FERGUSON, MO — Following the homicide of a teen in a controversial police shooting, the town of Ferguson has seen a mixture of emotional prayer vigils, peaceful protests, wanton property damage, violent riots, and suppressive police tactics. The disorder has elicited disturbing imagery that has been likened to a “war zone.”
Saturday, August 9
The controversy arose over the death of 18-year-old Ferguson resident, Michael Brown. When a Ferguson police officer confronted Mr. Brown and a friend about jaywalking, a bizarre sequence of events occurred in which a physical altercation led to the officer shooting the teen multiple times. Several witnesses contradict the version of events touted by police. Details about the shooting were covered in a previous article.
Militarized Police Turn ‘Protect & Serve’ into War on American Citizens
The militarization of America’s myriad law enforcement agencies is well known. Gone are the days of police officers normatively seeing themselves as integrated parts of a community’s social fabric. “Officer Friendly” has been replaced by what Radley Balko calls the “Warrior Cop” – soldiers armed with battlefield-tested weapons looking to suppress insurrections and engage in tactical missions in American neighborhoods.
Today, we’re seeing this play out in Ferguson, Missouri, where officers from countless districts around Saint Louis have been “deployed” to patrol and secure a neighborhood distraught over the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.
Ferguson Reignites As Police Shoot 2nd Man; Obama’s Response “Insultingly Inadequate” |
Despite Police best efforts to force Ferguson residents off the streets, tensions reignited once again as night fell last night and, as The Guardian reports, a second man has been shot by police. Police officials told local reporters that the man was shot in Ferguson by a St Louis County officer after pointing a handgun at him soon after 1am on Wednesday. A crowd of around 250 young protesters were halted by police and separately a woman is being treated in hospital after being shot in the head during a drive-by shooting in the troubled city. Protesters exclaimed, “we have a right to assemble, a right to freedom,” said Paul Muhammad. “But here we are facing what looks like a military imposing martial law. It is not acceptable.” Interestingly, President Obama’s official response “urging reflection” has been rejected as insultingly inadequate by many African American residents of Ferguson.
The Ferguson Riots Are Not a Shift Away From Peace, They’re a Challenge to Violence | VICE News
For less than one week in the summer of 2011, London blazed with riots, which sprawled throughout the capital and the nation. Police had shot dead Mark Duggan, an unarmed 29-year-old, in Tottenham, which prompted an eruption of property damage (an estimated $3.5 million worth), arson, and looting. Tabloid ink ran sticky with panic and racist, classist allusions to roaming packs of hooligans. The police cracked down hard: five days of chaos produced 3,100 arrests. The courts followed suit: a student was jailed for six months simply for looting bottles of water worth around $5 from a grocery chain.
And then there were the brooms. In the wake of the unrest, hundreds of well-meaning British civilians took to the streets, armed with brooms, to voluntarily sweep away the debris of the preceding rage-filled days. Keep calm and carry on. In-depth studies found structural racism, classism, and habitual police brutality to be among driving forces of the riotous rupture. But at the time a pernicious narrative insidiously emerged, pitting “criminal,” “violent” rioters against the upstanding broom brigade who swept away the mess.
British Prime Minister David Cameron called the riots “criminality, pure and simple.” There was nothing pure nor simple about the events of that August week. But wrongheaded politicians are not alone in seeking to reduce messy and complex events like mass riots into the “pure and simple” categories of “criminality” and order, violence and peace, goodies and baddies. All too often, rioting and looting get dismissed as the senseless counterpoints to peaceful protest.
We are seeing a similar line play out this week around the events in Ferguson, Missouri, where police shot dead a reportedly unarmed, black 18-year-old, Michael Brown. His body lay in the street for four hours before being removed. Police claim the teen tried to attack an officer in his car and grab his gun. Eyewitnesses countered this narrative, reporting that Brown was surrendering, hands in the air, when he was shot. Following a public vigil for Brown on Sunday, the St. Louis suburb was hit by rioting, looting, and confrontations with cops in riot gear. Confrontations with police and property destruction continued on Monday night.