A week after Michael Brown was shot multiple times and killed for reasons that remain unknown, Ferguson Police Department Police Chief Thomas Jackson held a press conference which accomplished exactly two things:
1. We learned the name of Brown’s shooter was one Officer Darren Wilson.
2. The police released a surveillance video of a man fitting Brown’s description apparently stealing $48 worth of cigars from a convenience store and then turning on and physically confronting a store clerk.
There were two more things wrong with this. The first is is even in Missouri, a “strong-arm robbery” as Jackson described it is not an executable offense. The second, and more important fact is Wilson didn’t know Brown was a suspect when he stopped him and in less than five minutes, shot him dead.
Even if Brown understood the clerk would call the police, he wasn’t running or trotting or making any effort to hide or conceal himself. At worse, Office Wilson stopped Brown for jaywalking or being a hazard to drivers by walking in the street.
Maybe that was dumb behavior. Jerky behavior. Smart-ass behavior. But none of it explains what happened between Wilson and Brown.
No audio recordings. No video recordings. No eyewitnesses testimony. No ballistic reports and no statement about what was found at the crime scene. Jackson didn’t take questions and didn’t offer any new answers.
Why did it take numerous Freedom of Information requests before the Ferguson P.D. finally released the name of the officer involved? Why did the Ferguson P.D. share surveillance photos of what appears to be an altercation between Brown and a store clerk, but have yet to provide a timeline of Brown’s actions or Wilson’s?
Why is it we still don’t know how many times Wilson pulled the trigger and how many shots hit Brown? Even without an autopsy report, don’t the Ferguson P.D. have Wilson’s gun?
Can’t they count?
The chief’s press conference satisfied nobody (except for Fox News talking heads and they don’t count) and actually made things worse. The fragile calm that had settled in after the National Guard replaced the the heavy-handed police presence of the Ferguson and St. Louis police force didn’t hold and the chaos and looting began anew. Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency and issued a curfew. It hasn’t helped settle matters much as the Black community in Ferguson remains frustrated by the stonewalling and the slimy attempt by Jackson to smear a dead teenager with allegations of a criminal act. As if that justifies shooting him down in the street.
The Ferguson P.D. gassed and harassed the media until they could come up with a plausible story and reasonable doubt. Now they are attempting to manipulate the media and the public. If Michael Brown can be made to look like a guilty thug, he becomes less of an innocent victim.
The police are public servants. They answer to the public, not the other way around. That’s clearly not happening here and it has turned a local tragedy into a national scandal. The longer the cop’s “account” of what happened goes unshared, the greater the likelihood when it finally does the story will be more about covering asses than uncovering truth.
The protests by the people should continue until they get the answers the authorities have failed to give them. The burning, looting and violence has to stop. It does nothing to help Brown’s family and the community if criminals are exploiting a tragedy to help themselves. Leave the protesters alone. The criminals should be arrested, prosecuted, and if proven guilty, punished and possibly imprisoned.
All the things which Michael Brown was not.
An observation: Brown was 6’4″ and 292 pounds and allegedly stolen cigars from a convenience store before his fatal encounter with a police officer.
In NYC, Eric Garner was 6’3″ and 350 pounds and allegedly was selling illegal cigarettes (or “loosies”) when he had his fatal encounter with police officers.
The conclusion seems to be if you’re a big Black guy, if the tobacco doesn’t kill you, the cops will.
Who’s afraid of a large Black man? Everybody. Or at least the cops seem to be. Any cop who is so scared of a large Black man their only recourse is to kill them, is a coward and has no business with a badge and a gun.
One more thing. I’ve been impressed by how attentive young Black people have been to the goings on in Ferguson. This has engaged them in a way similar killings have not.
How Michael Brown’s met his end is no more heartbreaking than that of Jordan Davis, Renisha McBride, Jonathan Ferrell, or even Trayvon Martin. Unlike Eric Garner’s demise, no video of the last moments of Brown’s life exists, but there are 40 FBI agents in Ferguson knocking on doors just to be sure.
But the image of Brown’s bloodied corpse lying in the street like a dead dog was seen on Instagram, on Twitter, on cell phones and all over the world and it incensed a generation for whom the Los Angeles riots in the wake of the acquittal of the four police officers who beat the hell out of Rodney King happened before many of them were born.
This is their Rodney King moment. Eric Garner was the fuse. Michael Brown was the explosion. They’re angry. They’re engaged. They’re paying attention. If the dreamers stay awake they may take a hard look around and realize they have been living in a nightmare.
What will it take then to put them back to sleep? Quick! Gimme an update on the state of Jay-Z and Beyonce’s marriage! We need to keep these Negroes happy and complacent!
No more civil rights marches should not to be taken to mean nothing is wrong, because as the world watches in horror and fascination, Ferguson 2014 looks a lot like Birmingham 1964.
I haven’t been able to say anything about the killing of Renisha McBride for the same reason I haven’t been able to write my reaction to seeing 12 Years A Slave.
It’s too real and too much pain involved. I needed a little time to compress and process. Now that I have, here’s what I have to say.
Your name is Renisha McBride. You are 19 years old and you live in Detroit. You are in the suburb of Dearborn Heights and get in a car crash. Your cell phone is dead. You’re injured and bleeding. You go looking for help and knock on the door of a house. Someone opens the door armed with a loaded gun, shoots a woman in her face and then claims it “discharged by accident?”
I call “bullshit” on that.
A gun doesn’t aim itself and triggers don’t pull themselves. Human beings do that.
Scared, stupid, racist human beings who can kill an injured and unarmed woman and two weeks later the killer still hasn’t been arrested or even identified.
Smells like George Zimmerman chillin’ at the crib for nearly 45 days after blowing away Trayvon Martin all over again only this time it’s a remix with the bizarre circumstances of the Jonathan Ferrell shooting of a few months ago. As if Black people needed yet another reminder of how cheaply their lives are regarded by the injustice system here comes a hard slap across the face.
Yes, it’s a different situation from the Ferrell shooting in that in this case if was a homeowner, not a cop, who blew Renisha McBride away.
Otherwise, what’s so different?
The overarching lesson here seems to be if you’re Black and you get in a car crash at night and your cell phone is out of juice and you need help, DON’T go knocking on the door of any nearby homes unless you want to get shot.
Just sit there in the wreckage of your vehicle and suffer. You’ll still be injured, but you might not end up dead.
All things considered, is slowly freezing to death or dying slowly of internal injuries so much worse or any less than being shot in the face with a .12 gauge shotgun by some trigger-happy cretin?
Each of these cases have more than one thing in common. They each have a White shooter (with the exception of Zimmerman) and a Black victim and all of them united by the supposed fear of the shooter of the victim.
Each of these cases shows how “laws” like Stand Your Ground have been designed to protect the killers, not the victims. There is a culture of death that already plagues the Black community as they die by violence perpetrated among themselves, but White fear of Black people has become legally sanctioned as reason enough to kill them with impunity.
The American system of jurisprudence is blind, but it is not color blind. If the race of the shooter and the victim were reversed there is no way a Black man would not be arrested for shooting a 19-year-old White female in the face as she sought help after an auto accident.
We don’t know why Mr. X shot McBride. We know he is 54 years old and a White male. His attorney says he feared McBride was trying to break into his home and he shot her accidentally which if you believe that, I have some nice property in the Everglades to sell you.
Where is the evidence Renisha attempted to break into the house of the man who shot her?
Self-defense only applies when someone needs to defend themselves (or at least it did before SYG laws turned the concept upside down). Renisha was injured, disoriented and unarmed. Where is the threat? Or is knocking on a door now grounds to shoot someone in the face?
Trayvon Martin. Jonathan Ferrell. Renisha McBride. Scared shooters. Dead Black people.
Trayvon Martin. Black male. Racially profiled. Shot by vigilante. Dead.
Jonathan Ferrell. Black male. Car crash. Seeks help. Shot by cop. Dead.
Renisha McBride. Black female. Car crash. Seeks help. Shot by homeowner. Dead.
Once is accident. Twice is coincidence. Third time is proof.
People whom are not protected by the law will soon have no respect for the law. If that is the lesson America wants to teach its Black citizens, they should know they are building a hothouse where only discontent, rage and hate will grow.
When it reaches full bloom it won’t be pretty to behold. That’s not a warning. That’s a prophecy.
- Dream Hampton on Renisha McBride and ‘Criminalizing Black Corpses’ (colorlines.com)
- Justice for Renisha (whyracestillmatters.wordpress.com)
- Renisha McBride And Kym Worthy – OpEd (eurasiareview.com)
- Autopsy: Renisha McBride blasted in face; still no charges for shooter (salon.com)
“Fucking punks. These assholes always get away.” ~ George “The Hunter” Zimmerman
The fix was in. We knew it would end this way. It always ends this way. Black people crying and the killers of Black people smiling triumphantly. One is vindicated and the other is vilified. Same as it ever was.
The last time I felt like this was in April 1992 when another jury with no Blacks on it found the four cops who beat up Rodney King not guilty. America betrayed me then too.
Whenever we are in danger of forgetting America reminds its Black sons and daughters exactly how cheap their lives are. Just the same way it did for Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell and Oscar Grant and Rodney King. With a slap on the wrist, a victorious acquittal and a big gob of spit right in the face of every one that hoped maybe this time would be the time when justice prevailed and someone would pay for killing a young Black man the way they didn’t pay for Diallo, Bell, Grant, and King.
It wouldn’t be George Zimmerman. He walked out of the courtroom “not guilty” on all charges as a free man. He even got the gun back he used to shoot Trayvon Martin.
Tomorrow George Zimmerman can go hunting for another Trayvon Martin. And now he has the blessings of the American justice system to do so.
No surprise. As my older brother said, “It’s a commentary on the value of a Black kid’s life.”
Six women, five White and one Hispanic, sat in the courtroom looking at Sybrina Fulton, Travyon’s mother and they concluded, “Your son didn’t matter. His life didn’t matter.” They gave Gladys Zimmerman back her son George. Sybrina Fulton can go to the cemetery if she wants to see her son.
“Today, justice failed Trayvon Martin and his family,” said Roslyn M. Brock, Chairman of the NAACP. “We call immediately for the Justice Department to conduct an investigation into the civil rights violations committed against Trayvon Martin. This case has re-energized the movement to end racial profiling in the United States.”
“It seems that Trayvon Martin was tried and found guilty of his own death” MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry said and indeed he was.
Blackness is a crime. Punishable by death. Travyon was guilty of being Black. And he’s dead. I’d like to cry about it. I’d like to drink myself into numbness.
But I’m not crying and I’m not drinking. I couldn’t be more sober. “American Justice?” That’s an oxymoron.
I don’t believe there will be widespread rioting or acts of violence. There will be some, but not that much and not that bad. While idiots were predicting mass insurrections and the blood of innocent Whites flowing in the gutters, I never believed it. That was just wishful thinking by racists. We are angry and we are hurt, but we are not savages. We will not fall into the traps laid by hateful bastards like Geraldo Rivera and the Fox News cabal who can’t to chortle and say, “We told you so. We told you those niggers would go crazy if Zimmerman walked.”
There was no Twitter, no Facebook, no Instagram, no social media in which to curse, rage and vent. Most people are slow to anger and while there is plenty of anger, the emotion I detect most is hurt. Hurt that yet again America reminds its Black children it is an inattentive, cold and cruel parent that does not love us as we love it and places no value or worth on our lives. This is not a White thing. There are plenty of pissed-off people about this abortion of “justice” and it crosses over all race lines. No, this is an American thing and that separateness, that feeling of unequal protection and that we remain a problem to be solved and not a loyal and trusted citizen to be embraced.
I am ashamed of my country. I don’t feel like an American. I feel like an alien in a hostile world that doesn’t understand me and hates me and all that I love. I wonder if there’s somewhere better than this? Or does my skin color trump my very humanity everywhere on this wretched planet as it does everywhere in this wretched country? It’s been a while, some 21 years since the Los Angeles riots that I felt this way. It has been over two decades since last I felt this sort of acidic and withering contempt for America and a legal system that rubber stamps the hunting and killing of unarmed teenagers.
This jury did not see Travyon as a human being with the right to live like a human being. To them Trayvon was a disease and Zimmerman was the lethal cure. Now he’s free to “cure” more dangerous Black teenagers.
There will be more Trayvon Martins. And now there will be more George Zimmermans to kill more Trayvon Martins. Rabbit season. Duck season. Nigger season.
I have a son. My brother has two sons. My sister has a son. My sister-in-law has two sons. That’s six young Black men and any of them could be lined up in the crosshairs of the next vigilante, wannabee cop. Black parents always have to give their sons (as well as our daughters “the Talk.” Not the one about the birds and the bees, but about the cops or the gangs and how to avoid ending up a tragic statistic.
Now we have to add to it. Now we have to tell our kids how to avoid the wannabee cops, the vigilantes, the bigots like Zimmerman and his whole lousy hateful family who target Black youth.
It’s not enough to keep our sons away from the raging racists like the entire Zimmerman Clan. We must also find a way to bring back as many of those young Black men involved in gangs and crime. We must become proactive in keeping them out of the prison-industrial complex and trying to mentor and aid those locked in it and those coming out of it.
We ignore them at our own peril. There isn’t much comfort to find on this darkest of days, but I take a small bit from this post by Roderick Belin I came across on Twitter.
Black boys matter to their families: their parents and loved ones. Black boys matter to those of us who do not seek to profit off them but who love them for their sheer powerful presence. Black boys matter because they are created in the image of God – because they are fearfully and wonderfully made. Black boys matter because they are brilliant, strong, beautiful, powerful and have universe-altering contributions to make to the world. Those who hate Black boys know this and fear Black boys today just as Pharaoh feared and sought to deal wisely with the Hebrew boys millennia ago. But, we are wise too. We are strong. We are strategic. We love. And, because we love, God is on our side.
Love your Black sons. Love and protect them. You must. America will not.
“Find out just what the people will submit to and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”
Frederick Douglass (1817? – 1895)
PLEASE consider signing the NAACP’s petition to have the Justice Department file civil rights charges against George Zimmerman.
- George Zimmerman walks free; Trayvon Martin Trial – Where is the Justice? (businessat17.wordpress.com)
- No Justice for Trayvon Martin (libertysands.wordpress.com)
- NAACP Calls on DOJ to pursue civil rights charges against George Zimmerman (pumabydesign001.com)
- COMMENTARY: Zimmerman Acquittal Says It’s Open Season on Black Males (blackamericaweb.com)
- Open season on black boys after a verdict like this | Gary Younge (guardian.co.uk)
Some people become famous–or infamous–by being a hero, a villain or a victim.
Rodney King was all three. By any yardstick, his life was one, long, hot mess. There was a play back in the Seventies called, Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death and it could have been subtitled “The Rough Life and Hard Times of Rodney King.”
Just think; if one man with a video camera had not filmed the L.A.P.D. beating, kicking and clubbing King senseless, it would have as if it had never happened. Blacks would cynically shrug their shoulders and say that’s just what happens when you cross the cops. Whites would remain blissfully ignorant in their confidence that police officers treat all citizens the same and besides, King was an ex-con and high when the cops beat him up.
The aftermath of King’s beating was a trial of four of the officers, a “not guilty” verdict, and America’s last race riot leaving Los Angeles aflame, 55 dead, millions in damages and a sober realization of how deep the fault lines remain between the races. There’s been nothing like the uprising in L.A. since 1992, but there are enough unsettling similarities between Rodney King and the Trayvon Martin case to ask, “Could it happen again?”
Driving while Black is simply an assumed risk in Urban America and encounters with the police take on different meanings for different communities. For Whites, the sight of a police officer holds the promise of help. For Blacks, police are often a brutal, occupying force.
Rodney King was a sad and pitiful man. Despite his endlessly quoted plea, “Can’t we all get all along”, King was not a hero, a cause to be celebrated or a figure to rally around. Was he a flawed human being. Oh, heavens, yes. Perhaps more so than most. Addictions to drugs and alcohol and minor brushes with the law plagued King to the end. There are reports emerging that he had been drinking before drowning in a swimming pool.
The word that best sums up King is “tragic.” There are thousands of Black men just like him. It’s a tragedy how hopelessly a human being can spiral downward, but it seemed King never fully recovered from the beating Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, Theodore Briseno and Rolando Solano inflicted on him.
King’s Wikipedia entry is a litany to a man who often seemed incapable of getting out of his own way.
In 1993, King entered an alcohol rehabilitation program and was placed on probation after crashing his vehicle into a block wall in downtown Los Angeles. In July 1995, he was arrested by Alhambra police, who alleged that he hit his wife with his car, knocking her to the ground. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail after being convicted of hit and run. On August 27, 2003, King was arrested again for speeding and running a red light while under the influence of alcohol. He failed to yield to police officers and slammed his vehicle into a house, breaking his pelvis. On November 29, 2007, while riding home on his bicycle, King was shot in the face, arms, and back with pellets from a shotgun. He reported that it was done by a man and a woman who demanded his bicycle and shot him when he rode away. Police described the wounds as looking like they came from birdshot, and said King offered few details about the suspects.
Even when King tried to avoid trouble, trouble found him. The ability to cash in on being a victim is extremely limited. King lacked the smarts or sophistication to turn his victimization into celebrity. If he had been beaten up by the cops now he’d show up on cable news and The View to yak about it, write a book, and maybe angle for a movie. He did receive $3.8 million from the city as part of a civil suit settlement, but money didn’t change King. He remained a vaguely sad and lost man who found himself forever associated with racism and rioting.
His earnest, but almost childlike plea, “Can’t we all just get along?” was as touching in its innocence as it seems clear the answer has remained a cold and flat, “no.”
Hopefully, this troubled soul will find a degree of peace in death it never seemed to have in life.
- Rodney King, who struggled with demons after beating, dead at 47 (latimesblogs.latimes.com)
- Rodney King death: Autopsy to be performed (abclocal.go.com)
- Rodney King Found Dead At Age 47 (theobamacrat.com)
I have never been to Los Angeles. I don’t know anyone who lives in Los Angeles. Everything I know about Los Angeles comes second-hand. Yet it was 20 years ago my first gig as a paid freelancer came when I wrote about the 1992 L.A. riots after the acquittal of the police officers who beat motorist Rodney King.
I can’t read that article now without wincing. It’s earnest and sincere, but it’s overwrought, poorly thought out and badly written. It’s not that I regret what I said when I was in my mid-Thirties, and I am not afraid of being angry, I’m not that angry young man anymore.
I’m gratified former Time magazine correspondent Sylvester Monroe who covered the uprising in L.A. wrote a remembrance of where he was 20 years ago and what has changed since then.
The 1992 Los Angeles riots were one of the biggest stories of my career and among the most personal. I wasn’t just a reporter covering the worst civil unrest in modern U.S. history. I was also an African-American man and father of an adolescent son ever mindful of close encounters of the worst kind with the police.
Reporting on the six days of deadly violence and vandalism following the acquittals of four white L.A. police officers tried for the brutal, videotaped beating of black motorist Rodney King resonated with me even more than the trial itself. In nearly 10 years as a Los Angeles correspondent for Time magazine, I was never stopped by the LAPD. As a young teenager, my son, Jason, was ticketed once for jaywalking. We paid a $50 fine and that was the end of it. But we both were always wary.
Twenty years later, relations between the Los Angeles police and the city’s black citizens are light-years beyond the tinderbox atmosphere that once prevailed, thanks to extensive police reforms, including a much-touted commitment to community policing, increased external oversight and more enlightened department leadership. Many black Angelenos now believe there has been so much progress that what happened in 1992 could not happen again. At least not in the same way.
One reason is that despite some ongoing racial tension, the people of Los Angeles generally get along much better than they did at the time of King’s famously plaintive plea: “Can we all just get along?”
“I do not feel it could happen again because [the police] are now accountable to us and want to be,” says Lawrence Tolliver, also black, who owns a popular barbershop just blocks from the infamous intersection of Florence and Normandie Avenues where white truck driver Reginald Denny was dragged from his truck and almost beaten to death by young black men right after the King trial verdicts. “If something like [the King beating] did happen today, it would be a lot different than in 1992. They would investigate it, and the current police chief would not let it get to that point. We have a lot more impact on the department now.”
That may be true for L.A., but not for every city around the nation. As Los Angeles marks the 20th anniversary of its riotous past, national attention is now firmly fixed on yet another racially charged assault. In the Trayvon Martin case, the Sanford, Fla., police did not shoot the unarmed 17-year-old black teenager. But police handling or mishandling of the case and how it is resolved in court could make Trayvon this generation’s Rodney King. For what has not changed in two decades is continued excessive force against black males (and females) by law enforcement officers and others who claim they were afraid for their lives.
If George Zimmerman is exonerated and rioting does occur, that would be unjustified and unfortunate, but not wholly unexpected. When there is one standard of justice for Whites and a separate and unequal one for Blacks and it is shrugged off as no big thing it breeds the lack of respect for the American system of justice and all its representatives that is decried by its most ardent defenders. If peaceful civil disobedience is denigrated as rabble rousing and counter-productive, then once legitimate means of redress are choked off, violent reactions become inevitable.
Americans are not people who quietly suffer their lot in life with hand-wringing and hushed voices. They raise hell about everything from high taxation without representation, unjust wars, government that becomes too big, bloated and intrusive and for civil rights and equal protection under the law. Faith in, and compliance with the rules and laws of a civilized society can only be maintained as long as they are equally and fairly applied regardless of race, color, creed, orientation, power, influence or connection.
If no one should be considered above the law then no one should be considered below the law. That includes Trayvon Martin as much as it does George Zimmerman.
King was everything Martin wasn’t. A large Black man with a criminal record who was breaking the law and might have been stoned then. King was a victim of police brutality while Martin faced off with an overzealous vigilante-slash-police-wannabee and.though King was a victim, he wasn’t entirely innocent. .
No one else should be hurt or die due to what happened one night in Sanford, Florida. The hope is justice will prevail and everyone involved will be treated in a fair and equitable way. But if anyone believes what happened in 1992 can’t happen again they have not paid attention to the bitterly learned lessons of Los Angeles very well.