There’s been so much going on around the movement sparked by the August 9th shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, which has intensified every time another black person has been killed or brutalized by police since then — many of which have been caught on video revealing police brutality and in many cases outright misconduct. An important study by Pro Publica examines the statistics of these killings — at least, as much as they could, given that there is no national standard for these things. Other than the racial disparity, this is the part I found chilling (emphasis mine):
[T]he data show that police reported [fear for their lives] as the cause of their actions in far greater numbers after the 1985 Supreme Court decision that said police could only justify using deadly force if the suspects posed a threat to the officer or others. From 1980 to 1984, “officer under attack” was listed as the cause for 33 percent of the deadly shootings. Twenty years later, looking at data from 2005 to 2009, “officer under attack” was cited in 62 percent of police killings.
The protests came to the St. Louis Symphony last week with a Requiem for Mike Brown. Watch the video and notice the wide variety of responses.
Unbelievably, on Thursday night another young black man, Vonderrit Meyers, was killed by an off-duty police officer in the nearby community of Shaw, MO, just 20 minutes away from Ferguson, and the police reports have again been riddled with inconsistencies and changing stories.
Rev. Erin Counihan shares her powerful witness of “praying in the middle” of the subsequent protests, in the space between the police and the protestors.
This weekend has been a long-planned rally branded FergusonOctober. On Saturday night, peaceful protestors sitting with linked arms in front of a convenience store were forcibly, in some cases brutally, removed by police.
Sunday evening was an interfaith prayer service attended by thousands, followed by another peaceful protest that began with protestors occupying and shutting down an intersection by literally playing games — hopscotch, jumprope, clapping games —
to draw attention to the fact that #TheyThinkItsAGame. (“They” being the police who seem to be attempting to win a game rather than taking the protests seriously.) The protestors then continued onto the campus of St. Louis University. When the campus security guard tried to stop them, one of the protestors held up his student ID and announced, “I’m a student here, I pay tuition here, and these are my guests!” The president of SLU has since issued a statement reassuring parents and peacefully accepting the protests.
The parents of Vonderrit Meyers participated in Sunday’s actions, including the protest on campus, where the young man’s father is employed.
Today, inspired by the #MoralMonday movement, the rally continues with clergy-led actions
including calls for the police to repent.
As you can tell, I’ve been following this on Twitter. There have also been multiple live streams available. For blog coverage, I highly recommend the work of Shaun King at DailyKos. For theological resources, don’t miss Theology of Ferguson, which is collecting content from a variety of sources.
To help make a concrete difference on the ground in Ferguson, consider donating to the legal support fund for those arrested in these protests.
Don’t forget to act locally, too. Consider contacting your local government and/or police department to ask whether they keep statistics on officer-involved killings and/or racial demographics of stops and arrests, and if so what they are; and whether they have received any military equipment under the DoD’s 1033 program, and if so what, why, and under what circumstances it is expected to be used.
Talk to people you know about these issues, especially people who get their news primarily from the mainstream media. If you haven’t heard about this issue at church, talk to your clergy and ask why not. Consider finding and getting involved in a local group that has taken up these issues.