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“Inflicting Terror”: In Ferguson, A Militarized Police Force Isn’t Necessary For Suppression

Nearly every night in Ferguson, a group of protesters gathers in front of the police department demanding justice for Michael Brown. The size of the demonstration has varied, depending on people’s availability and on the weather conditions, but the dedication to protesting has remained consistent since Brown’s death.

In these days leading up to the announcement of whether a grand jury has indicted Darren Wilson for killing Brown, everyone is on edge. The uncertainty of when the decision will be released to the public, coupled with Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s declaration of a state of emergency, has left plans for action up in the air and the quest for justice without answers. But the people still show up to police departments.

The anxiety has only been exacerbated the last few nights in Ferguson, as those protests have been met by a show of force on the part of the Ferguson police department. The night I was there—Wednesday, November 19—there were no more than about forty protesters at any given moment, met with police presence of equal or greater number. Of course, the major difference was that the police stood armed, in riot gear, and the protesters had only their bullhorns, chants and emotion.

It remained relatively calm for a time. The police, lined up as if to block the passageway to the department doors, already unavailable to anyone because of the metal barricade, played a game of cat and mouse, advancing a few feet and backing protesters up, before retreating themselves. Things escalated when during one of their advances they arrested a young man who had shown up to livestream the event.

The police advanced further as the protesters took to the streets, directing traffic away from their action. Protestors ran to what they thought would be a safe space across the street, but a few weren’t lucky enough to make it. At least five people were arrested that night, mostly for unlawful assembly as well as resisting arrest.

Aside from the chanting, there was no provocation of the police on the part of the protesters. There was one instance of an object being thrown, a water bottle, but other protesters quickly handled it: the person responsible, dressed in all black from head-to-toe, including a black mask that obscured their face, was run off of the protest site and heckled as an agitator who was putting the lives of the protesters at risk.

“If the media wasn’t out here, they’d have arrested us all,” one protester remarked.

A similar scene played out on Thursday evening, with the lesson here being that a militarized police force isn’t necessary to inflict terror. The police have proved themselves violent even without the use of tanks and tear gas. The people’s right to assemble peacefully won’t be protected. The Ferguson police department hasn’t taken any of the national or international criticism they have received to heart. And as the announcement of the decision on whether to indict Wilson dangles in some unknown future, the anxiety builds and takes an unknowable psychic toll on the most dedicated protesters.

But their resolve to see this through is strong.

 

By: Mychal Denzel Smith, The Nation, November 21, 2014

November 23, 2014 Posted by | Ferguson Missouri, Law Enforcement, Militarization of Police | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Right To Peaceably Assemble”: Antonio French Said It Best, ‘Our Civil Rights Don’t Stop At 9PM’

When Antonio French, the St. Louis Alderman who has given us an incredible first-hand account of what is happening in Ferguson through his twitter feed, was released from jail this morning, he told the media, “Our civil rights don’t stop at 9PM.” After Antonio being arrested last night for “unlawful assembly,” I felt compelled to share these thoughts;

To the men and women who are responsible for firing tear gas canisters. To the ones who pull the trigger of the guns that shoot rubber bullets. To those who are the drivers of armored vehicles. To the operators of the machine that makes loud noises. To those arresting politicians and members of the press. To SWAT Teams. Tactical Teams. Riot Police. Mayors. Police Chiefs. City Council Members. State Assembly Men and Women. State Senators. Governors. And More. I urge you to re-read the United States Constitution. Specifically the First Amendment. In case you weren’t given that at your training or your elementary school education, here is how it reads:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Our forefathers, hundreds of years ago, decided to write this amendment and place it at the top of the Bill of Rights. They made a decision that this amendment, the First Amendment, would be the most important amendment to the foundation of our nation’s principles. Throughout history, we have fought wars, carried out secret missions, economically embargoed other countries to protect the rights of citizens around the world to enjoy the same basic freedoms we have here in America. Now, we are blatantly ignoring those rights of our very own.

Over the past five days in Ferguson, Missouri, after the tragic killing of unarmed teenager, Mike Brown, the police and local government have shown a lack of understanding of this protection. Your job is to PROTECT those who have grievances with our government. To give them space to protest and petition their local elected leaders. The only thing you have been good at protecting thus far is the name of the officer who leveled bullets into Mike Brown’s body (but anonymous may have beat you at that too).

An overwhelming majority of the protesters in Ferguson have been peaceful. Yes, they are angry. Yes, they are pissed off. Yes, they are frustrated. But, they have been peaceful. Of course I recognize that there have been a few who have not. A few who looted, burned and threatened violence. And I would never, ever condone that behavior. But, to all those who have been gathering at the police station everyday, and to all those who have been at the QT from dawn to dawn, why antagonize them? Why shoot upon them? Why tear gas them? Why arrest them?

To the public officials of Ferguson, it is your job to listen to those who ELECTED you. And many of those who put you in office are now protesting outside the buildings that hold your power. If you continue to attempt to silence their protest, their anger will only grow and this could get even worse. The demands of the protesters are simple. Read them. Yet, the demands of this nation are even simpler. Respect the First Amendment. The Constitution is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It never takes a holiday or vacation. It never takes a day off. Unless you order a curfew or invoke martial law, the citizens of Ferguson have every right to peaceably assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances at ANY hour of the day.

As for us, we will continue to show our solidarity with the fight for justice for another unarmed, black teenager killed in America. Our prayers are constantly with the family and friends of Mike Brown, and our hearts are with those keeping their hands up and telling the police officers not to shoot.

 

By: Michael Skolnik, Editor-In-Chief of GlobalGrind.com; The Huffington Post Blog, August 14, 2014

August 15, 2014 Posted by | Bill of Rights, Constitution, Ferguson Missouri | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Passive Resistence”: GOP’s War On Free Speech Intensifies

Dems have been faulted by conservative journalists for excessive political hyperbole in using the term “war on” in connection with GOP campaigns against unions, young voters, people of color, undocumented workers and women. Call it what you will, there shouldn’t be much doubt that Republicans are dedicated to undermining the political and citizenship rights of these groups.

Not content to wage a war on voting against pro-Democratic groups, it now appears that Republicans have declared a war on free speech as well. We had a staff post yesterday on the draconian anti-picketing bill now making it’s way through the Republican-controlled legislature in Georgia. Today DemocraticDiva Donna Gatehouse has an equally-disturbing blog, “AZ Legislature Attacks Civil Liberties” up at AFL-CIO Now. As Gatehouse explains:

…Women’s and reproductive rights groups will undoubtedly be at the state capitol to speak out against numerous shocking and intrusive anti-abortion and anti-contraception measures before the legislature this session. The GOP majority is apparently so frightened by this prospect it’s trying to make it a Class 1 misdemeanor to engage in “passive resistance.” Common nonviolent protest tactics such as going limp when the police try to remove you from an area or chaining yourself to something could get you up to a six-month month jail sentence.The deadline to introduce new bills has passed but Arizona has a maneuver, called a “striker,” that permits legislators to introduce bills beyond it. They strike out all the language in a previous bill and replace it with a new, and often totally unrelated, bill. It’s supposed to be reserved for real emergencies but it’s used for all kinds of bills, and usually to railroad them through the process with little time for public comment or debate. In this case, the “emergency” is lawmakers facing the unbearable thought of citizens calling attention to their outrageous and undemocratic agenda in the public square.

Phoenix blogger Steve Muratore reports that the “no passive resistance” bill is the idea of Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Scottsdale), who has a long background in law enforcement.
…Apparently, he testified that law enforcement officers are at risk of harm from Occupy protesters who passively resist…What harm? A hernia? Not if they lift with their knees as they’re supposed to.

Given the chance, today’s GOP would make criminals out of American heroes like Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lewis, who tapped the power of nonviolent protest to strengthen America’s rights of free expression, freedom of assembly and free speech. During Dr. King’s lifetime, there were some Republican leaders of patriotic integrity who stepped up and took a stand in support of the first Amendment rights of protest and free speech. It appears that none who can meet that standard remain in today’s GOP.

By: J. P. Green, The Democratic Strategist, March 21, 2012

March 23, 2012 Posted by | Civil Rights | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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