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Ferguson, MO: Police versus Witnesses

I have been trying to make sense of what happened in Ferguson, MO, by culling details from various online news sources.  It appears that it comes down to these two arguments:

→POLICE CLAIM: Boy assaulted officer after being asked to walk on the sidewalk & not in middle of the street. Boy pushed officer back in the car when officer attempted to get out.

→WITNESSES CLAIM: Officer asked them to walk on sidewalk. They told him(friend was with him) “we live up there & almost home). Officer fires shots at them and they take off running.  Friend hides behind car while boy killed surrenders w/hands up. Cop shoots anyway.

Although I have compiled as many angles of the story as possible (see below), I must admit that I, an African-American female, am afraid of the police.  I live in a predominantly white Philadelphia suburb on the New Jersey side of the Ben Franklin Bridge.  I have been followed home at least three times by local police.  Each time, I immediately slowed down and called friends to share that I was being followed.  I wanted somebody to be on speaker phone to hear what was happening to me should something go down. Although the body is in good shape, I drive an older car and wear a low hair cut:  I did wonder if they thought I was a black man.

One evening, a girlfriend and I were chatting in the parking lot of Barnes and Noble and a police officer approached us.  We were doing nothing besides chatting.  We were clearly not arguing, fighting or scoping out potential victims to mug.  My friend was enraged and shouted in return, “What?  You can’t see two black people talking in this neighborhood without a problem?”

What is going on when people of a particular hue have to fear the police?  Although some people think its class, I hold fast to race.  Do you remember Harvard Professor, Henry Louis Gates, who was arrested?  Racism does not see class.  It sees race, and that’s it.  However, I cannot ignore the fact that class is brought up in such a way that is meant to make racial targeting by police more acceptable.  Somehow, our society thinks certain things should happen to poor people because they don’t know how to conduct themselves.  So what if somebody looks like they are poor (whatever that means!) or as if they just stepped out of a hip hop video!  Does that give the police or any other organization or institution to treat them poorly (or to kill them)?  Think about how our society portrays people like Honey Boo Boo (being overweight and having a strong southern accent is about class, too) and “Ghetto Blacks”.  When we hear about how they are treated, we let it roll off our backs because nobody thinks well of poor people, and we always find a way to blame poor people for their circumstances.  It is simply easier to prey upon poor people because they have few resources and options to use to fight back.

Back to Michael Brown, here is my fear:  NOTHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN THAT IS GOING TO STEM THE TIDE OF VIOLENCE arising from police brutality.  NOTHING.  We’re going to march, protest and use our bull-horns, but NOTHING is going to happen.  Al Sharpton is going to show up, but the cop won’t go to jail.  The culture of that police department is not going to change.  The cop will use the George Zimmerman defense, resign (maybe) from his job and move to Florida.  There’s always going to be someone who argues that police confront all sorts of craziness and are trained to kill so that they stay alive and can go home to their spouses each day.  Yes, it is a dangerous job; however, police have to be trained differently and better.  Why not shoot the Michael Brown in the leg?

RIP:  Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Jordan Davis and the countless others that I do not know and cannot name.


Police Say… Witnesses Say… About Ferguson Investigations
CNNA shot was fired inside the police car, and Brown was eventually shot about 35 feet away from the vehicle, Belmar said.
He didn’t explain how Brown got so far away from the car or whether he was surrendering. He said he was declining to disclose certain details because he didn’t want to “prejudice” the case.
CBS News Dorian Johnson said he was with Michael Brown, and he gave a different account. Johnson said the officer pulled up next to the two teens and exchanged words with them before choking Brown and trying to pull him into the squad car. The officer, he said, then exited his car, fired a shot and chased after Brown, who was running for his life. USA TodayFerguson, a suburb of 21,000 that’s nearly 70% black. CBS NewsSt. Louis CountyThe St. Louis County Police Department is investigating the shooting and will turn their findings over to the county’s prosecuting attorney’s office for review.
ABC NewsPolice said at a news conference that they “cannot say” how many times the teen was struck when an officer shot him after an altercation, but the young man was unarmed. Ferguson Police Chief Thomas…told the Associated Press that at least one shot was fired in the patrol car. USA TodayWitnesses say Michael Brown, 18, had raised his hands to surrender when the shots were fired. Police have not confirmed that information. Washington PostFerguson is about two-thirds black, one-third white. Its poverty rate is about double Missouri’s average. KMOV – TVThe St. Louis County NAACP says they have launched their own an investigation and plan to “get to the bottom of what has occurred and will work to ensure that justice is served for all victims involved.”
NYTimesThe Ferguson police said they do not have videocameras running in their patrol cars. ABC News
“I saw him turn around with his arms up in the air and they shot him in his face and chest and he went down unarmed,” Piaget Crenshaw said.
Vox Media
Feguson, MO, is 67 percent black, and its police force is 94% white.
USA TodayThe FBI opened an investigation Monday into the death of Brown, who police said was shot multiple times Saturday after being confronted by an officer in Ferguson.
Chicago TribunePolice said Brown physically assaulted the officer from the Ferguson police, who then fired multiple shots at Brown after he left the car on Saturday. The officer, who was not identified, is a six-year veteran and has been put on administrative leave, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told a news conference.
“It is our understanding at this point in the investigation, that within the police car, there was a struggle over the officer’s weapon,” Belmar told reporters.
According to Belmar, Brown was walking with a friend in the middle of the street when an officer attempted to exit his vehicle, the Los Angeles Times reported. Police said Brown pushed the officer back into the police car.
Brown then entered the officer’s vehicle and a struggle ensued over the officer’s weapon, according to police. During the altercation a shot was fired inside the car.
The officer and Brown then exited the vehicle and at that point the fatal shooting occurred, Belmar said.
NBC News
“His exact words were get the f–k on the sidewalk,” Johnson told msnbc. They responded that they were just walking back to Johnson’s house, but the officer slammed on his brakes, stopping so he was face-to-face with them.
The officer, whose identity and race have yet to be made public, tried to open his door, Johnson said, but the door hit Brown and ricocheted closed. The officer then grabbed Brown by the neck, Johnson said. “I could see the muscles in his forearm,” Johnson said. “That’s when I heard, ‘I’m gonna shoot you.’” Brown started running, stopping at one point with his hands up as he cried, “I don’t have a gun, stop shooting!” Johnson said the officer fired several shots, and Brown collapsed to the ground.
LA Times“In the greater picture, what we saw … was the boiling over of tensions that had been going on for a long while,” said Antonio French, a St. Louis city alderman who is black.James Clark, vice president of a St. Louis nonprofit, Community Outreach for a Better Life, said the violence following Brown’s death was “due to a total alienation of a certain class of African Americans.”
Ferguson’s police chief and mayor are white. Of the six City Council members, one is black. The local school board has six white members and one Latino. Of the 53 commissioned officers on the police force, three are black, said Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson.
Blacks in Ferguson are twice as likely to be stopped by police as whites, according to an annual report on racial profiling by the Missouri attorney general. Last year, 93% of arrests following car stops in Ferguson were of blacks. Ninety-two percent of searches and 80% of car stops involved blacks, the report said.

1 Comment

  1. Your writing rings true to my heart. We share the same fears about police brutality. It frightens me to think that those who are supposed to Protect and Serve ALL of us are only protecting and serving a small amount of people. If the roles were reversed here, and a white kid was shot by a black cop (or even if the cop was white!), that cop would not have even been given a CHANCE at being put on administrative leave. It sickens me to think that there’s a chance he’ll get off without a hitch. We can’t pick and choose who we fight for.

    I love how you said, “Yes, it is a dangerous job; however, police have to be trained differently and better. Why not shoot the Michael Brown in the leg?” I couldn’t agree more. Whatever happened during the “altercation” did not justify Michael Brown being shot down by a one man firing squad. We can’t pick and choose who lives when everyone is supposed to have the right to a fair trial.

    Also, I love your information chart. It’s extremely helpful.

    God Bless!

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