Friday, August 15, 2014

"Hands Up! Don't Shoot!" - Gaza comes home to Ferguson




Students at Howard University in Washington in solidarity with Michael Brown whose last words were these. They have become a symbol, across the country among black people and other anti-racists, and echoing even in Gaza, of mass protest against racist police murders.

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For more photographs from St. Louis in which protestors raise their hands, see here.

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St. Louis is a notoriously racist place - Ferguson is an impoverished suburb - and the positioning of whites in power over the black community is longstanding, unabated to this day.

A New York Times editorial below from Tuesday gives some of the background:

"The F.B.I. may be able to answer the many questions surrounding the death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black student from Ferguson, Mo., who was a few days from heading off to college when he was shot by a police officer on Saturday. The shooting of Mr. Brown, who was unarmed, led to three days of protest, some of it violent, and several tense confrontations between residents of the St. Louis suburban town of 21,000 and the police.

But it doesn’t take a federal investigation to understand the history of racial segregation, economic inequality and overbearing law enforcement that produced so much of the tension now evident on the streets. St. Louis has long been one of the nation’s most segregated metropolitan areas, and there remains a high wall between black residents — who overwhelmingly have lower incomes — and the white power structure that dominates City Councils and police departments like the ones in Ferguson.

Until the late 1940s, blacks weren’t allowed to live in most suburban St. Louis County towns, kept out by restrictive covenants that the Supreme Court prohibited in 1948. As whites began to flee the city for the county in the 1950s and ’60s, they used exclusionary zoning tactics — including large, single-family lot requirements that prohibited apartment buildings — to prevent blacks from moving in. Within the city, poverty and unrest grew.

By the 1970s, many blacks started leaving the City of St. Louis as well. Colin Gordon, a professor at the University of Iowa who has carefully mapped the metropolitan area’s residential history, said black families were attracted to older, inner-ring suburbs like Ferguson in the northern part of the county because they were built before restrictive zoning tactics and, therefore, allowed apartments.

As black families moved into Ferguson, the whites fled. In 1980, the town was 85 percent white and 14 percent black; by 2010, it was 29 percent white and 69 percent black. But blacks did not gain political power as their numbers grew. The mayor and the police chief are white, as are five of the six City Council members. The school board consists of six white members and one Hispanic. As Mr. Gordon explains, many black residents, lacking the wealth to buy property, move from apartment to apartment and have not put down political roots [for a major, near 20% shortfall in voting, this is not a full explanation].

The disparity is most evident in the Ferguson Police Department, of which only three of 53 officers are black. The largely white force stops black residents far out of proportion to their population, according to statistics kept by the state attorney general. Blacks account for 86 percent of the traffic stops in the city, and 93 percent of the arrests after those stops. Similar problems exist around St. Louis County, where earlier this year the state chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. filed a federal civil rights complaint alleging widespread racial profiling by police departments."

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Here are two eyewitnesses to the murder of Michael Brown, an 18 year old walking home in the street, by an enraged police officer from Democracy Now:

"DORIAN JOHNSON: Me and my friend, we was walking down the street in the middle of the street, and we wasn’t causing any harm to nobody. We had no weapons on us at all. We were just walking, having a conversation. No cars were blowing at us or honking at us like we was holding up traffic or anything like that. And a police officer squad car pulled up. And when he pulled up, these was his exact words: He said, "Get the f— on the sidewalk." And we told the officer we was not but a minute away from our destination, and we would surely be off the street. We was having a conversation. And he went about his way for about one or two seconds, as we continued to walk, and then he reversed his truck, his car, in a manner to where it almost hit us. It blocked both lanes off, the way he turned his car.

So, he pulled up on the side of us. He tried to thrust his door open, but we were so close to it that it ricocheted off us and it bounced back to him. And I guess that, you know, got him a little upset. At that time, he reached out the window. He didn’t get out the car. He just reached his arm out the window, grabbed my friend around his neck and was trying to—as he was trying to choke my friend. And he was trying to get away, and the officer then reached out, and he grabbed his arm to pull him into the car. So now it’s like the officer is pulling him inside the car. He’s trying to pull away. And at no time the officer said that he was going to do anything, until he pulled out his weapon. His weapon was drawn, and he said, "I’ll shoot you," or, "I’m going to shoot." And in the same moment, the first shot went off. And we looked at him. He was shot, and there was blood coming from him. And we took off running.

As we took off running, I ducked and hid for my life, because I was fearing for my life. And I hid by the first car that I saw. My friend, he kept running, and he told me to keep running, because he feared for me, too. So, as he was running, the officer was trying to get out of the car. And once he got out the car, he pursued my friend, but his weapon was drawn. Now, he didn’t see any weapon drawn at him or anything like that, us going for no weapon. His weapon was already drawn when he got out the car. He shot again. And once my friend felt that shot, he turned around, and he put his hands in the air, and he started to get down. But the officer still approached with his weapon drawn, and he fired several more shots. And my friend died. He didn’t say anything to him. He just stood over, and he was shooting. By then, I was so afraid for my life, I just—I got up, and I ran."

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And here is an independent witness:

"PIAGET CRENSHAW: I heard gunshots fired, and I’m like, "Oh, my goodness, what’s going on?" I gather all my things and look back out the window. And at this moment, he’s running. He’s chasing after Michael full-forcedly down the street. And gunshots are being fired repeatedly, as well. I went from that window to my balcony, where I then saw Michael. He’s running this way. He turns his body towards this way, hands in the air, being compliant. He gets shot in his face and chest, and goes down and dies."

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And here is a third witness Tiffany Mitchell from ch. 4 news in St. Louis - see here for film of her testimony and that of Dorian Johnson:

"Another witness to the shooting of Michael Brown, Jr. spoke to News 4 Wednesday.

Tiffany Mitchell, 27, said she did not see what led up to the shooting, but said she arrived right before the fatal shots were fired.

“As I was coming around, I heard the tires squeaking on the truck, and as I get closer, I see them tussling through the window. The kid was pulling off and the cop was pulling in,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell told News 4 she saw a door closed on a police car. An officer was inside and Brown, Jr. was on the outside. She said the two were arm wrestling through the car window. Mitchell said she then tried to pull out her phone to record. Shots then rang out.

“It just didn’t look right for them to be arm wrestling,” Mitchell said. “The first gun shot came from the window, so I just started getting out of the way.”

According to Mitchell, Brown, Jr, began to run away after the first shot was fired.

'After the shot, the kid just breaks away. The cop follows him, kept shooting, the kid’s body jerked as if he was hit. After his body jerked he turns around, puts his hands up, and the cop continues to walk up on him and continues to shoot until he goes all the way down,' Mitchell said."

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Brown was unarmed. The police officer, alone in the car, angered at the two teens who refused to stop walking in the street, swerved in front of them, grabbed and fought through the window with Michael, and then chased him and fired repeatedly on him. There has not yet been a trial in a court of law, but this officer is plainly, on these accounts of the facts, guilty of unpremeditated homicide.

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As Montesquieu says in book 11 of Spirit of the Laws, in a court of law, one needs two witnesses to ensure a fair trial - and here there are at least three...

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Brown had, in desperation, raised his hands, pleading with the enraged officer.

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Michael's body lay on the ground for 4 hours...

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If this sounds like Trayvon Martin, it pretty much is, except this is a "regular" police officer. To get the pattern of suspicion, harassment and imprisonment across the country, see Charles Blow's column from the New York Times below.

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But due to the persistent protests and the nakedness of the shooting, this story has become national and international news, a chance like Bull Connor in Birmingham once upon a time, to begin to break with the past.

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President Obama said this is heartbreaking, and that is the right word.

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Michael Brown was just an 18 year old, preparing to go off to college. He had survived the streets and the fate of high school dropouts. Black males who do not finish high school in Ferguson have a 70% chance of being involved with the Injustice system by the age of 30. Brown wasn't political. He was not into violence. He was walking while black, a block from his home, with a friend.

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Eric Garner in New York was an older man.

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Why doesn't the Ferguson police department talk about its prominent murders of teenagers walking while white? See the poem "Walking" here.

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It is good that the Justice Department is investigating. It is a shame that Palestinian children, murdered by the European Occupiers armed and provided "intelligence" by the Obama administration and the NSA, do not yet receive. in the American corporate media, much attention.

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Carl Gibson has an article below on the "no fly zone" the militarized police created for Ferguson to bar press helicopters and fair reporting. He notes the ban on demonstrations after dark - is the First Amendment for daylight hours only, he rightly asks? - and the Pentagon-sponsored militarization of police forces even in "small" communities. One may add to this the arrest of 2 reporters, Wesley Lowery from the Washington Post, Rick Reilly from Huffington Post, sitting in a McDonald's, a separate assault on an Al-Jazeera reporter, and many other acts of intimidation by the police. See here.

Does the Bill of Rights cease when reporters and citizens are in Ferguson?

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In another report from KMOV below, Maria Chapelle-Nadal, a state senator, speaks of being tear-gassed:

"FERGUSON, Mo. (KMOV.com) – A Missouri State Senator said she was hit with tear gas while protesting in Ferguson.

State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal said she is angry at the military style force police are using to control crowds. The 14th district representative said she is outraged and offended by the aggression police are using toward protesters.

Chappelle-Nadal said she and 150 young protesters were hit with tear gas during a peaceful protest Monday night. She is calling out Missouri Highway Patrol

“[Protesters] have every right to assemble freely and express themselves and not have tear gas thrown at them. By the way, tear gas was thrown on me and we could not breathe,” said Chappelle-Nadal. “I approve their budget, so you know that I’m pissed off.”

Chapelle-Nadal questioned Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson about the situation during a press conference early Wednesday. Chief Jackson was unaware that it had happened."

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The Pentagon gives out old MRAP vehicles from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It "aids" 600 police departments. The police dress in black or camouflage, more intimidating than the usual uniform. Ferguson is a suburb, a small town, in which such weaponry is used against black residents, styled by some officers as "animals."

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Any mainly black or Chicano or poor community is a setting for these bizarre arms. A Congressman has just introduced legislation against this. Surely, this bizarre Pentagon conduct should be stopped, and police brutality - that of the Compnay in Avatar... - halted. Senator Claire McCaskill warned, a little late, against the militarization of the police and its striking repressive effects - see here.

And Senator Rand Paul spoke out in Time magazine - "We must demilitarize the police" - here

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The explanation for rampant, previously secret militarization is growing American inequality, where Mitt Romney or Jamie Dimon has many houses, here and abroad and unaccounted, unaccounted (for tax purposes) and growing wealth, where Newt Gingrich imagines the Romneys and Gingriches all set up a colony on the moon - see Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-first Century - and the ever increasing poor and failing middle class must be militarily kept down...

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In response to Obama, the Democratic governor, Jay Nixon, has now appointed Ron Johnson, a black state trooper originally from Ferguson, to head up law enforcement. and do some community policing. See here. According to the Times this morning,

"The official, Capt. Ronald S. Johnson, told reporters he had ordered troopers to remove their tear gas masks, and in the early evening he accompanied several groups of protestors through the city streets, clasping hands, listening to stories and marching alongside them." (in these words, one might hear some promise of a different America...)

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But for five days, the heavily militarized police claimed that citizens "rioted" - there was some looting of stores; yet the intimidation and beating of reporters, following upon the murder of teenager, is actually part of a police riot for several days, now finally being calmed from above.

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The police sometimes come loaded for bear at each demonstration, ready to riot. They did this when the Ku Klux Klan came to a Martin Luther King birthday parade in Denver in the early 1990s - one can feel the mood of a coming police riot, a social/psychological phenomenon worthy of study (consider the police murders at Rabah last year under the tyrant Al-Sisi of some 8,000 - see Kenneth Roth and Human Rights Watch's report yesterday). About this, like many important phenomena unfolding before our eyes, academia so far has little to say...

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The courageous demonstrators - and the chant from below now all over the country - "Hands Up! Don't Shoot!" - have finally gotten Eric Holder to engage the Justice Department in a) investigating this case and b) trying to provide guidelines for police work - i.e. no shooting of the unarmed, no choke-holds, no profiling would probably be a good start - which is friendly to communities.

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John Lewis, the Veteran of Hope from the civil rights movement and Congressman from Atlanta, named the nationwide oppression on NBC yesterday:

"REP. JOHN LEWIS: It takes me back to the ’40s, the ’50s, the ’60s. And to have a city that are majority African-American and only three African American on the police force, or to have a local police officer referring to the protesters as "animals," or to have people dressed in military garment and pointing rifles directly at the protesters, that is only going to incite people. So my own feeling is, right now, is that President Obama should use the authority of his office to declare martial law, federalize the Missouri National Guard to protect people as they protest. And people should come together—reasonable elected officials, community leaders—and address what is happening there. If we fail to act, the fires of frustration and discontent will continue to burn, not only in Missouri, but all across America."

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The federal government has at last asked the state of Missouri to get involved in defending the basic rights of Americans in Ferguson.

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Many have tweeted from Gaza about the similarities of Israeli - armed by American corporations - war crimes and Ferguson policing (h/t Ilene and Tamar Cohen). Tweets reported in the Times with accompanying photos can be checked out here.

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As during Arab Spring, there were tweets from Egypt about how to deal with tear gas sent on Valentine's Day to people occupying the Capitol in Madison and to Oakland, so today from Palestine.

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Every tear gas canister is made by the deceptively named Consolidated Systems Inc. In 2012, I handled spent silver ones and hard rubber bullet shells - read on them "made in the USA" - when our delegation from the Dorothy Cotton Institute walked with nonviolent village protestors from Nabi Saleh (the West Bank) near the Wall. See here, here, and poem Valentine s here.

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This is what I name the anti-democratic feedback of international politics, the coming home to roost of unjust military interventions abroad i.e. providing arms for the massacre in Gaza (see Alan Gilbert, Must Global Politics Constrain Democracy?, Princeton University Press, 1999) transformed into police murders and "no fly zones"/curtailing of journalism and freedom of speech at home. (Obama, be it noted, has just apparently held up some arms aid to Israel and had a blistering phone conversation with Netanyahu, according to the Wall Street Journal. Too bad the President did not have the courage to do this earlier...)

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Just imagine how Bull Connor, police chief of Birmingham transported in time, might have replaced the highspeed hoses spraying the bark off trees and striking teenage demonstrators and the straining police dogs which made him and America internationally notorious in the 1960s with new "toys" from the Pentagon...

Danny Lyon, the photographer of this police riot in Birmingham is reminded of the Ferguson photograph of four militarized cops, army rifles pointed at a teenager with hands up, in Ferguson today - see the Times here. Someone on twitter posted the two photographs saying sarcastically that they show how far America has come in 50 years...

Barack is President, there are changes, and yet...

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There are rallies opposing the slaughters in Gaza - and American military "aid" - this Saturday, including one in Denver at 12:45 at the State Capitol.

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"The Opinion Pages | EDITORIAL

The Death of Michael Brown
Racial History Behind the Ferguson Protests
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD AUG. 12, 2014

The F.B.I. may be able to answer the many questions surrounding the death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black student from Ferguson, Mo., who was a few days from heading off to college when he was shot by a police officer on Saturday. The shooting of Mr. Brown, who was unarmed, led to three days of protest, some of it violent, and several tense confrontations between residents of the St. Louis suburban town of 21,000 and the police.

But it doesn’t take a federal investigation to understand the history of racial segregation, economic inequality and overbearing law enforcement that produced so much of the tension now evident on the streets. St. Louis has long been one of the nation’s most segregated metropolitan areas, and there remains a high wall between black residents — who overwhelmingly have lower incomes — and the white power structure that dominates City Councils and police departments like the ones in Ferguson.

Until the late 1940s, blacks weren’t allowed to live in most suburban St. Louis County towns, kept out by restrictive covenants that the Supreme Court prohibited in 1948. As whites began to flee the city for the county in the 1950s and ’60s, they used exclusionary zoning tactics — including large, single-family lot requirements that prohibited apartment buildings — to prevent blacks from moving in. Within the city, poverty and unrest grew.

By the 1970s, many blacks started leaving the City of St. Louis as well. Colin Gordon, a professor at the University of Iowa who has carefully mapped the metropolitan area’s residential history, said black families were attracted to older, inner-ring suburbs like Ferguson in the northern part of the county because they were built before restrictive zoning tactics and, therefore, allowed apartments.

As black families moved into Ferguson, the whites fled. In 1980, the town was 85 percent white and 14 percent black; by 2010, it was 29 percent white and 69 percent black. But blacks did not gain political power as their numbers grew. The mayor and the police chief are white, as are five of the six City Council members. The school board consists of six white members and one Hispanic. As Mr. Gordon explains, many black residents, lacking the wealth to buy property, move from apartment to apartment and have not put down political roots.

The disparity is most evident in the Ferguson Police Department, of which only three of 53 officers are black. The largely white force stops black residents far out of proportion to their population, according to statistics kept by the state attorney general. Blacks account for 86 percent of the traffic stops in the city, and 93 percent of the arrests after those stops. Similar problems exist around St. Louis County, where earlier this year the state chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. filed a federal civil rights complaint alleging widespread racial profiling by police departments.

The circumstances of Mr. Brown’s death are, inevitably, in dispute. Witnesses said he was walking home from a convenience store when stopped by an officer for walking in the middle of the street, and they accused the officer of shooting him multiple times when his hands were raised over his head. The police said Mr. Brown had hit the officer. State and federal investigators are trying to sort out the truth.

What is not in dispute is the sense of permanent grievance held by many residents and shared in segregated urban areas around the country. Though nothing excuses violence and looting, it is clear that local governments have not dispensed justice equally. The death of Mr. Brown is “heartbreaking,” as President Obama said Tuesday, but it is also a reminder of a toxic racial legacy that still infects cities and suburbs across America."

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"Democracy Now
The Killing of Michael Brown: Missouri Police Shooting of Unarmed Black Teen Sparks Days of Protests

GUESTS
Antonio French, longtime community advocate in St. Louis, Missouri. He has been in Ferguson live-tweeting and posting Vine videos of protests over the police shooting of Michael Brown.

Cornell William Brooks, president/CEO of the NAACP and longtime human rights advocate, lawyer and minister.

Protesters in St. Louis, Missouri, are demanding justice in a police shooting that killed an unarmed African-American teen. Eighteen-year-old Michael Brown was shot to death in the suburb of Ferguson on Saturday afternoon. Brown was reportedly walking in the middle of the street with his friend when a police officer drove up and ordered them onto the sidewalk. The St. Louis County Police is claiming Brown physically assaulted the officer and tried to reach for his weapon inside a police car. But witnesses have provided a sharply different account, saying Brown was shot with his arms up as he tried to flee the officer’s fire. Brown had recently graduated from high school and was due to begin college courses this week. Protests began immediately after the shooting, with tensions escalating on Sunday when demonstrators were met by riot police with dogs. We speak to Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP, who is in Ferguson meeting with the local community. We are also joined by Antonio French, a community advocate who has been live-tweeting and posting Vine videos of the protests.

TRANSCRIPT

AARON MATÉ: We turn now to St. Louis, Missouri, where protesters are demanding justice in a police shooting that killed an unarmed African-American teen. Eighteen-year-old Michael Brown was shot to death in the suburb of Ferguson on Saturday afternoon after he was confronted by police. Witnesses say Brown was walking in the middle of the street with his friend, when a police officer drove up and ordered them onto the sidewalk. Brown’s friend, Dorian Johnson, described what happened.

DORIAN JOHNSON: Me and my friend, we was walking down the street in the middle of the street, and we wasn’t causing any harm to nobody. We had no weapons on us at all. We were just walking, having a conversation. No cars were blowing at us or honking at us like we was holding up traffic or anything like that. And a police officer squad car pulled up. And when he pulled up, these was his exact words: He said, "Get the f— on the sidewalk." And we told the officer we was not but a minute away from our destination, and we would surely be off the street. We was having a conversation. And he went about his way for about one or two seconds, as we continued to walk, and then he reversed his truck, his car, in a manner to where it almost hit us. It blocked both lanes off, the way he turned his car.
So, he pulled up on the side of us. He tried to thrust his door open, but we were so close to it that it ricocheted off us and it bounced back to him. And I guess that, you know, got him a little upset. At that time, he reached out the window. He didn’t get out the car. He just reached his arm out the window, grabbed my friend around his neck and was trying to—as he was trying to choke my friend. And he was trying to get away, and the officer then reached out, and he grabbed his arm to pull him into the car. So now it’s like the officer is pulling him inside the car. He’s trying to pull away. And at no time the officer said that he was going to do anything, until he pulled out his weapon. His weapon was drawn, and he said, "I’ll shoot you," or, "I’m going to shoot." And in the same moment, the first shot went off. And we looked at him. He was shot, and there was blood coming from him. And we took off running.

As we took off running, I ducked and hid for my life, because I was fearing for my life. And I hid by the first car that I saw. My friend, he kept running, and he told me to keep running, because he feared for me, too. So, as he was running, the officer was trying to get out of the car. And once he got out the car, he pursued my friend, but his weapon was drawn. Now, he didn’t see any weapon drawn at him or anything like that, us going for no weapon. His weapon was already drawn when he got out the car. He shot again. And once my friend felt that shot, he turned around, and he put his hands in the air, and he started to get down. But the officer still approached with his weapon drawn, and he fired several more shots. And my friend died. He didn’t say anything to him. He just stood over, and he was shooting. By then, I was so afraid for my life, I just—I got up, and I ran.

AARON MATÉ: That was Dorian Johnson describing how he saw a police officer shoot and kill his friend Michael Brown on Saturday. The St. Louis County Police version of events is sharply different. It claims Brown physically assaulted the officer involved and tried to reach for his weapon inside a police car. This is Police Chief Jon Belmar.

POLICE CHIEF JON BELMAR: Allegedly pushed the police officer back into the car, where he physically assaulted the police officer. It is our understanding at this point in the investigation that within the police car there was a struggle over the officer’s weapon. There was at least one shot fired within the car.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Brown lived in St. Louis but was in Ferguson visiting his grandmother. He had recently graduated from high school, was due to begin college courses this week. Just last week, he posted a haunting message on Facebook as he prepared to enter new phase in his life, writing, quote, "if i leave this earth today ... at least you’ll know i care about others more then I cared about my damn self."

Protests began immediately after Michael Brown was shot. Police reportedly left his body laying in the street for several hours. Officers said they needed time to process the site and that the crowd that gathered made it hard for them to properly gather evidence.

Tensions escalated Sunday as protesters took to the streets again and were met by riot police with dogs. A CNN reporter caught one officer referring to the demonstrators as "animals."

GEORGE HOWELL: Racial tensions and nerves on edge. Even an officer we caught on camera gave into his rage, calling protesters "animals." Listen.

POLICE OFFICER: Bring it! Oh, you [bleep], bring it! [bleep]

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Brown’s parents discussed her son’s killing at a news conference. This is Michael’s father, Michael Brown Sr., and his mom, Lesley McSpadden.

MICHAEL BROWN SR.: He was funny, silly. He’d make you laugh. Any problems that’d be going on or any situation, there wasn’t nothing that he couldn’t solve. He’d bring people back together. He was a good boy. He didn’t deserve none of this. None of it. We need justice for our son. If you have any information, please, please give it to us.

LESLEY McSPADDEN: He didn’t deserve that, y’all. He didn’t deserve none of that.

MICHAEL BROWN SR.: We need the police report, too. We need to know everything. We want everything. We want this done. We’re going to do this right. I don’t want no violence. We don’t want no violence.

LESLEY McSPADDEN: Because Michael wouldn’t want no violence.

MICHAEL BROWN SR.: He wouldn’t have wanted none of that. None of it. None of it. He would want us to do it right. That’s why we’re doing it right. We’re going to do it the right way. But we need justice for our son.

LESLEY McSPADDEN: That’s my firstborn son. Everybody that know me knew how I felt about my son. I just wish I could have been there to help him. Anything. He didn’t deserve that.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Brown’s mother and father. The family is being represented by Benjamin Crump, the attorney for Trayvon Martin’s family.

Meanwhile, the unidentified officer who shot Brown has been put on administrative leave, and on Monday the Justice Department announced a civil rights investigation. The FBI will continue to monitor the investigation being carried out by the St. Louis County Police Department.

For more, we go directly to St. Louis, where we’re joined by two guests. Antonio French is with us. He’s been in Ferguson live-tweeting and posting Vine videos of protests. His coverage has been widely credited for drawing national attention to the demonstrators’ concerns, as much of the media portrayed them an angry mob. [French] is also a St. Louis alderman, representing the 21st Ward, longtime community advocate.

And we’re joined by Cornell William Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP. That’s the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He has been in Ferguson, Missouri, to support Brown’s family, spoke there Monday night at a community meeting called by the NAACP, where they held a moment of silence in Brown’s memory. There are plans for a national moment of silence this Thursday.

Cornell William Brooks, Antonio French, we welcome you both to Democracy Now! I want to start with Antonio French. Three days of protests have taken place. The Justice Department says they are also going to conduct an investigation. Is it the same investigation? Will they be doing an independent investigation? The family is also calling for a separate autopsy. Tell us the latest.

ANTONIO FRENCH: Well, it’s been described as a parallel investigation being conducted at the same time as the St. Louis County investigation is going on. And I think that’s what’s needed. There is so little trust between the community and the local Ferguson Police Department, and even the St. Louis County Police Department, that people really need an outside view of what’s going on down here in order to be able to make sure that justice is delivered.

AARON MATÉ: Antonio French, I’m looking at some stats here. It says last year black Missourians were 66 percent more likely to be stopped by the police. Can you put this shooting, this killing, in that context?

ANTONIO FRENCH: Well, the context is that there is tension that’s been around for years. This has been growing, and I think this Michael Brown incident is what has caused it to boil over. But the tension between especially young African-American males and the people who police their neighborhoods is something that’s been ongoing. You know, you take an area like Ferguson, which is a majority African-American township, and it has an almost all-white police force, many of them not from the Ferguson community. And it’s created this kind of tension. And over the last few days, as Ferguson has called for backup from neighboring police departments—even the Missouri Highway Patrol has come in—it’s another case of just people coming in that can’t relate directly with the community.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Piaget Crenshaw. She is another eyewitness to the police shooting of Michael Brown.

PIAGET CRENSHAW: I heard gunshots fired, and I’m like, "Oh, my goodness, what’s going on?" I gather all my things and look back out the window. And at this moment, he’s running. He’s chasing after Michael full-forcedly down the street. And gunshots are being fired repeatedly, as well. I went from that window to my balcony, where I then saw Michael. He’s running this way. He turns his body towards this way, hands in the air, being compliant. He gets shot in his face and chest, and goes down and dies.
AMY GOODMAN: That is Piaget Crenshaw. She’s putting up her hands, she’s showing, as he’s putting up his hands in a kind of surrender sign. Cornell William Brooks is president and CEO of the NAACP. What are you calling for now?

CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS: We’re calling for is not only a full and exhaustive investigation by the Justice Department, but also by the local authorities. This unfortunate, tragic shooting and death occurred in Ferguson, Missouri. Those who are here and on the ground need to assure the community that there will be a full accounting, that this officer will be held accountable. We’re also calling on the community to take action, but take action constructively and nonviolently. We’re here to support them as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and to support the folks on the ground who’ve been in this community for years and who represent the community that Michael Brown grew up in.

AARON MATÉ: And I understand that the St. Louis NAACP has met with the local police. Do you know yet if the police have spoken to these witnesses? We’ve played two witnesses now, giving such a divergent account from the police account of what happened.

CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS: Well, what I’m aware of is that the St. Louis president, Mr. Pruitt, has spoken to these witnesses in conjunction with the Justice Department and that the NAACP is assisting this effort in terms of bringing forward witnesses who have credible testimony and offering a safe space for them to come forward. It’s important that we preserve the integrity of this testimony, that we convey to the community that it is safe to come forward and that what you say, any evidence that you may provide, will be taken seriously. And to the extent that the NAACP represents a trusted vehicle, we are happy to do that under very difficult and sad circumstances.

AMY GOODMAN: This is St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar again, speaking Monday about how police responded to the demonstrations over the weekend.

POLICE CHIEF JON BELMAR: We really felt like that with the emotions running as high as they were, with the shooting the previous day of Mr. Brown, that we didn’t want to add to any of that. So, later in the afternoon, it became very clear that special operations from the county was going to have to deploy. And they in fact did.
AMY GOODMAN: That is the St. Louis County police chief, Jon Belmar. Antonio French, I wanted you to describe more what is happening on the streets and how you, as a St. Louis alderman, one of the youngest, decided to get so deeply involved with this. You are nonstop tweeting, sending six-second videos all through these protests.

ANTONIO FRENCH: Yeah, and so, it really started just hours after Mike Brown was killed, even while his body still laid on the ground. The local newspaper here ran a quick story with a headline that "police shooting leads to mob reaction." And that offended me, frankly. It was not a mob reaction; it was a justified community reaction, I felt. And knowing how local media sometimes treats these situations—I have a background in journalism—so I grabbed my iPhone and ran down there.

When I arrived, by that time, Mike Brown’s body had laid on the ground for close to four hours. Police had separated citizens and Mike Brown’s mom and family members from the site. She was angry, hysterical in the street. No one from the police department came to offer any information to her about the condition of her son, what had happened to her son, would not let her identify her son’s body. And it became a standoff. So the tone of what’s happened in the last few days was set in the hours following the killing. Police formed a barrier, a human barrier of police officers. There was a standoff between the community. And luckily, we didn’t have any violence that night. People were patient. They were hopeful that the next day at the press conference, which was announced, that there would be some hope of justice being served, that some information would be given to the family.

That did not happen. They were very disappointed with what happened at the press conference, this narrative that does not align with any of the eyewitness accounts of what happened. Also that day, the mother of Michael Brown went on local radio and detailed her interactions with the police department since her son was killed. She described being cursed at, being disrespected, not being included, no information being given. And so, people from all over the community—the ward I represent, St. Louis city, is just a few miles down the road from Ferguson, and the death of this young man has struck a chord, because, like I said, the tensions between the young black community and the police is the same, whether it’s in Ferguson or small municipalities around it or St. Louis city. And so, people have come in support of the family and to air their frustrations at the situation.

AARON MATÉ: Antonio, you were at a community meeting on Monday night. What are the protesters’ demands? And have the police even released the name of the officer yet?

ANTONIO FRENCH: Not yet. So, the protesters delivered four demands. The first was the identity of the man who killed Mike Brown. The second was his immediate firing. As you might know right now, he is on paid administrative leave. The third was something very reasonable, which is that the Ferguson officer handbook be distributed to all Ferguson citizens, so they know what police can and cannot do, the rules by which everybody is playing. I think these are reasonable demands. And the community has come out repeatedly over the last few days and had peaceful demonstrations in front of the police department. Even yesterday, in a peaceful demonstration, the police removed the protesters, even though they were standing lawfully on a public sidewalk. And I think the way that the police have handled this with a heavy hand has made the situation worse.

AMY GOODMAN: I—

ANTONIO FRENCH: I think what we need at this time is to—go ahead.

AMY GOODMAN: We just have 30 seconds, and I wanted to bring Cornell William Brooks back in. You were just in New York meeting with Commissioner Bratton, here where Eric Garner was just killed.

CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: We know what happened because there was a video taken. Now, both the young man who took the video, Ramsey Orta, and his wife were arrested by police and said that they’ve been harassed. We haven’t seen this kind of video in St. Louis. Your final comment?

CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS: Well, one of the things I’ll note here is this seems to be one additional chapter in a larger tragic narrative, that being young people accused of minor offenses, underwhelmingly minor offenses, met with overwhelmingly major uses, excessive uses of force. This is being played out across the country. And what it speaks to is a need to change in policing culture and policing tactics. That is to say, the best way to protect the community is to in fact respect the community.

AMY GOODMAN: We have to leave it there, Cornell William Brooks and Antonio French."

***


The Ferguson police department riot squad moving towards a protester. (photo: Getty Images)

Ferguson Holds Up a Mirror to Our Militarized Police State
By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News
August 14

The night after unarmed 17-year-old Michael Brown was shot to death by police with his hands in the air, a march down a main road led by a Missouri state senator was indiscriminately attacked with tear gas. The march included both members of the community along with credentialed press. Others on Twitter documented the use of wooden pellets launched at the crowd, and the firing of rubber bullets, which are actually just normal bullets inside a thin rubber casing.

The FAA has just declared city of Ferguson a no-fly zone, prohibiting news choppers from documenting protests and police abuses. And in their first official statement since the shooting of Michael Brown, Ferguson police said citizens should only protest during daylight hours. This implies that citizens demonstrating after sunset are fair game for repression. The framers of the Constitution never wanted there to be a sunset clause on the First Amendment.

What’s happening in Ferguson, a suburb of Saint Louis, Missouri, is just like what’s happened in Anaheim, California, after the killing of Manuel Diaz by local police. It’s the same thing that happened in Brooklyn’s Flatbush neighborhood after the NYPD killed 16-year-old Kimani Gray. And it’s the same police response that was seen in Oakland, California, and Portland, Oregon, and many other cities around the country during the heavily-militarized crackdown on the Occupy Wall Street movement.

As The New York Times has documented, police departments across the country are getting unprecedented access to military-grade equipment meant for war zones. Grants from the Department of Homeland Security are available specifically so police departments in towns as small as Springfield, Massachusetts, can have grenade launchers, or for the Ferguson Police Department to get armored vehicles. The police response to the Ferguson protests has revealed the true intents of a militarized police force – suppression of dissent.

In June, the Guardian reported that the Pentagon has, for years, been preparing for mass civil breakdown. Last year. the Department of Homeland Security was buying bullets by the billions, driving up ammunition prices all over the country. It isn’t too far-fetched to suggest that municipal police departments are gearing up to prepare for such a civil collapse, whether brought on by economic or environmental circumstances, in order to transition seamlessly to martial law. If we allow a militarized police force to take hold in our communities and consistently violate the constitutional rights of citizens, we enable that transition ourselves.

The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 made it clear that military forces are not allowed to be deployed in civilian neighborhoods for law enforcement purposes. While the law originally was meant for branches of the U.S. armed forces, it should also apply to police departments using equipment meant only for U.S. armed forces in war zones. Because of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, the so-called “War on Terror” included all of the United States as part of the “battlefield,” making it fair game for Posse Comitatus to be eliminated. It also allows for the indefinite detention in a military facility for anyone deemed to be a potential terrorist under loosely-defined parameters. This sets a dangerous precedent for the future of a democratic society.

Demilitarizing police forces must be an election-year issue in all municipalities for candidates running for mayor, city council, alderman, or selectman. Citizens must be willing to storm city council meetings and demand that town governments seize all military-grade equipment meant for war zones. State legislative candidates must be forced to answer questions about where they stand on police militarization. And there must be a national demand for what Anonymous called “Mike Brown’s Law,” that will “set strict national standards on police conduct and misbehavior in the USA.”

Citizens should also take it upon themselves to not demonize all police, but to get inside their organizational structures and turn police in the right direction. Anyone who has a relative who is a retired police officer should ask them about speaking to their police union at their next meeting. Police unions, which have largely been left alone in the midst of a national crackdown on workers’ rights, hold much sway over local police departments. Forging a citizens’ alliance with police unions can lessen the chances of another Mike Brown-type incident happening. And it could lead to police disobeying a potential order in the future to fire upon citizens in the event of, God forbid, a mass civil breakdown.

Police are meant to protect and serve the people, not the state. It’s up to all of us to hold them to that.


Carl Gibson, 26, is co-founder of US Uncut, a nationwide creative direct-action movement that mobilized tens of thousands of activists against corporate tax avoidance and budget cuts in the months leading up to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Carl and other US Uncut activists are featured in the documentary "We're Not Broke," which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. He currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin. You can contact him at carl@rsnorg.org, and follow him on twitter at @uncutCG."

***

Gaza comes to Ferguson - solidarity from the Middle East to those confronted by brutal police repression, tear gas canister, beating of reporters:

MIDDLE EAST

For all the accompanying photographs, very vivid, are here.



Advice for Ferguson’s Protesters From the Middle East
AUG. 14, 2014

KSDK-TV video of a crew from Al Jazeera America being forced to flee from tear gas in Ferguson, Mo. on Wednesday.

Open Source
By ROBERT MACKEY

Internet activists in the Middle East, who are used to sharing social media evidence of police crackdowns on dissent at home, spent part of this week drawing attention to the same sort of images flowing from the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson.

Several Egyptian protest veterans pointed to photographs and video from Missouri. Ana Mubasher, a live streaming project founded in 2012 to broadcast video of protests in Egypt as they unfolded, shared links and screengrabs from the feeds of local news stations in St. Louis. Hossam el-Hamalawy, a blogger and journalist in Cairo, shared images posted online by Antonio French, a St. Louis alderman who was arrested while documenting the protests in Ferguson on Wednesday night.


In addition to echoing the messages of solidarity sent through Twitter to the protesters in Missouri, Egyptians and Palestinians also offered something more useful: practical advice about how to deal with tear gas.

Continue reading the main story
As Annalisa Merelli reported for Quartz, Mariam Barghouti in the West Bank and Dr. Rajai Abu Khalil in East Jerusalem were among those sending tips to Ferguson.


Rana Nazzal, a Palestinian-Canadian activist who has taken part in protests against the Israeli occupation in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, added some hints of her own.

Sherif Mansour, an Egyptian-American rights activist, and the Cairene blogger who writes as The Big Pharaoh both pointed out that video of heavily armed officers shooting tear gas at a television crew from Al Jazeera on Wednesday night, and then dismantling their equipment, would likely please the authorities in Egypt.


Egypt’s military-backed government has been outraged by American criticism of the long jail terms three journalists from the same network were sentenced to in June.



Video of a reporter for Al Jazeera America being forced to flee from tear gas in Ferguson, Mo. on Wednesday.
Maryam Alkhawaja, a rights activist whose family played a leading role in the 2011 uprising in Bahrain, pointed out that there were connections between the militarized police units protesters were facing in the United States and the brutal crackdown in her country.

Not least, the fact that the monarchy in Bahrain, like the security forces in Egypt, another American ally, tried to clear the streets night after night in 2011 with wave after wave of tear gas manufactured in the U.S.

Ms. Alkhawaja also detected a painful visual echo of the protesters in Ferguson approaching officers with their hands in the air, and Bahrainis who were gunned down making the same gesture and chanting, “Peaceful! Peaceful!”

Activists in Bahrain pointed to a more direct connection too. In late 2011, the Persian Gulf monarchy’s interior ministry boasted that it had hired an American “supercop,” John Timoney, as an adviser. Mr. Timoney was once a senior officer in the New York Police Department, and later served as the police chief of Philadelphia and then Miami.

At the time of his appointment, American journalists noted that Mr. Timoney had been criticized for the forceful way officers infiltrated protest groups at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia in 2000 and used paramilitary tactics to break up demonstrations at the Free Trade Area of the Americas summit meeting in Miami in 2003.

Jeremy Scahill, a journalist who covered the Miami protests, explained that year that what became known as Mr. Timoney’s “Miami Model” of crowd control involved the heavy use of concussion grenades, pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets and baton charges to disperse protesters.

The comparison between the heavy-handed policing in Ferguson and scenes familiar from news broadcasts from the Middle East was not lost on the protesters either. Matt Pearce, a Los Angeles Times reporter, recorded Instagram video on Tuesday night of a man shouting at officers, “You gonna shoot us? You gonna shoot us? Is this the Gaza Strip?”


Video of protesters facing off with the police in Ferguson on Tuesday posted on Instagram by Matt Pearce of The Los Angeles Times.

***

Democracy Now
More than 100 Cities Join Moment of Silence for Michael Brown

More than 100 cities joined in a national moment of silence Thursday night to honor the memory of 18-year-old Michael Brown. The unarmed African-American teenager was shot to death by police last Saturday in Ferguson, Missouri. Protests continued in Ferguson for a sixth night with less tension after Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon put an African-American highway patrol captain named Ron Johnson in charge of security in the town of Ferguson. Johnson marched with protesters and ordered the riot gear put away. Protests also spread to Los Angeles, to Chicago, Philadelphia and St. Louis, where Brown’s family attended a vigil, to New Orleans, Houston and New York. In Miami, eight people with the group Dream Defenders were arrested after refusing to leave a federal justice building. Ahmad Abuznaid said police brutality is a problem across the country.

Abu Abuznaid: "It’s related to what’s happening in Ferguson. I think across the country we’ve seen police departments abuse their power, gun down innocent, unarmed people. It’s happened in Ferguson. It’s happened here in Miami with Israel 'Reefa' Hernandez just a year ago."

Israel Hernandez was an 18-year-old graffiti artist who died a year ago last Sunday after police shocked him with a Taser."

***


"The Opinion Pages | OP-ED COLUMNIST

Michael Brown and Black Men
AUG. 13, 2014

Charles M. Blow


The killing of Michael Brown has tapped into something bigger than Michael Brown.

Brown was the unarmed 18-year-old black man who was shot to death Saturday by a policeman in Ferguson, Mo. There are conflicting accounts of the events that led to the shooting. There is an investigation by local authorities as well as one by federal authorities. There are grieving parents and a seething community. There are swarms of lawyers and hordes of reporters. There has been unrest. The president has appealed for reflection and healing.

There is an eerie echo in it all — a sense of tragedy too often repeated. And yet the sheer morbid, wrenching rhythm of it belies a larger phenomenon, one obscured by its vastness, one that can be seen only when one steps back and looks from a distance and with data: The criminalization of black and brown bodies — particularly male ones — from the moment they are first introduced to the institutions and power structures with which they must interact.

Earlier this year, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released “the first comprehensive look at civil rights from every public school in the country in nearly 15 years.” As the report put it: “The 2011-2012 release shows that access to preschool programs is not a reality for much of the country. In addition, students of color are suspended more often than white students, and black and Latino students are significantly more likely to have teachers with less experience who aren’t paid as much as their colleagues in other schools.”

Attorney General Eric Holder, remarking on the data, said: “This critical report shows that racial disparities in school discipline policies are not only well-documented among older students, but actually begin during preschool."

But, of course, this criminalization stalks these children throughout their school careers.

As The New York Times editorial board pointed out last year: “Children as young as 12 have been treated as criminals for shoving matches and even adolescent misconduct like cursing in school. This is worrisome because young people who spend time in adult jails are more likely to have problems with law enforcement later on. Moreover, federal data suggest a pattern of discrimination in the arrests, with black and Hispanic children more likely to be affected than their white peers.”

A 2010 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center found that while the average suspension rate for middle school students in 18 of the nation’s largest school districts was 11.2 percent in 2006, the rate for black male students was 28.3 percent, by far the highest of any subgroup by race, ethnicity or gender. And, according to the report, previous research “has consistently found that racial/ethnic disproportionality in discipline persists even when poverty and other demographic factors are controlled.”

And these disparities can have a severe impact on a child’s likelihood of graduating. According to a report from the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University that looked at Florida students, “Being suspended even once in 9th grade is associated with a two-fold increase in the risk for dropping out.”

Black male dropout rates are more than one and a half times those of white males, and when you look at the percentage of black men who graduate on time — in four years, not including those who possibly go on to get G.E.D.s, transfer to other schools or fail grades — the numbers are truly horrific. Only about half of these black men graduate on time.

Now, the snowball is rolling. The bias of the educational system bleeds easily into the bias of the criminal justice system — from cops to courts to correctional facilities. The school-to-prison pipeline is complete.

A May report by the Brookings Institution found: “There is nearly a 70 percent chance that an African American man without a high school diploma will be imprisoned by his mid-thirties.”

This is in part because trending policing disparities are particularly troubling in places like Missouri. As the editorial board of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch pointed out this week: “Last year, for the 11th time in the 14 years that data has been collected, the disparity index that measures potential racial profiling by law enforcement in the state got worse. Black Missourians were 66 percent more likely in 2013 to be stopped by police, and blacks and Hispanics were both more likely to be searched, even though the likelihood of finding contraband was higher among whites.”

And this is the reality if the child actually survives the journey. That is if he has the internal fortitude to continue to stand with the weight on his shoulders. That is if he doesn’t find himself on the wrong end of a gun barrel. That is if his parents can imbue in him a sense of value while the world endeavors to imbue in him a sense of worthlessness.

Parents can teach children how to interact with authority and how to mitigate the threat response their very being elicits. They can wrap them in love to safeguard them against the bitterness of racial suspicion.

It can be done. It is often done. But it is heartbreaking nonetheless. What psychic damage does it do to the black mind when one must come to own and manage the fear of the black body?

The burden of bias isn’t borne by the person in possession of it but by the person who is the subject of it. The violence is aimed away from the possessor of its instruments — the arrow is pointed away from the killer and at the prey.

It vests victimhood in the idea of personhood. It steals sometimes, something precious and irreplaceable. It breaks something that’s irreparable. It alters something in a way that’s irrevocable.

We flinchingly choose a lesser damage.

But still, the hopelessness takes hold when one realizes that there is no amount of acting right or doing right, no amount of parental wisdom or personal resilience that can completely guarantee survival, let alone success.

Brown had just finished high school and was to start college this week. The investigation will hopefully clarify what led to his killing. But it is clear even now that his killing occurred in a context, one that we would do well to recognize.

Brown’s mother told a local television station after he was killed just weeks after his high school graduation: “Do you know how hard it was for me to get him to stay in school and graduate? You know how many black men graduate? Not many. Because you bring them down to this type of level, where they feel like they don’t got nothing to live for anyway. ‘They’re going to try to take me out anyway.’ ”

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