Today, it’s finally made the mainstream media. But terrible things have been happening in Ferguson, Missouri — a small municipality in St. Louis County — since Saturday afternoon, when 18yo Mike Brown was shot and killed by police. According to multiple witnesses, he was shot multiple times despite being unarmed and having his hands in the air; and the interaction was police-initiated, who aggressively confronted Michael and his friend because they were walking down the middle of the street instead of walking on the sidewalk.
His body was left lying in the street for hours, while police kept everyone, including the youth’s mother, at a distance.
Please note that Brown’s family has requested that pictures of his body be taken down from the web and not further shared.
In response to the resulting peaceful protest that afternoon, and the peaceful prayer vigil that evening, police responded with a show of force: bringing out dogs (dogs!! police bringing dogs in response to black protesters!!), showing up in riot gear, huge numbers of police cars converging on the area, presenting an extremely aggressive posture that I could only read as deliberately provocative. Later that night, there was some property destruction against local businesses, including a fire at a local gas station. Police responded, and the next day there was some minimal coverage in the media focused on the “looting” (scare quotes because really, it only seems to be called looting when black people do it) rather than the original issue of police killing an unarmed black teen.
Sunday the police finally held a press conference, but still didn’t release the name of the officer involved in the shooting, which they had previously said they would do then. They did, however, describe a scenario that was at odds with witness accounts.
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday: I’ve lost track of the detailed progression, but basically: there were more protests. The protesters’ slogan became “Hands up – don’t shoot.” Police showed up with military equipment, lobbing tear gas, blocking off streets, aggressively pointing M-16s at unarmed protestors who had their hands up. Who in some cases were kneeling with their hands up.
Last night it got even more unbelievable. One source described what’s happening in Ferguson as a police coup. While not a literal coup, it seems a reasonable description of what was happening on the ground.
And today, it finally hit the news.
I became aware on Saturday, and have been following the story since, because #BlackTwitter users that I follow have been tweeting about it. Folks on the ground in Ferguson have been tweeting text, photos, video, and their tweets have been retweeted.
The local perspective matters, and the black perspective matters, because Michael Brown’s shooting was only the most recent in an ongoing drumbeat of unarmed black people being killed by police. (I say was, because since Saturday, another unarmed black man was killed by police, this time in LA.) That’s one reason I have not commented before now, other than selected retweets for amplification on twitter: as a white woman from the East Coast, this is not my story to tell, and I feared getting it wrong.
But I realized last night that, while there was at least some minor mention of Ferguson in the news here and there, I was seeing zero in the Catholic press I follow. OK, yes, we have a lot of Catholic news going on this week, what with the Pope’s trip to Korea and the LCWR meeting, but really: nothing? No mention at all, in the daily briefings or even the blogs? Even at Pax Christi? Even in the pro-life sites? Catholic media can write about Robin Williams’ suicide, but not mention this? I did see one superficial mention by Catholic News Services, but it wasn’t picked up anywhere else I’ve seen.
This is a bigtime Catholic Media Fail.
And it makes me think that the writers or at least the editorial boards of the Catholic press must be overwhelmingly white. Because I don’t think this is a story that black people would miss. I’d like to see these organizations publish their workforce diversity data, as tech companies have recently been pressured to do in response to similar fails.
Meanwhile, here is a collection of links where you can read up on what’s been going on. I pulled them together yesterday, so they don’t include coverage of last night’s events, but they may give some background that is missing from mainstream stories that only focus on last night.
And a few specific actions you can take:
– Consider participating in the National Moment of Silence for victims of police brutality at 7pm EDT tonight, organized by @FeministaJones
– Consider signing this petition with specific proposals to rein in police brutality, organized by @ShaunKing
– And more generally, if you’d like to use twitter to broaden your perspective on this and other issues, I recommend the social justice list put together by @Kronda.
[UPDATED TO ADD:] Net neutrality matters: The term mostly shows up in tech conversations, but What Happens in #Ferguson Affects Ferguson, as the difference between Twitter timeline and Facebook feed shows.
Local alderman Antonio French has been present at the protests and tweeting photos and short Vine videos since things started. Last night he was arrested, apparently for unlawful assembly. This morning he was released. He received no charging documents.
Washington Post Interview with Ferguson police chief
[UPDATED TO ADD] The multiple jurisdictions providing police presence in Ferguson without any overall coordination means that there is little accountability. Responsibility is being rotated among jurisdictions every night: which may shed some light on why the police have not acted in accordance with statements made earlier in the day by government officials. It also means that four different people independently made a decision to fire tear gas at peaceful protestors. Think about that.
Police Militarization In Ferguson – Business Insider.
UPDATED TO ADD: But don’t let the militarization of the police dominate the narrative: Michael Brown was killed in an incident involving an ordinary cop car with an ordinary gun.
To be clear: militarized police are dangerous, but militarization didn't suddenly make police dangerous to black people in our country.
— FoxberryToast (@foxberrytoast) August 14, 2014