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August 21, 2014

10 Ways You Can Help The People Of Ferguson, Missouri

Filed under: General,Two Americas — millerlf @ 4:24 pm

10 Ways You Can Help The People Of Ferguson, Missouri

Posted: 08/19/2014

On Aug. 9, Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot unarmed black teen Michael Brown at least six times, including twice in the head.

The shooting, followed by the Ferguson Police Department’s refusal to release an incident report detailing the circumstances leading to Brown’s death, has sparked ongoing unrest in an area long fraught with racial tension.

An aggressive response by Ferguson police, including the deployment of rubber bullets and tear gas on protesters, has also sparked a national debate over the increasing militarization of local law enforcement.

Americans nationwide have responded in solidarity, holding vigils and demonstrations in Brown’s honor.

Here are a few ways you can help, even if you’re not in Ferguson:

1. Donate to the Michael Brown Memorial Fund here.

michael brown family

The fund, established by the parents of Michael Brown, will assist the family with legal, burial and travel costs as they investigate their son’s killing.

2. Support the Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment’s Legal Defense Fund for Justice for Mike Brown.

ferguson protesters arrested

All contributions to this cause provide legal support for those arrested as part of the protests, primarily on bailing or bonding residents out of jail. The group’s legal support program includes distributing information on legal resources, coordinating with pro bono lawyers and manning a jail support line.

“All people, regardless of their charges, have a right to legal representation. We know that currently public defenders are overworked,” MORE, a St. Louis-based community group, stated in a press release. “According to the law, each person is innocent until proven otherwise; however, this is not how the system plays out on a day-to-day basis, particularly for communities of color. ”

Go here to donate.

3. Support efforts requiring all state, county and local police to wear body cameras.

Amplified by the Ferguson Police Department’s refusal to release an incident report on Brown’s shooting, the department’s failure to implement dashboard and body cameras has further outraged a community left without any specific details or footage of Wilson and Brown’s interaction.

Despite receiving a grant from the Department of Justice to purchase the necessary equipment, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson claimed at a press conference last week that the department didn’t have enough funding to implement the technology.

More than a thousand police agencies nationwide have established dash camera or body camera policies, and as a result, communities have seen greater police transparency and accountability.

In Rialto, California, where the entire police force has worn body-mounted cameras since 2012, complaints against officers fell by 88 percent in the first year of the program’s implementation, according to The New York Times. Over the same period, use of force by officers also dropped significantly, by almost 60 percent.

Launched on Wednesday, a White House petition for a “Mike Brown Law” has already garnered more than the 100,000 signatures required to get a response from the White House.

“The law shall be made in an effort to not only detour police misconduct (i.e. brutality, profiling, abuse of power), but to ensure that all police are following procedure, and to remove all question, from normally questionable police encounters,” the petition states. “As well, as help to hold all parties within a police investigation, accountable for their actions.”

To sign the petition, go here.

4. Advocate for the removal of the Pentagon’s “1033 Program.”

ferguson police

Created in 1997, the federal “1033 program” provides local police departments across the United States with billions of dollars’ worth of surplus military weapons at no charge.

Because 1033 acquisitions are not public record, the excessively militarized state of law enforcement in the U.S. has also occurred with little to no oversight.

According to Newsweek, “the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), which coordinates distribution of military surplus, refuses to reveal the names of agencies requesting ‘tactical’ items … for security reasons.” Those items include assault rifles and Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles.

Moreover, a yearlong investigation by the American Civil Liberties Union found that “of the more than 800 paramilitary raids that we studied, almost 80 percent were for ordinary law enforcement purposes like serving search warrants on people’s homes.”

A mere 7 percent were deployed for hostage, barricade or active shooter incidents.

Cue Ferguson, where police decked out in Marine-issue camouflage, Kevlar vests and automatic rifles have patrolled the city in vehicles outfitted for combat for the past week, discharging tear gas and rubber bullets at community protesters.

In response to the Ferguson Police Department’s military tactics, a Care2 petition urging the Department of Defense to “dissolve the 1033 program and hold all police officers involved in brutality accountable” has already picked up more than 27,000 signatures.

“The Pentagon is encouraging local police forces to feel as if they are going into battle — with a clear enemy and a shoot-to-kill mentality,” the petition states. “This national militarization of police must be stopped immediately.”

To sign the petition, go here.

Last week, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) also announced plans to introduce legislation curbing the sale of surplus DOD weapons to local law enforcement.

5. Stop voting for defense industry-backed lawmakers who voted to continue the 1033 program.

paul ryan wisconsin

In June, 355 House lawmakers opposed legislation by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) that aimed to block the transfer of military equipment to local law enforcement, thereby dissolving the 1033 program.

According to a new report by MapLight, a campaign finance research organization, lawmakers who voted against Grayson’s amendment received 73 percent more money from the defense industry than representatives who voted to defund it.

Of the 59 representatives who received more than $100,000 from the defense industry from Jan. 1, 2011, to Dec. 31, 2013, only four voted in favor of Grayson’s amendment. Lawmakers in the former category include GOP Reps. Darrell Issa (Calif.), Pete King (N.Y.), Paul Ryan (Wis.) and new House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.). Democrats Adam Schiff (Calif.), Brad Sherman (Calif.), Chris Van Hollen (Md.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) also voted against the amendment.

Rep. Richard Nugent (R-Fla.), who received $18,555 from the defense industry during the same time period, defended his vote to maintain the program in an interview with The Huffington Post last week.

“As a past sheriff, we utilized that equipment in a responsible way,” Nugent said. “End of the day, you can always find misuses of any equipment that’s given or utilized by law enforcement. It’s the responsibility of those communities to keep that law enforcement agency in check. But to just outright ban the usage of that equipment would devastate local law enforcement agencies across the nation.”

To view the votes by state, go here.

6. Demand accountability from federal and city officials.

Even if they’re not your representatives, you can still show support for and voice your opinions to Ferguson’s elected officials charged with helping to mediate the conflict. In the state legislature, Ferguson is primarily represented by state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal (D) and state Rep. Courtney Curtis (D).

Chappelle-Nadal was tear-gassed Sunday while peacefully protesting Brown’s death and has pushed back against the Ferguson police chief’s cavalier attitude toward deploying tear gas against civilian protesters.

“He blew me off,” she told The Huffington Post Wednesday, speaking of Jackson. “It was bullshit, and the thing is … I don’t tell people when I’m out with these kids, ‘Hey, I’m your senator.’ But I don’t care about that, I care about these kids.”

Curtis has also voiced support for safeguarding the public against police misconduct by requiring police officers to wear body cameras while on duty.

Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and the ACLU have also criticized the Ferguson Police Department for resorting to “heavy-handed tactics.”

“Under international law, officers responsible for abuses should be adequately disciplined, and, where warranted, prosecuted,” Amnesty wrote in a petition addressed to Jackson.

To sign the Amnesty petition, go here. To support a similar effort by the ACLU, go here.

You can also contact the Ferguson Police Department, urging law enforcement leaders to release public information related to the shooting.

To contact Police Chief Thomas Jackson, call 314-524-5269 or email

7. Don’t allow irrelevant narratives to deflect from the larger issue at hand.

michael brown

As Michael Brown’s death unfolds in the media, numerous developments haphazardly released by the Ferguson Police Department have served to distract from the core issue behind the Ferguson protests: Another unarmed, black teenager has been gunned down by law enforcement with little to no explanation.

On Friday, the Ferguson police chief released a video allegedly depicting Brown in a strong-arm robbery at a convenience store, where police claim he stole a $48.99 box of Swisher Sweets cigars. Jackson later noted that the robbery was unrelated to Brown’s death.

On Monday, The Washington Post reported that the St. Louis County medical examiner revealed that Brown had “marijuana in his system” when he died.

Throughout the ongoing unrest in Ferguson, some people have also focused on a minority of hostile protesters looting local stores as a justification for police brutality against a larger group of peaceful protesters with a more pressing mission: justice for Brown.

Regardless of whether an 18-year-old stole a pack of cigars or had marijuana in his system when he died, his life had value and the circumstances of his death deserve fair and complete examination. Black Americans have had to remind the rest of the nation this a few too many times.

8. Send condolences or a message of support to Brown’s family here.

arrested ferguson protesters

9. Diversify your media consumption.

The ongoing protests in Ferguson have unleashed a flurry of competing perspectives on issues ranging from police militarization to racial inequality.

With social media driving so much of the Ferguson narrative, it becomes even more important to actively seek coverage from a diverse range of political outlets to gain a deeper understanding of the historical, cultural and socio-economic factors at play in Ferguson.

A snippet from some different accounts of the unrest in Ferguson:

“The reason I go through such painstaking efforts when I deal with police is because I learned from my parents and through experience that you want that officer to feel as calm, comfortable and safe as possible. You don’t want him on edge, nervous or agitated. Stay calm. Breathe. Don’t get animated. Don’t get loud. Don’t be a smart-ass. Don’t even move. Don’t do anything.”
— T.J. Holmes, The Root

“I don’t know what made me buy a plane ticket to St. Louis at 1:15 a.m. on Tuesday … But perhaps it was just me. A black boy turned black man who finds it increasingly miraculous that I made it to 27. A black man with a black mother who was alive in the South for the final push of Jim Crow. And a black man with a black mother with black parents who would have done anything so that their children and grandchildren wouldn’t have to live a life in fear of the dogs. And the hoses. And the bombs.” — Rembert Browne, Grantland

For insight into international coverage of the protests, read The Washington Post’s “How the rest of the world sees Ferguson.”

10. Recognize the widespread implications of white privilege, and invest yourself in racial equality.

arrested ferguson protesters

The Civil Rights Act may have become law 50 years ago, but America’s fight against racial discrimination is far from over.

In a society where black people are more likely to be held back a grade in school or disproportionately arrested for drug-related crimes, the societal privileges afforded to whites become even more critical issues to recognize.

White privilege is being able to play with a toy gun in Walmart without making other shoppers uneasy and without being shot to death by police.

White privilege is being able to send your son to a convenience store without worrying that store employees will stalk him, afraid that he might steal something.

Or being able to carry loaded rifles into restaurants without fearing that a misconstrued move could end your life.

In an interview with The Huffington Post last week, the Rev. Tony Lee, an African-American pastor at Community of Hope AME Church in Prince George’s County, urged white Americans to show solidarity with the African-American community:

We need to lock arms amidst all of this. If the police feel they are above the law with any one group, they will feel they are above the law with others. We need to learn from the civil rights movement. It wasn’t just black folks, it was everybody, because it wasn’t a black problem it was a moral issue. We are remembering 40 years after the Freedom Summer. That wasn’t just black people risking their lives, it was a community that went down to Mississippi because they knew that when any group within the nation is marginalized then we can’t be the nation we want to be.

August 20, 2014

Photos of the Children of Ferguson on the Front Lines of Protest

Filed under: General,Two Americas — millerlf @ 9:29 am

The Children of Ferguson, on the Front Lines


Satravion, 10, of Ferguson, Missouri.
Image: Amanda Wills, Mashable
FERGUSON, Missouri — Parked in a driveway just steps away from an armored police truck was a truck that served a very different purpose on Tuesday night — a stage for five carefree children to perform their song, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.”

Eight-year-old Meosha was on drums made from a bucket. Shakira, 7, and Aaliyah, 6, were backup dancers, holding up their hands and waving a sign scribbled with the name of their song. A showman by nature, 10-year-old Satravion provided lead vocals while Cory, 2, supplied a sporadic backup melody.

And because every great band has to have an equally great name, these kids had no trouble picking theirs.

They call themselves Mike Brown and the Trayvon Martins.


A lesson learned on the front lines

Many of the protesters who line Florissant Avenue in Ferguson night after night bring along their kids — and sometimes they get caught in the crossfire. On Sunday evening, one witness said she saw an 8-year-old girl nearly choke after police tossed tear gas into the crowd.

So, why would a mom or dad risk all this to bring a 4-year-old here? The answer, for every parent with whom I spoke, was the same: The kids of St. Louis need to see this.

A young girl stands with her father and cousin on Tuesday in Ferguson.

Image: Amanda Wills, Mashable

Racial tension isn’t exclusive to Ferguson; it weaves its way across St. Louis. In fact, many parents walking with their children by their sides aren’t even from Ferguson; they come from all over the area to participate. For them, it’s about more than Michael Brown.

The roots stretch deep into a long history of predominately black neighborhoods battling small, daily wars with white authorities. Residents have told me repeatedly that racial profiling has gotten out of control. To them, it seems as though officers are looking for excuses to arrest young black men. The image of these men slammed against police cars while cops cuff them is one that the children of Ferguson — and other parts of St. Louis County — are growing up with, rearing a violent nature that perpetuates in a never-ending cycle.

Many parents marching in Ferguson are young, some in their early 20s.

Many parents marching in Ferguson are young, some in their early 20s. They’ve lived these scenes over and over — and they are doing everything they can to change it for their kids.Tierra Gates, who walked alongside her three children — ages 3, 4 and 7 — on Tuesday, said she wanted them to see the unrest firsthand in order to better understand why it was happening and that it was OK to be angry — and even more acceptable to talk about it.

“I don’t keep anything from my kids,” Gates said as her middle child curiously pressed every button and turned each knob on my camera.

“We do everything as a family,” she added, looking down at her youngest child clinging to her leg.

However, Gates says she is aware of the danger that rolls in through Ferguson after the sun goes down. Unlike a lot of parents here, that’s when Gates packs up her family and heads home.


Tierra Gates’ children, ages 3, 4 and 7, on Tuesday in Ferguson.

Image: Amanda Wills, Mashable

But some parents want to expose their children to all of Ferguson’s unrest — even the darker sides.

Ebony Starks, 25, had her three children with her on Tuesday evening. They marched slowly, hand in hand, with groups of protesters who slowly started to increase in numbers — markers of a heightened energy that often comes just before violence sets in at night in Ferguson.


Ebony Starks’ son on Tuesday in Ferguson.

Image: Amanda Wills, Mashable

Starks said her children — ages 5, 8 and 11 — were here on Sunday evening when cops threw tear gas into the crowd.

“It really was scary,” she said. “The [police] didn’t care if kids were around or not.

They just threw it. My babies were all here with me.

They just threw it. My babies were all here with me.”Still, Starks and her kids returned on Tuesday because she said police brutality is something her family routinely encounters, and it’s important to face it head on. Starks said a police officer slapped her in the face in front of her children in February after she didn’t follow his orders during a domestic disturbance call.

“The police showed them firsthand why not to trust the police,” Starks said.

‘I don’t ever want to see these kids out here ever again’

While the kids march alongside their parents, they are often overlooked, sometimes even caught on the front lines. That’s one reason some protesters vehemently opposed having children on Florissant Avenue after dark.

Cory, 2, sits in the back of a pickup truck near the protest area in Ferguson on Tuesday.

Image: Amanda Wills, Mashable

A family of four — mom, dad and two kids under the age of 8 — walked the sidelines of the protest for hours on Monday and Tuesday evening. The father, a young man in his early 20s, carried his son on his shoulders, instructing him to keep on his face mask. His daughter held a drawing of hands.


Crystal Williams, 51, who grew up in the area, pulled the family away from the crowd on Tuesday night and pleaded with the parents to leave their children at home.

“You call me if you ever need a babysitter,” Williams told the young parents. “These kids should be gone by 5 o’clock.”


A mother and her two children, all of whom have marched in Ferguson until late in the evening.

Image: Amanda Wills, Mashable

“I don’t ever want to see these kids out here ever again,” she added.

“Most of us don’t care about dying, but you’ve got babies.”

“Most of us don’t care about dying, but you’ve got babies.”Williams left Ferguson over a decade ago. A police officer had pointed a gun to her 11-year-old son’s head after he stole a Snickers bar, she said. But she said she had returned to her hometown to help parents keep their children safe by offering them up to three hours of child care free of charge.

Williams agreed it’s important that kids of a certain age in Ferguson see what’s happening to their community. But it should be in measured doses, she said, and during times of day when peaceful protests are indeed peaceful.

“I don’t think any child under the age of 13 should be out here,” she said. “And no child under the age of 17 should be out here after 10 o’clock.”

The teens with nothing to lose

But therein lies one of the biggest issues in Ferguson. Much of the violence we’ve been seeing here happens at night, when the mood between police and protesters drastically changes in a matter of minutes. However, it’s also the time of day when the older protesters return home, and teenagers take their place.

Some men in this group of teenagers, ages 17 to 19, say they knew Michael Brown well.

At 16, 17, 18 years old, they feel invincible, and are, in turn, quicker to react violently to aggressive police tactics, like driving armored trucks up and down the street. While the police may be trying to intimidate protesters, the tactic often revs them up.

“A lot of the youth are outraged and very angry. They are very hurt, and the reason is because there is a disconnect,” said Pastor Chris Harris, one of several clergymen who come to Ferguson at night in an effort encourage peaceful protest.


This group of young men say they’ve been protesting in Ferguson until late in the evening when they are forced to leave.

Image: Amanda Wills, Mashable

This is the age group that Brown’s death impacted the most. Some of the teens running up and down Florissant Avenue at night say they knew Brown well. It’s easy for them to see themselves in his shoes. For some of these young men, his death is scarily close to home in every way. They try to mask the fear of it with aggression and anger, partly because that’s all they really know.

“There’s no one that is actually connecting with them in regards to allowing them to express their voice,” Harris said.

“It’s critical they have a chance to voice their opinion. Otherwise, this will continue to heighten.”

National Call for Police Oversight Following Michael Brown Killing

Filed under: Two Americas — millerlf @ 9:23 am

Rights Groups Call for Openness in Brown Case
Stacy Anderson / Associated Press August 19, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) – More than a dozen civil and human rights groups are appealing for openness in the investigation of the police shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Members of the coalition, including the ACLU and National Bar Association, have filed lawsuits seeking the incident report in the shooting of Brown by Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson.
The Justice Department has launched an independent investigation into the case.
The National Bar Association, a national network mainly of black lawyers and judges, filed a lawsuit this week claiming the Ferguson Police Department is in violation of the state open-records law for not releasing reports, videos and photos about the Aug. 9 shooting. It also seeks records related to the police officer.
The ACLU has also filed two lawsuits requesting copies of incident reports from both the Ferguson Police Department and St. Louis County.
The group wants Justice Department officials to prepare reports on police killings, police training, police oversight, racial profiling of minorities and youth, and police policies such as “stop-and-frisk.”
“We continue to look in dismay at the lack of a release by the Ferguson Police Department of the incident report, a public record that is required by law to be available to the public,” Lawyers’ Committee President Barbara Arnwine said in a briefing. “There’s no explanation, no excuse for the lack of that release.”
The group has recommended that dashboard cameras be mandatory in police cars, that police officers wear body cameras, and that a law enforcement commission be created to review police tactics.
Calls for requests for comment from St. Louis County Police were not returned.
Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson did release the officer’s name last week, as well as police reports and surveillance video from a convenience store robbery in which Brown was a suspect. It drew further community outcry over the incident.
Janai Nelson of the NAACP-Legal Defense Fund said the police response to the shooting death has been uncoordinated and led the community to distrust police and public officials.
“What is of grave concern to the Legal Defense Fund is the absence of state and local leadership at nearly every level of the investigation of incident,” Nelson said. “We call on Ferguson to lead. We call on the elected officials of Ferguson to engage with members of their community to ensure them that the investigation into Michael Brown’s death will be fair and just.”
The civil and human rights organizations have long-term goals to push for reform of the criminal justice system and federal police oversight, as well as increasing minority voting.

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