If you ask me, the residents of Ferguson have shown remarkable restraint in their rebellion against an oppressive system that is totally stacked against them. Especially the youths, who remain determined to stay in the struggle every night, despite being teargassed, maced, and manhandled on a regular basis.
Somebody needs to state the obvious. I am sick and tired of hearing smug television commentators trying to shape public opinion and calm the anxious nerves of the overseeing class by praising the various St. Louis area police squads and Missouri National Guard. Some commentators act as if the cops are somehow protecting the community they have been sent in to occupy. It is clear to me that they are there primarily to protect the property of local store owners from looters. They act as if the protesters as enemy combatants, not citizens they are charged with serving and protecting.
As viewers, we have witnessed numerous cops aiming weapons directly at the crowds, which we are told by onscreen police reps (from outside Missouri) is not professional policing behavior. We have witnessed another nearby killing of a second young black man by two police officers. We have seen rubber bullets being fired into crowds containing parents and children, elders and religious leaders.
Numerous reporters embedded in the crowds, not the anchors safe in far-off studios, have pointed out since day 1 that the police seem to be intentionally inciting violence. Yet talking-heads continue to praise law enforcement, while news “hosts” like Don Lemon get chummy with the local police authorities. Meanwhile, in the backgrounds, those of us with open hearts and minds cannot help but feel moved by the anguished chants of youthful protesters who are determined that the death of their peer, Mike Brown, will be avenged and not forgotten.
The question allies should be asking ourselves is this: Why would the police do this? Maybe to try to piss them off and cause defensive panic reactions so that then cops can justify mass arrests and detentions. Then officials can explain away the imposition of curfews and the suspension of constitutional rights to free assembly and to a free press.
Hands up don’t shoot!
The police leaders have implemented a fairly effective divide and conquer strategy. We have been told that there are good protesters and bad apples and evil outside agitators. And in the process, the police “spin” has slyly appealed to the hearts and minds of the viewers watching all of this unrest. Uncritical viewers may be tempted to lose sight of the fact that the police are the problem. They are the reason for the protest. The cops are not the heroes in this drama; the nonviolent, determined youth are.
Because by and large the protesters have remained peaceful (and effective), many viewers and reporters on the ground (who have been teargassed right alongside the crowds, let’s not forget) have voiced astonishment at the overwhelming show of police force. Yet in spite of the sheer intimidation being visited on this suburb by the militarized police presence, few black youth protesters engage in direct confrontations with police. Talk about restraint.
We must remind our more privileged friends and colleagues that the black community sees law enforcement as lying at the heart of the problem. The people are protesting not only the death of one or two youths at the hands of an officer. They are voicing their outrage at years of belittling, insensitive, rude, and hostile treatment and constant harassment from multiple members of the overwhelmingly white police force.
To stand tall and cry out for justice under the muzzles of one’s oppressors and in the shadow of armored vehicles takes immense courage. It would be a tragic mistake to discount the humanity and dignity of these protesters, particularly the young people. Allies of these courageous fellow Americans need to do more to NOT let the media detract from their message. We must support their demands for justice, and keep paying attention. Don’t let news fatigue set in. It would be a travesty to let the rebellion die on the vine before it can fully ripen.