I followed along with MSNBC, a live stream feed and journalists on the ground reporting via twitter.
Thoughts fired through my head and I wrote some things, a lot of which was wrong and a mistake.
I used the wrong words when describing Michael Brown's death. I used words like execute and murder, when in fact, none of us really know how he was killed. All we know is that he was shot by an unnamed police officer, and that officer is now on paid administrative leave. All that we have is a handful of accounts from those claiming to be eye witnesses and a statement from the police department.
I painted a picture with too broad of a brush of police forces across America, and that wasn't right either. I know many of great officers, and I shouldn't have generalized them all together.
I also, by mistake, threw on a slight cape for those looting and vandalizing.
I know when I'm wrong, and this is me owning a mistake.
I'll let the facts play out on that. I'll chalk this one up as an L, and as a learning experience.
While I wrote last night, I was coming from a place and a feeling that was mixed with me being a little scared, a little shocked and a lot of "damn man, what the hell is going on in this country?" while I watched the events unfold in Ferguson.
Here are some facts:
- Micheal Brown, an 18 year old unarmed black male, was killed by a white police officer. Circumstances are still unknown.
- A protest broke out.
- The St Louis county police militarized, bringing in trucks, tanks, tear gas, rifles & rubber bullets to deal with the protest.
These quotes, via the Washington Post, from former military veterans:
“You see the police are standing online with bulletproof vests and rifles pointed at peoples chests,” said Jason Fritz, a former Army officer and an international policing operations analyst. “That’s not controlling the crowd, that’s intimidating them.”
“We went through some pretty bad areas of Afghanistan, but we didn’t wear that much gear,” said Kyle Dykstra, an Army veteran and former security officer for the State Department.
“I can’t think of a [protest] situation where the use of M4 [rifles] are merited,” Fritz said. “I don’t see it as a viable tactic in any scenario.”
“Officers were calling the protesters ‘animals,’ ” King said. “I can’t imagine a military unit would do that in any scenario.”
King added that if it were a military unit in a similar situation there would be a public affairs officer or civil affairs engagement team that would help bridge the gap between the riot control elements and the general population.
“I would hate to call the Ferguson response a military one,” he said. “Because it isn’t, it’s an aberration.”Back to the facts:
- Police in Ferguson treated a peaceful protest with tear gas, among other things.
- Some citizens responded to that by breaking into stores, looting, burning and vandalizing property.
Pause. A thought:
St. Louis, much less Ferguson, isn't a place where many protests happen. Perhaps the police there were unqualified to properly handle a protest of this magnitude. So, instead of proceeding to attempt to handle it, which resulted in a total mess, wouldn't it have been a better idea to call in the national guard or call up police forces used to dealing with protests (say, the departments in DC & New York) for some guidance on how to deal with this?
Those looting and destroying property were and should have been arrested. But let's not pretend that what happened in Ferguson in terms of rioting compares in any way to what happened in South Central LA in the early 90's, the 1967 riot in Detroit or what happened in Miami in the 1980's. The St. Louis county police in Ferguson overstepped in this case, and instead of maintaining order, and protecting and serving, they antagonized and provoked. Again, perhaps a clear sign that this particular police department was not properly equipped to handle this protest.
Also, a question: where was the Governor of Missouri and the President of the United States? Why did it take them five days to speak on this?
- Protests continued in following days.
- Militarization of the St. Louis county police continued.
- Media outlets sent reporters in to the field. Some journalists went on their own.
- Two journalists on Wednesday were assaulted and arrested by police officers in Ferguson for not leaving a McDonalds fast enough. They were charging their phones and writing stories.
- No name, badge number or police report was given to the two journalists when they were released.
Whatever the case is, police shouldn't be bullying journalists.
- An Alderman was arrested last night.
- A Senator was hit with tear gas.
- The United States Justice Department is now launching a broad review of police tactics across America.
- Our rights as citizens include the right to assemble and freedom of the press. In Ferguson, those rights were taken away.
- Missouri Governor Jay Nixon handed control of the Ferguson situation over to the Missouri Highway Patrol under the command of Captain Ronald Johnson on Thursday. What ensued were peaceful marches, chants & protests that were kept orderly by Johnson and his police team without the use of military armor, vehicles & weapons.
- American police officers should not be bullying, assaulting and arresting journalists who are simply trying to do their job. Again: Freedom of the Press. It's legal to record police officers.
- Police officers should be given training on how to handle protests and demonstrations. Hundreds of these happen in DC & New York yearly, yet there isn't a war that ensues between citizens and officers.
-There should be strict guidelines for police departments on when they can militarize. Protests and small riots can't be among the reasons to do so. This, is what provoked the riot; when protesters were met with officers dressed as if they were preparing for World War III.
In the past few days, Ferguson, Missouri has been a national symbol for black vs white, violence, institutionalized racism and police brutality. Today, with the situation in the hands of the capable Missouri Highway Patrol and Captain Johnson, it has become a symbol for peace.