Rapper B.o.B. has released a new track responding to the killing of Michael Brown’s in Ferguson:
A grand jury will begin hearing evidence today on whether to indict Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown. According to St. Louis Post Dispatch, county Bob McCullough said the decision could take up to two months and that the “target is mid-October.” The grand jury will meet every Wednesday and will serve a three to four month term. The Washington Post outlined information on how the grand jury will proceed:
The county prosecutor will present evidence from the investigation of the shooting to the jury, which will determine whether Wilson should be indicted on any criminal charges, including homicide.
The county prosecutor has not said whether he will call witnesses. But legal experts say that it is likely and that the jury may eventually hear from Wilson. He may be considered a powerful witness — juries have a track record of wanting to believe police.
While authorities are hoping to restore order, some commentators are not convinced the grand jury process will soothe the anger in Ferguson—even if it results in Darren Wilson getting indicted. As Jamelle Bouie of Slate explains, police brutality in the St. Louis area extends much further than what happened to Michael Brown:
The anecdotes of brutality and excessive force out of St. Louis and St. Louis County are rampant and often startling. In 2009, for example, a man was wrongly arrested, beaten by police, and subsequently charged for bleeding on their uniforms. This abuse is so ubiquitous that the shooting of Michael Brown might seem like static against a backdrop of awfulness. But even for the area, Brown’s death was brutal. Which is why—in an otherwise quiet town in an otherwise quiet area—we’re dealing with an explosive fire that shows no signs of ending.
Although there was no tear gas deployed Tuesday night in Ferguson, tensions remained high as police advanced on protesters gathering near the local McDonalds. At least 47 people were arrested, mostly for failure to disperse; police also used pepper spray on a handful of protesters. Multiple journalists reported that police surrounded protesters that were gathering at McDonalds and started arrests after a water bottle was thrown.
Activist Rosa Clemente wrote a harrowing account of Tuesday night’s events on the streets of Ferguson as the police pointed guns and threatened to shoot her and a group of protesters after police attempted to disperse the crowd. Clemente’s group included Talib Kweli, Jessica Care Moore, Phil Agnew of the Dream Defenders, Malik Rhassan of Occupy My Hood, and more. The police surrounded the group with guns drawn, ordered everyone to lie down and told the group that if they “did no stop moving [they] would be shot,” Clemente writes. At one point, a young man in the group named Devin was having trouble breathing:
“The young brother lying on my feet as I was holding him was not able to control his breathing he said “I’m choking” the cop told him to stop or he would shoot him. I told him “try not to move, just lay still I got you.” The gun was at his chest. I looked at the cop and said “please, he is not doing anything. I tried to record but the cop had his finger on the trigger. I could feel Talib’s hand on my back and Jessica behind me. We laid there until one Black officer said “Let them go, we got who we wanted.” In all my life I have never been so terrified. The young brother Devin said thank you I think you saved my life.”
Clemente ended the account by adding, “this is a war zone, a military occupation and our children are the cannon fodder.”
Non-black people of color have a stake in Ferguson’s fight for justice for Michael Brown. So writes Deepa Iyer, an activist and writer who is on the board of directors of Race Forward, which publishes Colorlines.
Iyer writes at The Nation:
African-Americans are the primary targets of law enforcement profiling and violence, as the killings of Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, Jonathan Ferrell and Eric Garner all attest. But during this past week, Latino, Asian-American, Arab-American and Muslim organizations have all released statements of solidarity informed by similar experiences with discriminatory law enforcement practices, as well as an urgency to collectively identify and implement solutions.
In fact, Latinos and Asian- and Arab-Americans have a critical stake in reforming discriminatory police practices. While African-Americans in Ferguson must remain the primary voices and decision-makers calling for action to address the murder of Michael Brown, other communities of color can and must join Ferguson’s fight by linking the impact of racially motivated policing with the structural racial inequities that exacerbate it.
Latinos and immigrant communities are well acquainted with racial profiling vis-à-vis their experiences with immigration enforcement. Arab Americans and American Muslims are deeply familiar with what it’s like to be discriminated against and profiled under the pretext of national security, Iyer writes.
But amidst calls for multiracial coalition it can be tempting to equate these types of experiences. The fact remains that African Americans are uniquely and disproportionately impacted by police repression—which includes routine non-lethal harassment and over-policing that never grabs headlines. It’s dishonest to pretend otherwise. The call that communities of color ought to speak up because racial profiling and over-policing impacts them too, is true. But non-black people of color ought to be speaking up because Michael Brown’s killing and the police repression that came in its aftermath are a human travesty.
“When law enforcement trample on the rights of any group, we must all resist: the oppressive, militarized tactics on display in Ferguson have undermined people’s basic rights to peaceful assembly and movement,” Iyer writes.
Attorney General Eric Holder strode into St. Louis County today with a much larger agenda than investigating Michael Brown’s killing. Whatever comes of his intervention into the case, Holder’s aggressive posture in Ferguson points to what many Washington observers understand to be his most deeply held goal at the Justice Department: rebuilding its beleaguered Civil Rights Division and restoring its pre-Bush relevance. Publicly, much of Holder’s tenure has instead been marked by his legal defense of the Obama administration’s national security policies. But as an unnamed Justice Department official told the Los Angeles Times today, “The attorney general has always been about race.”
In Ferguson, he steps into a treacherous political landscape. St. Louis County prosecutors began presenting evidence to a grand jury this morning, a process that County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch said will take until “the middle of October.” McCulloch is a Republican who’s held the office for 23 years, and his history with grand juries is checkered. In 2001, a St. Louis Post-Dispatch investigation caught him lying about damning testimony submitted to a grand jury in another fatal police shooting. McCulloch’s history, and his overall political posture as a bullish supporter of cops, have prompted calls for his removal from the case. That was a legal impossibility until Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency, which among other things gives him the power to remove McCoulloch. But the two politicians have been open enemies for far too long for Nixon to move so decisively—particularly given Nixon’s calculations as a moderate Democrat in a conservative state who is none-too-subtly positioning himself for a vice presidential nod in 2016. All of which is to say, there’s not a lot of hope for a clean, clear criminal case against Darren Wilson, at least without something forcing McCulloch to stand down on his own.
But even with a more fair-minded prosecutor, the deck is consistently stacked in favor of law enforcement when police violence goes on trial. Julianne Hing reported on this hard reality for Colorlines as she covered the trial of Oakland transit cop Johannes Mehserle and the post-Katrina violence in New Orleans. A criminal case is just really tough to make. Here’s how Julianne explained it:
The challenge is that the legal bar for convicting cops of murder or wrongdoing is higher than for civilians. Cops have the benefit of qualified immunity, which allows them not to be held individually responsible for their actions, as long as they can establish that another competent and informed officer would have acted similarly. That’s a problem, for sure, if police brutality and racialized attacks are symptoms of a systemic disease.
So it will be extraordinary in the history of our legal system if Wilson is convicted of murdering Michael Brown. That’s something close observers know, and it’s surely one reason why the Justice Department is already in Ferguson looking for a civil rights case. Typically, that sort of inquiry would come only after a local, criminal case concludes; Holder has sped up the timeline. That’s significant: It means that as the local case takes its predictably disappointing course, particularly if led by McCulloch, everyone will also be able to see a federal inquiry in progress. That may turn out to be more symbolic than anything, but symbolism matters, too.
Holder reportedly saw the national import of Brown’s killing right away and began rallying his staff within hours. That’s not surprising, since he’s opened at least 20 previous civil rights investigations into police misconduct, according to the New York Times. Throughout President Obama’s time in office, Holder’s been a gadfly prodding racial justice onto the agenda of a reluctant White House. He has been most visibly aggressive fighting voting rights challenges, reaching down into local politics with spirited legal actions during each election cycle. But he’s also pushed the administration’s political boundaries on sentencing reform and, importantly, on a simple willingness to name publicly the beast of racism.
Lurking behind all of this is the larger mission that Holder set for himself in 2009. The Bush era was not kind to the Justice Department’s civil rights work. The Civil Rights Division was a focal point for the Bush administration’s most far right members. They transformed it from a watchdog of local wrongdoing into a place to exert political leverage over state attorney generals and begin gaming local level voting processes. Over half of the staff quit or got reassigned when Bush came into office. Up until 2006, the only voting rights inquiry they’d opened was to investigate black politicians in a small Mississippi town, charging that they’d denied the rights of white voters. The sort of openly racist emails that became the hallmark of the tea party right were back then already circulating freely among the federal leadership tasked with protecting the nation’s civil rights. Holder’s confirmation hearings were dominated by discussion of this perversity and of the disaster Bush’s people had made of the department’s civil rights work—and he vowed to fix it.
So Holder’s actions in Michael Brown’s killing thus far suggest he’s identified Ferguson as a place to show off a newly restored Civil Rights Division. He’s dispatched 40 FBI agents, conducted an independent autopsy and sent in the division’s “most experienced prosecutors,” he wrote in a op-ed in today’s Post-Dispatch. “The full resources of the Department of Justice have been committed to the investigation into Michael Brown’s death,” he declared. The civil rights sheriff, he seemed to be declaring, is back in town.
The Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and undocumented immigrant activist is on to his next campaign. Today, Jose Antonio Vargas and 10 other undocumented immigrants called on the Obama administration to make sure the president’s expected executive order on immigration includes expanded protection from deportation for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants. The campaign was pushed out in conjunction with the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), and first reported by the New York Times.
In language comparing immigrants of today to the “pilgrims” of yore who colonized the United States, the campaign calls on President Obama, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and DHS Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to “stop deportations and grant administrative relief to individuals, such as ourselves, who have strong ties to these United States, which we call our home.”
Vargas, Erika Aldape, Maria Guadalupe Arreola—the mother of the prominent immigrant rights activist Erika Andiola, Felipe de Jesus Diosdado, Maria del Rosario Duarte Villanueva, Michaela Graham, Noemi Romero, Eduardo Samaniego, Yestel Velasquez, Aly Wane and Jong Min You all filed applications for deferred action today.
“For us, it’s really important to ask the question of how inclusive is the Obama administration’s relief going to be?” Vargas told The Huffington Post. “Who is going to get left out, and why?”
The group of 11 participants are meant to symbolically represent the estimated 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Among those included are Noemi Romero, who was charged with identity theft, which is a felony in her state of Arizona where Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has used the law to harshly prosecute undocumented immigrants. A felony conviction disqualifies Romero from eligibility for Deferred Action for Child Arrivals, said NILC attorney Kamal Essaheb. “It’s unfair that people who are targeted have to be further penalized by not being able to take part in administrative relief,” Essaheb said. “Just because someone has a conviction shouldn’t automatically exclude them. We hope [Obama’s executive order] is something that’s truly inclusive.”
For more about the campaign, visit Define American.
This post has been updated since publication.
Foreign media outlets have been dispatching war correspondents to Ferguson to bring stories back to their readers and viewers. Several have been arrested, including two correspondents from Germany’s Die Welt. Ansgar Graw and Frank Hermann say they were held for three hours, during which time they denied water and the ability to make a phone call.
“This was a very new experience. I’ve been in several conflict zones: I was in the civil war regions in Georgia, the Gaza strip, illegally visited the Kaliningrad region when travel to the Soviet Union was still strictly prohibited for westerners, I’ve been in Iraq, Vietnam and in China, I’ve met Cuba dissidents. But to be arrested and yelled at and be rudely treated by police? For that I had to travel to Ferguson and St. Louis in the United States of America.”
Graw also explains that he asked the arresting officer for his name. “My name is Donald Duck,” the officer responded.
BBC Newsnight spoke with Cornel West about the protests in Ferguson demanding justice for Michael Brown, where he said the American justice system fails young black people and criticized Obama’s response to the unrest:
“Think about the hypocrisy here. Just recently the President just said ‘oh we tortured some folks’ but they were real patriots, but they were dealing with anguish and therefore, we let them free. But here, we got young people upset. Why? Because they rightly see a murder taking place. But he’s got to be the man of law and order. It’s not law and order when it comes to torture. Just like it’s not law and order when it comes to Israelis committing war crimes in Gaza but he’s law and order now when it comes to poor black people. You say, will wait a minute. The hypocrisy is overwhelming there. Spare me.”
West also suggested that black communities need local, grassroots movements and not black leaders focused on “market branding … photo opportunities.”
In an interview with MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow, Missouri Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder was responding to a question from Farrow about whether race is playing a role in Ferguson. Kinder acknowledged that it is—but added additional comments:
“We do not do justice in America in the streets, though. We have legal processes that are set in motion, that are designed after centuries of Anglo-American jurisprudence tradition. They’re designed to protect the rights and liberties of everyone involved. That includes the Brown family, for justice for them and for the community. It also includes the officer who has not yet been charged.”
The thing is, people taking to the streets is so fundamental to the United States’s sense of justice that it’s protected by the First Amendment. And Kinder’s comments about justice being an Anglo-American tradition probably couldn’t come at a worse time—and indicate yet another Missouri politician who’s out of touch.
But let’s not forget that Kinder, who’s a Republican, got a lot of pushback for denouncing a racist rodeo act featuring a clown wearing an Obama mask:
The @MoStateFair celebrates Missouri and our people. I condemn the actions disrespectful to POTUS the other night. We are better than this.— Peter Kinder (@PeterKinder) August 11, 2013
Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning:
The Los Angeles Police Department has employed an “investigative hold” to postpone the release of Ezell Ford’s autopsy. Ford was a 25-year-old African-American man who was shot and killed by police in South Central Los Angeles just days after 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri.
According to the LAPD, investigative holds are a common move to prevent tampering with the testimony of witnesses, who may be swayed by the information they read, KPCC reported.
But members of Ford’s Los Angeles community have interpreted the hold as a move by the LAPD to “cover their tracks,” Jubilee Shine told KPCC. Ford was unarmed, lying on the ground and complying with police commands when he was shot in the back, says Ford’s mother Tritobia Ford, KTLA reported. A witness has said that she saw Ford handcuffed, lying on his stomach on the ground, and shot dead, NPR reported. LAPD maintains that Ford was pulled aside for an “investigative stop” when he went for an officer’s gun when he was shot.
Over the weekend, hundreds gathered in Los Angeles to protest Ford’s killing and demand justice for him. The protests, however, have been markedly different. For one, police officers have held off on a heavily militarized response to protesters, unlike in Ferguson.
LAPD Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger had his own theory, though. “The difference between this instance and what we see back East I think has to do with the confidence that the public has in the police department to conduct an immediate, a thorough, a thoughtful investigation,” Paysinger told NPR this weekend.
“The people here saw a man’s body lying in the street for four hours,” one Ferguson community worker tells NPR’s Gene Demby. “I don’t care who you are,” the volunteer continues, “that does something to you.” The temperature that Saturday afternoon was around 80 degrees. In the week and a half since police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown, Ferguson seems to have re-set St. Louis. That’s according to a Post-Dispatch editorial, part of today’s roundup of provocative commentary during a slower news day. Let’s go:
A new documentary out this summer (trailer above) is now having a hard time finding a St. Louis theater willing to show it. Here’s why: “Spanish Lake,” the name of the film and a suburb eight miles northeast of Ferguson, looks at how it changed from predominantly white to black residents. First-time filmmaker Phillip Andrew Morton, a River Front Times reviewer says, “has a way of getting other white people to dish.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates in a teeth-grinder titled, Reparations for Ferguson, explains that, “Black people are not above calling the police—but often we do so fully understanding that we are introducing an element that is unaccountable to us. We introduce the police into our communities, the way you might introduce a predator into the food chain.”
In the Washington Post, LAPD officer Sunil Dutta gives one cop’s perspective on what to do when stopped: “Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you.”
I’m late to “Jeopardy” champ Arthur Chu’s essay, an immediate reaction to George Zimmerman’s acquittal that he saved for public release in anticipation of a similar incident occurring. It’s called, Men Without A Country: Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, My Father and Me.
And finally, a reminder from St. Louis bookstore Left Bank Books that “compassion is the radicalism of our time.” Demby’s dispatch highlights Ferguson daytime volunteers patching up the night’s destruction, and Left Bank’s doing its small part, too, by curating must-reads for St. Louisans seeking to understand and rebuild better.
As usual, feel free to add your own worthwhile links. Tomorrow my reporting partner Julianne Hing will take over. If you’ve been reading since last week, thanks for sticking around. Be sure to stop by tomorrow.
Details are still emerging, but a 23-year-old black man has been shot and killed just a few miles away from Ferguson, Missouri—home to 10 days of protests demanding justice for Michael Brown.
At a press conference this afternoon, St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson says the man was wielding a knife and essentially begged for police to shot and kill him. It’s unclear how many officers shot and killed the person in question; no names have been released, either.
Keep in mind that authorities in Ferguson have not exactly been forthcoming with information—and have straight out lied, in some cases, since Michael Brown’s killing. That alone will likely cast doubt on what Chief Dotson is now saying about the latest shooting.
The results of a small** survey from the Pew Research Center illustrate a sharp divide between black and white respondents when it comes to what’s happening in Ferguson. If you pay attention to racial dynamics, some of the results aren’t too surprising:
Blacks and whites have sharply different reactions to the police shooting of an unarmed teen in Ferguson, Mo., and the protests and violence that followed. Blacks are about twice as likely as whites to say that the shooting of Michael Brown “raises important issues about race that need to be discussed.” Wide racial differences also are evident in opinions about of whether local police went too far in the aftermath of Brown’s death, and in confidence in the investigations into the shooting.
But that’s not all. Pew also spoke with Latino respondents. Interviewers from Princeton Data Source asked:
“Did you follow the police shooting of an African American teen and protests in Ferguson, Missouri very closely, fairly closely, not too closely or not at all closely?”
When it came to non-Latino respondents, 54 percent of blacks said they followed the story closely; 25 percent of whites answered that they did as well. But here’s what might surprise you: only 18 percent of Latinos said they closely followed what’s happening in Ferguson. That’s less than one in five.
Organizations like the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, which is largely made up of Latinos, has expressed solidarity with the people in Ferguson seeking justice for Michael Brown—but Pew’s numbers suggest that***, overall, white people are more likely than Latinos are to closely follow the developments in Ferguson.
As I’ve written previously, non-black Latinos have a long way to go in confronting our anti-black biases. Paying attention to what’s happening Ferguson would be a good start.
*Original headline, “Do Latinos Care About Ferguson,” has been replaced with “Pew Survey Explores Racial Attitudes Toward Ferguson Crisis” for clarity. Original subhead has also been replaced.
**Size of survey added for context.
***Phrase “tells us” has been replaced with “suggest that” to correlate with small sample size.
Hawthorne, California, mayor Chris Brown responded to Michael Brown’s death and its aftermath by looking inward at the police officers in his own city—and proposing that they be required to wear video cameras.
“I am simply not willing to gamble with a single life, or the wrongful accusation of upstanding officers,” Brown wrote in a letter last Friday, Time reported.
The Hawthorne mayor is hardly the only person considering the merits of body-mounted cameras for police officers. Michael Brown’s death has brought conversations about video checks on police to the fore.
In 2013, a researcher who undertook the first experimental evaluation of body-mounted cameras in Rialto, California, found a 50 percent reduction in the use of force incidents with police, and a dramatic 88 percent drop in the number of civilian complaints against police officers. Body-mounted cameras and dash cameras are billed as an accountability and protection mechanism for both police and civilians.
But cameras have not been universally embraced. Police unions have spoken out against requirements to expand the usage of body cameras, calling them an “encumbrance,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
Read the report on Rialto, California, police officer’s test run with body cameras at The Police Foundation.
As Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has already noted, “the world is watching.” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday urged law enforcement officials in Ferguson to abide by “U.S. and international standards in dealing with demonstrations” and called for restraint among protesters and police officers. But last week, the Ferguson protests and heavy police force also coincided with an international review in Geneva, Switzerland, of U.S. progress on implementing the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) treaty.
Trayvon Martin’s parents Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, originally from East St. Louis, were present. Their son’s name as well as Jordan Davis’ are mentioned in the committee’s post-report synopsis. In addition to Stand Your Ground laws, the full list of concerns raised by international observers make it worth the read.
See too, the Washington Post’s recent rundown of how the rest of the world sees Ferguson.
The U.S. ratified CERD in 1994.
In a late-night newscast Monday, CNN’s Rosemary Church asked whether it wouldn’t somehow be better to use water cannons instead tear gas and stun grenades. No, Ms. Church—given the history of water canons used against black people 50 years ago—the suggestion is insulting.
The Washington, D.C., NFL team is wrapping up its preseason, but not before two players showed support for Michael Brown and the people of Ferguson. Several players, including safety Brandon Meriweather and cornerback DeAngelo Hall, entered the game with their hands up, the signature gesture of protests taking place in the St. Louis suburb:
Students in Compton Unified School District returned for their first day of classes on Monday to school police who will soon be armed with a new weapon—AR-15 assault rifles.
The school board in South Central Los Angeles’ Compton passed a policy in July allowing school police to carry the rifles in the trunks of their cars while on duty for use in the event of a school shooting. Increasingly, Compton schools police argued, school shooters are wearing body armor, and the guns school police already carry are insufficient for penetrating that kind of protection, KPCC reported.
Compton, a historically black city, is still majority people-of-color, but is in fact these days predominantly Latino. One in three Compton residents is black, while 65 percent of the city is Latino, according to the 2010 Census.
Not everyone is so enthusiastic about AR-15s in schools. Community members have raised alarm about the change. Latino families filed a lawsuit against Compton school police in 2013 alleging that they discriminated against Latino families.
In the wake of Sandy Hook, Colorlines went to South Los Angeles to ask school kids their opinion about the calls for increased militarization of their schools. While young people were concerned about police officers receiving extra weaponry, students were also concerned about the basic presence of police in schools.
Listen to the KPCC report for more.
Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning: