Monday, August 18, 2014

Ferguson and Forth Worth: life and death in black and white

The St Louis Post-Dispatch editorializes on the Ferguson situation and the murder of Michael Brown there by a white policemen, A 'generational event' demands a generational change from complacency 08/18/2014. Th editorial notes that there has been some progress in St. Louis, of which Ferguson MO is a suburb in the same county:

But it didn’t transform St. Louis.

Because of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, many of the more egregious manifestations of racism have been mitigated. They have not all been erased, no matter what the U.S. Supreme Court suggested last year when it struck down key parts of the Voting Rights Act.

Until an unarmed 18-year-old man, Michael Brown, was shot dead by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson a week ago Saturday, St. Louis has enjoyed, if that’s the right word, 50 years of racial peace and some important progress. Not enough, but some.

Fifty years is two generations. In most cases, two generations of whites enjoyed those years more than their blacks counterparts, who found fewer job opportunities, fewer good schools and fewer housing options. The reasons for that are many and complicated, but the least that can be said is that St. Louis didn’t often go out of its way to do much about it. [my emphasis]
Missouri is a half-Southern state. They have a Democratic Governor and one Democratic Senator. Missouri state Republicans nominated segregationist and woman-hater Todd Akin for the Senate in 2012. Harry Truman in an recorded interview I heard years ago - I believe it was from the recording called The Truman Tapes - joked that his mother always refused to sleep in the Lincoln Room of the White House when he was President, referring to the (white) Southern influence in Missouri politics.

They link to an article of their own about the Lincoln Bank protest of 1963, which became an important moment in the civil rights movement in St. Louis: Todd Frankel, 50 years later, Jefferson Bank protest refuses to fade away 08/31/2013.

The Kansas City Star has a recap of the Ferguson events of the last week in this editorial, Lessons of Ferguson: Why a week of rage didn't have to happen 08/15/2014 (last Friday):

Brown was shot several times, and reportedly from a distance at which he presented no threat to Wilson. Some witnesses said he had his hands in the air. Brown and a friend were walking down a street when the officer engaged with them.

Wilson and a companion of Brown’s have presented conflicting accounts. The officer contends he was threatened. But it is difficult to believe that deadly force was the only option available. There are few more urgent tasks for police departments than to train officers how to deal with threatening situations without resorting to firearms.

Police took much too long to process the crime scene. Brown’s body remained on the sidewalk where he died for four hours, during which time a crowd gathered and anger mounted. The Ferguson Police Department doesn’t work many homicides, but it should have had resources to draw upon to move more quickly.

The police cruiser Wilson was driving had no dashboard camera or recording device. People have understandably remarked on the irony of a police department in possession of military artillery but unable to afford basic equipment that can protect both officers and citizens in the aftermath of incidents.

On Friday, Ferguson police disclosed that Brown was suspected of intimidating a convenience store worker and stealing a box of cigars shortly before he was shot but added that the robbery report was unconnected with Wilson’s stop. The timing of that disclosure, coinciding with the much-anticipated release of Wilson’s name, infuriated Brown’s supporters and may have contributed to more mayhem early Saturday. It was inept at best and possibly malicious. [my emphasis]
Bill Quigley of the Center for Constitutional Rights argues that the police reaction on Sunday night of the 17th was also excessive and inappropriate, Ten Facts About Police Violence in Ferguson Sunday Night Common Dreams 08/18/2014.

Jarrod Hayes speculates about the connection between US foreign policy and domestic policing in Ferguson and American Foreign Policy Duck of Minerva 08/16/2014.

A St. Louis area legal aid group recently put out a white paper on how "driving while black" has been a major source of tension in Ferguson and nearby towns: ArchCity Defenders: Muncipal Courts White Paper; accessed 08/15/2014.

In a court-observation project involving 60 courts, they found a bright side: "We are encouraged that about half of the courts we observed did not engage in the illegal and harmful practices described above while we were present." Wow, only half the courts in the area are breaking the law in their proceedings! It also talks about how communities like Ferguson milk the DWB tickets for city revenue, and how court misconduct over routine traffic tickets often has big negative effects on people's lives. Almost exclusively black people, even though all loyal FOX News viewers know white racism doesn't exist any more and those people of a certain "continental origin" should just "git over it."

Vox has a longish article on the legal standards on justifiable shootings by police: Dara Lind, Was it legal for Darren Wilson to shoot Michael Brown? 08/15/2014.

German Lopez also has an online fact sheet about Brown's murder on Vox 11 things you should know about the Michael Brown shooting 08/18/2014

Civil rights attorney James Meyerson writes in What Is the Kerner Commission and Why It Should Be Revisited in Light of Ferguson Huffington Post 08/18/2014 about the continuing relevance of the 1968 Kerner Commission findings on domestic race relations and civil unrest:

What we must remember always -- and something I have told many juries in the past -- is that the most powerful person in the world, on a day-to-day basis, is not the president of the United States. No, it is a police officer. Your local police officer can engage you -- one-on-one, every day of the week, anywhere and any place. Your local police officer has the authority and power to take your life; and more often than not, get away with it; particularly if you happen to be a black or brown male in our society.
Stephen Menendian of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society also writes about the continuing relevance of the Kerner Commission report in How Many Black Boys Have to Die? Berkeley Blog 08/14/2014.

As he did with the Trayvon Martin case, Bob Somerby is diligently criticizing the mean librul media for any suggestion that any kind of white racism might be involved in any way in the Michael Brown murder. Scolding the Washington Post for a piece that apparently erroneously says the white cop Darren Wilson shot Brown in the back, Somerby seems to think it's far more virtuous on Wilson's behalf that the private autopsy just reported by the New York Times found that Brown was shot from the front (and once on tope of the head). Six times. (NO JOURNALISM, NO JUSTICE: The Washington Post's (rather bad) front page! The Daily Howler 08/18/2014)

Roy Edroso in his weekly roundup of conservative blog opinion, focuses on their response to events in Ferguson, Rightbloggers Try Anti-Cop Angle on Ferguson, But Revert to Old Ooga-Booga Village Voice 08/17/2014:

After Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson on August 9 and word started to get around that the killing might not have been as kosher as the cops said it was, many of the brethren went about dealing with this dead unarmed black guy the way they deal with all dead unarmed black guys: slurring the deceased, and portraying the negative reaction of his friends, family, and community as proof that black people are thugs, the real racists, etc.
Victor Davis Hanson, reportedly Dick Cheney's favorite historians at one point during his Presidency anyway, sees the specter of the the French Revolution and the guillotine in Revolutionary Justice National Review 08/17/2014. Charlie Pierce rightly refers to National Review as "the longtime white-supremacist journal, National Review."

As a comparison, here's a case involving a 72-year-old white guy shot by Fort Worth TX police, in which the white guy was apparently armed: Mitch Mitchell, Neighbors await answers in death of man shot by Fort Worth police Ft Worth Star-Telegram 12/26/2013:

Jerry Waller, 72, was shot seven times — three times in the chest, once in the right abdomen and left hand, plus two grazing wounds to the left wrist and forearm — after confronting two rookie officers checking out a reported burglary.

Waller's death has sparked two investigations — one by the Police Department, another by the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office — but definitive information has been released only intermittently, with each new revelation seemingly raising more questions.

"The Waller case is tragic, no matter how it happened, and certainly there are going to be lessons learned from it," said Fort Worth City Councilman Danny Scarth, who lives in Woodhaven. "But just like we hold our citizens accountable, we are going to hold our public servants accountable for their actions."

Becky Haskin, a former councilwoman who lives on Waller's street, said the lack of information has caused some of her neighbors to mistrust the department.

"This case has become a lot more clear-cut as time has gone by and as some information has been released," Haskin said. "It makes people not trust the Police Department when people are thinking that you can shoot an innocent man on his own property in his own garage and there is not a word."
What? Questions about cops killing an armed white guy makes good Christian white folks "not trust the Police Department when people are thinking that you can shoot an innocent man on his own property in his own garage and there is not a word"?! Gosh, what kind of deep-seated "cultural problems" must be going on among people that European "continental origin"?

Anna Tinsley reports in Vigil will remember homeowner killed by Fort Worth police Ft Worth Star-Telegram 12/26/2013 reports that the grand jury declined to indict the shooter in the incident. And yet his family has put up a Justice for Jerry Waller website expressing their outrage this way, from his daughter Angie Waller:

We are not only suffering because we lost our beloved Jerry. We suffer because we cannot trust a system that promoted dishonesty and perpetuated injustice. The police directly responsible for my father’s death are not the only ones who acted unprofessionally and unethically. We waited eight long months for the city to allow us access to documents that would explain what happened to my father. With so many inconsistent statements, mishandled pieces of evidence and glaring omissions, we can see why the Fort Worth Police Department might want to keep these documents under wraps. Our resolve to get justice for my father has only grown. Our blood has boiled as we listened to false statements fed to the media that aimed to make this case sound tidy and closed. Jerry Waller was protecting his family in the early hours of May 28th. This case is not closed for our family or this community.
Do I even need to ask if there have been rightbloggers denouncing Tinsley's family, "portraying the negative reaction of his friends, family, and community as proof that [white] people are thugs," as Roy Edroso reports they are doing in Michael Brown's case?

In case anyone from Waller's family or friends happen to come across this from a search, I want to point out that I'm not criticizing them for their concern over the incident, or over the police handling of the aftermath, or their concern to see that justice was done in Jerry Waller's death. I hope that I would do the same if one of my close family members had such an incident. In fact, a close family member of mine did have a run-in with the law several years ago over a charge not involving violence and I did actively concern myself to make sure he had a proper defense.

My point in that the segregationist response of National Review writers and others are quick to side with white cops killing a young black man under highly questionable circumstances and to demonize the response of the dead man's family, friends and community members to the outrage. And yet white families that experience some similar loss also feel the same kind of outrage at police misconduct.

I don't know whether most white people hearing about Jerry Waller's death at the hands of the Fort Worth police tended to sympathize with the police more than with the dead man. It wouldn't surprise me if they did. On the other hand, I'm guessing that most white people would tend to react less negatively to a white man defending his home with a gun in an apparently legal way in Texas than to an unarmed black man shot to death by a white cop. And long as that's the case, racial disparities will continue in the criminal justice system. I don't say that to encourage any sense of resignation. On the contrary, I take it as a measure of the urgency of recognizing not just the real problem of "militarization" of policing in the US but also of the major role white racism plays throughout our justice system. And the urgent need to change it.

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