Thursday, August 14, 2014

Owning My Mistakes and Re-Telling a Few Thoughts on Ferguson

Last night, I sat on my bed and watched the situation in Ferguson, Missouri unfold.

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?

Another thought:

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?

Facts:

- 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.

More facts:

- 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.

My opinions:

- 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.


Thoughts on Ferguson

Most of this isn't going to make much sense in terms of structure. This started out as a Facebook post, then I just kept thinking, and kept thinking, and kept thinking and kept typing. So here it is, some of my loose thoughts on the situation in Ferguson.

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As a police force militarized today in a American town outside of St. Louis, Missouri, two journalists were assaulted and arrested... for not leaving a McDonalds fast enough.

The journalists, Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post and Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post, were covering the protests and events in Ferguson that resulted from a police officer executing an 18-year-old black male in the middle of the street over the weekend.

He, Michael Brown, was supposed to start college soon.

Some "looting" happened on Monday night as a result of the protest turning into a riot, a shoe store was broken into.

Since then? Peaceful protests have been met with cops arriving in forces, inn more armor than a soldier would wear in a war in the middle east, while driving a tank down the middle of an American street.

https://twitter.com/rembert/status/499723090423984128
Remember: these are police officers who are donning the armor, holding the assault rifles and driving the tanks. Not members of the military.

Chants from the protesters were met with rubber bullets, smoke grenades and force.

Among those arrested by police in Ferguson today, a St. Louis alderman, Antonio French, who was covering the protests via Twitter.

The scary part? All of this actually happened. In America. In 2014. Not making this stuff up. Pay attention folks.

How did we get to a point in America where a police department can essentially declare war on citizens and the media without consequences? Some would say covering a war in the middle east was more safe than what Ferguson has been with the police.

As I type this, just one major news network is covering the protests; MSNBC. Not Fox, not CNN. Good job, old media; Twitter and Live Stream beat you again. Shout out to Fox News for airing Shep Smith's show where he calls Robin Williams a coward, but won't put effort into covering a war in middle America.

It's a fact that trucks and vans carrying TV camera and satellite equipment weren't allowed into the protest area because they were blocked by the police, but if guys with cameras can figure it out and stream it online, then why couldn't Fox, ABC, NBC, CNN and CBS figure out the same? Instead, journalists on foot like Reilly and Lowery caught scenes and words with cameras, notepads and Twitter.

While America continues to be sidetracked by the latest reality tv show, football, the Disney channel, or what's going on in the middle east, this is happening right behind us. In our backyard, and we're doing nothing about it.

Just this summer, there have countless numbers of documented and undocumented accounts of police brutality against blacks. Go ahead and Google the names of Jonathan Ferrell, John Crawford and Eric Garner.

You can now add Michael Brown to that list of names, but keep one thing in mind:

Brown was walking down the middle of the street on a Saturday afternoon with a friend when they were stopped by a police officer. They exchanged words. The officer shot at Brown multiple times, and even when Brown made himself vulnerable in the middle of the street with hands up saying "I don't have a gun, stop shooting!", the officer shot him dead.

For what?

Brown's body laid in the street for hours until authorities removed it.

Since then protests have been going on, only to be met with helicopters, tanks, drones, and police officers in full armor pointing rifles right into the faces of the protesters.

As American citizens, I don't know what we can do about it. Which, is really more scary than anything. Like, how did we get here? How did we ignore an issue long enough to allow something like this to happen? How did we allow police brutality to continue for this long? How did we allow for the crooked cops to execute those like Garner and Brown?

How can we allow a white man to shoot up a movie theater and be taken out and arrested alive while innocent and unarmed black men are being gunned down daily?

Why are these clowns allowed to walk into a Chipolte with assault rifles with no consequence, but a black man can't cross the street or stand on a corner without being questioned?

"Hands up! Don't shoot!"

Those are among some of the current chants in Ferguson.

Other chants sing out the title of an NWA song you might be familiar with; and at this point, I'm not sure that it might just be the most appropriate.

If you watched any of the videos, any of the livestream, or have seen any photos from Ferguson, it's almost impossible to unsee and unhear the images and sounds; much less forget them.

Keep in mind what is happening in Ferguson: The police are occupying and controlling a town because a police officer murdered a kid. They are continuing to trample on citizen's rights with every passing minute. And one can't truthfully explain in words how messed up of a situation this actually is.

Oh, the officer? The one who murdered Brown? He was placed on PAID-administrative leave... and his name still hasn't been revealed.

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For more on Ferguson, read: Deadspin, Storify, Washington Post

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Eastern Shore Hoops News Round-Up: June 19

It's June, so while high school basketball season isn't in play this is the time of year where transfers are taking place and coaches are being hired and fired.

Here's what has taken place so far this off-season in the Bayside Conference on the Eastern Shore:


Bubby Brown will be joining the coaching staff of Runner-Up Bayside Champions Stephen Decatur. Head Coach BJ Johnson has also added Brian McDermott (former head coach at Mardela, assistant at Salisbury University), Corey Zimmer and Nicky Johnson to his staff for the upcoming season.

Brown was a key player on Wicomico High's 2002 state championship team, played college basketball at UMES and has since spent time coaching AAU basketball and serving as an assistant for Wi-Hi. Brown said via Twitter that Decatur will be 3A champions within the next three years.


A big part of Stephen Decatur's success last season was Bayside Defensive Player of the Year Colen Gaynor. But just days ago, Gaynor elected to transfer to Parkside high school in Salisbury for his senior season, joining up with fellow All-Bayside players in 2015 combo guard Dajour Diggs and 2015 forward Juwan Williams.

The addition of the athletic two-guard makes Parkside look like the early favorites on paper in the Bayside's Southern division. Gaynor is 6'4", can score inside and out and defend multiple positions. His great play with Team Loaded this summer has earned him D1 interest from schools like James Madison and Radford. He already has visits scheduled with both schools.


Kent County reached the regional 1A semi-finals last season with a very young roster, led by All-Shore Newcomer of the Year Marcquan Greene. This season, Greene and company will be getting some more help with Jonathon Smallwood moving into the area. Smallwood played last season for Brandywine in Delaware but a source says that he has recently moved into the area and will be playing basketball for the Trojans. The source also said that Smallwood was an example of a good player on a bad team at Brandywine and should start for Kent County this coming season at either the 2 or the 3.


It appears that Cambridge-South Dorchester will have a new coach in 2014 after struggling to a 7-12; 6-10 record under Bill Horsey. A source said that Horsey has stepped down and that the school will offer the job to candidates in-county first and then to the general public.

For more DMV hoops news, visit DMV Elite.com.

Thanks for reading The Last Timeout. You can follow this blog with your Google account, email me at northam67@gmail.com and/or follow me on Twitter @primetimeMitch.