Archive for November 29th, 2014

“Ferguson matters because it provides us with a foretaste of what is to come. It is the shot across the bow, so to speak, a warning that this is how we will all be treated if we do not tread cautiously in challenging the police state, and it won’t matter whether we’re black or white, rich or poor, Republican or Democrat. In the eyes of the corporate state, we are all the enemy.

This is the lesson of Ferguson.”
–John Whitehead, The Rutherford Institute

By JC

As usual, the discussion of the police killing of a young man has devolved into a morass of race relationships and retributions opening up old wounds, and feeding deep-seated feelings all the way around. So much of this is predictable, and the protests, riots, and counter-attacks all create pablum for a media more interested in controversy and sound bites for the 24 hour news cycle, than in examining what is happening to our country.

I’ve commented elsewhere on what I thought the grand jury process was all about. Ferguson was a perversion of what grand juries are, and how they should be used. If the prosecutor only wanted somebody to share the responsibility of his decision to not bring charges, he could have just impanelled a coroner’s jury to conclude the officer acted in self-defense. Or he could have just called a press conference and said he didn’t have the evidence to support a prosecution and left it at that.

In any case, what the prosecutor has done is to influence the public’s perception of what a grand jury is all about, allowing it to further be used as a shadowy substitute for real justice. Real justice being to allow for a cross examination of other witnesses, and the introduction of other evidence. The prosecutor used the grand jury in a way that bolstered his decision to not prosecute the police officer – he was a de facto defense attorney for the defendant. There are few that understand the grand jury system that would agree with his tactics.

On to today’s topic. This reading from John Whitehead, “We Are the Enemy: Is This the Lesson of Ferguson?” puts aside the notion that the importance of what happened at Ferguson is just another incident in a long litany of racial oppressions and its inevitable blowback:

However, the greater question—whether anything will really change to rein in militarized police, police shootings, lack of accountability and oversight, and a military industrial complex with a vested interest in turning America into a war zone—remains unanswered.

Yes, we are the enemy… since those first towers fell on 9/11, the American people have been treated like enemy combatants, to be spied on, tracked, scanned, frisked, searched, subjected to all manner of intrusions, intimidated, invaded, raided, manhandled, censored, silenced, shot at, locked up, and denied due process.

I chose Whitehead as a way to try and move the Ferguson discussion in a more productive direction. He is a respected, and somewhat conservative civil libertarian with a long record of not playing politics or the race card. I hope folks will read the whole article and think about the greater ramifications of what has happened to our nation, and how the “powers-that-be” continue to profit when the dialogue descends into an unproductive racial diatribe.

I’ll leave folks with one more excerpt, and leave this as an open thread on the greater meaning of the Ferguson debacle. Let’s try and not let this discussion divert into the usual left-right, dem-rep racial garbage that just avoids the real issue: how our country has devolved into one where the police are becoming less and less distinguishable from the military or the national guard, and all our civil liberties are trampled. If we cannot, then we are just reinforcing Whitehead’s message.

Ferguson provided us with an opportunity to engage in a much-needed national dialogue over how police are trained, what authority they are given, what weaponry they are provided, and how they treat those whom they are entrusted with protecting.

Caught up in our personal politics, prejudices and class warfare, we have failed to answer that call. In so doing, we have played right into the hands of all those corporations who profit from turning America into a battlefield by selling the government mine-resistant vehicles, assault rifles, grenade launchers, and drones.

As long as we remain steeped in ignorance, there will be no reform.

As long as we remain divided by our irrational fear of each other, there will be no overhaul in the nation’s law enforcement system or institution of an oversight process whereby communities can ensure that local police departments are acting in accordance with their wishes and values.

And as long as we remain distracted by misguided loyalties to military operatives who are paid to play the part of the government’s henchmen, there will be no saving us when the events of Ferguson unfold in our own backyards.

When all is said and done, it doesn’t matter whose “side” you’re on as far as what transpired in Ferguson, whether you believe that Michael Brown was a victim or that Darren Wilson was justified in shooting first and asking questions later.

What matters is that we not allow politics and deep-rooted prejudices of any sort to divert our efforts to restore some level of safety, sanity and constitutional balance to the role that police officers play in our communities. If we fail to do so, we will have done a disservice to ourselves and every man, woman and child in this country who have become casualties of the American police state.

Amen!

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by lizard

Evil smelling trolls stink-up the Flathead Beacon’s comment section. That is a lovely title to this post from James Conner, lamenting that the Beacon hasn’t abolished anonymous racists from making their racist opinions known.

Featured is a screenshot of a comment from AndrewInterrupted: Those white guilty idiots in that Whitefish council meeting should take a bus ride to Ferguson for a little research.

Below this comment, this picture:

Censoring this comment does what exactly? Make obvious racists disappear? No, it just cleans up the aesthetics for someone like Conner who doesn’t want to think too much about the conditions black people deal with every day in places like Ferguson.

The “Evil Troll” post was put up November 21st. Three days later, this is the title of the post: Ferguson grand jury does not indict cop, lawlessness begins. Here is the opening paragraph:

Protests, some violent, began after the grand jury investigating the death of Michael Brown decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for murder or any other crime. Brown’s parents asked that protests be kept peaceful. So did Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama. Their words had little or no effect. The rampage began and is still on as of the time of this post.

Ah yes, the rampage of angry, vengeful black folks begins. It’s too bad they don’t act like those good negroes, Obama and Holder. Here’s more:

A good many of the protesters who are breaking windows, setting fires, tipping over police cars, and menacing reporters, tonight may say, indeed may even believe, they’re seeking justice. But they’re not. They’re seeking revenge. They want Darren Wilson punished regardless of whether he actually broke the law. They’re taking advantage of the situation to express outrage over grievances accumulated over years, placing their faith not in law or government but in hammers and torches and destruction. And some, I suspect, don’t much care whether anyone is injured or killed.

Whoops, sorry about the picture. It’s not of angry black people destroying their own community like a bunch of animals. It’s a picture from the pumpkin riots, where privileged young white people were just out having a little fun. From the link:

It’s easy to make jokes about what has already come to be known as the Great Pumpkin Riot of 2014. Events in Keene, New Hampshire this past weekend read like an Onion article: The annual Pumpkin Festival in the sleepy college town ended with riot cops and tear gas as students and young people flipped cars and started fires in the street. Pumpkin-spiced madness! Smashing Pumpkins!

But there’s good reason to take the riot seriously.

This was not a riot over pumpkins, of course. It was a riot over nothing, young people gathered in small town streets en masse and inebriated, then buoyed into further riotousness by overzealous SWAT policing. Mask Magazine rightly contextualizes the incident in the canon of nihilistic “party riots,” à la the Bellingham, Washington student riots last year, which featured a young woman twerking on a cop car. But just because these riots weren’t necessarily about anything — not pumpkins, not sporting events, and certainly not police shootings — is not evidence they’re devoid of content or meaning.

The playful levity with which the media, if not the local police, are treating the riot seems as much to do with who was behind the destruction as it does with the seasonal theme. It was white youth who pulled down street signs and flipped over cars, and as a result they were described as “rowdy” and “boisterous.” In Ferguson, where property damage and confrontations with cops were no more extreme, the rioters were deemed “violent” and “criminal.” Black riots, it seems, get read as somewhat more threatening.

The difference was adeptly highlighted by Twitter comments about how the platitudes typically applied to black communities following a riot seemed absurd when applied to the Keene riot. “Why are they tearing up their own community,” quipped one Twitter user. “Where are the leaders in the white community? They need to speak out #pumpkinfest,” wrote another.

These were pointed riffs on the charges leveled at black communities in the wake of protests turned riotous. They highlight how blacks are forced to account, as a whole, for unruly behavior in a way that is never demanded of whites as a community. Black behavior is scrutinized and vilified. When white youth behave the same way — even without the significant imprimatur of protesting the police killing an unarmed teen — the response is so different it is risible.

There is a sense of relief from some people that the righteous hopes of those who still see a need to fight for civil rights were placed on an un-perfect victim. Mostly it’s from conservative people, but James Conner has shown how even those who would prefer to expunge nasty, racist comments from online news stories are eager to use the grand jury’s decision not to indict as proof Michael Brown deserved to die.




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