Aug. 19 bulletin: News sources report that 78 people were arrested Aug. 18 during a police riot in Ferguson. A 23-year-old Black man was fatally shot by two St. Louis police on Aug. 19.
Aug. 18 — Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African-American youth, was shot at least six times by a Ferguson, Mo., white police officer, Darren Wilson, as shown in an independent autopsy requested by the family. The fatal bullet went through the top of Brown’s head into his brain, killing him instantly.
Numerous eyewitnesses saw the fatal shooting of Brown, who was struck down on Aug. 9 as he walked to his grandmother’s home. A cellphone videotape captured the scene minutes after the youth was gunned down in the street, as police stood around talking.
When Brown’s family members attempted to see his body, police pushed them away. The officer’s name was not released until six days after he shot Brown — only after mass pressure.
On Aug. 15, the day Wilson’s name was released, Ferguson authorities also released a video, purportedly showing someone resembling Brown taking a box of cigars from a store and pushing a clerk. The video’s contents and the timing of its release further inflamed tensions in the African-American community.
On the evening of Aug. 15, the store in question was trashed. This occurred a day after the St. Louis County Police force was ostensibly pulled back, having been criticized for its brutal actions against demonstrators, community members and even members of the media.
Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, supposedly made the decision to lighten up on the police repression. He was called by President Barack Obama, who was attempting to reduce the damage these developments had on local, state and federal governments.
Nevertheless, by the morning of Aug. 16, riot police units were called back into Ferguson’s areas of protest, and a curfew was imposed that evening, resulting in mass efforts to defy orders that people leave the streets by midnight.
On Aug. 17, militarized police units attacked people gathered in the streets more than two hours before the curfew was to go into effect. That evening, police claimed that they were fired upon and that attempts were made to erect barricades to hold back law enforcement and to overrun their command center. These claims were made to try to justify further repression.
Nixon announced that the curfew would be lifted on the evening of Aug. 18, but that he was deploying the National Guard to “maintain order.”
Brown shot and killed at close range
The family’s autopsy showed that Brown was shot four times in his shoulder and arm and twice in the head, with one fatal shot going through his skull. The fatal wound was apparently the final one, which takes on the dimension of an “execution-style” killing.
At a Aug. 18 press conference in Ferguson called by Brown’s family, attorney Benjamin Crump acted as the chief spokesperson and conveyed three questions asked by Lesley McSpadden, the slain student’s mother.
McSpadden wanted to know how many times her son was shot, whether he suffered prior to his death and, finally, why the police officer who killed her child had not been arrested.
“It verifies the worst that the family thinks happened — that he was executed,” Crump told the media. “It confirms what the witnesses said, that this was an execution.” (CNN, Aug. 18)
Crump was the attorney for the family of Trayvon Martin who was killed by George Zimmerman in February 2012. Like Brown, Martin’s death galvanized African-American communities across the U.S., sparking demonstrations aimed at seeking justice and prompting world news coverage of the killings and protests.
Ferguson rebellion: a crisis for the ruling class
Obama has spoken twice on the situation in Ferguson. On Aug. 14, while on vacation, he was compelled to address the crisis after six days of mass demonstrations. Obama said that the U.S. was “one country with common values” and that the situation in Ferguson must be resolved through peaceful means. He admonished individuals who engaged in attacks on private property and the police.
Nonetheless, if the U.S. were one country, there would not be periodic urban rebellions throughout African-American communities across the country. Many of these outbreaks are fueled by blatant acts of police misconduct and brutality.
The situation in Ferguson is by no means an isolated incident. Since the time of slavery, Africans have resisted national oppression, racist violence and economic exploitation. To even suggest that the oppressed and the oppressor have equal responsibility in a situation that was clearly provoked by the police, the authorities in St. Louis County and the state of Missouri is disingenuous, to say the least.
In a second press conference on Aug. 18 after Obama’s return to the White House, he mentioned the situation in Ferguson again.
Initially, as on Aug. 14, Obama discussed the current U.S. military intervention in northern Iraq with aerial bombardment and ground operations. He sought to justify the recent deployment of U.S. “military advisors” and fighter jets. He said civilians were being threatened and the Islamic State needed to be curtailed and contained.
The president never acknowledged the U.S. role in destabilizing Iraq and creating the conditions for sectarianism. The Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant (ISIL), has been fighting against the Syrian government on the same side as Washington, which is committed to overthrowing Bashar al-Assad’s presidency.
Obama refused to directly address an inquiry about whether he had any reservations about the militarization of U.S. police forces, which are given hundreds of millions of dollars in defense equipment utilized in war zones. He referred to the aftermath of 9/11 as a reason for the militarization.
However, the situation in Ferguson is not at all similar to the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In Missouri, the reprehensible acts were committed by a white police officer, his department and the county law enforcement agency that carried out a militarized response.
Also bearing responsibility is Gov. Nixon, who has refused to address the oppressive conditions under which African Americans live. Instead of doing so, he sent in the National Guard to suppress the mass response to this enormous injustice.
The only programmatic response that Obama offered to questions about the social conditions of African-American youth in U.S. society was about his so-called “My Brother’s Keeper” project. In essence, this program places the onus of responsibility for living in a racist capitalist society on the victims. It does not provide any assistance from the federal government or the corporate institutions which are at the root of mass unemployment, underemployment, poverty and incarceration — conditions prevalent among tens of millions of African Americans.
Obama said that many people of color do not feel they are part of the broader society. The fact is that African Americans and other nationally oppressed groups are not treated equally and are systematically discriminated against by disparate treatment due to their race and social class. Until these issues are corrected, nonviolent and violent protests will continue to occur throughout the U.S.
Advancing demands for self-determination, national liberation and full equality on a political level requires the mass organization of the oppressed in alliance with the working class as a whole. The only way racism and national oppression can be uprooted and destroyed in U.S. society is to fundamentally transform the system of racist capitalism.