Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What's Happening In Ferguson

[TRIGGER WARNING: POLICE BRUTALITY, GUN VIOLENCE, HOMICIDE, RACISM]

[EDIT: In this post, I am guilty of pulling the "how is this happening in America?" thing, which is just dripping in white privilege and not at all helpful. I recognized this and wrote about it in this post, but I am leaving this post as is because I don't intend to hide my mistakes and pretend I never fuck up.]

I briefly mentioned what happened to 18-year-old (some are reporting 17?) Michael Brown in a post yesterday, but since then things have become dire for the citizens of Ferguson. The things that they're reporting sound like they could come from the Ukraine or one of those other countries that people in the US tend to think we're so much better than.

If you need catching up, yesterday a cop in a police car told two young black individuals that they needed to walk on the sidewalk instead of the street. Somehow that ended in the officer shooting one of those kids dead. The police say that there was an altercation that involved Michael shoving the officer and reaching into the car for a gun. Witnesses say that at one point Michael fled, was shot, fell to his knees and put his arms up as instructed, and was shot dead in that position, execution style.

[EDIT: I got some details wrong. For the full eyewitness account, see here (TRIGGER WARNING: The account is brutal and heartbreaking). For those who doubt the witness, know that the local police have declined to even interview him. That is fucked up.]

There is a breaking point.

Black US citizens fear the police. They have for a long time. They've learned that the police are not there for them. That they could be killed at any time, for any reason, and the police will not be punished, and nothing will change. Cops have literally broken into the wrong home and killed a black man who'd done nothing wrong.

Ferguson. Photo courtesy of Mic.com.

As the police become further militarized and removed from the general population, violence between police and citizens becomes worse. There were reports last night of Ferguson police closing off roads going in and out of the suburb, literally trapping protesters in and keeping media out. People reported cops flashing bright lights to prevent photos from being taken. Video shows protesters holding up their hands in front of police who stood in military-style gear with shotguns and barking police dogs.

It looks like a fucking dystopian future movie. But of course, as the marginalized know, those dystopian future scenarios that the privileged come up with aren't far from reality.

I don't tend to throw the word "fascism" around, but WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING. They're keeping media out? How can you justify that? Ferguson citizens who were trying to get home were blocked by police who wouldn't let people in or out, and then they were ordered to go home, but they fucking couldn't. People were arrested on "suspicion" of looting. Peaceful protests portrayed as riots. Actual riots portrayed as inexcusable behavior. Reports of police calling the protesters animals. Actual tweets all over the country calling the protesters animals and all kinds of racial slurs.

What kind of country do we live in?

Tear gas and rubber bullets used against protesters labeled "rioters" by the media. Tear gas fired at people standing in their backyards and their own front lawns. Smoke bombs fired at journalists so they wouldn't be able to see what was happening. TANKS. ACTUAL TANKS. 400 police officers in a single suburb, from 20 different departments. From outside areas. What is happening?

Many of these reports come from media, not just random witnesses. But over time I've come to trust random witnesses more than police reports.

There are photos and videos.

This happened.

Here is a good masterpost with links to photos and media reports of what's going on and what happened last night.

There are petitions to enact laws to control police misconducts.

You can donate to the legal funds and bail for arrested protesters.

I don't know what to say right now. There's so much to be seen on Twitter and Tumblr about what happened last night. You can look for yourselves. I know there are people who will want to disbelieve, to say "wait for the facts," but who decides what the facts are? Police departments have become notorious for lying, covering up, doing anything to protect fellow officers. And they get away with it. I trust the dozens or hundreds of people reporting what they see. I don't think we can assume that they're all lying.

But you'll believe whatever you want to believe.

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