The decision not to indict Darren Wilson with the murder of unarmed African American teen Michael Brown has sent ripples of horror across the country, and across the world. As the grim realization dawns that it is now effectively legal to kill unarmed African Americans in the US, the Ferguson protesters are right…It’s time to riot.
They began by saying that Brown had viciously assaulted Wilson and the officer shot in the midst of a struggle in self defense.
Here are the images of Wilson taken directly after the incident, do these look like injuries reflective of a life or death struggle to you?
We later found that Brown was shot a full 148 feet away from the SUV in which he was alleged to have assaulted Wilson. This is critical; If Mike Brown fled over 148 feet away from Darren Wilson, it clearly suggests that it was Brown—unarmed, shot, missing a shoe – that feared for his life and not the other way around. Furthermore, police are known to use a suspect’s fleeing distance from an altercation as evidence to prove they were reasonably afraid for their safety—which is required by law.
Despite this, the Grand Jury failed to indict Darren Wilson.
To put in perspective just how rare it is for a Grand Jury to take such an action:
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. attorneys prosecuted 162,000 federal cases in 2010, the most recent year for which we have data. Grand juries declined to return an indictment in 11 of them.
It is almost unheard of for a Grand Jury to block a case in this way.
So what did the jury hear?
Here is Wilson’s testimony in full. In it, 6ft 4″, 15 stone, armed police officer Darren Wilson describes his encounter with unarmed, comparitively sized, unarmed, 18-year-old civilian Brown like this:
“And when I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan,”
“That’s just how big he felt and how small I felt just from grasping his arm.”
He fired his gun, and saw blood during this altercation. From this point on, we know Brown was only ever fleeing for his life. How did Wilson describe a wounded, scared, fleeing teen?
“had the most intense aggressive face. The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked.”
The testimony reads like a textbook from “White Fright 101” – terrifyingly powerful, huge, scary black man alert! The same boogeyman stories that allowed:
- George Zimmerman to shoot and kill Trayvon Martin, a 15-year old boy on his way home from the store with a can of pop and some skittles in his hands – and get away with it on the grounds of self defense.
- The fatal shooting of Tamar Rice, a 12-year old boy playing with a toy gun.
- 22-year-old Darrien Hunt to be shot 6 times in the back and killed for carrying a toy sword from a Comicon event he had attended.
On top of this, Michael Brown was only one of five African American men shot and killed by police officers in August 2014, all of them were unarmed.
The message is clear: the US justice system does not apply justice for African Americans.
- In parts of the country, African Americans are 74% more likely to be stopped and searched by police than whites.
- Almost 90% of cases never go to trial and rely on plea bargains. A 1990 study of about 1,000 cases by the U.S. Sentencing Commission found that whites did better in plea bargains.
- Blacks are more likely to be convicted of a crime than white defendants, and once convicted routinely receive tougher sentences.
Whether as plaintiff or defendant, African Americans are royally screwed over by the law enforcement and justice systems of the US.
As one might expect when such a case of injustice is meted out on a community, African Americans and their allies across Ferguson and the wider country have hit the streets in riotous protest. It’s loud, it’s scary, damage will be done to property. St Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said such ‘violence’ had “torn the fabric of the community apart”.
Obvious question: if burning some bins tears the fabric of a community apart, what do you think a cop assassinating a son of the community and getting away with it does?
What do these people expect the community to do when, time and again, their sons and daughters are murdered with impunity? Sing Kumbaya?
Equally nauseating are those quoting Martin Luther-King and Gandhi at the people driven to riot in the streets at this injustice, who really need to check their history.
“A riot is the language of the unheard”
Every movement that has achieved anything throughout history had the charismatic, calm face…but also an ‘or else’. Every movement needs a credible, reliable, rational negotiator – and an unpredictable, intimidating ally; a Jekyll and Hyde. Martin Luther-King had Malcolm X and the Black Panthers. Gandhi had Jinnah. Their every negotiation had the leverage of ‘You really want to keep negotiating this with me, or, you’ll be left to deal with them’.
But in pretty much every case, History (that history mostly written by those within the existing power structure) tends to write-out the parts played by the ‘or else’ contingent. They are white-washed from the narrative. Complex, unclean, hard-won battles become romanticized and simplified beyond all recognition.
We like our victims perfect, pacifist, poetic – not angry, urgent and ‘uppity’. We want to see candles and roses, not fire bombs and riots. The reality is, when facing an intransigent power structure that routinely kills with impunity – you’re going to need more than placards and samba drums.
The price of inequality and injustice is instability. The riots, flat-out disobedience, is the only leverage that these groups have with which to play. White, Right America should be afraid, it should be uncomfortable and it should not get a moments peace while it refuses the same privileges to non-white America.
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