The Nationwide Aftermath of the Michael Brown Shooting

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U.S. President Barack Obama has orders the examination of federal programs and funding allowing state and local enforcement to purchase military hardware out of concern at how much equipment was used during the racial unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, according to a senior Obama administration official on Saturday, Steve Holland and Andrea Shalal report, Obama orders review of U.S. police use of military hardware. The review will be led by White House staff including the Domestic Policy Council, the National Security Council, the Office of Management and Budget, and relevant U.S. agencies including the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice and Treasury, and conducted in coordination with Congress. At the White House news conference Monday, Obama said he wanted to make sure police purchase equipment needed because there is “a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement and we don’t want those lines blurred.” A growing number of lawmakers have voiced concerned over the militarization of U.S. police forces through programs facilitated by the Pentagon, Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security. House of Representative lawmakers defeated a bill to halt the 1033 program, which allows the purchase of this equipment, 355-62 vote in June, however concerns about the handling of the crisis in Ferguson have revived the reform effort. The article reports: “The Pentagon has transferred more than $4 billion of equipment including armored vehicles, tents, rifles and night-vision goggles to local and state agencies since 2006, of which about 36 percent involved new equipment. Over the past year alone, the Pentagon said, it has transferred some 600 armored military trucks known as MRAPS that were built for the war in Iraq. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security has awarded more than $35 billion in grants over the past decade.” U.S. weapons makers have been eying other markets for years to drum up business for their products developed for the military to offset declines in U.S. and European military spending.

Back in Ferguson, Michael Brown Sr., the fathers of the unarmed black teenager shot to death by a police officer, asked Sunday for protests to pause on the day of his son’s funeral, Mollie Reilly reports, Michael Brown’s Father Asks For Pause In Protests On Day Of Son’s Funeral. He told BuzzFeed, “I would like for no protesting going on. We just want a moment of silence that whole day. Just out of respect for our son.” Saturday marked the two week anniversary of the shooting with Brown’s father telling KSHB regarding officer Darren Wilson, the man who shot Michael Brown: “We’re hurt. There’s no telling what he’s doing. He has his life, but our son is gone.” Harvard Law School Professor Charles Ogletree told NBC, “I think the first thing that needs to happen, you need to arrest Officer Wilson. He shot and killed a man, shot him multiple times. No one knows anything about him, no one knows why he did it.” The Christian Science Monitor points out not all agree that Wilson should be taken into custody as one law professor at Harvard was quoted as saying, “We should not arrest [Officer Darren Wilson] until there’s a substantial level of proof of criminality, even if it appeared that the police acted improperly.” Unfortunately, Missouri’s Defense of Jurisdiction statute fives police officers broad authority to use deadly force in cases when, “He or she reasonably believes that such deadly force is necessary to protect himself, when he reasonably believes that such use of deadly force is immediately necessary to effect the arrest” and when the subject “May otherwise endanger life or inflict serious physical injury unless arrested without delay.” The Business Insider points out that if Wilson is charged for Brown’s death, his attorney can invoke the law by arguing that he believed Brown posed a serious threat to his life. Wilson’s supporters have started fundraising campaigns for the officer including a GoFundMe page that has raised more than $230,000 and two Facebook pages in support of Wilson have almost 100,000 likes. CNN reports, “It may be until mid-October before the panel gets through all of the evidence. That’s so important to see as much evidence as they can. So if this officer … is charged, it may not happen until then.” Until then, Salon notes that the prosecution has two choices: first, “immediately press charges, issue a warrant for the officer’s arrest and arrest Officer Wilson.” Or it could hold back, then “present the case to a grand jury and see if the grand jury will find probable cause to indict the officer.” Regardless of whether Wilson is soon arrested, the grand jury would still have to find probable cause before he would be indicted. Michael Brown’s funeral is scheduled for Monday.

As for the man of the hour, Darren Wilson remains a bit of mystery yet many have rallied around the somewhat disgraced officer thanks to the less than fair media coverage of the officer. Wilson supporters agree the media is a perpetrator believing he has been misrepresented and maligned since the shooting of Michael Brown on Aug. 9, according to Matt Sledge, Darren Wilson Supporters Rally To Bash Media, Ferguson Protesters. Sharon, one of many people who only offered a first name or no name at all said, “It takes two sides to every story, and I think he has gotten such a bad rap.” A 12 person grand jury began considering whether to indict Wilson for his role in Brown’s death on Wednesday with some supporters expressing sympathy for Brown’s family, while few others, seemed to think the 18 year old should be spared the rush to judgement that Officer Wilson received. There has been three nights of peace in Ferguson following days of violent clashes with police and protestors directly following the shooting. While both black and white protestors have come out every night in Ferguson, no African Americans appeared to attend the pro-Wilson gathering. The Washington Post reported Wilson worked previously at a department that was disbanded by authorities over racial tension in Jennings, Missouri, three years ago when Wilson was a rookie cop. The newspaper described the department as “a mainly white department mired in controversy and notorious for its fraught relationship with residents, especially the African American majority… not an ideal place to learn how to police.” The city council decided that tensions between officers and black residents were so bad that everyone had to be fired to build a new, more credible department. Just days after Brown was killed, Kajieme Powell, another black man was fatally shot by police after allegedly stealing energy drinks and donuts from a convenience store. St. Louis Police said the man was armed with a knife, but raw video of the incident appears contradictory. Later last week, Lieutenant Ray Albers of the St. Ann Police was suspended after being filmed pointing a semi-automatic rifle at a protestor and threatening to kill him. On Aug. 22, St. Louis County officer Dan Page was removed from duty after a video of him making bigoted comments was released.

As Natasha Bach points out, Police Violence Has Been Going On Forever. No Wonder People Are Fed Up With It, the fact remains that the number of people killed by police annually is unknown, but we do know that five unarmed black men have been killed by police in the last month alone. Besides protestors protesting the Aug. 9 shooting of an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, they are voicing their anger at an old police problem namely the violence directed at black and brown people. Besides the Michael Brown and Kajieme Powell shooting, here are a few other instances of excessive force used by police nationwide from Bach’s report:

“The horrific beating of Rodney King by five police officers in Los Angeles in 1991 — and the subsequent acquittal of his assailants — sparked the L.A. riots of 1992, leading to 53 deaths, some at the hands of police. It was also a video introduction to police brutality for those in America who may have doubted its severity.

Twenty years later, a police beating or shooting has a decent chance of getting caught on camera — either the one on the phone in everybody’s hand or the surveillance camera pointing down at the street. The latter captured Kelly Thomas, a schizophrenic homeless man, being beaten to death by authorities in Fullerton, California, after being mistaken for a suspect in a series of car break-ins in the area. They, too, were acquitted.

Footage shows Oscar Grant being restrained by BART transit officers on the train platform in Oakland, California, following an altercation. Unarmed and lying on the platform, Grant was shot to death by James Mehserle, who claimed to have mistaken his gun for his taser. The alleged accidental death of Grant at the Fruitvale BART station was memorialized in last year’s film Fruitvale Station.

In June, Edgar Vargas Arzate was running from police in Santa Ana, California, near where Thomas was beaten, before surrendering in the front yard of a neighbor’s home. He was lying unarmed and face-down in the grass, but officers still savagely beat Arzate. When he was taken into custody, he was charged with assaulting an officer.

In July, Staten Island resident Eric Garner was suspected by the NYPD of selling untaxed cigarettes. When he refused arrest, an officer put the asthmatic man in a chokehold. Garner repeatedly screamed ‘I can’t breathe!’ and died soon after.”

The Battle for Civil Rights in Ferguson Continues 50 Years Later

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Michael Brown, 18, walked to his grandmother’s neighborhood in Ferguson, Missouri, on Aug.9 when he was fatally shot by a police officer sparking outrage from people around the country and inciting clashes with the people of Ferguson and the “militarized” police with their armored vehicles, tear gas and rubber bullets. As Cate Matthews puts it, Photos From Ferguson And 1960s Protests Side By Side Make It Clear How Little Has Changed, the scene in Ferguson looks like the 1960s when such responses were far too common. Social media, however, has changed the way the world sees these action as internet users across the country have uploaded images of the police response to civil rights protests and photos from Ferguson that look eerily similar raising the question: How far have we really come? Sharon Cohen and Alan Scher Zagier, Police images fuel outrage in St. Louis and beyond, describe the images as reminiscent of a war zone with helmeted officers pointing weapons from armored trucks, flash grenades lighting the night sky and tear gas being launched into the crowds. The clashes between police and protestors in the St. Louis suburb has sparked heavy criticism and raised question about whether the tactics used were causing the same violence they aimed to prevent after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. Thomas Nolan, a former Boston police officer and criminal justice professor at the State University of New York at Plattsburg, said: “It’s clear what is going on in Ferguson is a complete, hyper-exaggerated, hysterical response on the part of law enforcement. It’s clear that there is no one in charge and no one to corral the officers … and restrain them from engaging in an unprecedented show of brutal force against civilians. It’s horrifying and shameful and a disgrace.” On Thursday, Gov. Jay Nixon announced the Missouri State Highway Patrol were relieving the officers of Ferguson and taking over security in the suburb commenting “that we use force only when necessary, that we step back a little bit.” It was the fourth day of street protests spurred by the shooting of the 18 year old by a white police officer resulting in 60 people being arrested since last Sunday. On Thursday, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson said the police are trying to balance the public’s rights to protests with public safety adding that: “If firebombs are being thrown, property gets destroyed, shots get fired … we have to respond to deadly force.” St. Louis County police spokesman Brian Schellman defended the actions of the police: “In talking to these guys, it is scary. They hear gunshots going off, and they don’t know where they’re coming from.” He also said coins, bricks and rocks also have been thrown at police. Two officers have been injured. One had an ankle broken by a thrown brick, according to authorities. President Obama, who is on vacation, said while “emotions are raw now,” there needs to be a “respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protests.” Attorney General Eric Holder said the use of military equipment by Ferguson police sent a “conflicting message.” Missouri officials have accepted the help of the Justice Department to control the crowds and help with public safety “without relying on unnecessarily extreme displays of force.” During a visit to Ferguson, Sen. Claire McCaskill said “the militarization of the response became more of a problem than the solution. It escalated the situation. … These people need to be allowed to exercise their rights, with safety and respect.” The events in Ferguson were part of a growing trend among police departments around the country, according to a American Civil Liberties Union reports in June that states police were overwhelmingly relying on SWAT raids for routine work like small amounts of drugs and serving warrants using assault rifles, battering rams and flash grenades. These raids also disproportionately affected minorities.

Late Friday, Jim Salter reports, Police, protestors clash again in Ferguson, police and 200 protestors clashed after another tense day in the suburb following a news conference in which officer Darren Wilson was names and Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson release alleged documents that state Brown stole a $48.99 box of cigars from the convenience store then strong armed a man on the way out. Just before midnight, a rowdy but mostly well behaved crowd broke into the same store and began looting it, according to Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson. Meanwhile, peaceful protestors blocked off the front of the store eventually to help protect it yelling at the aggressors to stop. Wilson, the officer named in the shooting, has been on paid administrative leave and St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch said it could be weeks before the investigation into the shooting wraps up. On Friday, St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley asked Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster to take over the case as he did not believe McCulloch could be objective. Koster said Missouri law does not allow unless he opts out and McCulloch spokesman Ed Magee said McCulloch will not surrender the case. Some disturbing news out of the St. Louis suburb comes in the form of increased gun sales, according to local gun shops, Hunter Stuart reports, Ferguson Unrest Is Causing Locals To Stock Up On Guns. The unrest in Ferguson is sending residents to the gun shop. Dorian Johnson, 22, who was with Brown when the shooting happened, explained to a local news outlet KSDK-TV that the officer shot Brown while he was running away and then shot him again after Brown put his hands in the air. Brown was two days away from attending college, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Since the shooting, dozens of arrest have been made and reports of gunfire around town including: “A 19-year-old was shot by police Wednesday after allegedly pointing a gun at an officer; the teen is in critical condition. A woman was shot in the head during an alleged drive-by shooting early Wednesday morning. Police have urged protesters to assemble only during daylight hours. Authorities even asked the Federal Aviation Administration to institute a no-fly zone over Ferguson after police helicopters were allegedly fired at.”

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon spoke to the media about the situation in Ferguson shortly after the Ferguson Police Department revealed the name of the officer who shot and killed unarmed black teen Michael Brown, according to Paige Lavender, Jay Nixon: ‘Nothing Should Deter Figuring Out How And Why Michael Brown Was Killed’. Nixon stated: “Nothing should deter figuring out how and why Michael Brown was killed.” Nixon said he thinks the decision to give Missouri State Highway Patrol control of the situation in Ferguson made a positive difference in the last 18 hours. Lavender reports before the media was addressed that Nixon released a statement on the Ferguson Police Departments’ release of Wilson’s name: “I’m pleased that the people of Ferguson and the region began to get some long-overdue information today, and I will continue to call for openness and transparency as the parallel investigations into this tragedy proceed to their necessary conclusions. For the sake of the family, the citizens of Ferguson, and the entire region, it is vital that the investigations into the shooting death of Michael Brown move forward in a thorough, open and transparent manner to ensure that trust is restored and justice is done.” No arrest were made on Thursday night, according to Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol who also spoke at the press conference which was a welcomed relief from previous nights of police clashes with protestors in Ferguson.

While Nixon remains optimistic about the situation, Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis of Georgia called on President Barack Obama to declare martial law in Ferguson, Missouri as police clashed with protestors after the killing of an unarmed black teenager Michael Brown last Saturday, Alex Lazar reports, Rep. John Lewis On Ferguson: ‘Declare Martial Law’. In a Thursday interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Lewis said, “It is very sad and unbelievable. It’s unreal to see what the police is doing there. First of all, Ferguson, Missouri, is part of the United States of America. People have a right to protest. They have a right to dissent. They have a right to march in an orderly, peaceful, nonviolent fashion. And the press has a right to cover it.” Lewis, who marched in 1965 over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama and suffered a fractured skull by police, told Mitchell the situation reminds him of “the ’40s, the ’50s, the ’60s,” pointing to the lack of black officers on the St. Louis suburb’s police force. Lewis added that President Obama “should use the authority of his office to declare martial law. Federalize the Missouri National Guard to protect people as they protest. And people should come together. Reasonable elected officials, community leaders and address what is happening there.” He ended by saying: “If we fail to act, the fires of frustration and discontent will continue to burn, not only in Ferguson, Missouri, but all across America.”