The Just Cause of “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.”

Mr. Capehart says, Put your hands down, kids.

 

I respect columnist Jonathan Capehart and more often than not agree with his opinion, but his opinion “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot Was Built On A Lie” is wrong-headed and reflects a sort of timid liberal buyer’s remorse in highly charged matters of race when backed into a corner.  Capehart’s crawfishing was swiftly seized upon by conservative websites Hot Air, The Blaze and other right-wingers to discredit the legitimacy of the entire “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” protests.

Capehart’s gift to those who never have believed Black Lives Matter is wrapped in one graph:

The unarmed 18-year-old also became a potent symbol of the lack of trust between African Americans and law enforcement. Not just in Ferguson, but in the rest of the country. Lord knows there have been plenty of recent examples. And the militarized response to protesters by local police put an exclamation point on demonstrators’ concerns. But the other DOJ report, the one on the actual shooting of Michael Brown, shows him to be an inappropriate symbol.


Capehart is correct to get a fuller picture of what happened in Ferguson requires reading both Justice Department reports. Capehart is wrong that the legitimacy of the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” phrase is dependent on whether Brown ever said it.

What does it matter if Michael Brown wasn’t a perfect victim?  Does that mean Darren Wilson is blameless for his death? For Capehart, the Justice Department report on the shooting is enough for him to declare Brown to be in fact the oversized thug Wilson’s defenders described him as.

Whether or not Brown or John Crawford or Akai Gurley or Eric Garner or Oscar Grant or Amadou Diallo or Sean Bell or Tamir Rice or Tony Robinson were as pure as the driven snow is besides the point. That they were all unarmed Black men killed by the police is the point and neither the report nor Capehart’s change of heart changes that.

Wilson never went on trial for the killing of Brown and the Justice Department report does not place Michael Brown on trial nor does it convict him. Capehart’s hand-wringing does not exculpate Wilson from the eight bullets he put in Brown or that the notoriously racist Ferguson Police left his corpse lying uncovered in the street for four hours cooking in the summer heat, in full view for all to see.

The New Republic is skeptical of how the Justice Department’s report has been used as a de facto exoneration of Wilson and a conviction of Brown.

These conclusions carry no force of law. The separate report on the abuses by the Ferguson Police Department does—that one can lead to meaningful enforcement in federal court. But the decision not to prosecute Wilson, in technical terms, amounts to no more than an internal memorandum from junior prosecutors to Attorney General Eric Holder on whether charges were advisable. The end result was entirely discretionary.

But the report does not equal justice. It is largely advisory. It can’t be challenged anywhere. And it ultimately proves nothing about the Ferguson case or its larger meaning in an ongoing national movement. The Supreme Court or a trial court may never get to address Ferguson, but everything about it will continue to be, to borrow Justice Douglas’ words, “a shocking and revolting episode in law enforcement.” Because Ferguson stands for that and so much more, protesters have every right to keep on marching, with their hands up, for as long as there’s neither justice nor peace.

What happened to Mike Brown could have happened to any Black person at anytime and it doesn’t matter if your name is Ben Carson or Barack Obama and yes, you too Jonathan Capehart. Your degrees, your gig at the Washington Post, Your Pulitzer Prize, your fat bank account, your nice house, your gold AmEx, your Lexus, NONE of that shit trumps your Black skin.  Capehart was once all in on the protests.  What caused the reversal?  Capehart was looking for justice when he should have kept the faith.

Hands Up, Don’t Shoot is bigger than any one victim and Brown was a victim.  Movements are built upon martyrs, not saints. Hands Up, Don’t Shoot is not Mike Brown. Brown was a catalyst for a just cause.  Just cause Capehart doesn’t get it is not a reason to put our hands down and let them shoot.

MLK gets it even if Capehart doesn’t.

Advertisements

The Gangster Squad

Which one of these cops is the good cop?

I know most people aren’t interested in reading U.S. Justice Department reports, but this one was a damning indictment of the Ferguson Police Department and how cop shops like them wage war against the Black citizens they are supposed to protect.

Particularly, in their attempts at what passes as “humor” by the cops.

We have discovered evidence of racial bias in emails sent by Ferguson officials, all of whom are current employees, almost without exception through their official City of Ferguson email accounts, and apparently sent during work hours. These email exchanges involved several police and court supervisors, including FPD supervisors and commanders. The following emails are illustrative:

  • A November 2008 email stated that President Barack Obama would not be President for very long because “what black man holds a steady job for four years.”
  • A March 2010 email mocked African Americans through speech and familial stereotypes, using a story involving child support. One line from the email read: “I be so glad that dis be my last child support payment! Month after month, year after year, all dose payments!”
    An April 2011 email depicted President Barack Obama as a chimpanzee.
  • A May 2011 email stated: “An African-American woman in New Orleans was admitted into the hospital for a pregnancy termination. Two weeks later she received a check for $5,000. She phoned the hospital to ask who it was from.The hospital said, ‘Crimestoppers.’”
  • A June 2011 email described a man seeking to obtain “welfare” for his dogs because they are “mixed in color, unemployed, lazy, can’t speak English and have no frigging clue who their Daddies are.”
  • An October 2011 email included a photo of a bare-chested group of dancing women, apparently in Africa, with the caption, “Michelle Obama’s High School Reunion.”
  • A December 2011 email included jokes that are based on offensive stereotypes about Muslims.

Attorney General Holder is ready to slap down the Ferguson police department.

Our review of documents revealed many additional email communications that exhibited racial or ethnic bias, as well as other forms of bias. Our investigation has not revealed any indication that any officer or court clerk engaged in these communications was ever disciplined. Nor did we see a single instance in which a police or court recipient of such an email asked that the sender refrain from sending such emails, or any indication that these emails were reported as inappropriate. Instead, the emails were usually forwarded along to others.

We did find one instance in 2012 in which the City Manager forwarded an email that played upon stereotypes of Latinos, but within minutes of sending it, sent another email to the recipient in which he stated he had not seen the offensive part of the email and apologized for the “inappropriate and offensive” message. Police and court staff took no such corrective action, and indeed in many instances expressed amusement at the offensive correspondence.

Critically, each of these email exchanges involved supervisors of FPD’s patrol and court operations. 5 FPD patrol supervisors are responsible for holding officers accountable to governing laws, including the Constitution, and helping to ensure that officers treat all people equally under the law, regardless of race or any other protected characteristic. The racial animus and stereotypes expressed by these supervisors suggest that they are unlikely to hold an officer accountable for discriminatory conduct or to take any steps to discourage the development or perpetuation of racial stereotypes among officers.  (emphasis added)
This isn’t a matter of “a few bad cops.” These were supervisors and in positions of authority. It speaks volumes on why in Ferguson the police are seen not as protectors, but overseers.

The mayor hasn’t resigned, the police chief hasn’t been fired and the City Council hasn’t quit en masse.  The whole corrupt, dirty, rotten racist status quo remains firmly in place and the whole damn system is guilty.
Not only did police stop blacks at a rate greater than their share of the population—from 2012 to 2014, blacks were 67 percent of Ferguson residents but 85 percent of traffic stops—but they were twice as likely to search blacks than they were whites, who were 26 percent more likely to have actual contraband.

You see the same dynamic with small, discretionary infractions. Ninety-five percent of tickets for jaywalking were against black residents, as were 94 percent of all “failure to comply” charges. Either black people were the only Ferguson citizens to jaywalk, or the department was targeting blacks for enforcement. On the rare occasion when police charged whites with these minor offenses, they were 68 percent more likely to have their cases dismissed. And because supervisors awarded promotions on the basis of officer “productivity,” there was little incentive to stop any of this behavior.

The most disturbing statistics are with regard to arrest, incarceration, and police force. Ninety-three percent of all arrests in Ferguson were of black Americans, and 88 percent of use-of-force incidents were against them. In cases where police had warrants, 92 percent were for blacks. Of those arrested for outstanding warrants, 96 percent were black, and among people jailed for more than two days, 95 percent were black. And in a terrible callback to Jim Crow, police used canines exclusively against black residents, including a 14-year-old boy who suffered puncture wounds in his arms, hands, and legs.
Who let the dogs out?  Fifty years have passed since the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and the only thing that has changed are the names and details. Good-bye, Selma, Hello, Ferguson.  The entrenched institutional racism of the police hasn’t taken a backward step.

It’s time we stopped asking, “Why do good cops stand up for bad cops?”  The answer is irrelevant.  Cops cover for cops.  Darren Wilson wasn’t the lone good cop in a bad police department.  He merely happened to be the one who killed Mike Brown.   If you work in an evil place and you remain silent and passive about evil, you can’t claim to be good.   If the culture of policing encourages passivity and conformity among its members and enforces a code of compliance and silence as it closes ranks among its worst members, that is a culture ripe to be changed.

Good cop?  Bad cop?  Doesn’t matter. If the good cop won’t stand up against the bad cop they’re the same cop.

Illustration by Andy Marlette/News Journal

One Scared White “Hero” Equals One Dead Black Monster

There is only one killer and one victim in this picture. Don’t get them confused.

In the case of the shooting of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson,  we have heard numerous current and former peace officers weigh in with both their anecdotal war stories and their “I wasn’t there, but it probably went down like this” analysis.   There are times when the opinions of those engaged in a select profession can prove to be illuminating and informative to those not familiar with the practices, procedures, rules, and how the job works.   Unfortunately, many of these cops have been all about making excuses, rationalizations and justifications of Darren Wilson and profiling, criminalizing, and convicting Mike Brown, all without a trial.

The other night I came across one such ex-cop and this is what followed.  The names have been omitted to protect the not at all innocent.

Bottom line…Michael Brown was a violent punk. In 30 years of law enforcement, ran into a lot of Michael Browns…white, black, hispanic.

When my partner and I worked the streets, and drove into a questionable situation, we would) routinely have our weapons drawn and in our lap, especially when someone was approaching our unit. The only “procedural” error I fault Officer Wilson for, is not being prepared when Brown came at him in his patrol unit.

I’m amazed at the meme coming out of Ferguson…”18 year old teenager (6’3″, 290 lbs, just committed a strong arm robbery, and then, instead of maybe being a little circumspect, walks down the middle of the street daring someone to challenge him), when Wilson arrives on scene, this asshole assaults him in his patrol unit, and gets shot.

Would really be honestly interested in knowing why the black community holds individuals like Brown in high regard as some kind of saint when black role models abound.

I do appreciate you opening up your racial stereotyping with gratuitous throwaway lines about “ran into a lot of Michael Browns…White, Black Hispanic.” How many of those other Michael Browns did you shoot when their hands were raised?

Murder By Cop

Also, where is Brown’s criminal record proving he was “a violent punk?”   Was he carrying a gun?  Had he been convicted of any robberies, rapes, or murders?   Was he inked from the top of his head to the tips of his toenails in prison tattoos from years in prison?   With all the other leaks flooding out of the Ferguson P.D. and the supposedly “secret” hearings by the  grand jury you’d think Brown’s criminal background would have come out for Fox News to breathlessly broadcast.

Since when did a big, tall unarmed teenager become as lethal as a police officer armed with a loaded gun? How far will Wilson’s defenders go to make him the innocent victim and Brown the dangerous thug who had to be taken out?

Blow away the smoke and cut through the crap and what is really being said is obvious: Mike Brown: Big Scary Black Kid. If he hadn’t done something yet sooner of later he would have. Why wait to put him down later when you have a chance to put him down now?

Michael Brown was not a “thug.” No more than Trayvon Martin was a “thug.”

Brown was not a candidate for sainthood, but neither was he the Scary Negro Frankenstein his detractors have transformed him into. If orange is the new black then thug is the new “nigger.” “Thug”has become the vogue head fake when it’s time to call out young Blacks behaving badly  as “niggers” without actually saying it.

Jaywalking. Impeding traffic. Being bad-asses. Big Black kid. Capital offense. I Am the Law and the Sentence Is Death.

This member of the Black community doesn’t hold Michael Brown in high regard.  I didn’t know him.  I hold Michael Brown up as a young man who was deprived of his rights and his life taken by a cop who probably had no damn business carrying a gun and a badge.

This member of the Black community believes Black lives matter and those lives include “assholes” like Brown who joins a long list of Black lives taken by White cops.

This member of the Black community doesn’t need any suggestions from the White cop community whom his “Black role models” should be.

I could try to explain, but it’s a Black thing. You wouldn’t understand and I don’t care enough to try.

It's settled down for the moment, but at any moment Ferguson could go up in flames again.

It’s settled down for the moment, but at any moment Ferguson could go up in flames again.

“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)

Dead Again.

Michael Brown

Left in the street like a dead damn dog.

Michael Brown was supposed to start college today.  Supposed to.  He didn’t make it.  He wasn’t absent.  He was dead.

Another young Black man dropped by the cops shouldn’t be any sort of big newsflash by now. Like celebrity divorces and mass shooting episodes, fatal encounters between cops and Black males more often results in a dead Black male than a dead cop.

What makes Michael Brown’s killing any different? Nothing, really. It’s actually sort of ordinary.

Cop stops an unarmed teenager for reasons only the two of them (and potential witnesses) know.

Something happens. Maybe the teenager says “the magic word” that sets the cop off? We don’t know. The official story isn’t sounding very official so far. Everything is still being investigated. Or everything is being covered up. You decide.

Why would Brown struggle with a police officer days before he was supposed to start college? Seems like an odd time to show a secret death wish for suicide by cop.

No mother should have to bury a murdered son

As Brown’s body laid in the street, a puddle of blood trickling down the street, the excuse was the cops (all 15 departments that were involved) were processing the scene, gathering evidence, and waiting for their Krispy Kremes to arrive. What the corpse of Michael Brown baking on the hot August asphalt said to the hundreds of neighbors, onlookers, parents and children was, Look at me. Look at what they did to me. They could do this to you too. Anytime they want.

There is a LOT of information missing from this story, but the insensitive and inept way the Ferguson cops have handled matters couldn’t be much more tone-deaf. If there’s looting and pillaging going on the police practically dared the community not to respond to their provocation.

Leave a dead kid on the street like a dog for hours, but hurry up and get the SWAT teams, riot guns and dogs ready ’cause them Black folks might get uppity!

All the right things are being said and all the now standard pacification protocols are being implemented. Call in the FBI to aid in the investigation. Politicians and public officials will make pleas for peace and calm while they put the home number of the governor on speed dial should the National Guard need to be mobilized when the savages stop burning cars and looting liquor stores and start burning cop cars with cops still in them and looting White neighborhoods.

It would seem the hacktavist activist group Anonymous has gotten wind of what’s going down in Ferguson, Missouri. They aren’t too cool about it either.”

It’s worth sharing.

Twitter pic by Raheem DeVaughn

Greetings, world. We are Anonymous.

“On August 8th in Ferguson, Missouri, the 17-year-old and unarmed Mike Brown was shot several times and killed by an officer of the Ferguson Police Department. His body was left to lie in a pool of blood in the sweltering heat for hours while 15 police departments militarized the area against protestors, sealed the roads leading to Ferguson in a vain attempt to prevent protestors from reaching the city.

“The police has clearly crossed a line in the sand….

“To the good people of Ferguson, take heart and take your streets. You are not alone. We will support you in every way possible. Occupy every, square inch of your city. Demand justice….

“To the Ferguson Police Department and any other jurisdictions who are deployed to the protests, we are watching you very closely. If you abuse, harass, or harm in any way the protestors in Ferguson, we will take every web-based asset of your departments and governments offline. That is not a threat. It is a promise. Attacking the protestors will result in the release of personal information on every, single member of the Ferguson Police Department… We will seize all your databases & emails pools and dump them on the Internet.

“This is your first and last warning….

“The time has come for more than simple justice for these atrocities…. Until justice prevails, hack and protest will replace it.

“Operation Ferguson engaged.

“We are Anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget.

“Ferguson, expect us!”

If Anonymous says it, they probably mean it. Known for their sense of humor they are not. Anonymous adds an interesting twist to the story, but I don’t believe they are going to find justice for Mike Brown by threatening to crash into the cops’ computers and unearth all the dirt.

That sort of threat has never slowed cops from killing any Black man that makes them feel uneasy.

Riots are terrible. Looting is terrible. Setting stuff on fire is terrible.

It’s also terrible when yet another Black man has yet another fatal encounter with the police.

Reference Sean Bell. Or Amadou Diallo. Or Oscar Grant. Or Patrick Dorismond. Or Jonathan Ferrell. Or Eric Garner.

Or Mike Brown.

We’ve been here before. We’ll be here again. Change the name, but the game remains the same. Oh, we’ll get hyped for a while, but then we’ll calm back down and wonder what’s on TV tonight? It’s easier to get people hyped over non-events like the state of Queen Bey and Jay-Z’s marriage than killed by cops due to Living While Black or the rape of a 16-yr-old who is raped a second time when her assailants go viral with video.

Ain’t we got NO shame? Or priorities?

There is a sickness killing our souls like Ebola is killing Africans. Maybe we’ll notice it at some point. Probably we won’

Martin Luther King noted a riot is the language of the unheard.

Can you hear them now?

Mike Brown was supposed to start college today.  His family can start planning a funeral instead.