‘We Tortured Some Folks’
by Tom Tomorrow
August 12, 2014
The Death of Michael Brown and the Search for Justice in Black America
by Mychal Denzel Smith
August 12, 2014
Last Thursday, Theodore Wafer was found guilty of second-degree murder for shooting and killing Renisha McBride, the 19-year-old woman who arrived on Wafer's porch after a car accident the night of November 2, 2013. The verdict came as a surprise. Having witnessed a jury acquit George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin, and another jury do the same for Michael Dunn in the killing of Jordan Davis (though Dunn was convicted on other charges that will lead to prison time), the idea that anyone would be held responsible for killing a young black person seemed like a fairy tale. It was a concept that only existed in the far reaches of the imagination.
Wafer will be sentenced on August 20 and could spend the rest of his life in prison. It's what counts for justice in our current system. But that Wafer will likely die behind bars offers little solace, knowing that this fact will not prevent future Renisha McBrides from suffering fates similar to hers. For a moment, though, his guilty verdict offered a bit of relief.
That relief was short-lived. On Saturday, August 9, 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, by a local police officer whose identity has not been released. Brown was walking with a friend, 22-year-old Dorian Johnson, on his way to his grandmother's residence in a nearby apartment complex. In an interview with MSNBC, Johnson says the two were walking in the street when a police car approached and the as-yet-unidentified officer instructed them to "get the fuck onto the sidewalk." They told the officer they were almost at their destination and would be out of the street in a minute. Johnson says at that point the officer slammed his brake, backed up and asked, "What'd you say?" while opening his car door and attempting to get out. The door hit Brown and then closed. Johnson says the officer then grabbed Brown by the neck.
He continues: "They're not wrestling so much as [the officer's] arm went from [Brown's] throat to now clenched on his shirt. It's like tug of war. He's trying to pull him in. He's pulling away, that's when I heard, ‘I'm gonna shoot you.'"
According to Johnson, the first shot followed not too long after. He and Brown both started running, Johnson ducking behind a nearby parked car and Brown continued past him. The officer fired a second shot, this one hitting Brown in the back. Johnson says Brown then turned around with his hands in the air and said "I don't have a gun, stop shooting!" The officer ignored Brown's words and fired several more shots.
Parts of Johnson's version of the story are backed up by another eyewitness, Piaget Crenshaw, who has said "They shot him, and he fell. He put his arms up to let them know he was compliant, and that he was unarmed. And they shot him twice more, and he fell to the ground and died."
Johnson's account of the shooting, as told to MSNBC reporter Trymaine Lee, differs from what St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar has told the press. "The genesis of this was a physical confrontation," he told CNN. He did not say what led to this confrontation, but asserted that Brown had physically assaulted the officer and a struggle over the weapon ensued. Brown was unarmed and the only casings recovered from the scene came from the officer's gun.
The details are always in dispute, but the result is always the same: a young black person is dead. More parents are in mourning. Another community is enraged.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board wrote, "Michael Brown didn't get due process." It's worse than that. Michael Brown was robbed of his humanity. His future was stolen. His parent's pride was crushed. His friends' hearts were broken. His nation's contempt for black youth has been exposed. A whole generation of young black people are once again confronted with the reality that they are not safe. Black America is left searching for that ever-elusive sense of justice. But what is justice?
Justice for Renisha would have looked like Michael Brown being able to attend college. Justice for Trayvon would have looked like Renisha McBride getting the help she needed the night of her accident. Justice for Oscar Grant would have looked like Trayvon Martin making it home to finish watching the NBA All-Star game, Skittles and iced tea in tow. And so on, and so on. Justice should be the affirmation of our existence.
In the absence of such justice, we take to the streets. We protest, we hold vigils and, yes, we riot. What options are left? Rioting/looting (what some would call rebellion) may not provide answers or justice. But what to do with the anger in the meantime? We are told to stay calm, but calm has not delivered justice either. Do we wait for the FBI to investigate? I guess, but what to do in the meantime, as the images coming from Ferguson echo Watts in 1965? We're told not to tear up our own communities, when time and time again we're reminded that they don't belong to us. Deaths like Michael Brown's tell us we don't belong here. What, then?
Counting the bodies is draining. With every black life we lose, we end up saying the same things. We plead for our humanity to be recognized. We pray for the lives of our young people. We remind everyone of our history. And then another black person dies.
Theodore Wafer's guilty verdict allowed us to breathe easy for a second, but the killing of Michael Brown sucked all the oxygen right back out of the room (or whatever was left after learning about Eric Garner. And John Crawford. And…). It's apparently a feature of what it means to be black in America: running from tragedy to tragedy, never having a moment to stop and catch your breath.
Read Next: Mychal Denzel Smith on why there is no such thing as a "war on whites."
Black People Have A Right To Be Raging Mad
August 12, 2014
By Michael Arceneaux
Whatever perverse view the Ferguson police officer had of Michael Brown — and all Black men like him — before taking his life and leaving him to lay in his blood for hours afterward, his mother has made sure to counter such characterizations. Lesley McSpadden described her now-fallen son as a boy with the sort of disposition that made him more like “a big teddy bear” as opposed to someone who deserved to be slaughtered like a dog in the street. McSpadden went on to explain, “He was a good boy. He deserved none of this. We need justice for our son.”
RELATED: FBI Opens Civil Rights Case In Mike Brown Shooting
No stranger to this kind of disregard toward Black people’s humanity, attorney Benjamin Crump, who has since been retained by Brown’s parents, made his thoughts clear at a recent press conference. “I don’t want to sugarcoat it, their baby was executed in broad daylight,” Crump noted. “We want to know and see exactly what happened because this family rejects what the police authorities said at their press conference.”
As does Michael Brown’s friend, Dorian Johnson, who along with other eyewitnesses, disputed Brown’s killer’s claims that he shoved the officer and tried to wrestle the officer’s gun from him.
Any Black man living in this country and who values his life knows better than to tempt fate that way.
The truth may be less imaginative but no less chilling: Even when we don’t fight back, our presence is still intimidating to the point where select members of law enforcement feel no choice but to shoot us dead.
Such a revelation brings justified anger, and while Brown’s parents have encouraged protesters to remain peaceful, their rage is understandable.
Protesters arrived with signs and peaceful discourse and were greeted with dogs, rubber bullets, and tear gas.
And as New York Times correspondent Julie Bosman reported via Twitter, these rubber bullets were even shot in the direction of journalists and photographers. Meanwhile, area police officers describe the scene as a “war zone” and even when protesters sought an exit, the police reportedly blocked them from locating one. There’s since been word of one police officer referring to protesters as “fucking animals” during coverage on CNN.
Yet, some wonder why some of the protesters supposedly sang, “F*ck the police.”
And while I don’t necessarily excuse the acts of looters and those described as “rioters,” I do have empathy. This is why I take issue with Jonathan Capeheart’s “A Shameful Way To Protest the Michael Brown Shooting,” where he writes, “This is not how you make authorities understand your anger and concern. This is not how you get others to join your cause.”
You mean the authorities who shot a Black child in cold blood, left him in the street for hours as some sort of “example” to other people in his area, and greet peaceful protest with nothing but contempt and the intent to further antagonize? The same authorities who employ individuals who refer to the rightfully angry public as “f*cking animals.” The authorities who enter their neighborhood and limit their access?
I am not in the business of policing people’s emotions particularly with respect to dire situations such as these. Anger has its consequences, including irrational behavior. It doesn’t make it right, but learn to have compassion for people in a situation you have yet to experience. There’s a time for discussions on personal responsibility and there’s a time to look at tragedy and respect the rightful rage it creates.
Many people are angry and they are running on empty.
I am tired of having to write about people like Michael Brown. The same goes for 22-year-old John Crawford III, who was shot and killed after holding a BB gun in a Walmart. Like Brown’s mother, Crawford’s father described his son fondly, saying, “He was a good son and a good Father to his two children.”
We shouldn’t have to quantify our lives this way.
It doesn’t even matter if Michael Brown was a “big teddy bear” heading to college or that John Crawford was a good Dad. No matter what kind of personalities they had, there was no reason to slaughter them this way. We shouldn’t have to worry that once our lives are unjustly stripped from us, we will be purposely vilified in order to excuse our killers’ actions — as evidenced in the trending topic#IfTheyGunnedMeDown, and more hauntingly, in both trials relating to the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Renisha McBride.
Structural racism, widening economic inequality, a gun manufacturing lobby so hell bent on making money that they’ll probably see to it that guide dogs for the blind receive gun permits, plus the continuation of the militarization of police have all helped it be open season on Black people. You can’t help but feel exhaustion, grief, and yes, anger. To some, such rage may not “help our cause,” but the alternative clearly has its limitations too.
Cooler heads should prevail, but be clear about who the real hotheads causing trouble are.
THE FOLLOWING RESPONSE IS A BULLSHIT STATEMENT BY A BULLSHIT PRESIDENT...
POTUS Releases Statement on Michael Brown Murder
August 12, 2014
by Abena Agyeman-Fisher
After teen Michael Brown’s fatal shooting by a police officer on Saturday, riots on Sunday, the Brown family holding a press conference on Monday, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announcing that they are investigating the shooting also on Monday, now President Barack Obama (pictured) has released the following statement regarding the incident.
The death of Michael Brown is heartbreaking, and Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family and his community at this very difficult time. As Attorney General Holder has indicated, the Department of Justice is investigating the situation along with local officials, and they will continue to direct resources to the case as needed. I know the events of the past few days have prompted strong passions, but as details unfold, I urge everyone in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country, to remember this young man through reflection and understanding. We should comfort each other and talk with one another in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds. Along with our prayers, that’s what Michael and his family, and our broader American community, deserve.
NAACP: Feds Must Investigate Black Teen’s Murder By Police
FERGUSON, Mo. — A local NAACP chapter has called for a federal investigation into the death of a Black teenager who was shot by police in a St. Louis suburb.
Eighteen-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed Saturday afternoon near his grandmother’s house by a Ferguson police officer. St. Louis County police have not given a reason for the shooting, which happened in a predominantly black suburb a few miles north of downtown St. Louis.
After the shooting, a confrontation between police and hundreds of neighborhood residents lasted several hours, with shouts of “kill the police.” At the height of the post-shooting tensions, police called for about 60 other units to respond to the area in Ferguson, a city of about 21,000 residents, about two-thirds of whom are black.
The St. Louis County Police are investigating the shooting. But John Gaskin, a member of the St. Louis County NAACP, said the FBI should get involved “to protect the integrity of the investigation.”
He alluded to the 2012 racially charged shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by a Florida neighborhood watch organizer who was subsequently acquitted of murder charges, as well as the New York man who died from a police chokehold after he was confronted for selling individual cigarettes.
“With the recent events of a young man killed by the police in New York City and with Trayvon Martin and with all the other African-American young men that have been killed by police officers … this is a dire concern to the NAACP, especially our local organization,” Gaskin said.
State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that she would ask the U.S. Justice Department on Monday for a formal investigation.
Brown’s grandmother, Desiree Harris, said she saw him running in her neighborhood Saturday afternoon. Just minutes later, she heard a commotion and went outside to check on it. She found Brown’s body less than two blocks away.
“When I got up there, my grandson was lying on the pavement. I asked the police what happened. They didn’t tell me nothing.”
Harris said her grandson had recently graduated high school and was looking forward to the future.
“My grandson never even got into a fight,” she said. “He was just looking forward to getting on with his life. He was on his way.”
McSpadden had harsh words Saturday for authorities: “You’re not God, you don’t get to decide when you get to take somebody from here,” she told KSDK.
Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson told the Post-Dispatch that the officer involved has been placed on paid administrative leave.
“We are hoping for calm and for people to give us a chance to conduct a thorough investigation,” Jackson said.
Ferguson Uprising: Community Protests Cop Execution Of Michael Brown [LIVE STREAM]
by Kirsten West Savali
August 12, 2014
Ferguson, Missouri, a community unchained, continues to protest the heinous murder of unarmed teen Michael Brown by police officers last Saturday afternoon.
With cries of “paid assassins,” “no justice, no peace, and “f*ck the police,” the crowd continues to demand justice for the family of Mike Brown.
In the days since Brown’s slaying, police officers in Ferguson have called the outraged community “f*cking animals,” and descended on their neighborhoods with tanks, dogs, rubber bullets and tear gas.
But the citizens of Ferguson are not backing down.