Military Folly in Ferguson: Bringing the War to Suburbia
If 2012 was the year of Trayvon Martin (February 5, 1995–February 26, 1012), this year has been dominated by the police shooting of another unarmed black kid, Michael Brown, 18, on August 9. As reporting by Mother Jones demonstrated, which shocking death of a minority takes over the news may be luck of the draw, since the Brown homicide competed with:
Eric Garner, 43, was suffocated on a New York City sidewalk for selling untaxed cigarettes while black on July 17.
John Crawford, 22, was shot dead in Beavercreek, Ohio for walking through a Wal-Mart with a BB gun that he’d picked up from a store shelf on August 5.
Ezell Ford, 25, was shot dead while unarmed and outnumbered during an “investigative stop,” apparently for being black in a no-black zone of Los Angeles on August 11.
Dante Parker, 36, was stopped because he was riding a bicycle while black in Victorville, California soon after a robbery suspect was reported to be riding a bicycle. In the scuffle that ensued, Parker was tased repeatedly and taken to a hospital, where he died on August 12.
Indians have experienced this kind of law enforcement in border towns for many years, and know you can get stopped for walking or driving or eating or conversing loudly while Indian, and any objection to being singled out is answered by a use of force without proportion or consequences.
Michael Brown gets to be the poster boy this year because there were several witnesses to the shooting in broad daylight, and the Ferguson police have been hiding information that is normally public, starting with the identity of the officer involved in the shooting, now known to be Darren Wilson, 28, a six-year police veteran with no apparent disciplinary history. According to police, the offense that brought Brown to the attention of Officer Wilson was jaywalking.
In spite of demands from Brown’s family and the media and in spite of Missouri sunshine laws, Officer Wilson’s report remains in police hands, as does the official autopsy of Michael Brown. The autopsy commissioned by the family was released on August 18; it shows that he was shot six times, including two bullets to the head. All the shots were from the front and apparently at some distance because there was no gunpowder residue or stippling. The family’s pathologist had no access to Brown’s clothing, so it was not tested for gunpowder residue, which ought to be present if the first shot was fired from within the patrol car while Brown was leaning into it, as the town’s police chief asserted in a press conference.
As the official silence got louder, and more disturbing details—true and rumored—spread through the community, tensions escalated. It’s true that the police left Brown’s body where it fell for several hours, and rumors flew that no attempt was made to render medical aid, and much of the aftermath of the killing was tweeted live by nearby residents.
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