Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson finally released the name of Michael Brown’s shooter this morning: Darren Wilson. But in doing so, he took the opportunity to distribute still images and video from a robbery that he says occurred Saturday morning before Brown was shot and killed. Ferguson has already failed on multiple levels since Brown’s shooting. Today’s development just adds to that list.
In the images and video released to the media this morning, someone who is purported to be Brown is seen pushing another person assumed to be a store clerk. We’re told that the person identified as Brown stole a box of little cigars.
The problem here is that the supposed images of Brown, along with the unverified allegation that he carried out a “strong-arm robbery,” primes the media—and its readers—to focus on the wrong suspect.
Rather than releasing images of Darren Wilson—who’s suspected of something far more serious than theft— this emphasis places blame on the victim. Even if it’s confirmed that Brown took a box of cigars and pushed a store clerk in one place, he was killed in another—and witnesses claim the 18-year-old was essentially executed in cold blood.
Aside from not having images of Wilson, we don’t even know how many shots he fired. We lack basic facts about the investigation into Wilson, assuming one is truly under way.
Julia Ioffe has done something that reporters rarely do. She went to one of St. Louis’ predominantly white suburbs and asked residents what they think these days about neighboring Ferguson, scene of the fatal shooting last Saturday of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown by officer Darren Wilson. Their comments lack empathy. And notably, no one reveals their name for publication. Never mind. What’s important is that Ioffe asked white St. Louis residents what they thought in the first place.
Too often, white perspectives go missing when national media reports on a “race story.” They show up at a remove in surveys about white attitudes, studies about the criminal justice system, or as anonymous or ranting opinions in an online comments section—but less so as real people quoted in the reported story. This absence especially shouldn’t happen in Ferguson.
Early reporting situates this week of protest within racially skewed power dynamics, regional disinvestment, residential segregation and racial profiling by local police to say the least. White St. Louis residents probably have a lot to say about that—and not all share views with those anonymous folks in Ioffe’s reporting. But first, let’s hope other reporters even ask. They are a crucial part of the Ferguson story, too.
Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson were two trans activists whose contributions to the 1969 Stonewall Riots were somewhat lost to history. Now, two modern-day activists have raised more than $25,000 on Kickstarter to bring the story of their radical friendship to new audiences.
Reina Gossett and Sasha Wortzel wrapped up the successful crowdsourcing campaign for “Happy Birthday, Marsha,” a short narrative film based on the hot summer day in June of 1969 when the two friends helped make history.
When Marsha and Sylvia, self-proclaimed “street queens” - homeless, Black & Latina trans women - ignite the Stonewall Rebellion, they change LGBT politics forever. It’s a hot summer day in June, 1969. Marsha throws a party, but no one shows up. Meanwhile, Sylvia gets stoned and forgets the party after unsuccessfully introducing her lover to her family. Throughout the difficult day, the friends struggle with harassment and alienation before converging at the Stonewall Inn to finally celebrate Marsha’s birth. Unbeknownst to them, the NYPD has plans to raid the bar that night.Happy Birthday, Marsha! is the story of two brave best friends and the everyday decisions they made that changed the course of history.
As Wortzel says in the Kickstarter video, the film is about “the everyday choices that can change the course of history.” It’s currently in pre-production, according to a tweet from Wortzel:
It’s taken nearly a week to reveal the identity of the Ferguson police officer that shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown last Saturday. His name is Darren Wilson, an officer who’s served on the force for six years.
Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson police disclosed Wilsons’s name in front of the local QuikTrip, which was burned down on Sunday during clashes between police and demonstrators.
Jackson also referred to a “strongarm robbery” that Saturday—although it’s unclear if it had any connection to Brown’s killing. The mention of a “suspect” in connection to this case appears to have angered local residents attending the press conference this morning in Ferguson.
Here are nine moments, starting from Saturday, that make you wonder how Ferguson got so much, so wrong:
Killing Michael Brown Because the police, Justice Department and FBI haven’t divulged details of their investigations into Brown’s shooting, all we have to go by are eyewitness accounts. And those accounts indicate that Brown was essentially executed:
Militarizing the streets from day one M-16s, armored trucks, tanks, tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper shots didn’t just start today. As local residents have documented, police displayed a massive show of force just hours after Brown’s shooting:
Declining to interview key witnesses Dorian Johnson was walking down the street with Brown as a police car approached them on Saturday. Moments later, Brown was killed. But Johnson says local police have declined to interview him about what he witnessed:
Declaring a no fly zone Although it was soon lifted, the Federal Aviation Administration initially agreed to restrict flights over Ferguson. The agency claimed it was for the safety of officers involved—but it also restricted airspace for media helicopters:
.@FAA lifted flight restrictions moments ago. The airlines will resume normal flight paths. #flystl
À la 1964, Ferguson police chief claims ‘outside agitators’ It’s reminiscent of the Civil Rights Era 50 years ago. In an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox Wednesday, Ferguson’s police chief, Tom Jackson, claimed “outside agitators are causing the violence” (you can forward to 05:28 to hear it):
Michael Brown, the 18-year-old African-American teen who was gunned down by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, last Saturday lived in a community with longstanding residential segregation, issues with racial profiling and concerns about the racial makeup of its police force. He also graduated from Normandy High School, a racially isolated high school with a dismal graduation rate—and alarmingly high school suspension rate.
The national suspension rate for secondary schools is 11 percent. Normandy’s was nearly four times that, journalist Dana Goldstein reports in a portrait of Normandy High school by the numbers.
Typically, racial disproportionality is a central part of the conversation around school suspensions. But African-American students already make up 98 percent of the school, so it’s barely surprising that the school’s black students received 99 percent of the school’s out-of-school suspensions in 2011.
Read Goldstein’s blog post, which offers a quick look at the conditions Brown went to school in and survived before he was killed.
Read Colorlines’ long look into the school-to-prison pipeline, its impact on black youth and efforts to reimagine the school discipline paradigm in our Life Cycles of Inequity series.
A new eyewitness last night shared her account of the shooting death of unarmed teen Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer. Tiffany Mitchell’s description of Brown is graphic, cautions local station KMOV, and matches the statement given by Brown’s friend, Dorian Johnson. After last night’s arrests and tear-gas volleys and today’s presidential address, the court of public opinion is in highest gear. Here’s what to keep in mind as you wade through (and for those just joining, start here):
The militarization of local police forces has a long history—and libertarian Sen. Rand Paul is calling for its end. In St. Louis County, according to an August 2013 report, about neighbors shaken up by the sight of heavily armed officers, police have been using SWAT teams to serve felony warrants, no matter what they’re for. This June, the ACLU issued a comprehensive report, War Comes Home—and they don’t mean St. Louis.
Ferguson is not Watts, 1965. It’s not even Crown Heights, 1991. Today’s St. Louis American editorial provides perhaps the best first draft of history you’ll read explaining why Ferguson residents stood together in the hours following Brown’s death. Ferguson fits into the well-documented history of police abuse triggering demonstrations and riots. But pay attention too, to Ferguson’s differences. They may indicate whether we’re witnessing something new.
Among many African-Americans, feeling themselves drown in a waterfall of murdered unarmed men and women, pushback against the Obama model is gaining fresh ears. From Duke University professor Mark Anthony Neal:
Six years into the Obama Presidency, we now realize that pulled-up, belted pants, neatly-pressed dress-suits and bow-ties are apparently a policy initiative intended to save Black men and boys. President Obama was seemingly shamed into the creation of My Brother’s Keeper (MBK), in the aftermath of the Trayvon [Martin] shooting and with the stark realization (via every index imaginable) that the lives of Black youth were not significantly better under his leadership, and perhaps worse.
Finally, consider how Michael Brown’s death in suburban, out-of-the-way Ferguson became news in the first place—and be wary of threats to the spread of that information. Zeynep Tufekci’s*, “What Happens to #Ferguson Affects Ferguson” is a great primer on legislative and corporate efforts to further restrict Internet freedoms. Also, the arrest-and-release of mainstream journalists rightly provoked the Twitterati’s furor last night and drew President Obama’s attention today. But many if not most journalists capturing the pulse of communities like Ferguson do not work for mainstream media. They’re freelancers or citizen journalists like Alderman Antonio French, also arrested and held last night. From Tufekci*:
The citizen journalists held on, even as choked from the gas, some traditional media started going live from the region, and today, [Ferguson’s] on the front page of many newspapers.
As always, feel free to share your own must-click links. See you back here tomorrow.
“There is no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protestors,” President Obama said this afternoon as he addressed the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the ongoing protests that have erupted in the aftermath of his death.
He commented directly on Brown’s death, and the police repression of protestors and journalists:
It’s important to remember how this started. We lost a young man, Michael Brown, in heartbreaking and tragic circumstances. He was 18 years old. His family will never hold Michael in their arms again. When something like this happens, local authorities, including police, have a responsibility to be open and transparent about how they are investigating that death and how they are protecting people in their communities.
There is never an excuse for violence against police or those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism and looting. There is also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protesters or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights. Here in the United States of America police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs and report to the American people on what they see on the ground. Put simply, we all need to hold ourselves to a high standard, particularly those of us in positions of authority.
I know emotions are raw right now in Ferguson, and there are certainly passionate differences about what has happened … Let’s remember we’re all part of one American family. We’re united in common values, and that includes belief in equality under the law, basic respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protest, a reverence for every single man, woman and child among us, and the need for accountabilty when it comes to our government.
Obama confirmed that the Department of Justice and FBI have independent investigations open into Brown’s death. The DOJ is also, Obama said, “consulting with local law enforcement on ways they can maintain public safety without restricting the right to peaceful protest and while avoiding unnecessary escalation.”
Fall semester for Los Angeles Unified School District students began this week, and the school district is opening its doors to some new enrollees. The district is planning for 1,000 new unaccompanied minor children to enroll in its schools, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy told the Los Angeles Times.
The district isn’t rolling out the welcome mat out of mere kindness. It’s also the law. Under a 1982 Supreme Court ruling in Plyler v. Doe, school districts may not deny a child access to public education based on their immigration status.
While the unaccompanied minors crisis exploded this year, the district has already been experiencing increased demand for services for immigrant children. The Los Angeles Times’ Howard Blume reports:
During the 2013-14 school year, the immigrant enrollment center handled 1,800 students, an increase of 400 from the previous year. In the latter months, 80% were “children who crossed the border unaccompanied,” one just 7 years old, according to an internal district analysis.
The numbers from the center don’t provide a full count because schools typically enroll new students on their own.
The impact, however, is probably reflected in the figures for Spanish-speaking students who are not fluent in English. Their numbers had been declining in L.A. Unified, but increased last year from 142,457 to 146,794, even as overall enrollment dropped.
It took Missouri Governor Jay Dixon five days to get to Ferguson after the shooting of Michael Brown. Dixon, a Democrat, finally announced in the middle of the night that he would be altering his schedule to head to St. Louis County. The governor says he’s listening at Christ the King United Church of Christ in Florissant, Missouri.
Police have arrested some 60 people in and around Ferguson since Saturday—including two journalists and alderman and community journalist Antonio French. The local police department has meanwhile declined to release the name of the officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, which is one of the few modest demands demonstrators have been making. One of several Anonymous accounts on Twitter has claimed to have the officer’s name, but it hasn’t been independently verified.
It appears that Governor Dixon will soon announce that he’ll be relieving St. Louis County police officers of their duties in the county. Bloomberg’s Derek Wallbank tweeted that Representative Lacy Clay (D-Missouri) told him as much:
Clay: “The gov. just called me and he’s on his way to St. Louis now to announce he’s taking St. Louis County police out of the situation”
Ferguson escalated last night and first thing across my screen this morning was a powerful, soul searching editorial from black weekly, The St. Louis American. Outsiders don’t know Ferguson or St. Louis like they do. They answer the million-dollar question: Why did Ferguson explode? “With deep humility we admit we did not see this coming,” it begins. But from there it documents abandonment, disinvestment and persecution experienced by a generation of perhaps poorly educated but observant and intuitive young people. The St. Louis American is today’s essential reading on what’s happening in Ferguson.
It may take a village to raise a child, but many administrators and parents in better-resourced parts of our region had no problem saying quite publicly that Michael Brown and his brothers and sisters [who wished to transfer from their unaccredited districts] did not belong in their village.
On police-community relations:
In many North County municipalities, it seems police run contests to see how many young black men you can pull over, flaunting the officers’ power and the motorists’ powerlessness….
But Michael Brown was not pulled over while driving. He was told to get out of the street while walking. For offering what was initially, according to an eyewitness, the mildest of resistance to a rude and unnecessary police order, this unarmed teen was shot in the middle of the day, and his bullet-riddled body left by police to lay in the street for hours, as if to provide a grisly example.
That did it. That’s what drove people (not just young people) to act out their pent-up rage. That’s what drove people to demonstrate (which is within their rights).
Among those arrested last night at a Ferguson, Missouri, protest was St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, for unlawful assembly. Using Twitter and Vine, French has been reporting on the unrest that has followed the police killing of Michael Brown, a black, unarmed 18-year-old who was walking down the street. From USA Today:
French, alderman of the 21st ward in St. Louis, was taken into custody, said his wife, Jasenka Benac French, who uses the Twitter handle @senka.
She tweeted that “@antonioFrench is in Ferguson jail,” and that he had been arrested. About 90 minutes later she tweeted, “@AntonioFrench being booked now. Not sure what the charge is yet. Was ordered out of his car and arrested because he “didn’t listen.’”
French was released at around 7 a.m. CDT according to a tweet from journalist Gabe Bullard.
Police in Ferguson appear to have crossed a clear line and jeopardized freedom of the press—which is protected by the First Amendment—Wednesday evening. Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery and Huffington Posts’s Ryan Reilly were both arrested while they were working at a local McDonald’s by people who look more like soldiers than they do police officers.
The Republican Party’s overtures to black voters have been awkward. And with newly re-established College Republican chapters on historically black college campuses and a calculated deployment of Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus to the National Urban League and the National Association of Black Journalists, they continue. In an op-ed for the New York Times, University of Connecticut historian Jelani Cobb takes the GOP to task for its ongoing and seemingly blithe racial ignorance.
The party that hopes to attract black students is the party whose congressional leadership filed a baseless lawsuit against the first African-American president. It is the party whose representatives allied with birthers who demanded that the president prove his citizenship. It is the party that has endorsed the evisceration of the Voting Rights Act and made it more difficult for the very people it is courting to actually cast a ballot for its candidates. Senator Paul himself has expressed ambivalence about enforcing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Read the rest for a quick history lesson on why the GOP has a long way to go before it can really win black voters.
A new witness to Michael Brown’s shooting has emerged—and she’s also got new amateur video from Saturday in Ferguson. Her account of what happened corroborates what Dorian Johnson says he saw on Saturday.
Tiffany Mitchell told KMOV News 4 that she saw an officer inside a police vehicle wrestling with Brown through the car’s window before a shot rang out. That’s when she says that Brown began running away. Mitchell says the officer fired again and Brown raised his hands in the air before being fired upon until he was killed.
“The cop just continues walk up on him and shoot him until he goes all the way down,” she recalls. Mitchell also has new video, taken from her cell phone.
Mitchell has been dealing with the trauma of witnessing Brown’s shooting and says that she cries herself to sleep as a result of what she saw.
Anonymous has obtained and released St. Louis police dispatch audio from the day Michael Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson Police Department officer. The audio is largely unedited and contains police codes throughout the recording.
It appears that Ferguson police called for additional cars, officers and K-9s from different precincts to control crowds—and waited several hours before calling in an ambulance for the 18-year-old Brown. His body lay on the ground for hours, uncovered before it was attended to.
Referring to his late but hard-won graduation this summer, one of Michael Brown’s high school teachers told the Washington Post, “In the last two months, man, Mike was there every doggone day and he was giving it his full effort.” In the past 24 hours, more details are filtering out about the life of 18-year-old Brown, cut down in Ferguson, Missouri, by a still unreleased number of police-issue bullets. Below, here’s today’s wrap-up of reporting or commentary that helps cut through the noise of this national story (or, that just makes me think). Let’s go.
“We don’t need to keep talking about [Mike Brown’s] college plans to communicate that his killing was dead wrong.” Or do we? Would Ferguson have protested under similarly suspicious shooting circumstances for a more questionable kid? Would Ferguson be national news if Brown wasn’t a “gentle giant?” Whatever your position on the need for victims to be innocent in order to get justice, check out parent Jasmine Banks’s provocative essay.
Writing for Essence.com, ProPublica’s Nikole Hannah-Jones calls out national media for overlooking critical details in Ferguson and hewing to the official police version of events last Saturday. “The reliance on law enforcement to provide the official record of a shooting it was involved in is highly problematic,” she says. “Over and over again, we’ve seen the first reports on police shootings contain errors or just be plain wrong. For instance, in the July death of Eric Garner in New York, an internal police report did not mention the chokehold used on Garner and said that Garner was not in ‘great distress.’”
It’s getting hard to distinguish Ferguson, Missouri, from a war zone these days—a war in which one side has its arms up in the air with signs demanding justice for Michael Brown, while the other is armed with more conventional weapons.
Local police, backed by other authorities, roam the streets in tanks and armored trucks, and have been dispersing crowds with tear gas and rubber bullets. Every morning, residents and journalists take to Twitter to post photos of the canisters, magazines and bullets left behind from the previous nights: