Ferguson Shooting - a collection of news stories

 

10 Things You Need to Know About Ferguson

Don Hazen, Terrell Starr, Steven Rosenfeld, Tana Ganeva

 

August 18, 2014

 

http://www.alternet.org/ferguson

 

  

Ten days after 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot to death by officer Darren Wilson, police and protestors continue to face off in the city of Ferguson. Last night's protests broke into chaos as riot police descended on the streets of the city in an attempt to disperse protestors. 

 

On Monday, Gov. Jay Nixon deployed the National Guard, allegedly without alerting the White House. The first Humvees have left the National Guard base, according to reports from the scene highlighted in the Guardian. 

 

As the tense situation on the ground quickly evolves, here are 10 things you should know:

 

1. National Guard trained in fighting protesters

 

The Missouri National Guard troops being sent into Ferguson are military police, which, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), have studied the Occupy protests and demonstrations that followed George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the Trayvon Martin murder trial. These soldiers are now trained to deal with “crowd control measures, understanding protester tactics, incident management, and operating inside an area contaminated with chemical and biological hazards,” FEMA said, in a chillingly bland report on its website touting the anti-protester training that military police now receive.

 

"We serve as a force multiplier during a natural disaster or civil unrest,” a platoon leader and deputy sheriff who completed the training said. “We have experienced protest from the Occupy Movement and, most recently, from the Zimmerman trial. This training makes us all more proficient MP soldier[s] and helps us communicate more effectively with local law enforcement."

 

The photos on FEMA’s site show the military police practicing with protesters who are sitting down in the street and shows MPs cutting through plastic pipes that some protesters have used to chain themselves to each other. One can only imagine how military police, whose main training is designed for overseas war zones, will fare in Ferguson, where the underlying issues are institutional racism and police brutality.

 

2. Autopsy report: Why so many bullets?

 

It's not clear how many bullets were fired by Officer Darren Wilson, and whether he fired his gun while he was still in his car.

 

But according to a private autopsy report, Michael Brown was hit by six bullets. Four hit him on the right arm, and two hit him in the head. Some of the bullets created several entry points. 

 

According to the New York Times,  "One of the bullets shattered Mr. Brown’s right eye, traveled through his face, exited his jaw and re-entered his collarbone. The last two shots in the head would have stopped him in his tracks and were likely the last fired."  

 

Meanwhile, eye-witness Piaget Crenshaw said  a shot was fired wildly and hit a house, and that the bullet was removed by police shortly after Brown was shot.   

 

3. Iraq vet: cops have more weapons than soldiers

 

The violent police crackdown in Ferguson has revealed the extent to which America's police departments have become militarized, with officers wielding military-grade weapons against protestors. 

 

Writing on Bill Moyers.com, Iraq veteran Rafael Noboa y Rivera points out that police officers actually have more weapons than soldiers: 

 

... here we are in August of 2014, 10 years after I got back from Iraq, and the police agencies that have patrolled the streets of Ferguson, Missouri – until they were relieved of duty on Thursday amid public outrage over their heavy-handed tactics — have the kind of armor and weaponry that my men and I would have envied in the performance of our duties in an actual combat zone.

Let me repeat that: the police in Ferguson have better armor and weaponry than my men and I did in the middle of a war. And Ferguson isn’t alone — police departments across the US are armed for war.

The gear and weaponry worn by police officers in Ferguson aren’t just clothing and tools. They’re meant to accomplish certain tasks, and they will elicit certain responses from the people who encounter them. When my men and I donned our helmets and body armor, and carried our weapons out on patrol, we were at war. Our gear wasn’t just protective, it was meant to be downright unwelcoming. That was the point — it’s combat gear, not a costume you wear to look “tactical.”

 

4. More journalists detained

 

Despite the outcry following the arrests of journalists Ryan Reilly and Wesley Lowery, Ferguson police continue to hassle, threaten and detain reporters. On Sunday, three journalists were handcuffed and briefly held by Captain Ron Johnson, Talking Points Memo reports.

 

The Financial Times' Neil Munshi tweeted that he was cuffed and searched, later specifying that while he and the other two reporters were handcuffed, they were not arrested. 

 

Munshi tweeted, "It was tense, he seemed to realize it wasn't a great look, and had them release us after cuffing and searching - another cop was apologetic."

 

Sports Illustrated's Robert Klemko, also held by police, tweeted, "Entire goal was to document police action towards protesters. Johnson wouldn't let us enter a visibly secured area."

 

The Washington Post reports that faced with hazards normally associated with war zones, journalists have taken to wearing bullet proof vests and gas masks.

 

Mustafa Hussein was confronted by an officer while filming police. The cop allegedly pointed his gun and yelled, "Get down, get the fuck out of here and get that light off, or you're getting shot with this."

 

Over the weekend, Chris Hayes of MSNBC and the Huffington Post's Amanda Terkel also reported that police threatened to mace them. Hayes tweeted, "Riot cop to me just a few minutes ago: "Get back! Or next time you're gonna be the one maced."

 

5. Pro-police backlash

 

When the world’s media comes to town, you can almost expect some contrarians to get an outsized slice of the headlines. And so it was as an almost all-white crowd assembled outside a local TV station, KSDK-TV, whose coverage has supported the Ferguson police. The rally in downtown St. Louis in Sunday sold t-shirts supporting Darren Wilson, the 28-year-old police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown.

 

Those who bought the t-shirts did not cite the issue of institutional racism that is seen as prompting the growing protests. “He was doing his job,” Kaycee Reinisch, 57, told the Huffington Post. “This sounds wrong, but I don’t think the black community understands the system,” John Neshaw, a retired St. Louis county police officer, told The Guardian. “They’re screaming about why isn’t he arrested, why isn’t he in jail? Well, without the investigation being done, you can’t go and apply for a warrant.” The only black member of the crowd was Martin Baker, a former GOP congressional candidate, told The Guardian that people “were too quick to play the race card.”

 

But others at the pro-police rally freely made racist statements. Damon Anderson predicted that Ferguson, where 50 out of 53 police officers are white, will “now be forced” to hire black officers. “Let the black officers see how difficult it is to try and deal with the black criminals on the beat they are patrolling,” he told the Guardian. Like many in this crowd, he assumes there are no motives behind the unrest.    

 

6. Unsurprisingly, Fox delivers awful coverage

 

As Raw Story notes, Fox News held a panel on Brown's shooting Monday that was made up of all white men, including disgraced former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who was indicted for conspiracymail fraudwire fraud, and lying to the Internal Revenue Service was another participant in the panel. Kerik was sentenced to 4 years in jail after pleading guilty to 8 charges, according to the New York Times. 

 

So that's Fox's go-to expert. 

 

Expert number 2 was Bo Dietl, who showed his brilliant analytic skills  by saying that Brown was shot in the head because “bullets go that way.” In a series of non-sequitors, Deitl went on to add, “We have a thing called due process,”  “What’s happening in Chicago? All our young black kids are being shot? Where is the outrage in Chicago? Where’s Jesse Jackson? Where’s Al Sharpton in Chicago? We got kids killed every day, black on black crime.”  Dietl is a former NY City Detective, but is mainly known as a big mouth commentator on Fox News.

 

7. The role of Twitter

 

For the most part, Twitter has been an accurate, up-to-date resource for anyone wanting to understand what is happening in #Ferguson (as opposed to, say, Fox news). The small town earned hashtag status soon after Michael Brown was shot dead last week. Photos of his slain body circulated around social media for hours before journalists began reporting the story. It even served as something of a human rights monitor for reporters who were met by confrontational members of law enforcement. 

 

The New York Times' David Carr explained the important role played by Twitter:

For people in the news business, Twitter was initially viewed as one more way to promote and distribute content. But as the world has become an ever more complicated place — a collision of Ebola, war in Iraq, crisis in Ukraine and more — Twitter has become an early warning service for news organizations, a way to see into stories even when they don’t have significant reporting assets on the ground. And in a situation hostile to traditional reporting, the crowd sourced, phone-enabled network of information that Twitter provides has proved invaluable.

Police officials in Ferguson made it clear that they had no interest in accommodating news coverage. Officers in riot gear tear-gassed a crew from Al Jazeera working on a stand-up far from the action, then walked over and laid their equipment on the ground after they fled. Two reporters, Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post and Ryan Reilly of The Huffington Postwere arrested at a McDonald’s, perhaps for the crime of lurking with intent to order a cheeseburger. Antonio French, a Democratic alderman from St. Louis who had been documenting the protests and the security response nonstop on Twitter, was arrested as well.
 

There are those who balk at the idea that Twitter is an official news source, but one thing is clear: Twitter can document news that, sometimes, even the news producers aren't able to cover.

 

 

8. Michael Brown and Eric Garner: victims of aggressive policing AND character assassination 

 

The Rev. Al Sharpton believes Michael Brown and Eric Garner have two things in common besides their race: both died as a result of over-aggressive policing and both were victims of character assassination in the aftermath of their deaths. Sharpton blasted police in Ferguson, Mo., from his National Action Network headquarters, in Harlem, N.Y., for releasing video of Brown that appears to show him shoving a store clerk, according to Newsday.

"To come out with that tape," Sharpton said, "is to assassinate his character after you've already taken his life. It's the epitome of an insult to people of this country."

He said the move is very similar to the actions of the NYPD, who released Garner's criminal record, which mostly consisted of petty crimes. And to add insult to injury, Pat Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said that Garner did not die from a chokehold, despite video clearly showing the opposite, and a coroner's report to the contrary.

Garner died in July after a police officer arrested him for selling loose cigarettes. Officer Daniel Pantaleo, one of the cops who helped to take Garner down, applied the chokehold, which was recorded on a cellphone. Garner is heard saying, "I can't breathe" as the officer continues applying the illegal chokehold. Garner's death was ruled a homicide. Officer Pantaleo has not been charged in Garner's death.

Rev. Sharpton said Brown's family will join Garner's family Aug. 23 at a rally on Staten Island, in New York City.

9. The New Yorker Magazine says there's a larger movement growing from Ferguson

 

While the New Yorker is not usually the greatest barometer for social change, writer Jelani Cobb detailed the ways in which a movement is being born in Ferguson. As Cobb writes: 

 

In the eight days since Michael Brown, an eighteen-year-old, was killed by a police officer named Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, what began as an impromptu vigil evolved into a sustained protest; it is now beginning to look like a movement. The local QuikTrip, a gas station and convenience store that was looted and burned on the second night of the protests, has now been repurposed as the epicenter for gatherings and the exchange of information. The front of the lot bears an improvised graffiti sign identifying the area as the “QT People’s Park.” With the exception of a few stretches, such asThursday afternoon, when it was veiled in clouds of tear gas, protesters have been a constant presence in the lot. On Sunday afternoon the area was populated by members of local churches, black fraternity and sorority groups, Amnesty International, the Outcast Motorcycle Club, and twenty or so white supporters from the surrounding area. On the north side of the station, a group of volunteers with a mobile grill served free hot dogs and water, and a man stood on a crate, handing out bright yellow T-shirts with the logo of the National Action Network, the group led by Al Sharpton.

 

10. Amnesty International calls for investigation into police tactics

 

The behavior of the police in Ferguson—in recent days; not just surrounding Michael Brown’s killing—has led to more calls for independent investigations, showing that institutional problems that contributed in his death are deep-seated and not going away. Amnesty International has called for an investigation into the police tactics used in recent clashes with protesters. Their demand came after sending a 12-person team to train protesters in non-violent organizing and seeing the police’s overly harsh responses.

 

“We’ve issued reports on, for example, Israel and the Occupied Territories, how tear gas is supposed to be administered—never in an indiscriminate way where children and the elderly could be subject to very harmful effects, even death, from tear gas,” Amnesty International USA executive director Steven W. Hawkins told Democracy Now. “So, we sent down observers to be on the ground. We have been thwarted in our efforts to be able to go out on curfew with the police, which would be a clear standard in these circumstances, as well as the opportunity for the press to be able to be in the space.”

 

Other calls for independent investigations also show how entrenched police attitudes are, especially to protect officers by smearing the victims of police brutality. The ACLU of Missouri initially called on local police to release more information about the shooting—including videos. When Ferguson police began to selectively release details, they said that Brown was a robbery suspect—smearing him. Monday’s police reports that he had traces of marijuana in his blood continue this pattern.

 

“The Ferguson police’s disclosures seem more like spin control than objective investigation,” the ACLU said, demanding that the U.S. Justice Department take over. The FBI later announced it would do so. While some Missouri police officials have made efforts to de-escalate tensions, such as Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson repeatedly talking with protesters, it’s clear that the mindset driving the local police is resisting change and accountability every step of the way.

 

John Oliver's Brilliant Rant on Why Police Must Have Their Military 'Toys' Taken Away

http://www.alternet.org/print/video/video-john-olivers-brilliant-rant-why-police-must-have-their-military-toys-taken-away

 

August 18, 2014  

HBO's John Oliver dove right into events in Ferguson last night, entertaining as he informed his audience about the absurd over-militarization of America's police forces and, of course, the ugly underlying racism of this push. "Police are dressed like they are ready for an assault on Falluja," Oliver said of the now famous photo featured on CNN of multiple camo-clad police officers pointing high-powered rifles at a black man with his hands raised. "Police are not soldiers," Oliver stressed. "Why are they wearing camouflage? If they want to blend in with the surroundings, they should be dressed as dollar stores."

The rant is Oliver's usual blend of hilarity, facts and outrage. And he has, as always, done his research helpfully deepening the story of police militarization in America. One New Hampshire town police department got an armored vehicle to protect its pumpkin festival from terrorist threats. Another fun fact: There are 50,000 swat raids per year, 79 percent of which are for low-level drug offenses. "Yes," Oliver counsels, "if you are getting high in your dorm room right now, you are not paranoid. There is a SWAT team waiting outside."

 

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The timeline of events and scenes in Ferguson, Mo., since the shooting of Michael Brown

Nicole Crowder

Washington Post

August 16, 2014

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/08/16/the-timeline-of-events-and-scenes-in-ferguson-mo-since-the-shooting-of-michael-brown/

On Saturday, Aug. 9, 18-year-old Michael Brown was the victim of a fatal police shooting. Conflicting reports by the police surrounding what happened in the moments leading up to Brown’s death, coupled with mounting community frustration at the lack of detailed information made available to the public in a timely manner, touched off several nights of tense protests in the streets of Ferguson. Below is a visual timeline of the incident and its aftermath.

Aug. 9: Michael Brown, 18, of Ferguson, Mo., is shot by an officer. Brown is a recent high school graduate who was about to start college. Residents of Ferguson react to his death by laying rose petals at the place where his body was found; as night falls, they gather and raise their hands as a symbolic gesture to urge police not to shoot. Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, center, drops rose petals on the blood stains from her son.

Aug. 10:  Several Ferguson residents hold a Sunday night vigil for Brown.

Several car windows are smashed and stores are looted by people carrying armloads of goods as witnessed by an Associated Press reporter.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, left, delivers remarks about the shooting of Michael Brown as Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson listens during a news conference.

Aug. 11: Tactical officers arrive in Ferguson to assist St. Louis County police clear protesters who were marching in front of the Ferguson police station after Saturday’s police shooting of Michael Brown.

Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr., the mother and father of Michael Brown, speak at a news conference Monday in Jennings, Mo. about the death of their son.

Aug. 13: An Al Jazeera TV crew reporting on the demonstrations in Ferguson is seen fleeing their camera equipment after police fired tear gas in their direction.

Tensions between police and demonstrators reached a crescendo on the third day of protests as an officer is seen aiming his weapon at a demonstrator protesting the shooting death of Michael Brown.

Aug. 14: President Obama delivers a statement on the situation in Ferguson, calling for ‘healing’ after several days and nights of police clashing with citizens. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., also met with Michael Brown’s parents and issued a statement saying he is “deeply concerned that the deployment of military equipment and vehicles sends a conflicting message” to the community of Ferguson.

On the evening of Aug. 13, two journalists —  Ryan Reilly of The Huffington Post and Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post — are detained by police in a McDonald’s restaurant in Ferguson. Wesley Lowery detailed his experience here and provided photos from the encounter below.

Aug. 15: Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson announces the name of the police officer responsible for the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown. The officer was identified as Darren Wilson, a six-year veteran of the department.

Police also issue handout photos to the press of stills from a security camera showing an alleged robbery incident that took place between Michael Brown and a convenient store owner prior to Brown’s shooting death. 

*****************

The Shooting of a Missouri Teenager

The sequence of events after the shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old unarmed teenager, by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 10. UPDATED August 14, 2014

Aug. 9, 2014

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/08/12/us/13police-shooting-of-black-teenager-michael-brown.html#/#time348_10366

Michael Brown Is Shot.  An 18-year-old teenager, Michael Brown, is shot and killed on Saturday by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo. The circumstances surrounding the shooting are in dispute. The police say Mr. Brown was shot during a skirmish with the officer. A friend who was walking with Mr. Brown, Dorian Johnson, says the officer opened fire when the young men refused to move from the middle of the street to the sidewalk. He says Mr. Brown’s hands were over his head when the officer fired. All agree that Mr. Brown was unarmed.

Aug. 10, 2014

Protests Amid Calls for Patience. After a candlelight vigil on Sunday evening, protesters flood into the streets near the scene of the shooting, some chanting, “No justice, no peace.” They are met by police officers in riot gear, carrying rifles and shields.

Evening of Aug. 10

Witnesses describe a peaceful protest that turned violent. Images and videos capture on cellphones begin to flood social media sites. As the night wears on, accounts of looting in Ferguson begin to flood Twitter. The QuikTrip in the second tweet, below, is among the first- and hardest-hit businesses.

Aug. 11, 2014

 

F.B.I. Opens Civil Rights Investigation

The Federal Bureau of Investigation opens a civil rights inquiry into the shooting of Mr. Brown on Monday as protests in Ferguson continues. The N.A.A.C.P. issues a statement of support for Mr. Brown's family, adding, "Even as we call for accountability by those charged with protecting the community, we call on the community to act – collectively and calmly." Jon Belmar, chief of the St. Louis County Police, asks for patience while his department completes an investigation that could take some time. That night, protesters again square off with the police, who use tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Aug. 12

Police Decline to Identify Officer

The police chief in Ferguson on Tuesday reconsiders his decision to release the name of the officer involved in the shooting, citing concerns for the officer's safety. The department says threats were made against the officer and the city’s Police Department on social media. “The value of releasing the name is far outweighed by the risk of harm to the officer and his family,” the police chief, Thomas Jackson, says. The decision draws criticism from a lawyer for the Brown family.

Aug. 13

Anger Mounts Over Anonymity of Police Officer

The selective release of information about the shooting, especially the anonymity granted to the officer, fuels a fourth day and night of protests in Ferguson that escalates after the police seeks to disperse people using rubber bullets and tear gas. Thomas Jackson, Ferguson's chief of police, reveals earlier in the day that the officer who shot Mr. Brown had been struck in the face during the encounter and treated at a hospital. The friend who was with Mr. Brown at the time of the shooting has disputed the Police Department's claim that there was a struggle. Among those arrested in the evening are Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post and Ryan J. Reilly of The Huffington Post, who are apprehended at a McDonald’s on suspicion of trespassing. They are later released without charges or an explanation. Both news organizations criticize the arrests. Also arrested is Antonio French, a St. Louis alderman who was documenting the protests on social media. Mr. French is released the next morning. A witness tweets this image of a street filling with clouds of tear gas, illuminated by what look like small explosions. Later, the police confirm that Molotov cocktails were thrown during the night.

Aug. 14, 2014

Shift in Oversight of Crowd Control. President Obama says that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. “should do what is necessary to help determine exactly what happened and to see that justice is done.” Mr. Obama — who speaks from Martha's Vineyard, Mass., where he is vacationing — also criticizes law enforcement officers in Ferguson for what he describes as excessive force during the protests. He adds that he had spoken to Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri. “I expressed my concern over the violent turn of events,” the president says. Earlier in the day, Mr. Nixon speaks in Ferguson and promises "operational shifts," saying that St. Louis County police officers would be relieved of duty in Ferguson. Later, he confirms that the Missouri State Highway Patrol would begin overseeing security and crowd control during the protests.

Aug. 15, 2014

Dueling Police Statements as Anger Rises.  One day after roiling tensions over the police shooting of a black teenager began to subside, emotions flare anew on Friday as the police identify the officer involved but also release evidence that the victim was a suspect in a convenience store robbery moments before being shot. The manner in which the police here release the information, which include a 19-page police report on the robbery but no new details about the shooting, leads to the spectacle of dueling police news conferences, one led by a white officer who seems ill at ease and defensive, and the other dominated by a charismatic black officer who expresses solidarity with the crowd even as he pleads for peace.

Aug. 16, 2014

Governor Declares Curfew in Ferguson. On Saturday, Gov. Jay Nixon cites looting when he declares a state of emergency and imposes a midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew on the St. Louis suburb. The announcement prompts cries of protest and anguish from some members of the public, with many of them arguing that a curfew would lead only to new and fierce confrontations. But Capt. Ronald S. Johnson, the state Highway Patrol commander whose officers have overseen public security in Ferguson since Thursday, says: “We won’t enforce it with trucks, we won’t enforce it with tear gas, we will enforce it with communication. We will be telling people, ‘It’s time to go home.’ ”

Aug. 17, 2014

Clashes Erupt as Some Protesters Ignore Curfew. As the curfew in Ferguson takes effect amid heavy rain, some streets that had been filled with people less than an hour before midnight begin to largely empty. But some clusters of people confront rows of police officers lining the streets or riding in armored vehicles. The demonstrators chant: “We are Mike Brown! We have the right to assemble peacefully!” invoking the name of the 18-year-old who was shot and killed by the officer. Protesters toss at least one bottle rocket, according to the police, and at the apparent sound of gunshots, demonstrators scramble to safety. The police eventually fire smoke canisters and tear gas at the crowds, and officials later say it was in response to the shooting. Seven arrests are made. Later, the governor of Missouri says that the curfew was effective in helping to maintain a relative peace in Ferguson, despite the clashes and the shooting by an unknown person. In addition, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announces that the Justice Department would conduct its own autopsy of Mr. Brown, in addition to an already-completed state autopsy.

***************

An Illuminating Sat. Night with Key Witness to Ferguson Shooting (Autopsy Update)

Don Hazen 

 

August 17, 2014

 

http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/illuminating-sat-night-key-witness-ferguson-shooting-autopsy-update

 

Ferguson, Missouri has been on my mind all week, as it has for most people in the media. On Saturday night, I had just finished reading more articles about the killing and ensuing uproar, assigned followup content for AlterNet to publish, and went out to Barzini's in Manhattan, the local alternative to Whole Foods, to pick up some groceries and a pint of Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia.

While I was paying, a young, well-dressed women stuck her head into the store and asked if she could buy something there that would only be sold in a different kind of store. We all smiled, as this immediately flagged her as an out-of-towner. We sent her to Duane Reade, two blocks south. As we walked out together, I asked where she was from. 

"St. Louis," she said. "This is the first time I've been in New York."

She said she just had dinner at Carmine's, across the street, and had two friends who were still inside finishing up. As we walked back from the drugstore to Carmine's, I asked why she was in New York. She said, "Have you ever heard of Ferguson, Missouri?"  

I said, "Well, yes, as a matter of fact—I know an awful lot about Ferguson. Why do you ask?"

"I am one of the eyewitnesses to the killing of Michael Brown," she said. She was in New York to appear on CNN in the morning and probably Anderson Cooper as well.

What were the chances of the stars aligning like this? 

Well, of course, I had a million questions for Piaget Crenshaw, which was her name. While friendly and open, she was a little cautious, since she was on CNN's dime. Only 19, she'd come to New York to tell the world her bird's-eye view to help solve the question that is vexing the entire country: How did Darren Wilson come to gun down Michael Brown in the middle of a quiet street in Ferguson? 

From my vantage point, up until now, the media had almost exclusively spoke to Dorian Johnson, Michael Brown's friend. But now, with the police chief Thomas Jackson passing out screenshots of Michael Brown apparently grabbing some cigars from a convenience store, accompanied by Dorian Johnson, Johnson as the key witness might not be treated the same way. The appearance of other eyewitnesses is a crucial development over the past couple of days. Piaget Crenshaw's companion eyewitness is Tiffany Mitchell, Crenshaw's work supervisor, who was picking her up when the incident occurred. Both have views from different vantage points, and have appeared together on television interviews.

I started by asking Crenshaw the big question. Did her view of Brown's shooting differ in any way with what Dorian Johnson has said?

"Absolutely not," she responded. "I saw the cop shoot Brown several times in the face, even after he had turned around and had his hands raised. I can tell you the essentials, since I've been interviewed on local TV, by newspapers, and most of this information is already on the Internet, and I posted my video from immediately after the shooting to my Facebook page."

Crenshaw told [3] the LA Times, "I witnessed the police chase after the guy, full force. He ran for his life. They shot him and he fell. He put his arms up to let them know that he was compliant and he was unarmed, and they shot him twice more and he fell to the ground and died. (Read her most in-depth interview here [4].)

The Big Question

There seems little doubt given videos of the shooting site, those taken by Crenshaw immediately after Brown went down, and the location of the police car vis a vis the body, that Brown was finally shot down in the street some 20 or 30 feet away from the car. Now the crucial question becomes what happened at the first stage with the cop car and Brown to cause the second stage. It is hard to imagine what could have happened in the initial moment of the confrontation that would require Darren Wilson to pursue and shoot Mike Brown several times, including in the head, while Brown was standing in the middle of the street.

Both Piaget Crenshaw and Tiffany Mitchell said they saw a kind of scuffle—or "tussle" as Crenshaw called it—when the cop grabbed Brown from inside the police car. Then apparently a shot—or two—was fired, since Crenshaw reported a wild shot hit a nearby house (and shortly after cops came to take the bullet away). Brown broke away from the struggle at the police car window, perhaps wounded, and started running, may have been hit by another shot, then turned around and raised his hands, according to all witnesses, and was shot several more times before going down. [Update:Dr. Michael  Baden, former chief medical examiner in NYC reported Monday, according to the New York Times [5], that the unarmed Brown was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, and four times on the right side of his body. "One of the bullets entered the top of Brown's skull," likely the last bullet to hit him. Protests became violent again on Sunday night in Ferguson, moving Gov. Jay Nixon to call in the National Guard to help quell the disturbances.]

A local television station [6], in an interview with Crenshaw and Mitchell, kept returning to the statement made by the police chief that Brown was in the car when the struggle took place. But none of the witnesses saw Brown in the car, and given the quick dynamics of the moment, Brown being 6 '4" and close to 300 pounds, it seems unlikely that the police officer would have gotten Brown into the car.

Nevertheless, Chief Thomas Jackson has consistently claimed [6] that Brown was in the car and grabbed for Darren Wilson's gun and a shot was fired. "Brown died in a dangerous struggle after trying to grab the officer’s weapon." But witnesses—including Crenshaw, Mitchell and Johnson—say it seemed a brazen act of aggression by the officer and that Brown was unarmed and not threatening. 

Tensions still rile the community of Ferguson. Much of the tension has to do with the handling of the case by local police, who took more than five days to reveal the identity of the officer who shot Brown, and with the community's anger over the many conflicting stories. The release of photographs of the cigar theft at a convenience store only stoked the anger of the protestors. While Chief Jackson has said any number of contradictory things, parsing it all, it seems that Officer Darren Wilson had told Mike Brown and Dorian Johnson to get off the street, and was not aware of the potential cigar theft when the confrontation took place. Something happened that made Wilson shoot Brown at the door of the police car, and then run after him and shoot him several more times.

What's clear is that we do not yet know all the facts about what happened that night in Ferguson, Missouri.  

*****************

A Youth, an Officer and 2 Paths to a Fatal Encounter

By JULIE BOSMAN, JOHN SCHWARTZ and SERGE F. KOVALESKIAUG.

New York Times,

August 15, 2014

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/16/us/ferguson-mo-michael-brown-and-darren-wilson-2-paths-to-a-fatal-encounter.html

Michael Brown let his 16th birthday come and go without bothering to apply for a driver’s license. There was no need, his family said. He preferred to walk.

In Ferguson, where Mr. Brown was living with his grandmother, he walked nearly everywhere: on Canfield Drive, where his grandmother kept a small apartment, and several blocks away on the bustling commercial strip of West Florissant Avenue, a four-lane road full of hair salons and cheap restaurants that is the de facto downtown of the neighborhood.

It was during one of Mr. Brown’s walks down Canfield Drive one week ago when he would have an unlikely collision. It involved Mr. Brown, a black teenager who seemed to have avoided most of the traps that dragged down many of his peers, and a white police officer, Darren Wilson, with an admirable record. When it was over, Mr. Brown was dead and Officer Wilson was facing an uncertain legal and professional future.

Chief Thomas Jackson of the Ferguson Police Department, at a hastily called news conference on Friday morning, revealed Officer Wilson’s name for the first time. He has been a police officer for six years, but Chief Jackson offered scant information about his life and work.

Officer Wilson, 28, who has roots in Texas, has worked for four years in Ferguson, an inner-ring suburb that has the feel of a place in transition: One business strip has been spruced up with a historic Main Street feel, with cheerful painted signs, a wine bar and a frame shop. The neighborhood where Mr. Brown died is a less appealing pocket of town: a two-bedroom apartment in his grandmother’s building goes for about $550 a month.

Before that, Officer Wilson worked two years in the police department in Jennings, a neighboring suburb.

He lives a half-hour drive away, in the town of Crestwood, southwest of St. Louis, interviews and property records show. About six months ago, neighbors said, Officer Wilson moved into a new house, a fixed-up ranch with a small pool in the back and a wicker love seat on the porch. The mailbox rises from a tub of flowers, and letters on red, white and blue stars hung from the door spell out “Welcome.”

Records indicate that he was divorced last year and now lives there with Barbara Spradling, also a police officer, who has received an award for valor. The two rarely mixed with neighbors or struck up casual conversation, neighbors said.

Two middle-aged women sat across the street from Officer Wilson’s home on Friday; one, who gave her name only as Kathy, was visiting her 93-year-old grandmother who bought the house when it was built in 1958.

“All of the neighbors will tell the same story,” she said. “People would just see him and wave, and that’s it.”

Officer Wilson’s professional record suggests someone who has avoided trouble. There has been no disciplinary action taken against him, Chief Jackson said Friday.

“I’ve known the officer for years and have every confidence in him,” Chief Jackson said.

Officer Wilson received a commendation for “extraordinary effort in the line of duty” in February. Greg Kloeppel, a lawyer for the union representing Ferguson police officers, confirmed the commendation that Officer Wilson received, but he declined to provide information about what kind of person the officer is or any details about his life.

One neighbor said he knew Officer Wilson was on the Ferguson police force, and figured out that he might be linked to the shooting of Mr. Brown when police cars, marked and unmarked, started showing up in the neighborhood several days ago. Then on Tuesday, Officer Wilson began mowing his lawn, but “he did not finish,” said the neighbor, who wore a faded Cardinals T-shirt and camouflage shorts. “It appears they left in a hurry.”

Since then, people have come to take the couple’s mail in and picked up their dogs, but the two have not been seen.

“I don’t expect them to return,” the neighbor said.

Ron Gorski, who lives on the block and was walking his English bulldog, Darla, told reporters that he did not know Officer Wilson, but that his 15-year-old grandson and his friends were allowed to swim in the officer’s pool. “When he finds out all this happened, he’ll be shocked,” Mr. Gorski said.

He said Mr. Wilson cleared out days ago, but “we knew something was going on because police were going up and down the block for a few days now.”

Twenty miles away, in Ferguson, the Brown family said it was no closer to understanding the circumstances that led an unarmed 18-year-old to be shot to death by a police officer in the middle of the day.

They were outraged that the Ferguson police on Friday released surveillance video and photos of Mr. Brown apparently stealing cigarillos from a convenience store on West Florissant and shoving a clerk as he walked out.

“Whatever happened in the store is irrelevant,” said Benjamin L. Crump, a lawyer for the family.

He added, “They are not trying to solve the murder, they are trying to justify it.”

The family insisted that Mr. Brown had no history of violence or aggression. He had no adult arrest record, according to the police, who said they could not speak to whether he had been arrested as a juvenile.

Administrators at the chaotic public high school he attended, one of the worst in the state, said he was quiet, shy and a little awkward, hardly one of the “trouble kids,” of which there were plenty.

“You’d sit in a house with him, watching TV and hanging out, and you’d forget he was there,” said Tim Sneed, 23, a close friend and neighbor. “He had not one enemy. I’ve never heard of him getting in one fight.”

Mr. Brown was still a teenager: He smoked marijuana with friends in the neighborhood, they recalled, and drank cans of Bud Light with them when he ducked away from the watchful eyes of his family.

Finishing high school was an effort that required the push of his parents and extended family, who scolded him on the days that he slept late and missed morning classes.

But he was determined to avoid many of the missteps frequently taken by his peers. “He wasn’t like all these cats out here, selling drugs and having babies with different women,” Kathy Gary, 22, a relative, said earlier this week. “We tried so hard to keep him in school. Sometimes he’d skip classes, and he needed a push. But he wanted to do something.”

Last Saturday, the day Mr. Brown died, dawned sunny and warm, around 80 degrees, a typically hot August day in Missouri. With a friend, Dorian Johnson, Mr. Brown set out to West Florissant, wearing a white T-shirt, khaki shorts and a red Cardinals cap.

About 10 minutes before noon, they entered Ferguson Market and Liquor, a run-down store with shelves lined with potato chips, Boone’s Farm wine and tequila.

Mr. Brown, who was 6-foot-4, had an intimidating appearance — his friends nicknamed him Bodyguard because he was so tall.

According to the surveillance video, Mr. Brown approached the counter, leaned over and grabbed a handful of Swisher Sweets, then turned for the door. He pushed a clerk who tried to stop him, then left the store.

At 11:51 a.m., the police said, someone called 911 to report a robbery.

After leaving Ferguson Market, Mr. Brown and Mr. Johnson walked north on West Florissant, passing a McDonald’s, a hair-braiding shop and a Chinese restaurant. They turned right at the corner of Canfield Drive, where a fence at the corner bears a sign: “We are watching to report suspicious activities or persons to Ferguson Police Dept.”

Several blocks later, at 12:01 p.m., they were confronted by Officer Wilson while they continued down Canfield, a quiet street that curves gently as it weaves through apartment buildings and one-story brick houses.

They were stopped not because the police were looking for a robbery suspect, Chief Jackson said Friday, but “because they were walking down the street blocking traffic.”

Devin Stone, 28, a friend of Mr. Brown’s, was home in his apartment at the time, across the street from the place where the men were confronted by the police.

Sitting outside his building, Mr. Stone said he was jolted by the sound of two gunshots, followed by several more in rapid succession. The second series of shots “sounded automatic,” he said. “They let it rip.”

Mr. Stone ran outside and saw two police officers, both white men, standing near Mr. Brown, who was lying on his stomach, his arms at his sides, blood seeping from his head. Another neighbor, a woman who identified herself as a nurse, was begging the officers to let her perform CPR.

They refused, Mr. Stone said, adding, “They didn’t even check to see if he was breathing.”

On Friday, speaking to reporters, Chief Jackson said the shooting was “absolutely devastating” to Officer Wilson. “He never intended for any of this to happen.”

*************** 

Police Chief Claims Shooting Victim May Have Been Involved in Robbery, But Says Cop Who Fired Shots Didn't Know About It

By Jon Swaine and Rory Carroll

 

The Guardian

 

August 15, 2014  

 

http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/confusion-reigns-ferguson-after-quiet-night

  

The police officer who shot and killed an unarmed teenager in the Missouri city of Ferguson, sparking days of protests [3] and violent clashes, was named on Friday. But police also released security camera footage and an incident report that implicated the victim, 18-year-old Michael Brown, in an earlier robbery at a convenience store, infuriating his family and prompting concerns of new tensions in the area.

The Browns’ attorney said they were “beyond outraged” by the revelation, which came unaccompanied by any further details of the shooting. The family’s lawyer, Benjamin Crump, described the report as a “brutal assassination” of Brown’s character.

In a further development, police later disclosed that the officer who shot Brown was not even aware of the robbery, which had taken place a few minutes earlier. Ferguson’s local police chief, Thomas Jackson, was pressured to explain why the information about the robbery had been released at the same time. Crump accused police of playing a game of “smoke and mirrors”.

Jackson identified the officer who shot Brown as Darren Wilson, a six-year veteran of the city police department. He said that Wilson had a clean disciplinary record before the shooting on Saturday.

The disclosure brought an end to wide-ranging speculation and rumor that residents said was stoking disgruntlement. Several names had previously been published online and circulated locally, forcing police to issue denials.

The refusal to disclose any further information about the shooting of Brown, combined with the revelation of a partial account of events that allegedly preceded it, threatened to revive hostilities in a town where protests gave way to a carnival-like atmosphere on Thursday night [4].

A brief section in the incident report tied the robbery to Brown’s killing, which it said was “worth mentioning”. The report read: “In that incident, Brown was fatally wounded involving an officer of this department.” No further details of the killing were offered.

Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri state highway patrol, who won plaudits for his handling of the demonstrations after being handed control on Thursday, said he “would have liked to have been consulted” about the simultaneous release of the report of the name and alleged robbery.

“The information could have been put out in a different way,” Johnson told reporters and residents at a press conference that unfolded more like a town hall meeting on Friday. “I would have communicated it differently,” he told the Guardian afterwards.

The disagreement over Friday’s decision highlighted the overlapping jurisdictions of the law enforcement agencies involved. The robbery report was released by Ferguson city police, the force that employs the officer who shot Brown, which has come under sharp criticism for not reflecting the racial makeup of the city, which is majority African American.

The inquiry into the shooting is being led by St Louis County police, which led the policing of the demonstrations over Brown’s death through several nights of violent clashes [3], before being relieved by Nixon on Thursday. Control of the security for protests was handed to Johnson and the state highway patrol, whose dramatic shift in tactics away from a hardline response was credited with allowing the calmer atmosphere on Thursday night.

Nonetheless, residents expressed fury at Johnson on Friday over the actions of the separate city police force. “There’s a lot of evidence come out about [Brown’s] character, and what he was before the shooting,” said Carl Walter, 38. “Why is there not the same transparency about this officer? This young man lost his life.”

Governor Jay Nixon conceded at the same press conference that “certain things should have come out sooner than they did later”.

“New facts are out that weren’t out yesterday,” said Nixon. “But those are not the full picture of anything.” He added: “Nothing should deter figuring out how and why Michael Brown was killed.”

According to the Ferguson police account of the robbery, witnesses told police that Brown stole several packets of Swisher Sweet cigars from a convenience store between 11.52am and 11.54am on 9 August.

Store surveillance footage shows that “an apparent struggle or confrontation seems to take place with Brown”, and then as he made to leave, an unidentified man tried to stop him. Brown pushed the man into a display rack, started to leave the store, appeared to intimidate the person one more time, then left, according to the report.

A friend, Dorian Johnson, was identified in the police report as being involved in the robbery. He was also present at the scene of the shooting, which took place a few minutes later and has spoken several [5] times [6] about the incident, contradicting claims by the police that Brown wrestled with Wilson before the shots were fired.

Jackson said on Friday the officer was treated for an injury sustained during his encounter with Brown. He had previously said that, following the incident, the officer had sustained a swollen face and was treated in hospital. Asked what had struck the officer’s face, Jackson told a press conference earlier this week: “Don’t know.”

Adding further tension between the various authorities involved, county prosecutor Bob McCulloch, who would be responsible for bringing any charges against the officer, reportedly reacted furiously to Nixon’s transfer of leading the policing the demonstrations. “It’s shameful what he did,” McCulloch told the St Louis Post-Dispatch [7].

Nixon declined to respond to McCulloch’s comments when asked on Friday. “We’re focused on our responsibility we have here,” he said.

Police were posted at the convenience store allegedly robbed by Brown. At least half a dozen officers from the highway patrol and county police, plus what appeared to be a plain clothes officer with a bulletproof vest, took position outside and inside the store around 1pm, hours after authorities posted security camera footage of the incident.

Staff initially told the Guardian it happened at another store but after police arrived they said they had no comment. “We have nothing to say,” said one woman at the cash register.

‘They’re good people. I’ve known them for over 10 years,” said Eugene Ward, 43, clutching a bag of water bottles and beer cans. “If the evidence shows that the gentleman was here and committed a crime that doesn’t change the excessive police reaction. But it also doesn’t condone what the young man did.”

Police at the scene declined to comment but one highway patrolman was heard telling a customer that the officer involved in the shooting appeared to have been a good man and that Brown’s death was a tragedy.

*******************

Ferguson Police Use Press Conference To Criminalize Michael Brown

 By Terrell Jermaine Starr

 

http://www.alternet.org/ferguson-police-use-press-conference-criminalize-michael-brown

 

 

August 15, 2014    

The man who shot 18-year-old Michael Brown last Saturday is police officer Darren Wilson, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson said at a press conference Friday morning. Officer Wilson, who has been with the force for six years, was responding to an armed robbery at a convenience store before his encounter with Brown, Chief Jackson said. Wilson is on paid administrative leave. The FBI and the Justice Department have begun independent investigations [3] into Brown's shooting.

Brown was reportedly walking home when he was shot last weekend. Refusal to release the officer's name earlier sparked frustration in the St. Louis suburb, leading to protests and destruction of property.

Law enforcement's reaction to the unrest reflected a military response similar to that of a war zone. Police used armored vehicles and officers with crowd control dogs confronted the peaceful protesters, until Governor Jay Nixon ordered the Missouri Highway Patrol to take over security. Almost immediately, the situation became calmer, the New York Times reports [4].

Police took the opportunity of the press conference to try to to "criminalize" Brown. According to a police reporttweeted by Huffington Post reporter Ryan J. Reilly [5], Brown allegedly stole a pack of Swisher Sweet cigars at a store. Dorian Johnson, Brown's friend and witness to his fatal shooting, is also suspected of helping in the robbery [6]. Police also released photos of a large man at the store where a robbery took place. It is not confirmed yet whether the man was Brown.

Johnson has claimed that neither he nor Brown committed any crime [7].According to several journalists [8] reporting from Ferguson, no information in the report deals with the shooting or Wilson's interaction with Brown.

Cops are supposed to use deadly force only when lives are in danger. No one should lose their life for being a robbery suspect. The only thing that is suspect so far is the withholding of information being released about Wilson's final interaction with Brown before the shooting. Instead of releasing a photo of Wilson, police released photos of a large black man allegedly assaulting someone at a store. A Google search of "Darren Wilson" shows the photos of the man [9] who supposedly committed a robbery.

 

****************

 

Ferguson's mounting racial and economic stress set stage for turmoil

 

Tom Logan and Molly Hennessy-Fiske

August 16, 2014

 

http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-ferguson-economy-20140817-story.html#page=1

 

The police shooting of Michael Brown was the spark.

But the tinder fueling the anger and resentment that has exploded in Ferguson has been building for decades.

The town has seen many middle-class homeowners who eagerly moved to St. Louis' northern suburbs after World War II to buy brick ranch homes with nice yards leave in later years, replaced by poorer newcomers. Good blue-collar jobs have grown scarce; the factories that once sprouted here have closed shop. Schools have struggled.

And local governments — slow to evolve — often now look little like the people they represent. For the African American community, it creates a sense of lost opportunity in a place much like other aging suburbs in the Rust Belt and across the country.

"For a young black man, there's not much employment, not a lot of opportunity," said Todd Swanstrom, a professor of public policy at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. "It's kind of a tinder box."

The seething tensions prompted Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to declare a curfew in Ferguson on Saturday, one week after a white police officer shot and killed Brown, an 18-year-old African American. The declaration followed another night of looting.

Critics say an initial heavy-handed response by police using tear gas and rubber bullets touched off the unrest, with mainly white officers facing off against mainly black crowds.

Since Brown's death, race and police tactics have dominated the headlines blaring from this town 12 miles northwest of St. Louis' Gateway Arch. But that's only part of the story.

From jobs to schools to racial transition, Ferguson and its neighboring towns — where many protesters came from — have undergone sweeping changes in recent years. Some places have become pockets of poverty, comparable to the poorest spots in St. Louis.

Others, like Ferguson, remain more mixed, with middle-class subdivisions built alongside run-down streets and big apartment complexes like the one where Brown lived. Either way, Swanstrom said, the area highlights the growing challenge of the "suburbanization" of poverty.

"This was a catalyst for something much deeper, the lack of economic opportunities and representation people have," said Etefia Umana, an educator and board member of a community group called Better Family Life. "A lot of the issues are boiling up."

It's been boiling for decades.

 

St. Louis' jumble of suburbs — there are 91 municipalities in a county of about 1 million people ringing the city — has long been sharply segregated. Until the late 1940s, restrictive covenants blocked blacks from buying homes in many areas.

 

Well into the 1970s, tight zoning restrictions and other rules, especially in places near the city's mostly black north side, kept many of the areas largely white, said Colin Gordon, a University of Iowa professor who has studied housing in St. Louis.

 

That began to change by the 1980s, when middle- and working-class white families began leaving north county — as the area around Ferguson is known — for newer, roomier housing farther out in the exurbs. In their place came a flood of African American families from St. Louis in search of better housing and schools.

 

"When black flight out of the city began, this was the logical frontier," Gordon said. "It became what the city had been, a zone of racial transition."

 

In Ferguson, the change happened fast. In a generation — from 1990 to today — the population changed from three-fourths white to two-thirds black. Even as the area's demographics shifted, good blue-collar jobs sustained many of these towns, said Lara Granich, a community organizer.

 

 

"Everyone in our parish was a brick layer or a letter carrier or something. I didn't know anyone who had gone to college, but they all made a decent living," said Granich, who grew up in nearby Glasgow Village, another neighborhood on the decline. "The people who live there now tend to work at McDonald's."

 

The recession hurt, too. This part of the St. Louis region took the brunt of the foreclosure crisis, with subprime loans turning bad and investors scooping up cheap houses to rent. Auto plants that had sustained a black middle class shut down.

 

Since 2000, the median household income in Ferguson has fallen by 30% when adjusted for inflation, to about $36,000. In the census tract where Brown lived, median income is less than $27,000. Just half of the adults work.

 

The Rev. Steven Lawler, rector of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Ferguson, really saw the change in 2008, when visits to his food pantry soared. They haven't gone down since.

 

"I know there are places where an economic recovery's happening," he said. "But in the places where people are most stressed, there hasn't been a recovery."

 

Still, as Lawler and others note, Ferguson has some things going for it. Its pleasant, old downtown has seen a revival in recent years, with a busy Saturday farmers market and a new craft brewery. It still has middle-class neighborhoods of historic homes. The headquarters of a Fortune 500 company, Emerson Electric Co., sits on a serene campus just up the hill from the gas station that looters burned on Sunday night.

 

Gail Babcock, program director at Ferguson Youth Initiative, was quick to note her town still has a strong sense of community. Every morning this week volunteers poured in to clean up from protests and looting. The challenge is in connecting its poorer residents — especially younger ones — to it, she said.

 

"It's very hard for them to find jobs," said Babcock, who runs a community service program for youth convicted of minor criminal offenses. "That sets up a situation where they tend to get in trouble, and they probably wouldn't under other circumstances."

 

Then there are the schools, one reason why many families moved to these suburbs in the first place. Two north county districts — including the one where Brown graduated from high school in May — have lost their state accreditation in recent years. The district Ferguson shares with a neighboring town remains accredited but scores low on state tests.

 

That was a big reason why John Weaver took the morning off work Friday, drove his plumbing truck to the nearby city of Florissant and asked the visiting governor what he planned to do about the problems that have plagued these neighborhoods for years.

 

Nixon acknowledged there's "a lot of work to do." Weaver was not impressed.

 

"All these politicians say they'll fight for our education. I feel cheated," he said in an interview later. "And if I feel cheated, how should these kids feel?"

 

These issues are all tied together for Shermale Humphrey, a 21-year-old who joined the protests this week. She plans to enlist in the Air Force, but right now works at a McDonald's near where Brown was shot. She's something of a veteran activist — helping to organize strikes by fast-food workers in St. Louis — and sees race, politics and economics here as closely intertwined.

 

 

"It's a shortage of everything," she said. "It's a shortage of jobs. Of African Americans on the police force and in government. Of people not being able to get a good education."

 

Adding to the frustration, many protesters say, is that the people still running many of these towns don't much look like the people who live there now. Just three of Ferguson's 53 police officers are African American. Six of seven City Council members are white. So are six of the seven school board members, who run a district with a student body that's 78% black.

 

Many of these towns are still run "like little fiefdoms" by remnants of their old white middle class that may not share the concerns of newcomers, said Umana, who moved to Ferguson eight years ago.

 

"The numbers flip-flopped, but the power structure remained the same," he said.

 

It has been hard to build black political leadership in these fast-changing suburbs, said Mike Jones, an African American veteran of St. Louis' political scene. Indeed, it's been harder than in St. Louis, which has long been racially mixed.

 

But a more diverse set of voices at Ferguson City Hall, Jones said, might have avoided the heavy-handed police response that only inflamed protests.

 

"The question is how — in a city that's 67% African American — do you have absolutely no African American political representation?" Jones asked. "That's what leads you to a police force that could become involved in this sort of incident."

 

It's an issue more communities will have to face, Jones predicts, as traditionally "urban" issues of poverty and racial change migrate to suburbs often less-equipped to deal with them. And not just in the St. Louis area.

 

A study last month by the Brookings Institution found the number of poor people living in high-poverty suburban neighborhoods nationwide more than doubled in the last decade, growing much faster than in big cities.

 

Chris Krehmeyer, who runs the St. Louis community development nonprofit Beyond Housing, says he knows colleagues around the country dealing with a lot of the same issues as he is in north St. Louis County, tackling housing, jobs and schools all at once. The key, he said, is to build trust with residents before the community blows up.

 

Ferguson is a bellwether, he said. "This story could happen in lots of different places, all over this country."

 

************

Eyewitness to Michael Brown shooting recounts his friend’s death

By Trymaine Lee

08/12/14

http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/eyewitness-michael-brown-fatal-shooting-missouri

The last moments of Michael Brown’s life were filled with shock, fear and terror, says a witness who stood just feet away as a police officer shot and killed the unarmed teen.

“I saw the barrel of the gun pointed at my friend,” said Dorian Johnson, 22. “Then I saw the fire come out of the barrel.”

Johnson, in an exclusive interview with msnbc, said what began as an order by a police officer to ‘get the f— onto the sidewalk’ quickly escalated into a physical altercation and then, gunfire.

“I could see so vividly what was going on because I was so close,” said Johnson, who said he was within arm’s reach of both Brown and the officer when the first of several shots was fired at the teen. Johnson says he feared for his life as he watched the officer squeezing off shot after shot.

Brown’s killing on Saturday afternoon has sparked protests and rioting in this small, hardscrabble suburb of St. Louis, where tensions continue to rise between the police and the largely black, mostly poor community. Brown’s shooting lifted the lid on a pot that had long been bubbling.

The police say the officer shot Brown after the teen shoved the officer and tried to wrestle the officer’s gun from him. But a number of witnesses, including Johnson, refute those claims. And in the wake of the shooting, the Ferguson Police Department has asked the St. Louis County police to step in and take over the investigation. 

Meanwhile, the identity of the police officer involved in the shooting has not yet been identified. It is known, however, that the officer who shot Brown has been placed on paid administrative leave

But as darkness fell over Ferguson on Monday, ongoing protests were stifled by rubber bullets and tear gas fired at protesters by officers, according to witnesses.

Related: Witness: Brown did not reach for officer’s weapon

Local branches of the NAACP have called on the Justice Department and federal and state law enforcement officials to take over the investigation from local police. The FBI has joined the investigation and the Justice Department has said it is keeping an eye on the case. Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday said that the FBI will help local authorities undertake a “thorough, fair investigation.” 

For its part, Brown’s family has hired local attorney Anthony Gray and Benjamin Crump, a civil rights attorney who represented the family of Trayvon Martin.

“That baby was executed in broad daylight,” Crump said during a press conference Monday afternoon, standing beside Brown’s mother and father. Crump told a crowd of several dozen that Brown was shot and left in the road like an animal.

“He was a good boy who didn’t deserve any of this,” said Michael Brown Sr., the teen’s father.

“I just wish I could have been there to help my son,” the boy’s mother, Leslie McSpadden said through tears.

“We can’t even celebrate because we have to plan a funeral.”Leslie McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown

On Monday, McSpadden and Brown’s father had planned to drop Brown off at a nearby technical college for the start of his freshman year. Instead, the family is making burial arrangements.

“We can’t even celebrate because we have to plan a funeral,” McSpadden said.

Johnson, who said he moved into the neighborhood about eight months ago, said he met Brown three months ago and the two became fast friends.

“Everyone else’s mentality be on some nonsense, silliness,” Johnson said. “But Mike had his mind set on more than that, helping others. I just got a good feeling from being around him.”

About 20 minutes before the shooting, Johnson said he saw Brown walking down the street and decided to catch up with him. The two walked and talked. That’s when Johnson says they saw the police car rolling up to them.

The officer demanded that the two “get the f—k on the sidewalk,” Johnson says. “His exact words were get the f—k on the sidewalk.”

After telling the officer that they were almost at their destination, Johnson’s house, the two continued walking. But as they did, Johnson says the officer slammed his brakes and threw his truck in reverse, nearly hitting them.

Now, in line with the officer’s driver’s side door, they could see the officer’s face. They heard him say something to the effect of, “what’d you say?” At the same time, Johnson says the officer attempted to thrust his door open but the door slammed into Brown and bounced closed. Johnson says the officer, with his left hand, grabbed Brown by the neck.

**************

 

Deep Tensions Rise to Surface After Ferguson Shooting

 

 

By TANZINA VEGA and JOHN ELIGONAUG

 

New York Times

 

August 16, 2014

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/17/us/ferguson-mo-complex-racial-history-runs-deep-most-tensions-have-to-do-police-force.html?_r=0

 

FERGUSON, Mo. — Garland Moore, a hospital worker, lived in this St. Louis suburb for much of his 33 years, a period in which a largely white community has become a largely black one.

He attended its schools and is raising his family in this place of suburban homes and apartment buildings on the outskirts of a struggling Midwest city. And over time, he has felt his life to be circumscribed by Ferguson’s demographics.

Mr. Moore, who is black, talks of how he has felt the wrath of the police here and in surrounding suburbs for years — roughed up during a minor traffic stop and prevented from entering a park when he was wearing St. Louis Cardinals red.

And last week, as he stood at a vigil for an unarmed 18-year-old shot dead by the police — a shooting that provoked renewed street violence and looting early Saturday — Mr. Moore heard anger welling and listened to a shout of: “We’re tired of the racist police department.”

“It broke the camel’s back,” Mr. Moore said of the killing of the teenager, Michael Brown. Referring to the northern part of St. Louis County, he continued, “The people in North County — not just African-Americans, some of the white people, too — they are tired of the police harassment.”

 

The origins of the area’s complex social and racial history date to the 19th century when the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County went their separate ways, leading to the formation of dozens of smaller communities outside St. Louis. Missouri itself has always been a state with roots in both the Midwest and the South, and racial issues intensified in the 20th century as St. Louis became a stopping point for the northern migration of Southern blacks seeking factory jobs in Detroit and Chicago.

 

As African-Americans moved into the city and whites moved out, real estate agents and city leaders, in a pattern familiar elsewhere in the country, conspired to keep blacks out of the suburbs through the use of zoning ordinances and restrictive covenants. But by the 1970s, some of those barriers had started to fall, and whites moved even farther away from the city. These days, Ferguson is like many of the suburbs around St. Louis, inner-ring towns that accommodated white flight decades ago but that are now largely black. And yet they retain a white power structure.

 

Although about two-thirds of Ferguson residents are black, its mayor and five of its six City Council members are white. Only three of the town’s 53 police officers are black.

 

Turnout for local elections in Ferguson has been poor. The mayor, James W. Knowles III, noted his disappointment with the turnout — about 12 percent — in the most recent mayoral election during a City Council meeting in April. Patricia Bynes, a black woman who is the Democratic committeewoman for the Ferguson area, said the lack of black involvement in local government was partly the result of the black population’s being more transient in small municipalities and less attached to them.

 

There is also some frustration among blacks who say town government is not attuned to their concerns.

 

Aliyah Woods, 45, once petitioned Ferguson officials for a sign that would warn drivers that a deaf family lived on that block. But the sign never came. “You get tired,” she said. “You keep asking, you keep asking. Nothing gets done.”

 

Mr. Moore, who recently moved to neighboring Florissant, said he had attended a couple of Ferguson Council meetings to complain that the police should be patrolling the residential streets to try to prevent break-ins rather than lying in wait to catch people for traffic violations.  

 

This year, community members voiced anger after the all-white, seven-member school board for the Ferguson-Florissant district pushed aside its black superintendent for unrevealed reasons. That spurred several blacks to run for three board positions up for election, but only one won a seat.

 

The St. Louis County Police Department fired a white lieutenant last year for ordering officers to target blacks in shopping areas. That resulted in the department’s enlisting researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, to study whether the department was engaging in racial profiling.

 

And in recent years, two school districts in North County lost their accreditation. One, Normandy, where Mr. Brown graduated this year, serves parts of Ferguson. When parents in the mostly black district sought to allow their children to transfer to schools in mostly white districts, they said, they felt a backlash with racial undertones. Frustration with underfunded and underperforming schools has long been a problem, and when Gov. Jay Nixon held a news conference on Friday to discuss safety and security in Ferguson, he was confronted with angry residents demanding to know what he would do to fix their schools.

 

Ferguson’s economic shortcomings reflect the struggles of much of the region. Its median household income of about $37,000 is less than the statewide number, and its poverty level of 22 percent outpaces the state’s by seven percentage points.

 

In Ferguson, residents say most racial tensions have to do with an overzealous police force.

 

“It is the people in a position of authority in our community that have to come forward,” said Jerome Jenkins, 47, who, with his wife, Cathy, owns Cathy’s Kitchen, a downtown Ferguson restaurant.

 

“What you are witnessing is our little small government has to conform to the change that we are trying to do,” Mr. Jenkins added. “Sometimes things happen for a purpose; maybe we can get it right.”

 

Ferguson’s police chief, Thomas Jackson, has been working with the Justice Department’s community relations team on improving interaction with residents. At a news conference here last week, he acknowledged some of the problems.

 

“I’ve been trying to increase the diversity of the department ever since I got here,” Chief Jackson said, adding that “race relations is a top priority right now.” As for working the with Justice Department, he said, “I told them, ‘Tell me what to do, and I’ll do it.’ ”

 

Although experience and statistics suggest that Ferguson’s police force disproportionately targets blacks, it is not as imbalanced as in some neighboring departments in St. Louis County. While blacks are 37 percent more likely to be pulled over compared with their proportion of the population in Ferguson, that is less than the statewide average of 59 percent, according to Richard Rosenfeld, a professor of criminology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

 

In fact, Mr. Rosenfeld said, Ferguson did not fit the profile of a community that would be a spark for civil unrest. The town has “pockets of disadvantage” and middle and upper-middle income families. He said Ferguson had benefited in the last five to 10 years from economic growth in the northern part of the county, such as the expansion of Express Scripts, the Fortune 500 health care giant.

“Ferguson does not stand out as the type of community where you would expect tensions with the police to boil over into violence and looting,” Mr. Rosenfeld said.

 

But the memory of the region’s racial history lingers.

 

In 1949, a mob of whites showed up to attack blacks who lined up to get into the pool at Fairground Park in north St. Louis after it had been desegregated.

 

In the 1970s, a court battle over public school inequality led to a settlement that created a desegregation busing program that exists to this day.

 

A Ferguson city councilman caused a stir in 1970 when he used racially charged language to criticize teenagers from the neighboring town of Kinloch for throwing rocks and bottles at homes in Ferguson. The councilman, Carl Kersting, said, “We should call a black a black, and not be afraid to face up to these people,” according to an article in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

 

Eventually blacks broke down the barriers in the inner ring of suburbs, and whites fled farther out. But whites fought hard to protect their turf.

 

In the mid-1970s, Alyce Herndon, a black woman, moved with her family to what was then the mostly white town of Jennings in St. Louis County. She said some of their white neighbors stuck an Afro pick in their front lawn and set it on fire. Ms. Herndon also recalled tensions flaring between black and white students at her school after the television mini-series “Roots” first aired in 1977.

 

For all its segregation and discrimination, St. Louis did not have the major riots and unrest during the 1960s that was seen across the country.

 

St. Louis’s black leaders “were able to pressure businesses and schools to open their doors to black people and employers to hire black workers,” Stefan Bradley, the director of African-American studies at St. Louis University, wrote in an email. “These concessions may have been enough to prevent St. Louis from taking what many believed to be the next step toward redress of injustice: violent rebellion.”

 

But the fatal shooting of Mr. Brown has brought submerged tensions to the surface.

 

“St. Louis never has had its true race moment, where they had to confront this,” said Ms. Bynes, the Democratic committeewoman. Without that moment, she added, blacks have been complacent when it comes to local politics. “I’m hoping that this is what it takes to get the pendulum to swing the other way.”

 

Ms. Herndon, 49, said she moved her family to Ferguson in 2003 because she felt it was a good community, safer than the unincorporated portion of the county where they lived previously and with better schools for her children.

 

The town, she said, offers everything — places to shop, eat and drink. There is a farmers market on Saturdays. She frequents a wine bar across from a lot where a band plays on Fridays. She has white and Asian neighbors on either side of her, and there are other black families on her block. She has not experienced the racial tensions of her childhood in St. Louis County, she said, but she understands that the younger generation is living a different experience than she is.

 

“I understand the anger because it’s psychological trauma when you see so many people being shot or people being falsely accused,” said Ms. Herndon, who over the past week has avoided the streets that have been filled with tear gas and rubber bullets in clashes between police and protesters.

 

But now, a population of young black men who often feel forgotten actually feel that people are finally listening.

 

“If it wasn’t for the looting,” said one man, who declined to give his name, “we wouldn’t get the attention.”

 

Mr. Moore went one step further. He does not condone the violence that erupted during some of the protests, he said, but he does understand the frustration. And if he were younger, he said, he probably would have joined them.

 

*****************

Playing Soldier in the Suburbs

 

Ross Douthat

 

August 16, 2014

 

New York Times

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/17/opinion/sunday/ross-douthat-playing-soldier-in-the-suburbs.html?action=click&contentCollection=U.S.&module=RelatedCoverage&region=Marginalia&pgtype=article

 

TO understand what’s been happening in Ferguson, Mo., where protests and violence following a cop’s shooting of an unarmed teenager summoned up a police response that looked more like a military invasion, it helps to flash back to the heyday of the Symbionese Liberation Army.

 

The S.L.A., one of the loopiest and most dangerous of the homegrown terrorist groups that flourished in the madhouse of the early 1970s, was already famous for kidnapping and “converting” Patty Hearst when its members engaged in a nationally televised shootout in Los Angeles in the spring of 1974.

 

The firefight, in which six terrorists died without injury to police or bystanders, helped publicize the innovations of a small group of Angeleno police officers. Eight years earlier, after the Watts riots, they began to develop the combat-ready police unit that played a central role in taking down the S.L.A. That unit was America’s first special weapons and tactics team, or SWAT.

 

Room for Debate: Protests and Police Militarization 

 

In an era of riots and hijackings, the SWAT model understandably spread nationwide. But as the riots died away and the threat of domestic terror receded, SWAT tactics — helicopters, heavy weaponry, the works — became increasingly integrated into normal crime-fighting, and especially into the war on drugs.

 

This was phase one in the militarization of America’s police forces, as described in Radley Balko’s essential 2013 book on the subject, “The Rise of the Warrior Cop.” Phase two, in which the federal government began supplying local police with military hardware, began in the 1990s and accelerated after 9/11, under the theory that Islamic terrorists could strike anywhere, and that it might take a cop with a grenade launcher to stop them.

 

In the name of local preparedness, Washington has been bestowing antiterror grants and Pentagon surplus on communities barely touched by major crime, let alone by terrorism. Tanks and aircraft, helmets and armor, guns and grenade launchers have flowed to police departments from Des Moines (home of two $180,000 bomb-disarming robots) to Keene, N.H. (population 23,000, murder rate infinitesimal and the proud custodian of an armored BearCat).

 

Last week, The New Republic’s Alec MacGillis ran the numbers for Missouri and found that the state’s Department of Public Safety received about $69 million from the Department of Homeland Security in the past five years alone. Which helps explain why the streets of a St. Louis suburb flooded so quickly with cops in gas masks and camouflage, driving armored cars and brandishing rifles like an occupying army. It’s our antiterror policies made manifest, our tax dollars at work.

 

And it’s a path to potential disaster, for cops and citizens alike. The “S” in SWAT was there for a reason: Militarized tactics that are potentially useful in specialized circumstances — like firefights with suicidal terrorist groups — can be counterproductive when employed for crowd-control purposes by rank-and-file cops. (The only recent calm on Ferguson’s streets came after state cops started walking through the crowds in blue uniforms, behaving like police instead of storm troopers.)

 

To many critics of police militarization, of course, the helmets and heavy weaponry are just symptoms. The disease is the entire range of aggressive police tactics (from no-knock raids to stop-and-frisk), the racial disparities they help perpetuate and our society’s drug laws and extraordinary incarceration rate.

 

Well before Ferguson, this broad critique — long pressed by a mix of libertarians like Balko and left-wingers — was gaining traction in the political mainstream. This is why sentencing reform has a growing number of Republican champions, and why Rand Paul’s critique of the Ferguson police was more pointed and sweeping than President Obama’s.

 

The argument for broad reform is appealing; it might also be overly optimistic. To be clear: I cheered Paul’s comments, I support most of the reforms under consideration, I want lower incarceration rates and fewer people dying when a no-knock raid goes wrong. But there may be trade-offs here: In an era of atomization, distrust and economic stress, our punitive system may be a big part of what’s keeping crime rates as low as they are now, making criminal justice reform more complicated than a simple pro-liberty free lunch.

 

But the military hardware issue, the BearCats and grenade launchers and what we’ve seen unfold in Ferguson — that does seem easy, uncomplicated, clear. Crime rates rise and fall, but crime-fighting is a constant for police; dealing with terrorism and insurrection, however, decidedly is not. Yet for decades we’ve been equipping our cops as though the Symbionese Liberation Army were about to come out of retirement, as if every burst of opportunistic lawlessness could become another Watts, as though the Qaeda sleeper cells we feared after 9/11 were as pervasive in life as they are on “24” or “Homeland.”

 

And this is where it’s ended: with a bunch of tomfool police playing soldier, tear-gassing protesters, arresting journalists and turning Ferguson into a watchword for policing at its worst.

 

Time to take their toys away.