mokie: Earthrise seen from the moon (Default)
So much for keeping track of developments as they happen in the Ferguson shooting and its aftermath. The sheer speed of developments, and then work and sleep and apartment hunting and falling sick - and where did I even leave off? Erf.

Let's get organized and recap, yes? Yes!

First off, let me point out that there's a Wikipedia entry which might do a better job of citing references than I do at this stage, with the caveat that its neutrality is currently disputed.

Second, while the shooting and aftermath has gotten people talking about local (whether or not there's a racial divide in Ferguson), regional (that there's definitely a racial divide in the St. Louis metropolitan area, of which Ferguson is a part), and national issues (the militarization of America's police, the limits/erosion of Constitutional rights, being black in America). In that regard, while we can't ignore the way events here reflect the larger national issues and the national conversation, we do need to be careful about flattening the narrative and missing factors pertinent to the community itself. For example, the area is mash of small cities in the county, which has led to confusion about which police force was responsible for which actions, and the protest area near the burnt-out QuikTrip passes through several of these other cities, raising questions about how many protesters were from Ferguson proper and how many from the surrounding region - especially as days passed and people from outside the Metro area entirely began to pour in. (At least one resident has pointed out that there is another, less publicized and much quieter protest opposite the Ferguson police station.)

Third, yes, I know I have a bias. I can't pretend not to.

Saturday: a white police officer, Darren Wilson, confronted two black teens for walking in the street. There was a struggle, and the officer fatally shot one of the teens, Mike Brown.

The other teen, Dorian Johnson, says the officer ordered them out of the street and they told him they were almost where they were going anyway. Angered by this response, Wilson blocked them with his car, grabbed Brown by the neck, pulled his weapon and declared he was going to shoot them. There was a gunshot, after which Brown managed to free himself. Wilson got out of the car and fired after them, shooting Brown in the back. The injured teen stopped, turned around, and knelt to the ground with his hands raised, telling the officer that he didn't have a gun and to stop shooting, but the officer came forward firing. This account is viewable in a highly shared video recorded the same day. (Foreshadowing: note what he's saying around the 1-minute mark, because you'll be going, "Haaaang on..." about it later.)

This account seems to be supported by several other witnesses, who said it looked as if the officer was the aggressor in the struggle and that the teen was shot dead while kneeling on the ground with his hands up. One livetweeted events immediately after the shooting (note the timestamp), along with some graphic photos from his vantage point.
@DomoTheTruth dude was running and the cops just shot.him. i saw him die bruh
Bruh. (@TheePharoah) August 9, 2014
His account was that the teen was shot twice in the back while running away, but stopped and turned to face the officer, only to be shot multiple times.

People on the scene were extremely upset, and a call went out for assistance in crowd control. My understanding is that multiple jurisdictions responded, and at least one brought police dogs to the scene, which was a bad idea as it immediately brought to mind for some the Civil Rights-era use of dogs as an intimidation tactic. I'm having trouble finding that now in the flood of articles on what happened, though, so caveat bloggor on that detail.

Sunday: the police held a press conference giving the officer's account. Wilson's account was that when he stopped the pair, Brown assaulted him as he tried to leave his car, pushed him back inside and grabbed for his gun. 'There was at least one shot fired inside the car', but it's not said who fired, or if they don't know that. Wilson got out of the car and 'there was a shooting'. The police chief clarified that the shooting took place 35 feet from the car, and that all casings found were from the officer's gun.

There was immediate outcry about this version of events, as the 35-foot distance to some lends credence to the claim Brown was fleeing. Others find the claim that Brown grabbed for Wilson's gun to be both very convenient and very common when an unarmed person turns up shot by police.

A candlelight vigil was held, and the police attended in riot gear. This will be a recurring theme, to the extent that many believe it was an intentionally provocative act (a claim some believe is tinfoil hattery waved by folks who are being intentionally provocative). Not long after the vigil, tensions erupted and a riot broke out, despite politicians and cooler heads trying to persuade the crowd to go home and calm down. Journalists and cops were both targets of violence, shops were looted and vandalized, and one was burned down, the QT which has been the focus of the protests making the news all week.

Monday: a whole lot of "Oh shit, did that really happen?" and "But St. Louis doesn't riot!", with a heavily armed and very visible police presence hanging around. As it grew dark, police announced a curfew (though no state of emergency had been issued), ordered the crowd to disperse, and when they didn't, fired tear gas and rubber bullets. Some reporters say they were ordered to leave, while supporters say the police were worried about the safety of the reporters/officers due to their presence. Some folks also said the police blockade itself physically prevented people from exiting as ordered, because suburban geography is fucked up.

Elsewhere in the region, shops closed early, police cars camped out in mall parking lots, and rumors flew that looters were targeting various destinations. An open-air mall in South St. Louis (the city proper; Ferguson is up in the northern 'burbs) was hit by a convoy of assholes who looted one shoe store and tried to break into a Radio Shack before police arrived and they fled. (You have no idea how hard it is for me not to crack a tacky, poorly timed joke about South City hoosiers right now.)

Tuesday: a whole lot more "Oh shit, did that really happen again?", and once it grew dark, a whole lot more "Go home!"/"You go home!", but things stayed more or less cool until two acts of specific violence. First, a drive-by shooting was reported, though the conspiratorially minded believe the victim was a protester shot by police. Second, four armed men shot into the crowd, though the conspiratorially minded believe they were plants sent in by police to justify action. The police ordered local media out, which raised lots of outcry from protesters, the media (who are pretty sticky about this First Amendment thing), and people following events. Again, some are saying the cops ordered media out for their own protection, some are saying it was an attempt to get troublesome eyeballs out of the way so they could go full Fallujah on the protesters.

Wednesday: lather, rinse, repeat of the disbelief and tension - at least, at first. Then two reporters were arrested while sitting in a McDonalds, and the crew from Al Jazeera America was tear gassed, with County police rolling up to dismantle their equipment, after which the media got het up (see: First Amendment). Many, many, many people pointed out that Washington Post reporters have been arrested in only two cities: Ferguson and Tehran. (Huffington Post reporters: Vegas, baby.) (Kidding.) Then Antonio French was arrested, and the Internet got het up. French is a former reporter, and it showed: his Twitter account is deemed one of the more reliable sources of current info. He's currently a St. Louis City alderman, which means on Wednesday, the cops decked themselves out like an army, road out into the streets like a scene from the Middle East, and went after journalists and politicians.

What I'm saying is, they might as well have just worn signs saying, "WE HATE AMERICA AND PUPPIES."

Thursday: a collective "Oh shit!" from Missouri's elected representatives, who dislike the idea of the police just arresting politicians almost as much as they dislike the idea of being rendered unelectable for looking like they're not doing shit. (Roy Blunt even had to stop trying to get Obama fired and remember that he represents the whole state!) Governor Nixon cancelled his plans to attend the State Fair (I wish that was a joke) to come to town and take the St. Louis County police out of the situation. He put in charge the Missouri Highway Patrol under a black captain raised in the area; some are suggesting he was appointed because of his race so as to look like a more progressive solution than the police were really willing to offer, some are suggesting he was appointed because of his race to act as a figurehead and take the fall. Either way, County Prosecutor Dickhole Robert McCulloch had kittens, declaring this an overreach by the governor, predicting Game of Thrones scenarios and decrying the action as disrespectful to the police who had just spent the past four days throwing tear gas into crowds on television.

And yet the new approach - de-escalating the situation with hugs and handshakes instead of tear gas and rubber bullets, letting the protesters protest, and encouraging the crowd to keep each other in check - seemed to work wonderfully.

Friday: the region skipped to work, smiled at store clerks and winked at birds. Folks flooded into Ferguson to peacefully assemble, while around the nation folks peacefully assembled in a National Moment of Solidarity for victims of police brutality. New York City's gathering was disrupted by police with no sense of irony. But a dark cloud gathered on the horizon...

After days of refusing to release the name of the officer involved in the shooting on the grounds it was too dangerous to him, his family and neighbors, the Ferguson police chief finally conceded. He also decided it was the right time to release a strong-arm robbery report filed the day of the shooting, and stills of a security video which seem to show the Mike Brown stealing cigarillos and roughing up a store clerk. ("Haaaaaaang on..." Told ya.) There was backpedaling later in the day, as the police chief admitted that the two teens were stopped for jaywalking, and not as suspects in the robbery, so this was largely irrelevant - except maaaaaybe the officer saw the cigarillos and got suspicious! (Gee, let's wonder why some folks don't trust the police.)

The owner of the store in question disputes the police report, saying that they don't believe Mike Brown was the man inside their store, and that neither they nor their employee called the police to report a robbery - though, honestly, that might have been a practical measure taken because they watch the news. The new captain in charge of cooling things down in Ferguson was also displeased, and many saw both the police chief's actions and the prosecutor's actions as an attempt to undermine him, some catty political dick-waving over bruised egos.

Still, people gathered and all seemed well - mediators in the crowd kept everyone cool and in check, despite the presence of some people clearly intent on starting a ruckus. (One group of protesters say they recognized members of an out-of-state anarchist group, for starters, and in an interview with local station KMOV, another pointed out a man who had been trying to get the crowd to attack the police.) Then, according to folks on the ground, as the officers mingling with the crowd started to clear out and go home, and many of the protesters decided to go home, suddenly that big-ass armored truck rolled back in, along with more police in riot gear, and no one able to identify who they were or why they had shown up. The aforementioned agitators tried to rile the crowd again, but when the crowd refused to play along, they instead turned to the shops and began looting (with the shop Brown is supposed to have stolen from being particularly hard hit). Protesters rushed to block doors and protect businesses, with many wondering why the police chose now to stand by and do nothing. Others pointed out that the larger crowd of protesters was between the looters and the police, which meant they'd have had to drive through the crowd, which might cause more chaos and violence (and some leaders in the crowd tried to rally them further back on the road for this purpose, apparently).

Some believe the return of riot gear was an intentional ploy by someone at County to provoke the crowd, either to justify their early actions, to get the Highway Patrol booted out and County reinstated, or just to cause a renewed riot that would prove someone right in busting heads; the latter point to the lack of response as a tactic to make the Highway Patrol look bad, and point out that the Highway Patrol specifically barred Ferguson and County from jumping in on Friday night.

Fucking politics, man.

This weekend, I got sick, so I'm still playing catch-up with updates, but few of them are good.

Saturday: sadness, with a little heartbreaking goodness. As the sun came up, the news was reporting on residents coming out before work to help with clean-up efforts. For those who need to look for the helpers, there were plenty of them on Saturday. The Governor issued an official state of emergency, with an official curfew, and lots of 'We're trying to find a balance between the right to protest and the community's safety' talk, and talk of how the curfew would not be enforced with tear gas.

By which they meant they'd use a smoke grenade with the same active ingredients as tear gas when they needed to remove a crowd from a nearby BBQ joint. The police said it was to retrieve a man who had been shot and injured, but several folks there (including one whose word I trust highly) says the gas came before the shootings.

Sunday: I got so sick yesterday that I had to head to bed, so I'm more or less in the dark. All I know is that the Governor called for the National Guard, and that some autopsy details were released. While some folks were calling for the National Guard last week, when it looked like the police were too interested in playing army and needed to be reined in, many now see this as an extension of the police's tactics rather than a replacement. And how you read the autopsy results - as supporting Johnson's story or Wilson's story - depends on where you stand in this mess.

So, there we are...

Date: 2014-08-18 06:30 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] ilyena_sylph
ilyena_sylph: Uncle Sam mini panel, the destroyed Murrah building with text 'and a scream that sounds like a plea. stop breaking down' (Uncle Sam: stop breaking down)
Thank you for this writeup.

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