Ferguson: Community protests racist power structure

Ferguson, Mo.Eight people were arrested on Sept. 28 as protests continued in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo. People reportedly threw rocks and bottles at police during the evening amid escalating tensions over a Missouri grand jury’s failure to file charges against white police officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an African-American youth.

Five days earlier, one of the community’s memorials to the slain 18-year-old was destroyed by fire. Crowds quickly gathered at the scene, prompting a police response that later sparked a small-scale rebellion. Windows were broken and several fires were set in protest.

The incident thrust Ferguson, a majority African-American town of 21,000 people, back into the national and international spotlight.

On the evening of Sept. 25, another demonstration was held outside Ferguson’s police headquarters. Earlier that day, Police Chief Tom Jackson issued a belated apology to Brown’s family and members of the public who felt they were mistreated by law enforcement officers in the days following the killing.

During the protest outside police headquarters, Jackson attempted to march alongside the crowd, which was demanding his resignation. Police officers shoved protesters.  Then a scuffle erupted with officers, which resulted in further arrests.

Two nights earlier, a Ferguson police officer was reportedly shot in the arm by an unknown assailant. The authorities quickly claimed that injuring the cop had nothing to do with the mass demonstrations and rebellion that has been going on for nearly two months. An extensive hunt for the gunman was undertaken.

The press indicated that the cop’s injury was not life threatening, and the officer was treated at a local hospital and released the same day.

Media agencies requested a copy of the video from the officer’s camera; all officers are now mandated to carry cameras at all times. However, the media were told that this officer’s camera was off during the incident. Later the police provided their own version of what happened in the shooting, which they said took place at a “city building.”

Jackson’s statement said, “The officer was conducting a routine building check of a city building that had closed for the night … [to ensure] that the building is properly secured. … [T]he building was supposed to be empty. He was not expecting to have interaction with anyone and did not have his body camera activated for the routine building check. He was suddenly attacked after interrupting a burglary attempt and sustained an injury from a gunshot. Generally, the body cameras are utilized with any interaction with members of the public and in any situation when an officer feels it is necessary, and has the opportunity to activate the camera.” (USA Today, Sept. 29)

Since there was no video documentation of the incident and no eyewitnesses have been reported, the actual circumstances involving this shooting remain moot. Since the mass demonstrations and rebellions erupted after Brown’s death, there had been reports of police being fired on.

Demand Darren Wilson’s indictment

There has been support for Wilson from some whites in the surrounding community and in the police department, which is overwhelmingly white. They oppose prosecuting Wilson for Brown’s death. Some pro-Wilson actions have occurred in St. Louis County. Some police officers are wearing bracelets reading, “I am Darren Wilson.”

The U.S. Justice Department is in Ferguson investigating civil rights issues related to Brown’s shooting. An investigator’s letter urged police officials to prohibit their personnel from wearing the bracelets while on duty and patrolling the majority African-American community. Additionally, officers’ name plates should always be visible to community residents.

Christy E. Lopez, deputy chief of the Special Litigation Section of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, wrote, “Officers wearing name plates while in uniform is a basic component of transparency and accountability. The failure to wear name plates conveys a message to the community that, through anonymity, officers may seek to act with impunity.” (Huffington Post, Sept. 26)

The people of Ferguson are determined to win some semblance of justice for Michael Brown. Demonstrations are still demanding that Wilson be indicted and that reforms be instituted involving police and community relations. The protests in Ferguson have further exposed the continuing national oppression and state repression so prevalent in the U.S.

From Oct. 9 to 13, a series of demonstrations are planned that will attract people from throughout the country to Ferguson and will be another opportunity to show solidarity with the community there.

President Barack Obama had to mention the disturbances in Ferguson before the U.N. General Assembly, while prompting yet another imperialist war in the Middle East. However, neither his administration nor Congress provides any programs or policies aimed at eradicating racism and economic exploitation. Unemployment and poverty remain disproportionately high in African-American communities throughout the U.S.

Any real program of action to eliminate national oppression must emerge from the mass struggles in Ferguson and other cities and towns across the country. The organization and mobilization of the masses provide the only real solution to the escalating repressive and exploitative capitalist system.