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‘Right to Remain Alive’ in USA No Longer a Given

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PREFACE:

Mychal Denzel Smith in "No Indictment for Darren Wilson, No Justice for Black Lives":

Protesters in Ferguson should not be calm, as they have been admonished by everyone from the president on down. Michael Brown doesn’t need calm. Black boys and girls who grow up in America need their lives to be respected. They need justice.

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From Nadia Prupis in 'Bonded With a Common Goal': As Ferguson Recovers, Activists Look Forward":

[Several Ferguson protest organizers wrote in an open letter last week:]

[A]s we march toward justice for all lives lost, we also potentially march into danger. While we stockpile signs, we are told that others, who are sworn to protect and serve us, instead mean us harm and are stockpiling guns. Already, heavy-handed police responses to peaceful protests make us justifiably worried about what is to come. Though we are peaceful, we fear for our safety. We fear for our lives. But while we move toward the unknown, we cannot allow fear to dissolve our movement. We cannot wait for justice, since, too often, delay actually means denial.

We must see a sustainable community-oriented shift in the policing of our neighborhoods. We must see the truthful reporting of our cause by responsible institutions. We cannot wait for another life to be lost, for more blood to be shed, for more lines of division to be drawn further and deeper across this city before we change course.

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Bill Quigley in “A Warning to Ferguson Police” reveals how recent court settlements across the country have honored the constitutional rights of demonstrators and leveled awards and settlements against police force abuse.

CHICAGO:
$84 MILLION: settlements for police abuse cases in 2013 alone

NEW YORK CITY:
$17.9 MILLION: to more than 1800 protestors arrested during the 2004 Republican National Convention.

$580,000+: to 14 protestors wrongfully arrested during an Occupy Wall Street march

$735 MILLION: according to Bloomberg News for police abuse claims in one year.

CALIFORNIA:

OAKLAND:
$4.5 MILLION: to an Iraq War veteran injured by police during Occupy protest in after being struck in the head by a beanbag fired by police.

$1.1 MILLION - to members of the Occupy movement for police misconduct during the protests.

UC DAVIS:
$1 MILLION: to 21 demonstrators who were pepper sprayed during Occupy protests November 2011.  This was $30,000 per demonstrator and $250,000 in attorney fees.  The University apologized and the officer who pepper sprayed the protestors was fired.

LOS ANGELES:
$54 MILLION: settlements for police brutality in 2011.

NEW HAMPSHIRE:
$57,000: from a small town to a woman arrested for videotaping a police stop.

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So the UN is concerned about the US, and well it should be. The UN has an anti-torture panel investigating the US, and the panel was “deeply concerned” according to Eric Sommer in “Ferguson and the Militarization of Law Enforcement: ...” as it cited the “high incidence of brutality and shootings -- especially against African Americans -- in the U.S.

Sommer writes, “The most basic human right is the right to remain alive.”

Sommer asserts that statistically we American citizens are much more likely to be killed by a police officer than a terrorist! The UN panel discovered that of the cities listed in its incomplete report, nearly twice a week a black person is killed by the police.

Along with Michael Brown's killing in Ferguson this past week, Tamir Rice, a 12 year old boy in Cleveland, was shot for playing in the park alone with a toy gun. Akai Gurley in NYC committed the crime of walking down his own apartment building staircase and was killed along with a Leonard Marquette Little who police said turned violent while being arrested at a traffic signal in Jacksonville, Florida.

Samuel Davidson in “Hundreds mourn death of 12-year-old boy killed by Cleveland police" writes:

Last week the police released a video of the shooting taken by a security camera mounted on a light pole. The video shows the police pulling up only a few feet from Tamir and shooting him within 1.5 to 2 seconds of their arrival. The video exposed the lie by the police that they had instructed Tamir three times to put up his hands before they shot him.

The video also shows that after the shooting both officers stood around pointing their guns at Tamir as he lay on the ground, making no attempt to save the child’s life. It took four minutes before an FBI agent working in the area arrived and started first aid. Tamir was shot at 3:30 in the afternoon on Saturday, Nov 22. He died the following morning in the hospital.

Andre Damon in “Video shows Cleveland cop killed 12-year-old boy in under two seconds” reveals that 461 people were killed by justified homicides by police last year, the highest number in two decades. For context he offers that in Germany the number was six, in the UK it was two.

Damon questions the Ferguson cop’s insistence that unarmed Michael Brown was life threateningly charging him full throttle having at least three hollow-point .40 caliber bullets lodged in him. Wilson’s portrayal of himself as like a “five year old holding onto Hulk Hogan” was self-serving and dehumanizing of the teenager he had shot to death but apparently went unchallenged before the Grand Jury and not that much later before a vast, vast, vast media audience thanks to a compliant George Stephanopoulos.

Mark Trumbull in “Why Did Ferguson officials wait until dark to announce the decision”.. points out that St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch has had a “symbiotic” relationship with the police and that McCulloch's own father was a police officer shot and killed in the line of duty.

Nadia Prupis in “Bonded With a Common Goal': As Ferguson Recovers, Activists Look Forward” writes:

He [Benjamin Crump, Brown family attorney] noted that Wilson's testimony in front of the grand jury contradicted his statements to detectives shortly after the fatal encounter with Brown. Wilson initially claimed that the unarmed teenager had punched him in the face 10 times, but when testifying to the grand jury, he said Brown only punched him twice

Anthony Gray, also an attorney for the Brown family, agreed, stating at the press conference, "We saw what was presented, but we didn't hear how it was presented... the cynicism, the sarcasm," he said. "Wilson indicted himself. Most of what he said didn't line up with the evidence."

Patrik Jonsson in “Darren Wilson testimony raises fresh questions about racial perceptions” points out that Wilson’s testimony that Brown punched him twice and hard enough for Wilson to fear losing consciousness if struck again belies forensic photos indicating only light bruising on Wilson’s face after their struggle.

Ron Jacobs in "The Masters Make the Rules" asserts that black people in this country are 21 times more likely to be shot by police than white people according to a ProPublica analysis of FBI statistics.

According to a study published by ProPublica on October 10, 2014: “The 1,217 deadly police shootings from 2010 to 2012 captured in the federal data show that blacks, age 15 to 19, were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, while just 1.47 per million white males in that age range died at the hands of police….Blacks are being killed at disturbing rates when set against the rest of the American population.”

Despite the attempts by Prosecutor McCulloch to create confusion about the details surrounding Michael Brown’s murder, the fact remains: Michael Brown is dead and he was killed by a policeman named Darren Wilson. Those that defend Darren Wilson and those who claim that the law was served are both correct. The murder he committed was sanctioned by this nation of laws.

So are the deportations of immigrant parents resulting in the breaking up of families; so is the incarceration of thousands for smoking marijuana; so is the destruction of the environment by energy companies and their Wall Street backers; and so are the millions of deaths caused by US military interventions around the world.

The Third Reich wrote laws, too. They resulted in the murder of millions. Just being a nation of laws means nothing. What matters is who those laws serve. I will leave it to you to determine who is served by the law that allowed Darren Wilson to murder an unarmed civilian.

Glen Ford in “Ferguson: It is Right to Resist, By Any and All Means Necessary” refers to the US as “The Mass Black Incarcertation State” where “Walking, Talking and Breathing While Black is punishable by death.”

As for Obama’s efforts to deal with the present grotesque levels of police violence Ford writes:

President Obama, who early in his first term succeeded in legislatively abolishing due process of law, has responded to the threat of a genuine people’s movement by endorsing peaceful protest – by which he means protest within parameters of time and space and behavior laid down by the very same police against which the grievances are directed. This constitutes “ways of channeling your concerns constructively,” says the president.

Ford also adds:

... It has required a mass movement in-the-making to focus Black people’s attention on the war waged against them by the state, rather than living vicariously with the family in the White House.

Though I have every confidence many black and white Obama apologists will continue to keep him removed from their justified wrath over the state killings.

Eric Sommer (aforementioned) calls these police killings epidemic. But he puts them into a broader context of the militarization of US society and the violence of US imperialism abroad. It is estimated that half the federal budget is devoted to the military.

Sommer asserts:

“A large amount of military equipment bought with this money has been turned over to civilian police departments, perhaps out of fear that declining living standards in the US could lead to mass unrest by American working people.”

Sommer reveals that in 2013 alone $450 million of military equipment was transferred to civilian police departments. WTF? Is the epidemic of police on civilian violence really “unintended consquences”?

US citizens more and more are becoming the “identified” enemy of the US government and its ruling class overlords.

Jerry White in “Obama backs continued militarization of local police forces” points out that something called "program 1033" in the National Defense Authorization Act of 1997 arms civilian police forces. The result? To paraphrase White: At given times tanks are seen rolling down the streets of American cities. Police are seen threatening to kill American citizens with automatic weapons. A no fly-zone is at times implemented to prevent helicopters from filming mass arrests and the devastation of our First Amendment right to assemble and protest.

White also cites an Owellian Obama asserting “I do not want a militarized police culture in America” at the same time he supports program 1033, what White himself refers to as “the urban warfare program.”

Obama is now talking about body-worn cameras for police and expansion of police training. Obama also wants a Task Force to promote so-called "21st century policing." Obama's choice for the Task Force co-chair is Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, who White insists is “notorious for trampling over democratic rights.” Obama claims he wants to integrate federal and local law enforcement. Right. We know the slick realpolitik behind Obama-type "community organizing." The citizens' interests and rights are not brought to the proverbial table. Obama along with political cronies beholding to the corporate elite want further integration of military, federal and local police to have even more effective, efficient and fascistic control over all of us justifiably enraged masses, supposedly potentially threatening to the predatory capitalists and their pimped politicians.

White asserts that the US war on terror has come home. And like the innocents abroad labeled as terrorists, more and more of us will be seen that way. The media will do all it can to enable this. Well, let's seriously face it, massive numbers of black people are already undeservedly incarcerated.

More from Jerry White on the media misdirection and whitewash of the killing of Michael Brown and US police state authoritarianism:

By all accounts, police and military forces essentially stood down following McCulloch’s press conference while a number of stores were burnt or looted—giving the national news networks the footage needed to malign the protests. Shortly afterwards, the military operation began, with a phalanx of security forces in riot gear moving in behind armored vehicles, firing tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators and arresting at least 82 people.

For the most part, the media praised the supposed “restraint” of the police and pumped out grotesquely biased reports implying that the murder of an unarmed youth by an officer who fired 12 rounds into his victim was a legal and justified act of self-defense. ABC News broadcast an interview with Wilson in which the cop described Brown as a “demon.”

CNN reporter Don Lemon declared that “any discussion of police brutality, racial profiling and militarization had been overshadowed by rioting and violence.” The media vilified supposedly “criminal elements” for inciting violence, extending this slander to members of Michael Brown’s grieving family.

Throughout the day, CNN replayed a New York Times video of the angry reaction of the murdered youth’s stepfather immediately after the decision to exonerate the cop was announced.

snip

[Democratic Governor] Nixon referred to the need for “force amplification,” “rapid response teams,” “trained and ready soldiers,” and “force protection” for the police. Other officials referred to the “rules of engagement” for dealing with protesters, employing the same language as US occupying forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

During an appearance in Chicago, President Obama, whose Justice Department has worked closely with state and local officials in Missouri to organize mass repression, placed the onus for violence on the protesters and then suggested that those opposed to police brutality could address their grievances through the courts and state and federal authorities.

The previous night Obama had spoken from the White House to defend the grand jury decision while attempting to pose as sympathetic to those outraged by the murder of Brown and the green light for more police killings given by the authorities in Missouri.

In words that deserve only contempt, the author of drone assassinations and defender of mass spying declared, “Burning buildings, torching cars, destroying property, putting people at risk—that’s destructive, and there’s no excuse for it. Those are criminal acts, and people should be prosecuted if they engage in criminal acts.”

The murder of Michael Brown is but one instance of deadly police violence that is rampant across the US, affecting white workers and youth as well as African Americans. This fact of American life is rooted in immense and ever growing social inequality and the militarization of society. In the face of popular opposition to the destruction of jobs, living standards and social programs, and hostility to war, the government is increasingly resorting to the methods of a police state.

[cross-posted on open salon]

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nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

awarded himself the right to kill Americans without any meaningful form of due process. "We" haven't had the rule of law for a very long time now....and some never had it to begin with.

Andre's picture
Submitted by Andre on

This has been a bug in my brain for the whole Ferguson outrage. How can the two, the senseless killing of predominantly black youth by police and the equally senseless asassination without due process by the Big Cop, not be connected. They are indeed the same. Everything in life is connected, and we only survive by knowing what the connections are, and covering our asses.

nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

that Ferguson was a pilot test of how to control urban insurgencies, a kind of next leap from the way they shut down OWS protests. This definitely comes from the top; the fish rots from the head, so to speak.

I think that at some point we will need to start covering each other's backs, if we are not there already. They don't think of us as human anymore...we are just speedbumps.

Submitted by lambert on

Here is my candidate for what you read; it was picked up elsewhere, I remember running across it:

I hate to be foily, but I’m starting to fit Ferguson into the idea of a “test bed,” like Ukraine, and Syria, and Iraq, where the powers that be seem to have been looking for the next war, or how to manage the next war, all summer. (Richard Morgan, in his SF books, has the great phrase “conflict investment”, as in “I already have a doctorate in conflict investment. I don’t really need the gifted-amateur reading list.”)

Because Ferguson, despite its small size as a town, and the small geographic size of the protests, and the small number engaged in them, is still going on. That suggests it’s still useful. The cops whack a kid and leave his body in the street? Happens all the time. But it’s not every day the cops get to arrest journalists, beat their heads in, force them into holding pens, and point guns at them all during a newsworthy event. (What next? “Embedded journalists” in the police force?) So getting those tactics normalized is useful; it certainly would have saved a lot of bother with Occupy, for example.

(Note that given the hellholes de-industrialization has created throughout the midwest, there are Fergusons all over. It was only a matter of time before a Ferguson happened. And then, look! Opportunity for conflict investment! I don’t see any reason to think the elites helped the process along.)

nippersdad's picture
Submitted by nippersdad on

I wouldn't be in the least surprised! Though it would have had to be elsewhere. I never get down into the comments on Naked Capitalism. There is an awful lot of wonk there, and I am just happy if I can "get" the big picture. Y'all can be a little intimidating.

I bet it was here! I'll do some research and see if I can link to you. :)