When I heard about the shooting of an unarmed black teen in Ferguson, Missouri, it felt like old hat news, something that would disappear in a few days. I was hearing about police brutality since I was ten years old, starting with the Rodney King riots. The resounding question, “can we all get along?” became trite when the comedians wrote history with their own line, “Can‘(t) we all (just) get along?” The cliche` was imprinted in our minds as a joke, something silly, and a cynical attitude toward racism prevailed. Police continued harassing black men disproportionately and we all continued pretending this was just an isolated incident.
The two recent killings by St. Louis County police forces have shattered Ferguson, Missouri, lending our minds more sincerely to the famed question. But this time, the outrage appears to be even worse. It is not about brutal beatings. It is about street executions with an alarming degree of force and frequency marked by a lack of provocation.
The build up of military equipment within local police forces ties in crucially to the riots. The relationship between cop and citizen which has been transforming since 9/11, especially after the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, is now spinning out of control, to where many feel that the attitude from cops is about defending themselves, not us.
Michael Brown’s killing set off riots in Ferguson because the citizens were down to their final straw. The deceased was unarmed and merely 18 years old. Roughly 90% white policemen within a 70% black city, this alone poses a problem. To make matters worse, the crackdown by tear gas and national guard with documented provocation by white cops, has given civil rights organizations and humanitarians the ammunitation to charge St. Louis County with apartheid.
Less than two months ago, Eric Garner, an unarmed, non-aggressive, asthmatic African-American of 43 years, well-liked as a community member in Staten Island, had been choked by an officer literally hanging off his 300-pound back. The man eventually died on the watch of NYPD as he was dead on arrival to the hospital. Video suggests he was dead on the sidewalk.
When I saw that video (removed from its originally posted spot on Vice News) it impacted me and I felt outrage over the cowardice and insensitivy displayed there. For some reason, as a white man, I had never really felt true empathy for this kind of racial profiling. Myself along with about the recently reported 70% of all white people who don’t see it as a race problem. We have been rationalizing racism with things like, “its really a class problem,” and “its a matter of choices in life.”
Eric Garner was killed the same week as the downing of MH17 in East Ukraine, the beginning of a ground offensive in Palestine, ongoing bloodshed in Iraq and Syria, the rise of ISIS, and not long ago, the kidnapped girls in Nigeria, the crisis in Libya, and kids at the Texas border all seeming to be collide in to a nightmarish summer for mankind.
President Obama, for reasons provided to him by the legacy of American exceptionalism, the general public holds him responsible for diffusing every situation. And if there is anything his own legacy needs to stand on, it is civil rights.
Lets face it, the world is really looking like shit. But stay with me, I am still developing the background for the points of light that I see beyond the dillema.
Michael Brown was shot through the top of the head. He was unarmed, was shot twice in the head and four times elsewhere. The evidence of a scuffle between him and cops is not surfacing very easily. The facts are disputed beyond that and an investigation will require months to reach a conclusive report.
However, if you want to see how things are done in St. Louis County, you simply have to watch this video of Kajieme Powell, shot twelve times only days after Mr. Brown. His only weapon was a small knife. He almost replicated Brown’s petty theft crime and literally waited for cops to show up, setting the merchandise on the sidewalk, acting “erratic” while ordering them to shoot. They respected his order and shot him.
In light of this, how is one to expect that an unarmed black teen, shot through the top of the head after five shots preceeding it, received any more patience than this hastily killed black twenty-five year old? Twelve shots according to The Guardian, but if you listen, it sounds like seven shots as if its target practice and there is a pause before the final two shots ring out. Out of utter defiance if not denial on a clinical level, they even handcuff the corpse, as if it is an arrest or as if it is going to come back as a zombie.
Eric Garner was not shot to death. Perhaps guns and youth bring greater media attention. Perhaps a forty-something father of six is not as important as a young man with a life and progeny ahead of him. But what matters most about the details of Eric Garner is what he said just before they took his life.
“It stops today!”
All of this, I am leading in to a spiritually friendly position. I am in truth a spiritual man living on faith while operating in this life with a discipline of reason and fairness. I am totally ready to consider unprovables in to my otherwise rigorous, fact-based intellectual process, because the fact is that quantum physics does some weird shit and none of us know whats going on.
Mr. Garner had actually broken up a fight during his last moments on Earth. He had provided a good deed to his community. This fact gives him a favorable rebirth and the sacrifice of his own life will be for the benefit of ours. His peaceful protest, hands in the air, exclaiming “this stops today!” was the intention he had in his heart. That intention was released with his death. It is for us now to manifest in our lives.
Michael Brown set off the biggest race-related riots, in Ferguson, Missouri, since the Rodney King verdict in, Los Angeles, California.
Kajieme Powell committed an act of protest by provoking the police to use deadly force. He acheived it by unleashing their own fear. I do not believe he intended to attack them. He set it up so perfectly. He held the smallest possible knife, pointed down, and committed the smallest possible crime. And the fact that he drew attention to himself right away means he got the iPhone rolling immediately. He yells out, “I’m on Instagram. I’m on Facebook! I’m tired of this shit” And look where he is now.
His act of courage is self-immolation by gunfire. Like the Tibetan monks lighting themselves aflame to protest Chinese occupation, he is protesting police occupation and aggression against his own people. By the way, it continues to occur at an alarming rate.
There are broad lines, legally speaking, for what can be considered a threat against a police officer. This LAPD officer made it quite clear that he holds the right to kill us if we threaten him. He expresses little tolerance for nuance in the discussion as he strains to demonstrate that cops are making extraordinary decisions, suggesting that they spare lives every day.
Two cops firing together at least nine shots on someone with a hand knife and a couple of stolen soda pops: that is what we are talking about.
Powell’s action demonstrates some serious questions about assumptions made by cops in that legal grey area of “brandishing a deadly weapon”. But if you listen to the witnesses or just watch the damn video, it is so obvious that this is a cut and dry murder case.
I see a man that could have been wrestled by two officers. He could have been tazed, shot in the hand, foot, anything other than excessive shots in rapid fire, with a pause of thoughtfulness as if the last two gun shots said “Fuck! You!”
I mean seriously, just look at this video of UK cops taking a man down with a machete. See how professional and fearless they are.
Eric Garner showed how a person demonstrating no intent whatsoever to use force, holding his hands in the air as, tackled by a team of cops, taken to the ground, and forced in to submission like a slave, can be killed by gross negligence for a crime not worth enforcing. If you did not know, he was accused of selling cigarrettes, much like you or your friends do at the bar every day.
The others robbed some merchandise from stores. Lest we not take in to account economic disparity as part of this issue. White people like me are aware of that and we want to pretend the racial fact is irrelevant to the economic problem, that, when it comes to credit and forward mobility, we are at painfully similar circumstances. I have absolutely woken up from the delusion however that being black does not add several layers of struggle above it all.
Although the use of deadly force against Eric Garner might not be clearly intended, it points out some amazing flaws in the procedures by which cops manage to escalate violence by “just doing their job.” As a matter of fact, the strangle hold was illegal and that is why the officer was removed from the field and stripped of his gun–for now.
With Eric Holder visiting Ferguson, the first black Attorney General in American history has an opportunity to produce new legal guidelines and reform law enforcement. This will be accomplished with an FBI investigation in to civil rights violations. But the biggest problem is going to be demilitarizing police forces. The administration knows the political difficulty of winding down America’s war machine by taking on the defense department as an adversary; to save your own life, you must work with it.
That is what threatens the office of the Presidency more than any civil unrest going right now. So we are left with the only thing Obama offers in this situation: hope.
ONE LAST THING:
Vice News has updated this months long story of Victor White III. Here is a 22-year old black man that was shot to death while handcuffed in the backseat of a police car. That sounds plausible right? There is one problem: the official report is suicide.