Military Folly in Ferguson: Bringing the War to Suburbia

Steve Russell

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.

RELATED: A Man’s Life Is Worth 29 Cents in New York City

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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Sammy7's picture
Submitted by Sammy7 on
Steve, The Sacred Cherokee 260 Day Calendar appoints this day as 12 -- Takatoka, meaning "Twins". Twins represent conflict and renewal. They go together but do not behave well. Other sub-influences for this day present in the Calendar are meaningful and I read them as: Hardship and sacrifice influencing conflict and renewal fanned by understanding leading to purposeful change. Today's energies carry great meaning. Additionally, recently an article here by Peter d'Errico informed us of the existence of a book entitled, Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry, edited by Steve Heinrichs, the book informs the Ferguson issue well. I have slightly paraphrased the following our of the first twenty pages of the book as follows. There exists something called the colonial settler civilization in the United States and elsewwhere. For generations First Peoples and African American Peoples have been told by government, church, and business that there is an "Indian Problem" and a "Black Problem", and that we settlers can fix it through education, salvation, or economic development. But, the disturbing truth is that the problems in America have not been created by Indians or African Americans. There is a "settler problem," an ongoing Colonialism that is ravaging First People and Peoples of Color on this planet. And, as black liberation theologian James Cone passionately notes, it's all inextricably tied to whiteness, white power, and White Peoples: No threat has been more deadly and persistent for African Americans and First Peoples that the rule of white supremacy in the world. The logic that led to genocide, slavery and segregation, in the Americas, colonization and apartheid in Africa, and the rule of white supremacy throughout the world is the same one that leads to the exploitation of animals, and the ravaging of nature. It is a mechanistic and instrumental logic that defines everything and everybody in terms of their contribution to the development and defense of white world supremacy. For over five hundred years, through the wedding of science and technology, White People have been exploiting nature and killing people of color in every nook and cranny of the planet in the name of God and democracy. The book goes on that this is not about demonizing White People, or inducing guilt; there are many many morally good White People. "It's about confessing and resisting a system that perpetually privileges white skin tones and european genetic lines as it devours whole peoples in its hungry economy and phobic gaze". It's Truth and Reconciliation. Yet, the same old white propaganda is being put forth again, education, salvation, and economic development for the people of Ferguson. It never has worked, and it never will. What is needed is Truth and Reconciliation. Wado Steve for presenting this issue.

stanleyheller's picture
Submitted by stanleyheller on
I just sent this email to the Missouri Attorney General. Urge others to do the same. [email protected] The kid glove treatment of the police officer who killed Michael Brown is a disgrace. Eyewitnesses say he shot the youth while the young man had his hands up. Brown's body was allowed to lie on the ground for hours. Officer Wilson's name was not released for days because of an unreasonable fear that he or his home would be attacked. The police chief of Ferguson released the tape about the alleged store robbery to tarnish Brown's reputation even though Brown was not a suspect in the crime at the time of the shooting. There is probable cause for an arrest. Please make it happen. Stanley Heller Connecticut

stevef's picture
Submitted by stevef on
Steve, I find this entire discussion a bit distasteful. I read your article and quite a few other articles on the trouble in Ferguston I agree, it is a three ring circus. Assumptions and half truths rule the days. First, I will say that I have not heard enough information to determine if the officer was legally justified to use deadly force. Was the investigation handled well? Doesn't sound like it, but if I was that chief of police, I am sure I would have done my best to NOT release the name of the officer who pulled the trigger....why, because like in Trayvon, there were already 'Racists' that assumed the worst and were making death threats. Akin to Trayvon, Michael was first portrayed as little red riding hood walking home to grandmas house. I think a lot of our media sucks when it comes to reporting this kind of stuff and when they don't know the truth, they tell half truths to sell copy. I hope we find out what really happened out there that fateful day, if the cop was out of line, then he is properly dealt with. If Michael put the officer in fear of loss of life, or serious bodily, then deadly force was justified in most jurisdictions. The half truths to sell copy or to incite race on race are both just wrong.

Submitted by Cepane on
And let us not forget Mah hi vist Goodblanket (Cheyenne/Arapaho/Cherokee) who last Dercember was shot seven times, with one of these to the back of the head, by Custer County Oklahoma Sheriff Deputy Dillon Mach. For this shooting, Mach recently received a Medal of Valor from the Oklahoma Sheriffs' Association. The plaque reads, "In recognition of your performance above and beyond the call of duty , while disregarding your own personal safety and exhibiting exceptional courage in a life threatening situation." Mah hi vist was unarmed and only 18 years of age.

Juliet's picture
Submitted by Juliet on
I'm white, and I suddenly want to wear a GoPro whenever I leave the house. This (Anglo-Saxon term for excrement) must stop.

hammertime's picture
Submitted by hammertime on
What does it matter how the police dress to come to a riot?? They wear body armor and helmets to keep from being injured... What should they wear to a riot?? How many stores have been looted and burned out and should they not defend the folks that have livelyhoods in these neighborhoods??? The whole truth will eventually come out about this situation...... I feel it is making everyone involved look like total fools on both sides.. Everyone probably ought to cool off until all the facts are released.... Even Obama should keep quite untill all the facts are in, or he will make himself look the fool if he does not keep quiet.... There was certanly a robbery, and there was a " life and death struggle" between the officer and mr brown over his gun in the front seat of his police car.. and I have heard that a round was fired off inside the car between both of them... That is a pretty intence experience, . and I honestly dont know how I would have responded if someone who weighed 295lbs tackled me, punched me, and tried to get my gun away from me, and a round from my 40cal hand gun went off in my ear.... If I was put this officers place I probably would have shot him dead too.. The whole problem is this officer was white. and everyone feels that the police are there to put the black people down and they cannot see it any differently... I wonder how this would have all gone down if the officer involved was african american and he had to shoot mr brown....after a life and death struggle over his gun.??? The real issues here are about Race, not how the police dress to respond to a riot..

hammertime's picture
Submitted by hammertime on
I read an article that the policeman who got into this "life and death struggle" with Mr Brown over his 40cal hand gun has a fractured eye socket. . Perhaps this policeman was half blinded and in shock from his gun going off in his face to make a calm rational decision in the heat of the moment. This whole thing is turning into an emotioinal media circus....and trying to paint all policeman as evil no matter what race they are is very stupid....... .

swrussel's picture
Submitted by swrussel on
stevef, the first threats happened long after the decision was made to withhold information. Were the threats predictable? I don't know if handling it like any other homicide would have avoided all the ugliness, but it would have been a starting point for what we call in the trade equal protection of the law.

swrussel's picture
Submitted by swrussel on
hammertime, you make a lot of assumptions about the facts that depend on leaks from the Ferguson PD, not public information...and there lies the problem. The offense report was written right afterwards, and it says what you claim or it does not. When I was a police magistrate, all the offense reports for the night were stacked up for the police beat reporter when he came in. If the reporter had questions and the officer involved did not care to allow his contact info listed, then the reporter could put a note in the officer's mail box. If information is lacking, it's fair to ask who has the information? And the tinder box lit by Brown's shooting was there because one white officer shot one black kid. It was lit because a police force of fifty some officers employs three blacks in a majority black community. The tension comes from who is policing whom and, yes, there is quite a bit of research on how the deployment of riot gear affects a crowd. Maybe this reporting should be left to somebody who has not been a judge and a criminal justice professor, but I drew the assignment and I can't pretend not to understand normal procedure.