“Don’t Shoot…Oops. Too Late.”

Mike Brown

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.

Young. Black. Male. Better shoot him before he becomes dangerous too.

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.

If the shooting Mike Brown was the explosion, the choking of Eric Garner was the fuse.

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.

It’s news when an American city looks like the Gaza Strip (photo: Scott Olson, Getty Images)

If Sanford Burns, Don’t Blame Me.

“You can’t blame me either. All I did was shoot a Black kid.”

Got a letter from a friend the other day.  Seems she had heard some Black folks were a little wound up about the George Zimmerman trial and she got freaked out they were going to do something about it if he walked.

So of course she sends me a series of e-mails demanding I do something about it.

When will blacks begin to address Their Own cultural problems, not only in relation to Western whites- but their own values and failures, and failures of values?  I guess if GZ is not convicted we can just wait for across the country race riots. Blacks are calling for killing white teens, especially in the suburbs,  in droves, ‘to see how it feels’. Now that is some civilized shit!  And you wonder why anyone is racist.  Whites are scared shitless of blacks. We are not Superior these days, we are frightened out of our minds with what has come from generational entitlements, crime, crack, endless poverty.  The NEW racism is not The OLD supremacist Mississippi racism, the new one is one of FEAR.

There is a lot of fear out there because black people are all over the place making real and specified threats of killing. The cops know it, the public knows it. Where are Jesse and Al now calling for calm? No..not them, this is their WET dream!

I simply cannot explain enough how we see this uncivilized behavior.  Black thugs scare the fuck out of the rest of us, that are not out killing people on the streets and doing stupid shit with a total lack of respect for life, like throwing bleach on people on trains, shooting each other, causing chaos, gang beating old people and just acting like fools for the sake of it. Sorry, it’s not ok no matter how you slice it. It’s cultural decadence gone wild. And, since we ‘whites’ have all the rights and privileges to end it, why has it not been done already? Tolerance. For no really good reason.

Perhaps you are not seeing the threats? Why would people not be afraid? Isn’t it normal to be afraid, when they’re TELLING you to BE AFRAID?  When people are saying, ‘we are going to kill your kids over this’ you have EVERY RIGHT to be afraid.

There is every good reason to fear black people, if you do not understand that, you have not taken a GOOD look at Black culture as it has evolved in the US.

L.A. burned in ’92. But I was at work that day.

Gee, I wonder if that’s the same kind of fear Trayvon felt just before this cowardly piece of trash shot him down?   I wonder if its anything like the fear young Black men like Trayvon and their parents felt knowing there were laws in place that provided legal protection for anyone who claimed a Black kid was acting “suspiciously” and they “feared for their life” so they killed in order not to be killed.

It really sucks to live in fear, doesn’t it?   But the only fear that matters is White fear.

Allow me to retort and rebut.

You keep telling me what others whom I don’t know are saying and expect me to be responsible for responding to it?

I not only can’t do that, I won’t do that.  I can no more be a spokesman for the entire Black race than you can be for the entire White race.  I certainly won’t take responsibility for what a few idiots are saying that has you all hot and bothered.

I am not here to reassure you there will be no violence if Zimmerman walks.  Even if I could tell 36 million African-Americans to be cool, I wouldn’t do it.   I don’t have the right to tell anyone else how they should feel or what they should do.  All I’m responsible for it what I feel and what I will do.

Here’s what I won’t do.

I won’t throw a brick through a window.  Any window.  Especially not my windows.  They’re still pretty new and I like them.

I won’t burn down any houses.  Particularly not my house.  I have some neighbors I don’t like so much, but I won’t burn down their house either.

I won’t hit anyone upside the head.  Not even with a brick.  You never know who has a concealed carry permit and that’s the wrong way to find out.

I won’t allow my wife or son or daughter to riot either.   And that’s all I can be reasonably expected not to do if George Zimmerman is acquitted for the murder of Trayvon Martin.   Yes, I said “murder.”  Trayvon was alive and now he’s dead and Zimmerman made him that way.   Whether he intended to kill him is a matter of degree of murder, but it’s still murder.

I hope there’s no violence.  I hope if there is any violence, it’s short, limited and over quickly.

But if there is violence I know this: it won’t be my fault.  It’s not my responsibility to prevent it or even try to stop it.   People will do what they feel they need to do.  It won’t help Trayvon.  He’ll still be dead.  It won’t hurt George Zimmerman.  He’ll be free (and probably looking over his shoulder for the rest of his life).

What’s the point of a riot?    No point as far as I can see, but then I don’t fit the profile of a likely rioter.

It might make someone feel like they’re doing something.   If they need to get out of them what’s bottled inside that badly then I guess throwing a brick or starting a fire or beating up some poor devil who has nothing to do with any of this might make them feel better.

It won’t make things any better, but with the present low state of race relations it won’t make things any worse either.  Martin Luther King said, “A riot is the language of the unheard.”  Maybe that’s what it takes to get Americans to listen.

Zimmerman going free would not be a good thing, but it’s not the worse thing either.  The worst thing has already happened with Trayvon’s death.  Killing or hurting someone else won’t make Trayvon any less dead.

Let me be clear.  I don’t want to see anyone get hurt.  I don’t want to see anybody else die.   Burning and looting and tearing shit up is not what I want to see in the aftermath of a Zimmerman acquittal.  Not at all.

It won’t surprise me if that is exactly what happens.   I’ll care, but if Sanford and other parts of the country goes up in flames, it’s not my fault.

You didn’t care when Zimmerman killed Martin. You didn’t care about this asinine Stand Your Ground law that gives idiots the right to kill and a get out of jail card if they say, “Hey, I was afraid for my life. I stood my ground and never mind if I started the fight.”

And now you expect the same people whom you have told in no uncertain terms “We have the legal right to kill your sons when they make us nervous” to rush to reassure you, “All is well. We’re cool.” You can whistle while you wait for that.

If a riot happens, a riot happens and there is nothing I, Jesse, Al, Barack or Jesus Christ can say to stop it from happening.

I don’t care about your fear.   Your unreasonable, irrational and racist fear is your problem, because if Sanford burns, you can blame George Zimmerman.   You can blame the failure on the justice system.  You can blame those who are rioting.   You can find someone to blame.

But you won’t blame me.

your fear

The Unfortunate Life and Unsurprising Death of Rodney King

Welcome to L.A. Are you ready for your beat down?

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.

America learns what police brutality looks like

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.

King healed outwardly, but internally seemed to made of broken glass.

Could L.A’s Ugly Past Be Sanford’s Possible Future?

A whole new meaning to "fire sale."

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.”

The answer is, "Maybe, but it's not going to be easy."

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.

Rodney King was not innocent, but he was a victim.