the night as anger grew. Protesters vented frustrations in Time Square in New York City, stopped traffic on Lakeshore Drive in Chicago and in the streets of Oakland, Calif., Seattle and other cities. Hundreds marched in protest toward the White House in Washington, D.C. many with their hand and arms held up. Crowds gathered in Philadelphia, Denver, Colorado and more than 120 vigils and gatherings were planned and executed. According to the Ferguson National Response Network, from Toledo, Ohio, to Bangor, Maine, to Los Angeles and Detroit, people were determined to show their outrage over the grand jury decision and police shootings and police abuses.
Michael Prysner, of Answer coalition and an Iraq War veteran, went to Leimert Park in Los Angeles for a gathering. “Everyone here has said that the only way to get justice for Mike Brown was to continue to fight back and organize, and build a movement start with and center on this particular case, but challenge institutionalized racism and White supremacy in the criminal justice system all throughout the country,” Mr. Prysner said.
In Los Angeles, protestors shut down several streets, as well as a portion of the 10 Freeway in South Los Angeles.
“This is an epidemic in cities all across the country of Black and Brown people being killed with complete impunity and the federal government just standing by while Black people in particular, but people of color, are being murdered by police day after day after day while this government on a national level is doing absolutely nothing about it,” Mr. Prysner said.
Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, in an e-mailed statement said the grand jury’s decision does not negate an alarming trend of officers using excessive force against people of color, often during routine encounters. Yet in most cases, the officers and police departments are not held accountable.
Protestors gather in front of the White House in Washington, D.C.
“The ACLU will continue to fight for racial justice. We must end the prevailing policing paradigm where police departments are more like occupying forces, imposing their will to control communities. This ‘us’ versus ‘them’ policing antagonizes communities by casting a blanket of suspicion over entire neighborhoods, often under the guise of preventing crime,” Mr. Mittman said.
The Bay Area Mass Incarceration Network and its affiliates assembled at 14th and Broadway in Oakland to demonstrate and demand justice for those killed by cops.
The network urged people to bring traffic to a halt on major streets, highways, bridges and tunnels. “Wherever we go, we will deliver a message to one and all that THE KILLING OF BLACK YOUTH MUST STOP! People must come together and say this in a loud and united voice. We must mean it, and we must act accordingly immediately when the decision is announced and going forward from there till the murder of our youth by police and racist vigilantes is truly no more,” the group said in a statement.
Veteran activist Rosa Clemente said many were “lulled to sleep” by a Black president and Black attorney general in Eric Holder. “I am not surprised as someone who has been working on these issues for 20 years, but I’m always disappointed. And always so sad that I have to take my 10-year-old daughter to a rally for justice right now because that’s the world we live in, and she herself can be a victim of police violence at her age,” said Ms. Clemente. “They are killing our kids. From the minute our children are born, they are targets,” Ms. Clemente said.
Keith Beauchamp, a filmmaker and host of The Injustice Files, said the decision not to indict officer Wilson “hurt him to the core.” It shows a toxic racial climate of violence still exists in America, he said.
“I can’t say I’m surprised, but I was holding on to hope,” said Mr. Beauchamp. “As we continue to see this take place time and time again, what it is saying to me is that we are still living in a dangerous place in America as a Black male.”
Mr. Beauchamp’s documentary research into the death of Emmett Till is well known. Now, coming up on the 60 years since Mr. Till’s gruesome death, Ferguson is especially troubling.
“You are now going to have another generation of kids growing up in this type of atmosphere fearing or hating the police,” said Mr. Beauchamp.
In Atlanta, Mayor Kasim Reed called for restraint from protesters and law enforcement. “Going forward, I encourage the United States Department of Justice to conduct a complete review of how Michael Brown’s killing has been handled thus far,” he said.
“We will not allow this to be another Sanford, Florida,” vowed Cornell William Brooks, NAACP president and CEO. “That the officer who shot and killed an unarmed Black man with his hands in the air remains free is appalling. Local officials in Ferguson utterly failed in their duties to conduct an open and transparent investigation.”
The NAACP has a petition demanding a federal civil rights investigation, he added.
Attorney General Holder said, “Michael Brown’s death was a tragedy. This incident has sparked a national conversation about the need to ensure confidence between law enforcement and the communities they protect and serve.”
“The [verdict’s] impact is building more rage and anxiety in Black youth. They are creating an atmosphere that is unfortunate with a system that is helping to perpetuate the disrespect of Black youth. They feel they have no rights that have to be respected,” said Salim Adofo, national vice chair of the National Black United Front, based in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Conrad Worrill, director of the Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, said the unrest and injustice speaks to the need for Black self-determination.
“I hope there comes a time when we get it into the masses psyche to do for self. We must protect our communities, we must build our own institutions, and we must raise our children in our own traditions. Right now we’re engaged in what I call ambulance chasing, one case after another, after another. We’re totally in reactive mode to White supremacy. We must come back to the tradition of our elders including the Honorable Elijah Muhammad to do for self, protect ourselves and build for ourselves,” he said.
As part of an ongoing strategy, the Brown family is calling for a four-day spending boycott. The four days represent the four hours that Mike Brown’s body lay in the street.
Min. Farrakhan emphatically backed the four-day spending black-out and urged a total holiday spending boycott. Families should gather for a good meal and engage with one another, he said. Don’t spend money you don’t have, Min. Farrakhan continued. “Why should we continue to spend our money when we are deprived of justice? We should absent ourselves,” he said.
(Nisa Islam Muhammad and Askia Muhammad reported from Washington, D.C., while Starla Muhammad and Ashahed M. Muhammad reported from Chicago and Charlene Muhammad reported from Los Angeles.)