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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Incredible Importance of Hopey Changey

Planning for the unplanned, August 18, 2014
(Yahoo News, 2014)

FERGUSON, MO -- August 20, 2014 – This last week in Ferguson has become worldwide sensation. The Michael Brown Phenomenon is the rapid and strong international reaction (yes, it’s gone global) to the death of an 18 year old unarmed teenager named Michael Brown, Jr. That was the touchstone.

A neighborhood grieving from the shocking incident was further marred when the young dead man was left in the street for hours, laying in his own blood just where he had been shot. Not for forensics. Just because.

In point of fact, complaints began during those very hours when Michael Brown’s lifeless body lay bare, face first, in the middle of the street. Not even a sheet. The unrest began right then. Scared and fed up citizens of Ferguson poured into the streets with energized support for the family. Was this yet another clear sign of rampant racism alive and well in Missouri? Was this local enforcement overreachEyewitnesses seem to think so, and the fine folks of Ferguson have taken to protest.

(David Carson, 2014)

In the end, this shooting may have actually had nothing to do with disenfranchised youth, racism, poverty, employment opportunities, or any of the proposed reasons coming from the talking heads. This could have just been a bully kid who bullied a shopkeeper, then bullied policemen and lost. We don’t really know, but that's no longer the point.

Human Rights observers around the globe are watching now. Phones have been confiscated, press have been arrested. Gas canisters, smoke bombs, rubber bullets, flash grenades, tanks, and anti-riot gear against civilians, night after night, in the name of "crowd dispersal" have been marching down Main Street, USA and the images are making headlines from Mexico to Moscow. In light of the absence of an arrest of the officer in question, Darren Wilson, what was an incident is now a flash point for a national discussion on police brutality, and cover ups.

Singing and praying protesters chanting slogans, all a Kum-Ba-Ya, turn into fleeing humans at the sound of Boom-Bah-Yee-Hah in less than a second. It’s a cycle of provocation and reaction. Small verbal altercations between protesters and police turn into full out chaos, ending in a stand-off at the QuikTrip. Every time the local police over react, coming at the protesters with unnecessary force, for seemingly no reason at all, it just further traumatizes the local residents, and rallies the few tenacious anarchists in the area.

New Yorkers Rally In Time Square
(ABC News, 2014)

To complicate things, there seems to be a turf war, an ego bruising knock-down drag-out turf war, between the local police and, well, everyone else. The only night that worked well, not without incident, but went rather well, was when State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson attended the protests. The next night there were standoffs between protesters and looters with locals trying to save their neighborhood stores. Thankfully, although fires have been set, there have been no additional deaths at this point

This is not about Missouri. Not just Missouri. Of course it’s not just about Missouri. We feel for the parents, we scream for justice for the child, we fear for the town, but this is not just about Ferguson, Missouri. It’s touched a nerve with protesters worldwide who remember that, not so long ago, Time Magazine named the person of the year, The Protester. From all accounts, people around the world feel they need to protest in solidarity with Ferguson and the Johnson family now.

Time Magazine, 2011
When Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department hit that teenager with six bullets, was that response appropriately limited to the perceived threat? Is that what American citizens should expect from the men in blue who should serve at the pleasure of the public?

Gov. Jay Nixon today said, "We charge our police forces, in times of unrest, to help restore peace and order.” Well, how’s that going to happen when the peace and order was disturbed by the local police force to begin with? It’s about a disproportional response from a disproportionately diverse police department in a disproportionately impoverished neighborhood with no representation in sight.

Systemically, the local police delayed announcing even the name of the officer who fired the shots, Darren Wilson, for a week. When they did, we got a blurry video of what seems to be a shoplifter in action at the very same time. Surprisingly, most people forgot the name Darren Wilson in the aftermath. That delay, and the handling of the announcement, further enraged the neighborhood.

Unbelievably, this is the only photo released officially of Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department, and stunningly, he was getting a student-of-the-month award when the image was shot.

His mother must be so proud.
(Yahoo Photos, 2014)
The setting off of fireworks, molotov cocktails, broken windows, scattered shootings, 2 people shot, about 46 people arrested (31 of them last night) represent the other element on display in Ferguson, Missouri. Chris Hayes of All In With Chris Hayes, who has been covering the stand offs locally, confirms that “there are people in Ferguson only there to set it off. Estimates are between 17 and 100 people like that.” Some sources say it’s around 20 – 30.

We need to see the competing realities. One, could the officer have been acting defensively? Were Officer Darren Wilson’s reactions proportional to the actual chain of events that led to Michael Brown’s murder? When is the leveling of a gun justified? Is this what we want from those who are entrusted with the very real public need to be protected and to be served.

When we assign blame, let’s not ignore the way the world really is. It is the policeman’s job to keep a tight lid on a world stalked with injustice. Each eight hour shift is spent searching for trouble. When you have a hammer in your hand, everything looks like a nail. At the same time, there is the very real problem of power-seeking bellicose, racists and haters with anger issues finding their way tangled up in blue onto a street near you. There are similarities here between racist police pockets, and news stories about priests and teachers who have pedophiles hidden in their ranks. If you are a pedophile, you of course look for a job where you could be left alone with children. After all, you do deserve a pension. If you are one of the bad apples turned boy in uniform, you found a job that helps you use your socially irresponsible personality traits unhindered.

Sunday Night, the brave and empathetic Captain Ron Johnson, beaming the best in all of us, reports that the National Guard deployed by Governor Nixon is “now under his command.” He remains determined to “ensure everyone has their rights to peaceful protest.” Beware those who arrive in Ferguson looking for trouble. “We will resolve those conflicts.”

"I'm humbled by how this community has come together"
(CNN, 2014)

At the very least, Captain Johnson can report, “We are seeing a separation between those peaceful protesters, the good people of Ferguson, the good people of Missouri, the good people from all across this country that traveled to Missouri, and those who are bent on having conflict, vandalism, and causing injury to our community, and I use the word injury.”

There are people looking to set if off, and there are police officers looking for an excuse. The powerful are twitchy, and the residents are really and truly scared to death of being shot down just like that 18 year old boy.

Captain Johnson clarified, “Our peaceful protesters are marching in peace, and I use the words ‘marching in peace’, because they do just that.” He added, “These other protesters bent on causing conflict join into those crowds. Their actions are planned and calculated, and the things they are doing may not be immediately visible to the protesters, but we can see them. They are spoiling for a fight, throwing fireworks and bottles at the police and into the crowds.”

At the very least, Captain Johnson can report, “We are seeing a separation between those peaceful protesters, the good people of Ferguson, the good people of Missouri, the good people from all across this country that traveled to Missouri, and those who are bent on having conflict, vandalism, and causing injury to our community, and I use the word injury.”

There are people looking to set if off, and there are police officers looking for an excuse. The powerful are twitchy, and the residents are really and truly scared to death of being shot down just like that 18 year old boy.

Captain Johnson clarified, “Our peaceful protesters are marching in peace, and I use the words ‘marching in peace’, because they do just that.” He added, “These other protesters bent on causing conflict join into those crowds. Their actions are planned and calculated, and the things they are doing may not be immediately visible to the protesters, but we can see them. They are spoiling for a fight, throwing fireworks and bottles at the police and into the crowds.”

(Twitter @eyeFLOODpanties, 2014)

Calls and texts are reportedly flooding in thanking Johnson for his support of the town’s right to peaceful protest, while also charging that 'these vandals who are committing violent acts are disrespecting the death of Michael Brown.' Apparently, some of those arrested for vandalism came from as far as New York and California.

They just want to voice their opinions,” says Captain Johnson. “I feel their pain; I feel their sorrow. This is all about making things better. Whether it is in this community or any other community, this issue will be addressed. There will be some who are bent on conflict. We will stand against that. We will all stand against that. This situation has brought us to where we need to be today, and where we need to be herein after, throughout this nation.”

Sharpton weighs in on Ferguson.
(Yahoo News, 2014)

The certainty of disenfranchisement attacks a child’s soul early in their youth. That is the tunnel vision through which the unarmed view their local police departments. Unless a teacher, or hopeful parents or grandparents intervene, society tells these kids, “You are going to live here, and you ARE going to die here.” Is there a better word for that than injustice? Is there? These are the questions that MUST be asked at the very least in the wake of this 18 year old's death--long overdue.

The community of racist bullies allowed to fester openly, and behind closed doors, in these incubators, er, police departments, must end. The innate problem with the staffing of our local constabularies with haters is that they have a lot to hide. There are really good cops, but every head turned is flipping a blind eye to justice. The entrenched know this. Some don’t like change, but most, let’s face it, have racism interwoven into their skin. They can’t see outside of their myopic, fearful view of a group of humans, many of whom are descended from slaves, all of whom are descended from Apes, as is every human currently on earth.

Our differences are at the root of these simple fears. Our differences should be celebrated. But that fear of change, repeatedly taken out on the hides of young men, has established a culture of incredible distrust between people and police across the US. By cracking open that fear, we hope we do not have to wait another couple of generations for it to die out.

We really hope these things can start to change now.

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