Black lives matter. Stop trying to change the narrative.

On August 9, 2014, ex-Ferguson Police Department officer Darren Wilson unleashed a hail of bullets on an 18-year-old black man named Michael Brown. Supposedly, he’d done something wrong.  Whatever mistake he did or did not make, whatever law he did or did not break, one thing is certain: his penalty should not have been death. The penalty for jaywalking isn’t (nor should it be) death. Even if Brown robbed a convenience store (which is still in question since the owner of the store did not call the police), the penalty for that is not death. Like all other citizens of the United States, Michael Brown ostensibly had the same rights as every other person. The right to a speedy and fair trial with adequate representation. He was robbed of his rights and his very life by ex-police officer Darren Wilson.

And with that, a movement was born.  A movement by black people and for black people.  Especially the young people. Using social media, they organized. On the streets of Ferguson they came together.  To protest the execution-without a trial-of a black man. To criticize those police officers across the U.S. who choose to use extreme, and sometimes lethal force against black people, rather than less lethal means (or even talking to them to defuse a situation). The movement has vocally, loudly, and peacefully criticized the problems in law enforcement that led to the death of Michael Brown.

Almost from the beginning, attempts were made by the defenders of the status quo to turn public sentiment against the protesters. The same day that Darren Wilson was identified as the Michael Brown’s killer (which took almost a week), the Ferguson PD released surveillance video from the Ferguson Market which purportedly showed Brown stealing cigarillo’s from the store. Many people saw this as an attempt to poison the well.  To show that the protesters were defending a “bad guy”…that he wasn’t innocent (because if he wasn’t an innocent person, then that totes means he deserved to be shot and killed, amirite?). To show that their protesting was, at best, misplaced. It was a thinly veiled attempt at character assassination by poisoning the well. Narrative disruption achieved.

The LRAD can produce up to 149 decibels, which is higher than the 130-decibel threshold for potential hearing loss. It may be non-lethal, but this isn’t something that should be deployed against a civilian population.  But I guess cops have to make use of all that military grade weaponry somehow. Why not use it on those uppity black people demanding recognition of their humanity?
In December, a judge ruled that police could not use tear gas against protesters.
Despite advances in technology, rubber bullets CAN kill. They also apparently hurt like the dickens.

Then the cops arrived on the streets of Ferguson, ostensibly to help “maintain the peace”. To better aid their peacekeeping goals, the police brought some weapons along with them. Among their arsenal was a long-range acoustic device, otherwise known as LRAD, tear gas, rubber bullets, and even attack dogs. This was a deliberate show of force. The intent was clear: intimidation. The message was clear: “Stop protesting. Stop complaining. Sit down and shut up. We want the status quo to continue. You black people need to be happy with how things are.”

Why do I say that’s the message? When you look at the weaponry deployed against the protesters–peaceful protesters, remember–it looks like the police are preparing for war.  They’re supposed to be there to serve and protect, not intimidate the populace.  Not to scare them into submission. Not to remind them of their place.  None of the intimidation tactics worked, of course, but it did serve to remind some people of the history of state sanctioned violence against African-Americans, which only provided fuel for the complaints of protesters. Given the support law enforcement has in the United States, there are many people who would look at images of law enforcement using an LRAD or tear gas against protesters as a sign that they {the protesters} did something wrong and deserved that treatment. Because the police couldn’t be wrong. They couldn’t have fucked up. They are good and righteous and wouldn’t brutalize the very civilians they’re supposed to protect. The seeds were planted in the early days. Seeds intended to turn public sentiment against the protesters and change the narrative surrounding the protests.

Thanks to the police showing up with their intimidation gear, their intimidation tactics, and their intimidation weapons, the protests took a turn for the worse.  Some opportunistic people began looting Ferguson stores (described in some circles as rioting; a term I refuse to use in reference to the protests). Despite the fact that there were precious few looters, the media focused on them, as if they defined what the movement was about. As if they were the face of the protests against law enforcement abuse of power and police brutality.

Frustration is now boiling over after decades of discriminatory policing, near-zero accountability, and lack of will from lawmakers to reel in the spiraling police state. In fact, as we have documented in depth, the militarization of the police is rising despite the increased outcry from concerned citizens against it. The overbearing presence of riot police in Ferguson deployed to contain peaceful protesters may have been the very spark which ignited the rioting in the first place.

To be clear, rioting did not start on August 24th until police began mass-deploying tear gas and other crowd dispersal tactics and an overwhelming majority of protesters remained peaceful.

In the predictable manner in which the corporate media operates, the news cycle has been shifted away from the tragedy of the killing of 18 year old Michael Brown, and switched to the few who lost their cool and began looting and rioting. While the riots are newsworthy, the main focus of the news coverage should be on the death of this unarmed young man, and the overall rise of documented police brutality that is permeating in all corners of America. More Americans have been killed in the last decade by the police than the total number of US soldiers killed in the entire Iraq war, but they won’t talk about that on TV.

No, we don’t see or hear that. That wouldn’t play into the narrative the media wants people to buy. From the beginning, organizers called for peaceful protests. They’ve condemned violence. They’ve helped clean up their own streets. They’ve helped protect stores from looting.  They’ve policed their own community.  But rarely is this shown by the mainstream media.  I can’t speak to the why of it, but one of the results is clear. For some people, the looters came to embody the movement. The people who condemned the looters and rushed to characterize the protesters as being looters displayed more concern for stores being robbed than the extrajudicial killing of a black man. Priorities people. Priorities. You can buy more goods to sell. Michael Brown will never be alive again, and his family and friends will suffer that loss for the rest of their lives. But the damage was once more done. Some people in the public condemned the looting, the civil unrest, and the protest movement itself. Once more, the media sought to change the narrative around the protest movement, in what looks like a deliberate attempt to discredit the protesters.

There were other attempts made to shift public opinion on the protests.  We saw people complain that protesters shouldn’t say “Black lives matter”. No, these people felt protesters weren’t being fair, and should more properly say “All lives matter”.  Of course, doing so ignores the ugly racism at the heart of the criminal justice system. It ignores the fact that every 28 hours, a black person is shot and killed by a member of law enforcement. It ignores the fact that a USA Today study of the FBI’s justified homicide database found that in 96% of cases involving a black person dying at the hands of a white police officer, the officer was rarely indicted (what about a trial you say? Pish-posh. That hardly happens). It ignores the fact that young black men are 21 times more likely than young white men to be shot dead by police. Saying “all lives matter” would distract from the very point of the protests: that people of color are unfairly, unconstitutionally, and unethically deprived of their rights and their humanity on an ongoing basis by our criminal justice system. Or as Julia Craven said:

There is seemingly no justice for Black life in America. An unarmed Black body can be gunned down without sufficient reasoning and left in the middle of the street on display for hours — just like victims of lynching.

Strange fruit still hangs from our nations poplar trees. Lynching underwent a technological revolution. It evolved from nooses to guns and broken necks to bullet wounds.

Police brutality is a BLACK issue. This is not an ill afflicting all Americans, but that does not mean you cannot stand in solidarity with us. But standing with us does not mean telling us how we should feel about our community’s marginalization. Standing with us means being with us in solidarity without being upset that this is for OUR PEOPLE — and wanting recognition for yours in this very specific context.

Telling us that all lives matter is redundant. We know that already. But, just know, police violence and brutality disproportionately affects my people. Justice is not applied equally, laws are not applied equally and neither is our outrage.

You can breathe because you’re white, dumbass.

In December, a New York grand jury declined to return an indictment against NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo. Pantaleo is the NYPD officer whose chokehold move resulted in the death of Eric Garner. This followed on the heels of the non-indictment of Darren Wilson and served to further anger and frustrate protesters. Protesters around the country began wearing shirts emblazoned with the words “I can’t breathe”, the final words of Eric Garner, who suffered from asthma.  The shirt expresses the idea that black people across the United States feel that the oppression, discrimination, and racism they feel from the criminal justice system is preventing them from living…from breathing. To protesters, any of them could be Eric Garner. Any of them could have been held down, been prevented from breathing, or killed by law enforcement. All for being black.  One of the responses to the “I can’t breathe” T-shirts came from supporters of law enforcement.  You can see the slogan “I can breathe” in the image above.  It’s worn by people who are not experiencing systematic discrimination and racism. Of course they can breathe. They aren’t the victims of racism. They aren’t the ones dealing with racism in law enforcement or in the courts. They are the ones with the privilege of being white. Wearing that shirt sends a message whether they like it or not.  That message is “I don’t have a problem with police violence and abuse of power from law enforcement”.  As a response to one of the core problems the protest movement has been decrying, whoever came up with the T-shirts is an unequivocal asshole. Making such a shirt was a knee-jerk, unthinking response to legitimate protests. At best, wearing that shirt is privilege-laden, tone-deaf, and fails to acknowledge the very real problems that people have with law enforcement and the court system.  At worst, wearing that shirt has been a way for people to justify the death of Eric Garner.

I asked one man wearing a “I Can Breathe” t-shirt what the phrase meant. “If he hadn’t resisted arrest,” the man said with a shrug, “he could still breathe.”

Watching the video [of Garner’s death], I’d be hard pressed to view Garner’s actions as resisting arrest. In any case, even if he had been resisting arrest, that should not be sufficient grounds to kill him!  Once again, one of the key narratives surrounding the movement has been challenged by those who don’t want progress.

Those defenders of the status quo emerged once again this past weekend, following the murder of two NYPD police officers at the hands of a mentally ill man. This seemingly provided an opportunity to criticize the protest movement and attempt to demonize protesters, as if they (rather than killer Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley) were responsible for the tragic deaths of those officers. First up is former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani:

“We’ve had four months of propaganda, starting with the president, that everybody should hate the police,” said Giuliani during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.” “I don’t care how you want to describe it — that’s what those protests are all about.”

Giuliani cited the nationwide protests against institutional racism and police brutality that followed the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York, and that flared up anew after the respective grand jury decisions not to indict the officers responsible in either case. Giuliani said those demonstrations, and the ongoing criticism of police tactics and the criminal justice system, were part of what led to the shooting of two NYPD officers in Brooklyn on Saturday afternoon. Police say the alleged shooter, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, traveled to New York from Baltimore with the intention of killing police officers.

“The protest are being embraced, the protests are being encouraged. The protests, even the ones that don’t lead to violence — a lot of them lead to violence — all of them lead to a conclusion: The police are bad, the police are racist,” said Giuliani. “That is completely wrong. Actually, the people who do the most for the black community in America are the police.”

The former mayor accused black commentators of creating “an atmosphere of severe, strong anti-police hatred in certain communities.”

Giuliani also accused New York Mayor Bill de Blasio of “allowing protests to get out of control.” But he said it was not the time to call for de Blasio’s resignation, as “a lot of other police officers were killed under a lot of other mayors.”

What Giuliani describes in not remotely an accurate representation of the protests in the US. The vast majority of protesters have been peaceful. They have called for non-violent protests. They have not said “all police are bad” or that “all police are racist”. Nor has there been “4 months of propaganda”. This is a blatant attempt by Giuliani to whitewash the ongoing protest movement. Instead of treating protesters as having legitimate concerns…of acknowledging the very real problems People of Color face from law enforcement, Giuliani has attempted to change the narrative around the protests.  In doing so, he dismisses the concerns of a great many U.S. citizens. Given the wealth of evidence that sits contrary to his views, it looks like Giuliani is attempting to rewrite history.

He’s not the only one though. The head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, Patrick Lynch, had this to say recently:

“There’s blood on many hands tonight,” Lynch said. “Those that incited violence on the street under the guise of protest, that tried to tear down what New York City police officers did every day. We tried to warn it must not go on. It cannot be tolerated. That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall in the office of the mayor.”

Who are the people he’s talking about?

Who are these people who have incited violence under the guise of protesting? By not naming anyone, and generalizing about the protests, Lynch has subtly attempted to undermine protesters. Again, the protest movement is overwhelmingly peaceful and non-violent. To attempt to characterize it otherwise is an attempt to…change the narrative.

Look, I am firmly opposed to violence as a means of conflict resolution and I condemn any such actions. I am also saddened about the deaths of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. While their deaths were tragic, a mentally ill lone gunman does not represent the entire protest movement. I also condemn anyone who looted, committed arson, or engaged in violent activities under cover of the protests. But those people do not represent the protest movement either. The protests center around a desire for reform in police departments across the country, as well as reforming the criminal justice system.  Referring to the protests as anything other than that does nothing more than dismiss the very real problems in our criminal justice system. Problems that disproportionately affect African-Americans and other communities of color in the United States. Though they may try, I don’t think the defenders of the status quo will succeed in retconning the narrative surrounding the current protest movement in the United States.  They may have done some damage though, and that’s why I think these people need to be called out and criticized for what they say. Because black lives matter.

Black lives matter. Stop trying to change the narrative.

City living

During the opening of his performance at Seattle’s Key Arena, legendary artist Stevie Wonder weighs in on the grand jury decisions in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases.

(here are the lyrics)

“Living For The City”

“A boy is born in hard time Mississippi
Surrounded by four walls that ain’t so pretty
His parents give him love and affection
To keep him strong moving in the right direction
Living just enough, just enough for the city.

His father works some days for fourteen hours
And you can bet he barely makes a dollar
His mother goes to scrub the floor for many
And you’d best believe she hardly gets a penny
Living just enough, just enough for the city..

His sister’s black but she is sho ’nuff pretty
Her skirt is short but Lord her legs are sturdy
To walk to school she’s got to get up early
Her clothes are old but never are they dirty
Living just enough, just enough for the city.

Her brother’s smart he’s got more sense than many
His patience’s long but soon he won’t have any
To find a job is like a haystack needle
Cause where he lives they don’t use colored people
Living just enough, just enough for the city…
Living just enough…
For the city..
[repeat several times]

His hair is long, his feet are hard and gritty
He spends his love walking the streets of New York City
He’s almost dead from breathing on air pollution
He tried to vote but to him there’s no solution
Living just enough, just enough for the city.

I hope you hear inside my voice of sorrow
And that it motivates you to make a better tomorrow
This place is cruel no where could be much colder
If we don’t change the world will soon be over
Living just enough, just enough for the city.”

City living

The country needed a ham sandwich

But we didn’t get one. As I imagine most readers know, on November 24, the Ferguson grand jury released their decision: no charges would be filed against Officer Darren Wilson for the murder of Michael Brown, an unarmed black man. They said there was no probable cause to indict him.




Really?! Seriously?! Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown and that’s not cause enough to charge him with a crime (I’m not kidding when I ask “isn’t that enough that Wilson shot and killed Brown”).

In many discussions online and in meatspace, I saw people make the same mistake over and over again. They thought the grand jury was deciding on the guilt or innocence of Darren Wilson. They were not. They were deciding whether or not to bring charges against him.  Without charges, there would be no trial to determine his guilt or innocence.  And there’s not going to be a trial (the parents of Michael Brown may sue Darren Wilson in civil court). Why?

At this point it’s fair to say that cops are above the law. I’ve written many posts highlighting how cops behave badly.  From beating suspects, to raping people during routine traffic stops, to killing mentally ill homeless people, police officers across the country engage in acts of excessive violence against the civilians they are ostensibly supposed to be protecting.  What’s worse is that all too often, those officers get nothing more than a slap on the wrist…IF that.  In 1985, former Chief Judge Sol Wachtler famously said that if a prosecutor wanted they could persuade a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. In the case of the Ferguson grand jury and prosecutor Bob McCullough, I can only surmise that they’re completely incompetent.  After all, what grand jury decides not to bring charges against a man who shot and killed another man?  Shouldn’t that be pretty damned easy…like indicting a ham sandwich?

Let’s be clear here though:  many, many people felt that the grand jury wouldn’t indict Darren Wilson. Many of us knew the deck was (and continues to be) stacked in the favor of white supremacy and institutionalized racism. From the beginning the Ferguson PD mishandled the case (leaving Michael Brown’s body lying on the ground for hours…Wilson not filing a police report…the Ferguson chief engaging in character assassination of Michael Brown by trying to tie his murder into a theft at a local convenience store).  It was clear that they were shielding Darren Wilson (remember, he was on paid leave for the 100+ days since he killed Brown; during which time he got married!) and were doing all they could to demonize Michael Brown. Then there was the police response in the wake of the initial protests in Ferguson.  Tear Gas, attack dogs, sonic cannons, and rubber bullets were deployed against civilians as if they were an invading army. The governmental response, from the Ferguson PD up to the state level with Governor Nixon, was decidedly one-sided. Doubt was cast on Michael Brown. Doubt was cast on the protesters (this was noticeable in the media depiction of the protests, which often implied that looting and rioting were widespread when they weren’t).  But Darren Wilson?  Nowhere was he at fault.  Governor Jay Nixon said nothing about him. The Ferguson PD said nothing about him.  Even the media didn’t seem terribly concerned with a police officer shooting an unarmed civilian.

Why is that?

It’s hard to escape the feeling that in the United States, black lives don’t matter to many people.  From Darren Wilson to the Ferguson PD…from Bob McCulloch to the Ferguson grand jury…the life of a black man was treated as inconsequential. The lives of the protesters (many of whom, though not all, were black) were trivialized (as seen in the militarized response to the overwhelmingly peaceful protests in the initial days following Brown’s murder). In the public discourse around the murder and subsequent protests, I frequently read of support for Darren Wilson and condemnation of the protests.  This all has the net effect of telling black people that their lives aren’t valued by the society. By police. By the government. By the media.

All of that apathy towards black lives?  It exists in a culture that has historically mistreated black people at best and treated them as slaves at worst. Black people have never been treated as equals in our culture. Whether you go back to legalized slavery in the United States, when blacks were treated as subhumans that white people could buy and sell like property or if you go back a few decades to the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham church (which killed four black girls) or as recently as the trial of George Zimmerman…it’s clear that society doesn’t treat black lives as if they matter.  Oh sure people won’t come right out and say that (well, some of them do, but these are the honest racist fuckstains). No. They’ll say that blacks are equal to everyone else. They’ll say that blacks don’t need Affirmative Action because things are different today. They’ll say that racism only exists because black people keep talking about it.

But when push comes to shove? Far too many people devalue the lives of black people in the US.

How else do you explain:

  • police killing Darrien Hunt (who was “armed” with a toy sword)?
  • the Oath Keepers patrolling Ferguson ready to kill protesters?
  • people siding with George Zimmerman against unarmed Trayvon Martin?
  • police shooting and killing 12 year old Tamir Rice (who was “armed” with a BB gun)?
  • the public condemnation of the initial Ferguson protests?
  • police officers shooting (46 times) and killing Martin Hall?
  • police officers shooting and killing Milton Hall, an unarmed, mentally ill man?
  • the characterization of protesters as thugs?
  • police officers choking Eric Garner to death (for unlawfully selling cigarettes)?

A grand jury is currently deciding whether or not to indict the officers who killed Eric Garner.  Given that black lives don’t matter in the US, who wants to place a bet that this grand jury won’t indict a ham sandwich?

Special Note on the civil unrest in Ferguson:

Following the grand jury’s decision, protests erupted across the United States.  Some of these protests included arson and destruction of property.  I don’t condone violence as a means to any end. I wish the violence and destruction that has ensued in Ferguson and around the country had not happened. However, I am aware of the decades of frustration felt by the citizens of Ferguson. I am aware of the larger social problem in the United States that results in the voices of black people being silenced. I can’t condone the civil unrest, but I damn sure understand where its coming from. What recourse is left when the justice system doesn’t even bring charges against a cop who killed a black man?  What the fuck are people supposed to do? There is no other proper, legal recourse.  Black people in the US are not being listened to, and some feel that civil unrest is the only avenue left for them. Can there be peace when there is no justice?

The country needed a ham sandwich

Darren Wilson gets to do what?!

Remember this guy?

That’s officer Darren Wilson. Back on August 9, he killed this guy:

That’s Michael Brown for those that have been living under a rock.  Why did Wilson kill Brown?  We may never know (racism).  We know it wasn’t because of stolen cigars (it was a racially motivated killing).  We’ve heard that it’s because Brown got into a struggle with Wilson (not sure what the scuffle was about, but I’m sure racism on the part of Wilson played a role).  Of course we also know that Brown ran away from Wilson and that Brown was unarmed and presented NO threat to the officer (being a large black man does not make someone a threat, but when you’re a racist shitstain, that doesn’t matter). We know that Officer Wilson chose to shoot Brown at least 6 times (because that’s what racist people do when empowered by and thinking they’re above the law). We know he did not file a police report (why would he? He shot a black kid, and black lives don’t matter, bc racism). We know that he has been on paid leave since the day of the shooting (because shooting and killing a civilian is a perfectly good reason to get a paid vacation. Don’t know how to tie that into racism, but I’m sure there’s a way).  We know that he has not been arrested for the execution of Michael Brown (well duh, bc people don’t care that a racist cop killed a black kid. Why arrest him if they don’t care).

Now we know one more thing:  if he is not indicted, he’ll be able to return to work immediately.

Yes, according to the police chief, if Wilson is cleared, he can return to work:

The Ferguson police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown will be “immediately” returned to active duty if he is not indicted, Chief Tom Jackson told Yahoo News on Friday.

Officer Darren Wilson has been on paid leave since the controversial shooting in early August.

He would come back to a “not yet determined assignment,” the chief writes in an email.

If the grand jury charges Wilson, Jackson said the officer would “most likely” be terminated “if it is a felony.”

Why the hell would you even say that?

Tensions in Ferguson (and around the country) are already high. The police should be working on repairing the damage to the community and building relationships with the citizens of Ferguson. This statement is yet another slap in the face to Brown’s family and friends, as well as all the people who have been protesting. It’s tactless and insulting. It should not have been made, no matter how truthful it is.

And if Wilson chooses to return, I can only imagine what kind of uproar that would cause.  I fear that would inflame tensions past the breaking point. I’m almost certain he’s not going to get indicted (did I mention that black lives don’t matter in the US?), so he’s already going to get away with killing an innocent civilian. To add to that travesty of justice by allowing him to return to the police force…I can’t even…

Darren Wilson gets to do what?!

Second autopsy results for Michael Brown revealed

If you don’t know who Michael Brown was, or if you’ve never heard of Ferguson, MO, please read here, here, here, here, or here.

Those that are familiar with the protests that erupted in and around Ferguson, MO in the wake of the execution of Michael Brown by the still roaming free and not arrested Officer Darren Wilson, may be interested in the results of a second, private autopsy of his body. Doctor Michael Baden and Professor Shawn Parcells conducted an independent autopsy at the behest of the Brown family, who did not trust local authorities to conduct an unbiased autopsy (indeed-I would not trust them either).

An independent, preliminary autopsy performed on the body of Michael Brown shows that the 18-year-old was shot “at least six times,” according to Dr. Michael M. Baden, formerly the chief medical examiner for the City of New York, one of two experts who performed the autopsy.

Dr. Baden said Brown’s family asked him and Prof. Shawn Parcells, a pathology assistant, to conduct the independent autopsy because they did not trust local authorities to conduct an unbiased examination of the teenager, who was shot by police officer Darren Wilson in circumstances that remain unclear. The town of Ferguson, Missouri, has been shaken by angry protests since Brown’s death and police have responded with tear gas and curfews.

Six bullets struck Brown, Dr. Baden said in a press conference earlier today. Two may have exited and re-entered Brown’s body, he said, resulting in multiple wounds.

Darren Wilson feared for his life from a black man that he had to shoot him at least six times.  Remember, after the altercation in the police car, Brown ran away. That means that Officer Wilson fired several shots even after he was out of danger. He didn’t have to kill Michael Brown. He chose to. Scumbag.

Mark Kauzlarich/Reuters (via Newsweek)

The autopsy did not reveal signs of a struggle, Dr. Baden said, which casts doubt on an earlier statement by police that a struggle between Brown and Wilson precipitated Brown’s shooting. Police have said Brown forced his way inside Wilson’s cruiser, where Wilson shot at Brown for the first time.

Dr. Baden said he found no gunpowder residue on Brown’s skin, which could mean that the muzzle of Wilson’s gun was “at least one or two feet away” from Brown when he was shot. However, Dr. Baden was adamant that he would need to examine Brown’s clothing for gunpowder residue to make a conclusive finding.

I’m sure it will come as no surprise that Brown’s clothing was not made available for Dr. Baden. I wonder why. Is there something that the local authorities don’t want people to know? They wouldn’t possibly cover anything up or obstruct justice to protect Darren Wilson, would they? Naaaaah.

Brown’s clothing was not available for Dr. Baden and Prof. Parcells to examine, Baden said, though it was almost certainly examined during Brown’s first autopsy performed by the St. Louis County Medical Examiner. If no gunpowder residue was found on Brown’s clothing during the first autopsy, it will likely throw the Ferguson PD’s timeline of events into question.

Prof. Parcells said a wound on Brown’s right arm was “consistent with a witness statement” that Brown was first shot while facing away from Wilson, but he stressed that he and Dr. Baden could not determine conclusively the trajectories of the bullets that hit Brown—or which direction he was moving—when he was shot. The wounds “could be consistent with going forward or going backward,” Dr. Baden said.

An attorney for Brown’s family said at least some of the shots traced a “back-to-front” trajectory, indicating that Brown was shot from behind.

“Why would he be shot in the top of his head? A 6-foot-4 man?” the attorney asked. “It makes no sense.”

So much about this case makes no sense. Perhaps this question should be added to this list of 15 questions for Darren Wilson.

In related, but largely irrelevant news, an anonymous source familiar with the county’s investigation told the Washington Post that in addition to being shot six to eight times, he had marijuana in his system.  Ah, lovely. People are going to take that character assassination and run with it as evidence that he deserved to be shot. Because marijuana turns black people into violent cop killers (no, it doesn’t; weed makes you lazy as fuck, not aggressive…in either case, the presence of a drug in the body of a victim is no justification for executing them).

Second autopsy results for Michael Brown revealed

Racist Caricature of the day: The Brute

Content Note:  The subject matter in this post contains images, words, and phrases of racist nature, some of which may be graphic.

Those of African descent have long been ‘othered’…treated as if they aren’t part of the human race…treated as subhuman…or only part human; certainly not deserving of the same rights as everyone else (often read as white people).  This othering has resulted in racist caricatures of Blacks. These denigrating caricatures treat Black people in a dehumanizing manner.  One such racist caricature is ‘The Brute’.

When reading this, I ask you to think about the critics of 18 year old Michael Brown.  Think of the people who claimed that he was a hulking brute who’s very size was a threat to Officer Darren Wilson.   Think of how Brown’s size was used to justify Wilson’s fear and subsequent actions, including his murder of Brown.

Continue reading “Racist Caricature of the day: The Brute”

Racist Caricature of the day: The Brute

Updates from Ferguson 9.18.14

No, it’s not over. It’s FAR from over:


Petition to


Donate to the legal support fund to aid those arrested in Ferguson protests.






Breaking the Cycle

A new kind of traffic ticket forgiveness will change the way tickets are handled in a small municipality not far from Ferguson. It might even have an impact on neighboring cities. That’s what Velda City’s Police Chief Daniel Paulino is hoping.

The average traffic ticket violator owes up to $1,000 in tickets in Velda City. The violators generate $250,000 in court fines. Most of them never pay it.

Paulino said the money is nothing compared to people stuck in the cycle of not showing up to court. He needed to find a way to break the cycle for people such as Sharon Reece.

She said she couldn’t show up to court because she had to work. “If you can’t take off work to go to court then, it’s another ticket,” Reece said.
“And they have another fine, and another failure to appear, and another warrant so they are right back in the cycle” Paulino said.

Twenty thousand traffic ticket cases are stuck in a vicious cycle in Velda City. Four thousand people have active warrants for their arrest.

“We want to be one of the first to say we hear you, we’re listening, and this is what we will do right now to break the cycle,” Paulino said.

He convinced his city to start a new amnesty program for the month of October. You pay $200 for the court costs. Your warrants and tickets (not including DWI) are gone. You get a letter from the court to get your license back.

“People can still be held accountable, and the city can say you’re done with us,” Paulino said. He expects the program to help clear the court docket. But he said the most important impetus of the program is to show the people he serves and protects that the city is listening and care.

“I want to do the right thing,” Reece said. The right thing now means a mistake won’t follow you for years in Velda City.

Velda’s City “Break the Cycle” program runs for the month of October. Paulino said city lawyers from different cities are looking at the program as they try to come up with a long-term solution to deal with traffic ticket warrants.

Updates from Ferguson 9.18.14

This country needs to talk about Ferguson and more

From The Good Men Project, an article about a school district that banned the discussion of the events in Ferguson.

On Thursday, August 21, the following message was released to parents of students in Edwardsville School District 7–a district roughly 30 miles outside Ferguson, MO.

Subject: Discussion of the Ferguson/Florissant Incident

On Friday, August 15, 2014, and Monday, August 18, 2014, Dennis Cramsey, EHS Principal, and I were inundated with calls from parents complaining that some EHS teachers were biased and injecting their own opinion regarding the shooting of Michael Brown, an 18 year-old African American student, by a Caucasian police officer in the Ferguson/Florissant community. The general consensus of parents who called was that if the administration did not get a handle on this situation, there might be violence among students occurring at EHS.

As Superintendent, I will take full responsibility for not preparing administrators and staff members how to deal with this volatile situation. As a result, on Monday afternoon, the decision was made to cease discussion of the event because of the tension, emotion, and anger surrounding the Ferguson/Florissant events.

It was not our intent to ignore the educational relevance of these events. However, we felt it was important to take the time to calm a potential situation at the high school and to prepare administrators and teachers to approach this critical issue in an objective, fact-based manner. Everyone has an opinion – the sharing of which can be polarizing. Far too many facts remain unknown, and without these facts, none of us is in the best position to moderate between opposing views.




20 Powerful Protest Signs That Prove America Stands with Ferguson

Here are a few:



I’m not “there”, but I’d still be pissed off and blogging about it.

It’s nice when white people understand their privilege.  Now if only more of them did.



7 Things Worth More Than a Black Person’s Life in America

This will make you madder than you probably already are, because of how true it is.




6 reasons America must stop ignoring its black youth.




What We Mean When We Say ‘Race Is a Social Construct’


Our notion of what constitutes “white” and what constitutes “black” is a product of social context. It is utterly impossible to look at the delineation of a “Southern race” and not see the Civil War, the creation of an “Irish race” and not think of Cromwell’s ethnic cleansing, the creation of a “Jewish race” and not see anti-Semitism. There is no fixed sense of “whiteness” or “blackness,” not even today. It is quite common for whites to point out that Barack Obama isn’t really “black” but “half-white.” One wonders if they would say this if Barack Obama were a notorious drug-lord.

When the liberal says “race is a social construct,” he is not being a soft-headed dolt; he is speaking an historical truth. We do not go around testing the “Irish race” for intelligence or the “Southern race” for “hot-headedness.” These reasons are social. It is no more legitimate to ask “Is the black race dumber than then white race?” than it is to ask “Is the Jewish race thriftier than the Arab race?”

The strongest argument for “race” is that people who trace their ancestry back to Europe, and people who trace most of their ancestry back to sub-Saharan Africa, and people who trace most of their ancestry back to Asia, and people who trace their ancestry back to the early Americas, lived isolated from each other for long periods and have evolved different physical traits (curly hair, lighter skin, etc.)

But this theoretical definition (already fuzzy) wilts under human agency, in a real world where Kevin Garnett, Harold Ford, and Halle Berry all check “black” on the census. (Same deal for “Hispanic.”) The reasons for that take us right back to fact of race as a social construct. And an American-centered social construct. Are the Ainu of Japan a race? Should we delineate darker South Asians from lighter South Asians on the basis of race? Did the Japanese who invaded China consider the Chinese the same “race?”

Andrew writes that liberals should stop saying “truly stupid things like race has no biological element.” I agree. Race clearly has a biological element — because we have awarded it one. Race is no more dependent on skin color today than it was on “Frankishness” in Emerson’s day. Over history of race has taken geography, language, and vague impressions as its basis.

“Race,” writes the great historian Nell Irvin Painter, “is an idea, not a fact.” Indeed. Race does not need biology. Race only requires some good guys with big guns looking for a reason.




The complicity cost of racial inclusion



Ferguson fallout: Black Americans grapple with victim-blaming


When pol
ice in Ferguson, Missouri, released a video showing Michael Brown allegedly robbing a store and shoving around a clerk shortly before the unarmed teen was shot dead in a seemingly unrelated confrontation with an officer, many accused the department of engaging in deliberate character assassination — a tactic that some rights advocates say is commonly used against African-American victims of excessive force in an attempt to shift blame from perpetrators to victims.

Hassane A. Muhammad, chief operating officer for Black Lawyers for Justice, called the decision to go public with the footage an act of “visual provocation” that played into old stereotypes of black men as violent.

“It’s a common playbook used by police to criminalize black victims of excessive force,” said Muhammad, whose group has been active in the local protests that erupted — and at times turned violent — after the killing of 18-year-old Brown on Aug. 9 by police officer Darren Wilson. 

“Instead of giving us an ounce of justice, they would rather send in troops and spend taxpayer money to defend one white man,” Muhammad said. “It shows you how much value they place on his life versus Brown.”

Rights advocates say such character assassination operates on a broad level, through public discourse that lends credence to the victim-blaming theory of poverty or in the idea that lower-income communities are responsible for their conditions because of poor decision-making.

What connects the Brown shooting with cases such as that of Trayvon Martin — an unarmed black teen shot dead by a self-appointed neighborhood watchman in Florida in 2012 — is that both shooters perceived a risk, said Yohuru Williams, a professor of history at Fairfield University




Why the Feds are investigating Ferguson


This country needs to talk about Ferguson and more

More Ferguson Links

Ferguson’s black community must not be given the same ‘justice’ as Trayvon Martin


The real looting of Ferguson: its black citizens never had a chance to get by


‘We need to communicate. That’s key. But we need justice for Michael Brown’

Ardester Williams is writing to Barack Obama the old-fashioned way, with paper and a postage stamp, to tell the president about the day in June when he shot a man.

“He was swinging at me, and he was much bigger than I was,” said the 73-year-old security guard at a Ferguson clothing store. “I had to draw my gun and shoot him. But I shot him in the foot. I’m writing to the president to tell him that the whole concept of police training is backwards. They should train them to shoot people dead as a last resort, not the first.”

All law enforcement should be trained how to defuse a situation, and lethal force should be a last resort.  Also, if police aren’t skilled enough to shoot to injure, they ought to receive better training.

A little further down West Florissant Avenue, Shiron Hagens is staffing a tent on a part of the street that just a few nights ago was clouded by tear gas and smoke from a burning convenience store, as protesters and the police clashed over the killing of Michael Brown. She is registering local residents to vote, in part to raise support for a petition to recall Ferguson mayor James Knowles, a white Republican, after he said that the upheaval of the past two weeks was not about race.

“There’s a mistrust right now,” she said. “The way to overcome mistrust is to talk. But there’s no way to have a conversation when you have a mayor who says there’s no race issue here. Michael Brown died because he was black.”

This is why it is important for the citizens of Ferguson to exercise their constitutional right to vote.  They need a mayor who represents them, not one that dismisses their concerns.

(read the rest here)


‘Would Michael Brown still be here if we voted for the right people?’

The group of Ferguson residents clumped around the makeshift memorial at the spot where a police officer shot Michael Brown readily admitted that two weeks ago they had little idea who ran their city.

They paid no attention to the fact that, while two-thirds of Ferguson’s residents are African American, all but one of the members of the city council is white. Or that the mayor is a Republican. Or who the police chief is.

Brown’s death has changed all that. People who are frequently alienated, largely devoid of leadership and have not bothered to vote, often because they did not believe elections would change anything, are suddenly paying attention to who controls the levers of power in Ferguson.

“I didn’t know the council was white until Mike happened,” said Major Terrell, 29. “There’s a lot of people talking about it now.”

Police Departments Shouldn’t Become Dumping Grounds for Weapons Makers

In a brilliant August 17 segment of Last Week Tonight, HBO host John Oliver ripped into small towns that have equipped their police with war-like military equipment. One town was Keene, New Hampshire, where their military-grade armored personnel truck was acquired to protect critical targets –– like the annual Pumpkin Festival. Another was Doraville, Georgia. Oliver showed a wild video clip from the Doraville Police Department’s website, with a Ninja-dressed SWAT team going for a joyride in a souped-up armored personnel carrier, all set to a heavy metal song called “Die MotherF***er Die.”

In a visit to Doraville last week, I asked Officer Gene Callaway why his sleepy town of 8,000, which hasn’t had a murder since 2009, needed an armored personnel carrier (APC). “The vehicle provides Doraville with a scalable response and ensures the safety of police officers,” he answered. Scalable response? Safety of police officers? Doraville has never been a crime-ridden town. “We at Doraville are proud to be ranked 39th in safest cities in Georgia,” Callaway himself bragged. It seems the most useful task the APC performed was pulling 18-wheelers back onto the salted lanes of Route 285 during snowstorms. Oh, and let’s not forget that “the kids love playing on it” when it rolls up to the county fair, Callaway told me.

Doraville’s armored vehicle is a gift from Uncle Sam, as part of the billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment now flowing from the federal government to state and local police departments. Not only is it an incredible waste of taxpayer money, but it gets people–including children–accustomed to seeing military vehicles on their streets. Worst of all, it is causing police to act like soldiers, especially since one of the stipulations of getting this equipment is that it must be used within one year of receipt.

The Doraville Police, embarrassed by the negative publicity from their video, took it down (they insist that the theme music was unauthorized). Now on their website you can see much more benevolent images, such as three smiling police officers, one dressed as Santa Claus, with two young girls who are the recipients of the “Santa Pop Program” that pairs police with “less-fortunate children.”

But let’s face it. Military toys, constantly dangled before the police at law enforcement exhibits and fairs, are hard to resist. And with the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security giving out this stuff for free, why not get some hand-me-downs? Doraville and Keene are just two of thousands of cities and towns throughout the nation that have successfully applied for surplus equipment from a federal government agency.

What Military Gear Your Local Police Department Bought

Since President Obama took office, the Pentagon has transferred to police departments tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft.

In May, The New York Times requested and received from the Pentagon its database of transfers since 2006. The data underpinned anarticle in June and helped inform coverage of the police response this month in Ferguson, Mo., after an officer shot Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager.

The Times is now posting the raw data to GitHub here. With this data, which is being posted as it was received, people can see what gear is being used in their communities. The equipment is as varied as guns, computers and socks.

The Pentagon-to-police transfer program is not new. Congress created it during the drug war, as a way to increase police firepower in the fight against drug gangs. But since 9/11, as the Pentagon geared up to fight two wars, then drew down as those wars ended, the amount of available military surplus has ballooned.

Now, after a week of confrontation between protesters in Ferguson and heavily armed police, members of Congress are criticizing the trickle down of military gear.

The New Authoritarianism in an Age of Manufactured Crises

What is missing in the recurring debates that dominate Washington politics is the recognition that the real issue at stake is neither the debt ceiling nor the state of the economy, but a powerful form of authoritarianism that poses a threat to the very idea of democracy and the institutions, public values, formative cultures, and public spheres that nourish it. The United States nears a critical juncture in its history, one in which the rising forces of market extremism – left unchecked – will recalibrate modes of governance, ideology, and policy to provide fantastic wealth and legal immunity to an untouchable elite. The politics of disconnection is just one of a series of strategies designed to conceal this deeper order of authoritarian politics. In a society that revels in bouts of historical and social amnesia, it has become much easier for the language of politics and community to be appropriated and distorted so as to deplete words such as “democracy,” “freedom,” “justice,” and the “social state” of any viable meaning.

What I’ve Learned from Two Years Collecting Data on Police Killings

A few days ago, Deadspin’s Kyle Wagner began to compile a list of all police-involved shootings in the U.S. He’s not the only one to undertake such a project: D. Brian Burghart, editor of the Reno News & Review, has been attempting a crowdsourced national database of deadly police violence. We asked Brian to write about what he’s learned from his project.

It began simply enough. Commuting home from my work at Reno’s alt-weekly newspaper, theNews & Review, on May 18, 2012, I drove past the aftermath of a police shooting—in this case,that of a man named Jace Herndon. It was a chaotic scene, and I couldn’t help but wonder how often it happened.

I went home and grabbed my laptop and a glass of wine and tried to find out. I found nothing—a failure I simply chalked up to incompetent local media.

A few months later I read about the Dec. 6, 2012, killing of a naked and unarmed 18-year-old college student, Gil Collar, by University of South Alabama police. The killing had attracted national coverage—The New York Times, the Associated Press, CNN—but there was still no context being provided—no figures examining how many people are killed by police.

I started to search in earnest. Nowhere could I find out how many people died during interactions with police in the United States. Try as I might, I just couldn’t wrap my head around that idea. How was it that, in the 21st century, this data wasn’t being tracked, compiled, and made available to the public? How could journalists know if police were killing too many people in their town if they didn’t have a way to compare to other cities? Hell, how could citizens or police? How could cops possibly know “best practices” for dealing with any fluid situation? They couldn’t.

The bottom line was that I found the absence of such a library of police killings offensive. And so I decided to build it. I’m still building it. But I could use some help. You can find my growing database of deadly police violence here, at Fatal Encounters, and I invite you to go here, research one of the listed shootings, fill out the row, and change its background color. It’ll take you about 25 minutes. There are thousands to choose from, and another 2,000 or so on my cloud drive that I haven’t even added yet. After I fact-check and fill in the cracks, your contribution will be added to largest database about police violence in the country. Feel free to check out what has been collected about your locale’s information here.


Why the People of Ferguson Can’t Trust the Cops

Several African-American men share with Truthout their stories of abuse at the hands of police, and after 12 days of continuous demonstrations against the shooting of an unarmed teen, Michael Brown, it appears that the community is in it for the long haul.

Four Things You Probably Don’t Know About the Ferguson Protests



WATCH: TX police draw guns on mother and young children they mistook for gun-waving males

Police were responding to a 911 call about a tan-colored Toyota carrying four black males, one of whom was waving a handgun out the window — which is why Kametra Barbour is confused as to why she and her four young children in a burgundy red Nissan Maxima were pulled over.

 Fox host kicks off two black lawyers after they accuse her of ‘distracting’ from Brown’s death

I’m surprised they were brought on in the first place.  This is FOX News we’re talking about.  They’re not exactly friendly to black people.

More Ferguson Links

Voting in Ferguson, a televangelist lies, and more

GOP Calls Ferguson Voter Registration Drive ‘Disgusting’; Terrified Community Will Start Voting

The executive director of Missouri’s Republican party could barely contain his rage when he learned that one of the facets of recent protests in Ferguson has been a voter registration drive. His reaction betrays a sense of entitlement that comes from living in an age of political apathy: citizens shouldn’t be allowed to vote for change when they see injustice in the world, that isn’t “fair.” Have we gone mad? That’s exactly what voters are supposed to do.
Like many economically distressed communities around the country, Ferguson’s voter turnout for the last few elections has been dismal. Just 12% of residents bothered to vote one way or the other in the last election. It may explain why Ferguson’s politicians are mostly white and mostly out-of-touch with the residents.


Right-Wing Media Continue To Decry Ferguson Residents Registering To Vote

Breitbart: “Liberal Activists” Are Promoting Voter Registration Drives That Local GOP Calls “Disgusting.” On August 18, Breitbart quoted the Missouri Republican National Committee executive director who attacked the registration effort as “completely inappropriate” and characterized voting rights advocates’ calls for Ferguson residents to “get on the juries, choose your leaders” as “liberal activism”


Fox News: Voter Registration Booths In Ferguson Show That “Protestors Aren’t Out There For Free Speech.” On the August 21 edition of Fox & Friends, host Anna Kooiman complained that Ferguson residents protesting the fatal shooting “aren’t out there for freedom of speech. They’re out there to push their side.” Co-host Clayton Morris responded, “Setting up a voter registration booth? Yeah, you think?”


Rush Limbaugh: Registering Voters In The Wake Of Michael Brown’s Death “Encompasses Everything That The Democratic Party Is.” On his August 19 radio show, Limbaugh also criticized the Ferguson voter registration drive, and condemned Democrats for “try[ing] to ramp up black turnout” by exploiting Brown’s death

Hey Look! Pat Robertson told a lie!

Televangelist Pat Robertson on his “700 Club” show today decided that repeating many right-wing lies about what happened in Ferguson during the shooting death of 18-year old Michael Brown would be a good idea.

Robertson called the unarmed college-bound teen a “giant” and surmised that he must have been on a “hallucegenic” [sic] or “PCP” because he “acted like someone who was crazy” who “beats the daylights out of” officer Darren Wilson. The octogenarian also wondered aloud why the police didn’t “do a blood test on that guy, on the dead man,” whom Robertson couldn’t bother to mention by name.

Robertson also repeated the lie that officer Darren Wilson’s “occipital bone was crushed.”

And he chastised Attorney General Eric Holder for standing up for the oppressed — which is in part his job.

“It just looks bad,” Robertson lamented — not once ever offering one word of sympathy for the death of Michael Brown.

I’m shocked, I tell you! SHOCKED that Pat Robertson displays not compassion for the death of a young unarmed black man.


Missouri Councilman Excuses His Racism As Being ‘A Very Active Republican’


Says it’s a feature not a bug.


okay but when you have holocaust survivors and people who were activists during the civil rights movement supporting mike brown and then KKK members and neo nazis supporting the officer you should be able to figure out which side is the right one.

(via blastortortoise)



(source: sand&glass, via angrynativefeminists)


Houston Gay, a 103 year old who marched with MLK 50 years ago, at a peaceful demonstration in Ferguson.

(source: zubat; via angrynativefeminists)


Voting in Ferguson, a televangelist lies, and more