Just one day after U.S. President Barack Obama hosted leaders from across Africa, African Americans exploded in rebellion in Ferguson, Mo.
A series of lawsuits have been filed against the city of Ferguson charging police misconduct and brutality during the demonstrations in response to the police killing of Michael Brown. Six plaintiffs have filed federal court actions against the authorities in Ferguson and St. Louis County. The litigants are claiming they were arrested without cause, beaten and verbally abused by both local and county law-enforcement officers.
“This is a blatant example of how police handle African Americans … how it can go terribly, terribly wrong. You have a right to peaceful assembly,” lamented Reginald Greene, an attorney in one of the cases.
Mass demonstrations organized in the aftermath of the brutal killing of Brown resulted in further acts of law-enforcement misconduct and brutality.
The protests demanding justice for Brown were covered nationally and internationally. CNN, Al-Jazeera America, Press TV, Russia Today, the Guardian in London, as well as thousands of other news sources and media agencies reported continuously on developments in Ferguson. During the course of the protests and rebellion, the media workers also became targets of the local police with the detaining of journalists from several news agencies and the gassing of a camera crew from Al-Jazeera.
Another demonstration held on Aug. 30 in Ferguson commemorating the three-week anniversary of Brown’s killing was also covered widely. Thousands gathered to demand that officer Darren Wilson be indicted and arrested in the shooting death of Brown. The demonstration was led by Brown’s parents, Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr.
Protests have been held throughout the U.S. in response to Brown’s killing at the hands of police.
According to the Associated Press, after the initial march on Aug. 30: “Hours later, hundreds of protesters again gathered in front of the suburban police department and fire station, blocking the road. Fiery speeches by way of speakers mounted to a car gave way to another march, with chants of, ‘If we can’t have it, we’re shutting it down.’” (Aug. 30)
Global response to Ferguson rebellion
The images from Ferguson emanated around the world just days after the U.S.-Africa Summit at the White House and State Department. These developments were covered by the African media and further exposed the racist mistreatment of African descendants in the U.S.
Several governments, press agencies and even U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke out about the excessive use of force in Ferguson. The rebellion highlighted the ongoing character of national oppression in the number one imperialist country in the world.
Even the fairly centrist Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., published a blog written by professor Mwangi S. Kimeroyi, a senior fellow in Global Economy and Development at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, dealing with the situation in Ferguson and its implications for U.S. foreign policy in Africa. Kimeroyi observed that the rebellion in Ferguson could not have come at a worse time for the Obama administration, which was utilizing the Aug. 4-8 summit to try to gain a broader and more positive image of the U.S. in Africa.
Kimeroyi stated: “Coming not long after the successful U.S.-Africa Leader’s Summit held in Washington, the Ferguson incident and the follow-up demonstrations have been rather unfortunate in as far as how Africans view [the U.S.] — in a way questioning [the U.S.]’s standing as a protector of human rights. The hostility towards the United States in regard to its treatment of African Americans has dominated social media with claims that the incident shows that [the U.S.] should not claim leadership when it comes to human rights. Such criticisms by many other countries, including Russia and China, are widespread.” (Aug. 29)
In an editorial published in the Daily Nation newspaper in Kenya, the U.S. was chastised and questioned about its image promoted abroad as a state which protects the rights of all its residents and citizens. “The U.S. is a community fueled by hate. They claim not to be racist yet most of them are racist to the core. Yet they want to dictate and lecture us about human rights.” (Aug. 29)
The editorial continued: “U.S. preaches democracy and good governance all over the world but lo and behold, Ferguson has exposed the preacher who cannot take care of business in his backyard. Has the Kenyan ambassador issued a statement yet? The U.S. must have a coalition government so as to end the violence. It will no longer be business as usual. We will have only necessary contact. Choices have consequences.”
The newspaper also mocked the government in Washington, which has often criticized Kenya for factional political violence surrounding the disputed elections of 2007-2008. There is continued hostility towards the country by the Obama administration, which did not support the election of the current president, Uhuru Kenyatta, who has a case pending against him and the deputy-president, William Ruto, before the International Criminal Court.
In the People’s Republic of China, which has a history of criticizing the U.S. for its treatment of African Americans dating back to at least 1963, the state-owned Xinhua news agency wrote in an editorial: “Each country has its own national conditions that might lead to different social problems. Obviously, what the United States needs to do is to concentrate on solving its own problems rather than always pointing fingers at others.” (Aug. 18)
Deep-rooted racism exposed
The most surprising attacks came from newspapers published in Germany, one of the closest allies of Washington. In two centrist publications, scathing editorials were published on the handling of the Ferguson unrest.
Zeit Online, a popular centrist news website, characterized the death of Brown as testament to the deep-rooted racism in the U.S. and surmised that “the situation of African Americans has barely improved since Martin Luther King.” The publication keenly observed that “the dream of a post-racist society, which flared up after the election of [President] Obama, seems further away than ever before.” (Aug. 18)
A similar critique was offered by the more conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of the most widely read newspapers in Germany, which opined that the U.S. president had failed miserably in his executive responsibilities. “It seems like mockery that [Obama] is still called the most powerful man on earth.” (Aug. 18)
As in the period of the Civil Rights and Black Power eras of the 1950s through 1970s, it is the struggle of the African-American people that has exposed the actual nature of the U.S. political system. The rebellion in Ferguson represents a microcosm of the growing mass sentiment among African Americans, Latinos/as and other nationally oppressed groups as well as working-class people in general.
If the U.S. ruling class does not make fundamental reforms related to burgeoning social problems stemming from the declining capitalist system, more mass political actions and rebellions are bound to occur. The corporations and banks, which are running the state from Wall Street, have no response to the escalating discontent other than more austerity, political repression and imperialist war. The real solutions must come from the working class and the oppressed, and be expressed through their organizations and movements aimed at total liberation and social justice.