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Tamir Rice case shows how prosecutors twist grand juries to protect police
Black And Unarmed

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There has been some talk about what will happen in Cleveland after the judge decides on the court case of Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo in the shooting deaths of two people.

The reason for this concern, of course, evolves from the violent reaction in Baltimore to the death of Freddie Gray while in custody of Baltimore police.

How Cleveland has avoided more national attention on the police-black issue is a mystery to me.

I thought for sure the 137-bullets fired, some 60 car chase—all visibly caught on film as police cars screeched in pursuit with flashing lights (and shown repeatedly on TV here)—would have been used over and over by national TV as examples of police over-reaction. It was a classic example of irrational police behavior.

Then the dramatic film—showing Tamir Rice shot dead in seconds as he merely approached a police car. The officer firing as he opened the car door—would have surely been national media fodder in a time of violent police treatment of young blacks. (And unexpectedly all on film). But I would read national stories of police atrocities and at time the 12-year old Rice and Cleveland wouldn’t even make the expanding story list. (The New York Times eventually used the film).

Add to this to this the strange behavior of Mayor Jackson simply blowing off Atty. Gen. Mike DeWine’s clearly correct report assessment of “systemic failure” of the multi-car chase at high speeds, ending in two deaths, through Cleveland city street followed by the mayor’s promotion of the two top police officers in charge of his police department and one wonders if Cleveland is in a bubble of its own.

Or does this mayor think he’s above any reproach?


With gracious thanks to Florence Reece and Peter Seeger


Nearly five months have passed since Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown and while the vital conversation in our nation surrounding the events of 9 August continues, I have decided to no longer keep this internal thread stuck to the top of Have Coffee Will Write. I have every intention of continuing to write about the murder of Michael Brown and Tamir Rice and Eric Garner and the devastatingly long list of people murdered because of the color of their skin (look for a piece about police violence tomorrow), but I need to come at this topic in a different way.

This internal thread concerning events in and about Ferguson, Missouri, is stuck to the top of the blog, newer, less vital, posts appear below.

Meanwhile, comments on PZ Myers’ Good Morning, America hit 2,394 and PZ has opened a second comment thread: Later this morning in America

Grand juries were designed to be a check on prosecutors and law enforcement. Instead, they’ve become a corrupt shield to protect those with power and another sword to strike down those without. And it’s now all too obviously past time the system was overhauled to fix that.

Before Wednesday’s shameful decision by a New York grand jury to refuse to indict the police officer who choked to death an unarmed and unresisting Eric Garner, one statistic made clear just how much our justice system has failed:

Charles Clymer (@cmclymer) November 25, 2014 Grand juries not resulting in indictments: Police Officers: 80 of 81 Civilians: 11 of 162,000 #Ferguson http://t.co/rmHtPlNlun

If you are an ordinary citizen being investigated for a crime by an American grand jury, there is a 99.993% chance you’ll be indicted. Yet if you’re a police officer, that chance falls to effectively nil.

While the Michael Brown tragedy in Ferguson elevated the harsh reality of grand juries to the global stage, no case has driven it home more than Garner’s. A victim who was unarmed and did not resist. A forbidden chokehold according to NYPD rules. Ruled a homicide by the medical examiner who performed the autopsy. And it was all caught on crystal-clear video.

If Eric Garner’s killer can’t be indicted, what cop possibly could?

Trevor Timm writing in If Eric Garner’s killer can’t be indicted, what cop possibly could? It’s time to fix grand juries for The Guardian.


Some witnesses who appeared before the grand jury investigating the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown were “clearly not telling the truth,” according to the St Louis county prosecutor, Robert McCulloch.

In his first public interview since announcing the grand jury’s decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson, McCulloch told local radio station KTRS that he had decided to put witnesses forward to testify regardless of their credibility.

“Early on, I decided that anyone who claimed to have witnessed anything would be presented to the grand jury,” he said.

“I knew somebody would be critical of whatever I did,” he said. “I thought it was important to present anybody and everybody, and some that were, yes, clearly not telling the truth, no question about it.”

What testimony are we talking about here?

In her grand jury testimony, “Witness 40” described in detail how Michael Brown bent down “in a football position” and charged at officer Darren Wilson – an account often quoted in discussion of the case by rightwing commentators such as Fox News’s Sean Hannity.

It was noted in her testimony to the grand jury that “Witness 40” was not taking medication for bipolar disorder, and that she had memory problems after being injured in a 2001 car crash. The witness waited until after Wilson’s account of events was in the public domain, four weeks after the shooting, before coming to police with a story which directly corroborated his version of events.

The Smoking Gun also highlighted how “Witness 40” gave the grand jury several different explanations for her presence in Ferguson on the day Brown was killed – and that she admitted that her first version of the story was untrue.

So, I wonder if Faux Snooze will be calling for the the prosecution of both Robert McCulloch and Sandra McElroy?

Don’t hold your breath.


“…How long, O Sovereign Lord…until you judge…and …avenge our blood…they
were told, wait a little while longer.” (Rev. 6:10-11 NIV)

Once again, another unarmed black male was gunned down in Tombstone, America by a racist policeman in broad daylight ,who has no value for black life, and no fear of retribution in white supremacist America. What does White America have to say about this genocide, this ethnic cleansing? What does the Black Church have to say about that? What does it mean to be Black and Christian at this moment, given these conditions? How long, O God, must we wait for someone, even you, to judge and avenge this degradation? What shall we do until…?

I will tell you what must be done. Black America must arm itself against any and all with such moral depravity as to count a black man’s life as less than an animal. We have the right to defend ourselves against any and all, no matter who gets caught in the crossfire and becomes a CIA. Isn’t that the single most heard mantra in America recently–we, Israel, the police officer have the right to defend ourselves. Didn’t I just see that out west when a group of white citizens pointed guns and sniper weapons on border guards? Didn’t I see some politicians support them, and other politicians evade condemning them? Does anyone with half a brain believe that had they been black citizens it would have turned out the same, women and children present or not? Michael Brown was not armed. Michael Brown was running away. Michael Brown had his hands up. Michael Brown was an 18 year old kid on his way to college. Oh, I forgot he was a Big Black Gorilla in the mist.

Surely, I will gain overwhelming support for this idea, even this ideal, by an American majority who loves their guns. I know I will have the tenacious backing of the NRA and all the politicians, Democrat and Republican, that don’t have the courage or conscience to oppose them. An NRA that supports and is silent about a child being taught to use an Uzi that she can’t handle, as a result killing her trainer, certainly will defend the arming of a people being slaughtered in the streets. After 911 they called for all pilots—yes, pilots—to be armed. After Sandy Hook, they called for teachers–yes teachers–to be strapped in the classroom. They wanted citizens to be armed in the movies. Imagine, a gunshot on the screen, one person starts shooting and everybody starts. Yet, they were for it. Surely, they will join me on this one as well. Or, is there something about the hue of my people’s skin that will cause them to flinch?

Now, where is the White Church and their religious leaders on this matter? What have we heard from them? Support of the policeman and police culture? In fact, where are they and what do they have to say after each and every one of these events? Let us pray? How often does the conversation turn to reconciliation, prayers and singing together each and every time it happens, again and again. Not once do they say, maybe you all should arm yourselves just like most of our members believe about guns.

We must also ask where is the Black Church as well? Let us pray, let us sing, let us march, let us reconcile. These things are part of our history, and they all have their place. Yet, none of it has abated the merciless devaluation of black life in the face of racist police brutality. When will the Black Church call for arms? When will the Black Church challenge (press, if you prefer) God as did the martyrs under the throne, and John the Revelator? How long, O Sovereign God will you allow this to go on before you judge and avenge our blood. A challenge like the one Moses issued to God at the threat of Israel being wiped out in the presence of all other people must be pursued–if you don’t act, then all others will say, those were not your people, you were not powerful enough to deliver them. Then, God relented.

However, in John’s apocalypse (better, prophetic proclamation) the challenge is met with its own challenge. Just a little while longer until some more die. In effect, he told them even he couldn’t stop it. Many more will die before it is over. Prepare yourselves, that is, arm yourselves! I do not believe we have seen the last of this devaluation of black life by the criminal justice system. I see only two ways to stop this carnage. If the tanks rolled, the tear gas canisters and rubber bullets flew in White communities. If the citizens in the White communities were brutalized and shot down by Black police like animals, and were set free to repeat it endlessly, it would cease in 24 hours. Since that will never be allowed to happen in America, until God’s apocalypse reigns supreme, Black America must arm itself.

Contrary to what many had hoped I was calling for, and some will selectively use in a Fox News Jeremiah Wright type distortion, I am not calling for firearms, an armed rebellion, like the NRA, their supporters, and many right-wing militia groups in America who love their guns!

We must arm ourselves with videos

Black America needs to arm itself with video equipment, and steel ourselves to use it in the most trying circumstances. We must also demand that our police force wear cameras, not just have them on their dashboards. They are plentiful on cell phones now. My grandchildren and most of the people in the community in which I pastor have cameras on their cell phones. With video and without, we have seen how the police culture and all their supporters will lie to the end. What do you expect, that the police is going to say, oh yes, I shot him with his hands up. The video of the brutal killing of a black man on the streets of NY by a policeman while he pleaded that he could not breathe eleven times cries out for judgment. Imagine if there was no tape. That case would be just like the black pastor’s young son who supposedly committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest while handcuffed behind his back, sitting in the back of a police car with a pistol after he had been searched twice for any weapons before being put in the car. No video. And, the medical examiner supported the police by saying because of his small frame it was possible. No video. Imagine the difference, if the young lady who saw what the police officer did to Michael Brown had steeled herself to keep taping, and not put her phone back in her purse. Police are going to lie; prosecutors and medical examiners will do everything they can to support the police’s version of things.

Here is where I must challenge the too quick, uncritical view of the bad apples (rogue cops) versus good cops analogy. Where is the empirical evidence for that? How do we know that it is not the reverse. There is circumstantial evidence, however, to challenge the analogy. Notice how in every instance, the police chief, commissioner, prosecutor, head of the FOP, and the entire police force supported the officer who committed the offense, to the very end. How often have we seen a police officer come forth without indictment to say, the witnesses are correct? There is a police culture that goes all the way up to the prosecutor that will lie no matter what. When has an ordinary citizen been given the opportunity to testify before the grand jury to determine whether or not he will be indicted? Please, spare me the good apples, bad apples analogy. It lacks credibility.

I must make this additional observation and challenge about cameras rolling. We
cannot say the media were not there covering this story, However, there is one stark contrast that stood out to me. I did not hear one reporter or news story give in-depth or sustained coverage of the stark differences in assemblage rights of Blacks versus Whites. Perhaps I missed it. When Blacks came out to support the Brown family and protest, they were told, “keep it moving.” If you don’t we will shoot and arrest you for failure to disperse. Yet, when Whites came out to support and protest for the policeman, not just with their mouths but with their money, they were handled by a different set of rules–stand in place as long as you like, even set up tents, stay as long as you want. What happened to our rights to assemble without having to keep it moving? Where is the balance as regards the many versus the few, the Blacks versus the Whites? It does not seem to me that this stark difference, which raises the issue of race once again, got the equal coverage of the looting by the few. Where was the ACLU and NAACP lawsuits? The cameras were rolling without a doubt, the ACLU and NAACP were there, so what? How long, O Sovereign Lord must we wait? Everybody needs to examine themselves! Everybody needs to do more!

We must arm ourselves with the power of the vote

It is not that White Americans should be ashamed and in repentance of what happened to Michael Brown et al, while Black Americans are enraged. We too should be ashamed and bear some responsibility for his death. There are far too many Fergusons in America. How is it possible that in a location that is over 70 percent black , that the Mayor, Prosecutor, school board is totally white, and 50 out of 53 police officers are white? The numbers don’t add up until you hear one other number–6% of those blacks voted in the last election that determined this state of affairs. In the community where my church resides, the number was about 2 percent in the last election that determined our Council representative. This is ridiculous and inexcusable. Too many of our ancestors died, shed blood and were humiliated fighting for this right. How long O Sovereign God will you hold your judgment of us for not avenging our martyr’s blood with our vote? Or is this a judgment of some sort that you have left in our hands? Is this what we must wait a little while longer for? The courage to do what we can do, what we know to be right and just.

Surely, someone will remonstrate, but what of the racist structural realities. Yes, those must not be overlooked. All the attempts to keep us from voting must be met with equal vigor to have them overturned. Yet, at the end of the day, those Civil Rights and slain young black martyrs in the streets of Black America are crying out from under the altar, How long, O Sovereign Lord must we wait before they avenge our blood. Just a little while longer, while some others are martyred as well. Our response must be, like those who went before us—no excuses! We will wear down your capacity to stop us from voting with our capacity to never give in to any stumbling block put in our way to get to the polls. We will break your evil attempt to stop us from avenging the blood of those who cry out for judgment. Finally, and most importantly, it is not enough to just vote in the Presidential elections. All of the people that make the decisions that affect these matters—governors, state legislators, prosecutors, mayors, etc.—occur most often in off-year elections. You can’t just vote because you are proud that a Black man may be President. Evil doesn’t take a day off, and neither can we.

We must arm ourselves with the conviction that our legislators get no pass

Military equipment is just as unacceptable in Black communities as in White communities. When have we seen this in White communities? Part of the reason is that they vote at a higher rate than we do in many of our communities. Yet, part of it is that they look like the legislators and criminal justice people who make these decisions. We must demand more courage from our Democratic legislators and more conscience from our Republican legislators, to draw from similar language of a dear colleague. We cannot allow any of them off the hook, whether Democrat or Republican. Why hasn’t Hilary Clinton had anything to say about these matters? That is unacceptable. Even Rand Paul had something to say about this militarization in our community. I believe Ted Cruse did as well. Before now, my sentiments were, if she runs I certainly will vote for her. Now, it is, if she runs I probably will vote for her. We must make her understand that our votes for Bill Clinton and Barak Obama do not automatically accrue to her. She must earn them. In fact, we must let every Democrat know that our vote can no longer be taken for granted. We need them to act and show courage in the face of such egregious evil against our community. How long, O Sovereign Lord, must we wait?

We must arm ourselves with the capacity to challenge our churches

We must challenge our White churches, especially the evangelical ones. Let me be absolutely clear. There are some good, very, very good and decent White brothers and sisters out there. I have had the privilege of knowing some who left us far too soon, and some who stand with us even to this day. Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner, Black, White and Jewish, died together fighting for what was right, just, and fair. However, neither are symbols of all in the communities from which they come. We must challenge our White brothers and sisters of whatever faith, but most especially the evangelical faith that follows Jesus Christ to have the courage to speak out against these atrocities. There comes a time Martin once said that silence is betrayal.

In similar fashion we must call upon our Hispanic brothers and sisters to speak out against the atrocities and injustices visited upon us in our communities, just as we must stand with them on the issue of immigration. Yet, as it relates to this particular matter, it is self evident that such devaluation of human life is visited much more on people of color in America than not, and self-evidently more on the Black community.

We turn now to the Black Church. From mini to mega, we must challenge them to do more, to lead more with courage and conviction. This will necessitate some having to break from some old and new traditions. For far too long, the separation of a soteriological/evangelical/bye and bye faith from a sociological/social justice gospel/here-and-now faith worked for many. In addition, the new high-tech, superbly marketed, high praise approach is working well in many places. Yet, when the cry comes, How long, O Sovereign Lord must we wait, will the bye and bye, Praise the Lord, or a blessing is on the way, suffice?

R. Drew Smith, (Long March Ahead, New Day Begun), Anthony Pinn (The Black Church in the Post Civil Rights Era) and Marivn McMickle (Where Have All the Prophets Gone) have critically demonstrated how after the Civil Rights Movement too much of the Black Church disengaged from political activism and protest. Jesus made clear that where he was so too must his disciples be. He was here on earth, actively engaged in every aspect of human life—poverty, health-care, politics and faith communities. If the communities in which our churches reside are not voting, do we share any responsibility to do everything possible to alter that state of affairs? Of course we must have education, youth, prison and homeless ministries. Yet, just as we must challenge our white churches to do more to change policies and structural realities, so too, we must challenge ourselves.

Moreover, somewhere in all this, Black churches must find a way to come together economically. Clearly, the Black Church suffers more economically than the White Church in general, and most struggle mightily individually. However, we find the funds to conference, revival or retreat ourselves to death. We find the time to meet for hours, often with nothing of substance to show at the end. We come up with enough money to have large events at large auditoriums and hotels , sometimes paying large honorariums to a host of “entertainers.” Meanwhile, these high unemployment rates for our people, our young especially, are staggering. What sayeth the Black Church about this? Yes, we must systematically confront socio-economic, political structural realities with consistency. Yet, where are our concrete, collective, symbolic economic actions to say, here is how we can make an economic difference together that we cannot alone—mini and mega together? Can’t we do just one economic event together that no one is worried about who gets the credit, who is up front, that lays down an example for others to follow? How much money comes into our community, into our churches? Is there enough for one substantial economic event that starts a movement? I issue this challenge to Black churches everywhere—just one, substantive, powerful, concrete, symbolic, economic event together as the body of Christ that makes a difference in your community! A bucket of ice dumped over the head of thousands raised what?

We must arm ourselves with a commitment to an enduring hope

I have been a part of the Black Church tradition all of my life. I have tried to be a follower of Jesus since I was introduced to him at the St James AME Church in Meridian, Mississippi at the age of 5, as far back as my memory goes. I have continued that journey at the New Mt Zion Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio where I have been a member for more than half a century. and pastor for the last 17 years. I am only the second pastor in that church’s history, of which my uncle founded in 1958. I joined with my mother and younger brother in 1960 after having escaped from the Nation of Mississippi in 1959. and landed in the ghetto of Hough in a rat and roach infested apartment complex, on the very corner where the riots started in the 1960s. The militarization of our community is not new to me.

I was subjected to the degradation of White supremacy laws and the threats of the Klu Klux Klan all my childhood in Mississippi, and racist police officers from the time I arrived in Cleveland to this very day. I have never been treated like a man, even a human being, by any white policeman, local or State Trooper, anywhere in America when stopped while walking or driving. Well over 90 percent of the time I was stopped for merely walking or driving while Black. The other percentage of the time was for minor traffic infractions, like going over the speed limit. In every instance, I was talked to like I was a boy, and devalued like I was less than an animal. This is not White America’s experience. For far too many of them, the police is what protects them from us. That is their experience and expectation. That is why they can sleep at night with the way we are treated. For far too many of them, the White woman at the rally supporting the policeman that slaughtered Michael Brown, echoes their sentiments. “Thank you, she said, for working in the animal division, protecting us from the animals.”

I grew up on welfare through high school, as my mother did day work for rich White people, for which she was never paid one dime into social security. Yet, I hold six degrees, five of which are graduate degrees, two of which are terminal, in two different fields (Finance, Religious Studies). Although first or near first in my class from High School on, I never received a scholarship until my last degree, my Ph.D, at the University of Pittsburgh. I worked full time while going to school for every degree I received. After 30 years as a professor, I sit as the Senior faculty member of my school, the Founder, President and CEO of a graduate school and the Pastor of a church. That’s a very, very long way from the back of the bus, separate water fountains, schools, playgrounds, the balcony in movie theaters, the back doors of White folks houses and waiting in line in the store while all the white folks were served, no matter when you came into the store. And, I don’t hate anybody, but I am a fierce defended of the dispossessed, disadvantaged, and devalued, wherever and whoever they are, most especially my people and people of color.

Those Sunday School teachers at St James, that pastor, who would become my father and uncle at New Mount Zion, instilled in me the gospel of Jesus Christ. They taught me that you are not what anyone else calls you or says about you. You are what God calls you and what you believe about yourself. I am and will forever be a follower of Jesus Christ who fights to set the captives free, even unto death. I am rooted and grounded in this faith. On this ground I stand. I know no other, with both Martin’s.

This way is the only way I have experienced that defies the intellect and what appears to be the reality with a “hope that does not disappoint.” (See Myers,”Rom. 5:5, A Hope that does not disappoint”). Young men, criminally looting in the face of a brutal massacre–let’s call it what it was–cries out for a hope that does not disappoint. People throwing bottles and rocks at the media and armed police with tanks and automatic weapons stupidly, not courageously, cries out for a hope that does not disappoint. The Black Church resides in these communities where these cries ring out. I believe it needs to step forward once again, as it did more than a half century ago, and lay the groundwork for our way out.

How long, O Sovereign Lord, before you judge and avenge the blood of our martyrs? Not long, wait a little while longer! “Wait!” This is a term that calls for patience, even restraint. Yet, how difficult that is in an instant, fast moving culture in which we live. How difficult that is for young people. Moreover, how difficult that is for an oppressed, abused and devalued people, most especially a people who have been waiting a very long time and told to wait some more. Even Martin recoiled against the suggestion that we wait with oral and written presentations (e.g., Why we can’t wait). Yet, God and John utters that torturous and faithful word. However, it is a word of certainty–God will judge and avenge as well as make an another unsettling request–wait for just “a little while longer.” Neither God nor his followers will wait for very long. Nor should we. While we wait, John the Revelator says, resist (See the works of Brian Blount on this perspective of John the Revelator)– show some genuine hope in the midst of hopelessness, love in the midst of lovelessness, meaning in the midst of meaninglessness (cf. Cornell West, Race Matters, and his work on hope).

How? Jesus showed us the way. John the Revelator showed us the way. Sojourner and Harriet showed us the way. Martin and Mandela showed us the way. Rosa and Fannie Lou showed us the way. Ghandi and Mother Teresa showed us the way. Pope John Paul II showed us the way and Pope Francis continues to show us the way. Hear the cry, O Black Church, and show us the way, yet again.

William H. Myers, Ph.D.
Professor of New Testament & Black Church Studies
Ashland Theological Seminary, Ohio
Founder, President & CEO McCreary Center for African American Religious Studies, Cleveland, Ohio
Pastor, New Mount Zion Baptist Church, Cleveland, Ohio



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It’s difficult, if not impossible; to believe that Safety Director Michael McGrath would declare that he won’t resign without Mayor Frank Jackson’s assent.

It’s Jackson sticking his finger into the eye of Atty. Gen. Eric Holder and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Just as he did to Ohio Atty. Gen. Mike DeWine and DeWine’s report on the 137-bullet assassination of two blacks after a car chase. DeWine’s report declared the Cleveland Police Dept. and its actions were a “systemic failure” of the police force, just as the Justice Department characterized it. Jackson essentially told DeWine, screw you.

Jackson simply will not admit mistakes.

After that systemic failure Jackson promoted McGrath from police chief to safety director.

Take that, said Jackson, to his critics.

The Mayor takes orders from no one.

Indeed, the more orders, pleas, protests will simply strength his belief that he’s right. The rest are wrong.

He’ll go it alone.

That’s the Jackson I’d watch at City Council Committee hearings. If he wasn’t a member of the committee, unlike most others who entered the room at sat at the table with colleagues, Jackson would separate himself. He’d sit apart from the proceedings and not take part.

He does the unexpected.

Jackson surprised everyone in the late 1990s when as chairman of the powerful and crucial Community and Economic Development Committee he quit. He gave no reason.

It was a committee crucial to his impoverished ward.

I wrote at the time: “Although some colleagues are urging Jackson to reconsider, Jackson said Monday that he had not changed his mind. He would not divulge why he was resigning and would not comment on any aspect of the issue.” (The issue apparently involved the handling of a resolution Jackson had offered over a controversial Ku Klux Klan rally at that time.)

Jackson’s intransigent stance reflects a stubborn, go-it-alone style.

This inflexible personality could have a damaging effect on any attempt for real reform of the Cleveland Police Department.

This reflects what I wrote in Feb. 2012:

We have a No-Fault Cleveland City Council.

—A No-Fault Mayor Frank Jackson.
—A No-Fault Police Chief Frank McGrath.
—A No-Fault Safety Director Marty Flask.
—A No-Fault Cleveland Police Force.

Hell, nobody’s responsible for Anything in Cleveland.

Nothing seems to have changed. And an apathetic community isn’t helpful.

It will be interesting to see how far Councilman Jeff Johnson will take his criticisms of the Jackson Administration.

It’s nearly a quarter century ago that Johnson refused to back down to the powerful Council President George Forbes.

The result: Forbes felt he couldn’t retain his Council presidency against the opposition led by Johnson (old political watchers will remember that Forbes tossed a chair at Johnson in a closed meeting). He then ran for mayor, only to be defeated by Michael White in 1989 with Johnson’s help.

We may be seeing the end of the trail for Frank Jackson.

By Roldo Bartimole…


New York mayor Bill de Blasio on Sunday refused to endorse a grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer over the choking death of a man in the city last summer. De Blasio also doubled down on controversial comments he made about the risks faced by children of colour, such as his son Dante, when they encounter police officers.

Appearing on ABC, de Blasio three times refused to respond to the question of whether he respected the decision by a grand jury not to bring charges against Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer who put Staten Island resident Eric Garner in a chokehold during an arrest attempt. The decision led to large-scale protests in the city and across the country, which on Sunday continued into a fifth day. On Saturday night, violence broke out at one such demonstration, in California.

After de Blasio had deflected the question, saying “as an executive in public service” he respected “the judicial process, but …” host George Stephanopoulos interrupted to ask: “So you respect the grand jury’s decision?”

De Blasio replied, with emphasis on the last word: “I respect the process.” He went on to talk about initiating a “systemic” retraining of police officers in New York, in order to “fix the relationship between the police and the community”.

Stephanopoulos countered: “So you respect the process but not the decision?”De Blasio gave the hint of a smile but did not reply.

He said he would “absolutely cooperate” with a federal investigation now underway to establish if the police action against Garner violated his civil rights.

Appearing on different Sunday talkshows, de Blasio and New York police commissioner William Bratton attempted to put up a united front in the face of accusations from the police union last week that the mayor “threw the police under the bus” when he hinted at racism in the ranks. Bratton called de Blasio “one of the best I have ever worked with” in his long career in charge of law enforcement in a variety of cities across the US.

The mayor, however, strengthened controversial comments he made earlier this week. De Blasio, who is white, sparked controversy when he said that he and his wife Chirlane McCray, who is black, had long trained their teenage son Dante to “take special care” in any encounter with police officers.

“We have to have an honest conversation in this country about the history of racism and the problem that has caused parents to feel their children may be in danger in their dynamics with police, when in fact the police are there to protect them,” he said.

“What parents have done for decades who have children of colour, especially young men of colour, is train them to be very careful whenever they have an encounter with a police officer. It’s different for a white child. That’s just the reality of this country.”

He and McCray had lectured their son “from early on” on how to respond to the police, he said.

“We said, ‘Look, if a police officer stops you, do whatever he tells you to do. Do not move suddenly, do not reach for your cellphone,’ because, you know, sadly, there is a greater chance it might be misinterpreted if it was a young man of colour.”

Eric Garner writing in New York mayor Bill de Blasio refuses to endorse Eric Garner grand jury decision for The Guardian.


The solution to the problem of police is that it will require a total change in their culture of operation.

It is clear – has been for the last 45 years going back to the cops and their refusal to accept Carl Stokes as their commander—that it isn’t going to change.

That was made clear also by Mayor Frank Jackson’s response in front of Attorney General Eric Holder when he was asked about the issue of “systemic failures” of his police department. He refuses to take responsibility.

Jackson revealed that he does not intend to come down hard on the police and in particular its leadership. Leadership he has promoted despite the dismal record offered by the U. S. Department of Justice report on the Cleveland Police Department.

“There were officers who did the right thing and there were officers who did the wrong thing. We disciplined those who did the wrong thing.” That was Jackson’s failure to take responsibility.

He once again dodged responsibility for what Ohio attorney general Mike DeWine rightly and clearly found as systemic failure in the 137-bullet, unnecessary chase, resulting in the death (assassination might be a better word) of two people. That was two years ago!

Jackson talks in riddles. He has said, as a commenter noted, “The problem is we have a problem. It’s not that we don’t know what the problems are; we’ve known those for years. It’s not that we don’t know what the solutions are; we’ve known those for years. The problem is we haven’t done anything about it.”

If he knows this then he admits that he’s done nothing about it.

That’s a self-damning charge.

The police patrolmen’s president Jeffrey Follmer showed just how tough Jackson will have to be with his first statement after the report.

“It’s disappointing when people take a look back and criticize what we did. We don’t have the chance to look back. We’re doing things right then, right there, right now.”

So, he says, “We take no responsibility.”

Capt. Brian Betley, head of the Fraternal Order of Police, showed some possible hope. “When the DOJ lays down something like this, that’s the law.” Let’s hope he means it.

That’s a lot better than the FOP in 1970 when it ran a full-page ad in the Plain Dealer and Press in reaction to protests over police misconduct of that era.

And we have to watch out for this kind of blowback by police again. It should not be tolerated.
The ad gave suggestion of how police might think now.

“The alternatives are clear. And they are simple. You can stand up and be counted among the supporters of your policemen. You can sing out loud and clear that you want steps taken to protect the lives of men and women who are protecting yours” said the full-page ad.

“Or you can take the sides against us by trying to straddle on that fence of No Involvement.”

The ad was accompanied dramatically with a police badge, bullet-punctured.

Jackson can start reform immediately by taking the harshest discipline action he can take against the two officers involved in the killing of a 12-year old—Timothy Loehman and Frank Garmback.

This police action was caught on camera.

The film that shows the killing of 12 year old Tamir Rice dramatically tells a bitter story of police relations with the black community in Cleveland.

It looks to me as though young Tamir was walking toward the police car innocently wondering what they wanted. Police say he was reaching for his gun in the less than two seconds before he was shot dead. Reaching for his toy gun? Was this supposed to be teen suicide by police?

If Jackson doesn’t take swift and dramatic action we will have to wonder why.

By Roldo Bartimole…


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Grand juries have a way of telling the history desired by those who hold power. Same as history is most often told.

The Ferguson grand jury of Prosecutor Robert McCulloch – who was described by the New York Times as “widely viewed in the minority community as being in the pockets of the police”—seemed to fit the majority’s need to avoid a real exam of the shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson.

And Justice denied breeds Justice decried.

Those who control keep control. Unfortunately, the reaction often doesn’t really touch those who most deserve the triggered anger. Thus the burning in Ferguson.

When Cleveland’s Hough area erupted in violence in July, 1966, it should have taken no great mind as to why it exploded. It was obvious.

The city and its leaders had already heard a litany of ills. Any incident would have set in motion violence. I had written in 1967 in The Nation magazine with Murray Gruber, then a faculty member at Case Western Reserve, “Cleveland is a recipe for violence.” It was no one’s secret.

“In April 1966, the Civil Rights Commission ripped away Cleveland’s carefully nurtured facade of social progress. Hearings gave the ghetto a chance to speak, and even it was shocked by the cumulative findings,” we wrote.

A year after the Civil Rights Commission chairman returned to Cleveland with a sobering appraisal: “The list of accomplishments is very short, and the agenda of unfinished business is very long.”

Why worry about those people.

Yet a special grand jury was enlisted. It was headed by Louis B. Seltzer, former editor of the Cleveland Press and, as we called him, “an avid believer in his ability to prescribe what is best for Cleveland.” You would think the editor of a daily newspaper would know something of his community.

Cleveland was treated to the most absurd of grand jury conclusions. Seltzer came up with the culprit: It was the work of the powerful Cleveland Communist Party. Who knew?

Here is what the grand jury report said:

The jury finds that the outbreak of lawlessness and disorder, precipitated and exploited by a relatively small group of trained and disciplined professionals at the business. They were aided and abetted, willingly or otherwise, by misguided people of all ages and colors, many of whom are avowed believers in violence and extremism, and some of whom were either members or officers of the Community Party.

Instead of being laughed out of town, the “news” was given headline treatment in the newspapers.
Instead of dealing with the deep problems of poverty, unemployment and awful living conditions clearly evidenced by the Rights hearings, Cleveland gave way, as we wrote, “to a Billy-club mentality.”

Now we have a situation similar to the St. Louis tragedy in the shooting of a 12-year old boy Tamir Rice. I just watched the film at Cleveland.com and it sure looks like a killing without reason. Officer Timothy Lochmann, according to the Plain Dealer, shot twice and it certainly appeared as if the shooting was as the officer exited the car.

This follows the 137-bullet killing of two blacks in a 25-minute car chase with some 60 police cars two years ago.

What surprised me was the lack of any national attention to that killing. It was especially true to me since there was dramatic film of the night-time chase with lights flashing.

Police policy was seriously questioned and a two month study by Atty. Gen. Mike DeWine concluded that it was “systematic failure” by the Cleveland Police. That didn’t seem a difficult conclusion to determine.

What further surprised me was the lack of any serious protest in Cleveland to what seemed almost an execution by police of the man and woman, both unarmed and apparently suspected of gunshots at police that seemingly was due to car backfiring.

Further disturbing—unlike the mid-1960s situation when whites held political control—Mayor Frank Jackson, a black administrator, stood behind his police, criticized DeWine’s conclusions, which had all the elements of truth, and further promoted the top police officials thereafter.

Now there are demonstrations here and likely to be more as that film hits the public.

This community has allowed itself to misdirect its attention from those in dire need.

We have become comfortable with some successes.

Now we must contend with the consequences of community neglect.

By Roldo Bartimole…


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Live updates: Michael Brown killing: mass protests after grand jury decision…

Live updates: Ferguson protests turn violent after grand jury verdict

Live updates: Ferguson: reports of looting after grand jury decision released


The police officer who shot dead an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri, leading to weeks of unrest and reviving a national debate about law enforcement and race in America, will not face state criminal charges, it was announced on Monday.

A grand jury in St Louis County declined to indict Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown on 9 August, following an altercation after the officer stopped him and a friend for jaywalking. Wilson is also under investigation by federal authorities, which could bring civil rights charges.

There were multiple reports of looting in Ferguson after the announcement by St Louis County prosecuting attorney Bob McCulloch, and windows were broken at shops near the Ferguson police department.

A series of witnesses had claimed Brown was shot after fleeing Wilson and raising his hands in an apparent surrender. But in announcing the decision, McCulloch said some of those witnesses had recanted while others admitted not seeing the shooting.

“I’m ever mindful that this decision will not be accepted by some,” McCulloch said at a press conference in Clayton. “It may cause disappointment for others. But all decisions in the criminal justice system must be determined by the physical and scientific evidence, and credible testimony corroborated by that evidence. Not in response to public outcry, or for political expediency.”

Speaking moments after McCulloch finished, Barack Obama urged protestors to seek “constructive” outlets for their anger as his appeal for calm from the White House briefing room failed to quell growing violence on the streets of Ferguson.

“There is undoubtedly going to be some form of negative reaction and it will make for good TV,” said the president, warning that “throwing bottles or smashing cars” will not solve the underlying mistrust and genuine problems still facing African Americans.

As he has throughout, Obama refused to comment on the specifics of the case, saying all Americans should recognise the decision not to indict Darren Wilson.

“We are a nation based on the rule of law so we need to accept that this was the special jury’s decision to make,” he said.

But the president also said there were legitimate grounds for mistrust of police more generally and argued it would be wrong to try to “tamp this down” or “paper it over”.

“This is not just an issue for Ferguson; this is an issue for America. We have made enormous progress in race relations over the course of the past several decades – I have witnessed that in my own life – and to deny that progress is to deny America’s capacity for change,” he said. “But what is also true is that there are still problems and that communities of colour are not making these problems up.”

As he spoke, protests has already broken out in Ferguson and elsewhere. In New York, hundreds of people gathered in Union Square and Times Square before marching uptown.

Jon Swaine and Dan Roberts writing in Ferguson police officer won’t be charged in shooting death of Michael Brown for The Guardian.


Meanwhile, in New York City…

Residents and community leaders of the Pink Houses public housing complex in Brooklyn, where an unarmed man was shot dead by a rookie police officer on Thursday night, have expressed their anger at police and called for justice during a vigil on Friday night held just metres from the scene of the shooting.

Akai Gurley, 28, was shot once in the chest by police as he descended a darkened stairwell on the eighth floor of 2724 Linden Boulevard with his girlfriend, Melissa Butler.

Butler appeared at the vigil, beside a former New York City councillor, Charles Barron, but did not speak. She often gazed into the distance with tears in her eyes.

Oliver Laughland writing in Brooklyn vigil for unarmed man shot dead by rookie police officer for The Guardian.


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The nation is on edge, awaiting a grand jury decision in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown — an unarmed African American teen in Ferguson, Missouri — by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson more than three months ago. The decision is expected any day and there is widespread belief, based on weeks of leaks to the media and laws that historically favor police officers in lethal force cases, that Wilson will not be indicted. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has preemptively declared a state of emergency in anticipation of protests.

Brown’s killing, the culmination of an incident that the St. Louis Post Dispatch would later report lasted no more than 90 seconds, devastated a family with high hopes for their college-bound son and sparked some of the most significant civil rights demonstrations in a generation — casting a harsh light on the disproportionate number of black men killed by police, on St. Louis County’s exploitative and racially discriminatory municipal court system, and on the militarization of law enforcement.

In the months since Brown was killed, numerous eyewitnesses have come forward to describe what they saw during the teen’s final moments, while controversial disclosures to the press have served to describe Wilson’s versioN of the events that day.

This is everything we know about the shooting.

It was just past noon on August 9 when Wilson and Brown’s paths first crossed in Ferguson’s Canfield Green apartment complex. Wilson had just finished responding to a call regarding a sick infant. Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson, 22, were walking in a two-lane residential street when Wilson approached in his sport utility patrol vehicle and told them to get on the sidewalk. The precise details of what happened next have been at the center of months of protest and outrage.

Ryan Devereaux writing in “Down Outright Murder”: A Complete Guide to the Shooting of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson for The//Intercept.


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Although racist state violence has been a consistent theme in the history of people of African descent in North America, it has become especially noteworthy during the administration of the first African-American president, whose very election was widely interpreted as heralding the advent of a new, postracial era.

The sheer persistence of police killings of black youth contradicts the assumption that these are isolated aberrations. Trayvon Martin in Florida and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, are only the most widely known of the countless numbers of black people killed by police or vigilantes during the Obama administration. And they, in turn, represent an unbroken stream of racist violence, both official and extra-legal, from slave patrols and the Ku Klux Klan, to contemporary profiling practices and present-day vigilantes.

More than three decades ago Assata Shakur was granted political asylum by Cuba, where she has since lived, studied and worked as a productive member of society. Assata was falsely charged on numerous occasions in the United States during the early 1970s and vilified by the media. It represented her in sexist terms as “the mother hen” of the Black Liberation Army, which in turn was portrayed as a group with insatiably violent proclivities. Placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, she was charged with armed robbery, bank robbery, kidnap, murder, and attempted murder of a policeman. Although she faced 10 separate legal proceedings, and had already been pronounced guilty by the media, all except one of these trials – the case resulting from her capture – concluded in acquittal, hung jury, or dismissal. Under highly questionable circumstances, she was finally convicted of being an accomplice to the murder of a New Jersey state trooper.

Four decades after the original campaign against her, the FBI decided to demonise her once more.

Angela Davis writhing in From Michael Brown to Assata Shakur, the racist state of America persists for The Guardian.


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The police department overseeing the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over the killing of an unarmed 18-year-old has spent tens of thousands of dollars replenishing their stocks of teargas, “less lethal” ammunition and riot gear in advance of a potential revival in demonstrations.

St Louis County police made the purchases amid concerns that hundreds of demonstrators will return to the streets if Darren Wilson, the officer who shot dead Michael Brown in August, is not indicted on criminal charges by a grand jury currently considering the case.

A breakdown of the department’s spending since August on equipment intended for the policing of crowds and civil disobedience, which totals $172,669, was obtained by the Guardian from the county force.

Since the height of the protests, the department has spent almost $25,000 buying 650 teargas grenades, smoke-and-gas grenades, smoke canisters and “hornets nest” CS sting grenades, which shoot out dozens of rubber bullets and a powdered chemical agent upon detonation.

It has spent a further $18,000 on 1,500 “beanbag rounds” and 6,000 pepper balls, paintball-style projectiles that explode with a chemical irritant when they strike a protester. The department uses LiveX branded pepper balls, which are billed as ten times hotter than standard pepper rounds.

Another $77,500 has been spent on 235 riot gear helmets, 135 shields, 25 batons and 60 sets of shin guards, and other “uniform items”. A further $2,300 was used to buy another 2,000 sets of the plastic handcuffs that have been used to detain dozens of demonstrators plucked from crowds on West Florissant Avenue.

In addition, an estimated $50,000 has been set aside by the department for repair work for damaged police vehicles. However, in a sign that further clashes are expected, they are in fact “not repairing any vehicles until unrest is over”, a department inventory said.

“We purchase these items in hopes that we never have to use any of them,” said Sergeant Brian Schellman, a spokesman for the county police department. “But it is our responsibility to have proper equipment to keep our police officers and all citizens safe should violence break out anywhere at any time.”

Jon Swaine writing in Ferguson police brace for new protests by spending thousands on riot gear for The Guardian.


An excessive police response to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over the death of an unarmed 18-year-old earlier this year ran the risk of killing demonstrators and impinged on their human rights, according to a new report by Amnesty International.

The report, by Amnesty observers deployed to monitor the protests, found that the militarised reaction to a small minority of violent demonstrators “impacted the rights of all participating” to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly under the US constitution and state law.

Heavily armed police clashed with demonstrators in Ferguson on successive nights in August after Michael Brown was shot dead by officer Darren Wilson. Teargas, stun grenades and rubber and wooden bullets were shot at crowds to force them to leave the streets.

Noting that the so-called “less-lethal” ammunition that was shot at crowds in Ferguson “can result in serious injury and even death”, Amnesty’s 23-page report said on Friday that “at least two children were treated for exposure to teargas” during the protests.

The report made a series of recommendations to authorities on the policing of protests. It called for any officers responsible for human rights violations during the protests to be “brought to account through criminal or disciplinary proceedings as appropriate, and provide full redress to victims”.

The human rights organisation said the use of heavy-duty military-grade equipment by armed officers at demonstrations, which was sharply criticised during the height of the Ferguson crisis, serves to intimidate protesters and “can actually lead to an escalation in violence”.

“Equipping officers in a manner more appropriate for a battlefield may put them in the mindset that confrontation and conflict is inevitable rather than possible, escalating tensions between protesters and police,” said the report.

Jon Swaine writing in Ferguson protests: Amnesty report criticises police excesses for The Guardian.


Ferguson is a city holding its breath as it waits for the other shoe to drop.

The protesters have mostly moved on from West Florissant Avenue, where in August nightly battles with a police force that looked as if it were dressed for war were televised across the US. But the beauty salon, barbecue joint and Chinese restaurant are still boarded up, even if large spray painted letters – “We’re Open!” – make it clear they are still in business.

They are likely to stay that way as their owners anxiously await the next milestone of the Michael Brown tragedy.

Many people in Ferguson expect that the grand jury considering whether to indict a police officer, Darren Wilson, for killing Brown, an 18-year-old unarmed African American, will let him go. But no one is quite sure how that will be received on the streets.

“I think there’ll be a bunch of trouble if something right don’t happen,” said René Jones, who lives in an apartment opposite the makeshift memorial to Brown, of tributes, candles, signs and stuffed toys, that has grown up on the spot in the street where he died. “There’s nothing that’s going to convince people around here that it’s not the system protecting its own if Wilson walks free.”

Across the road, Norma Webb was leaning over a balcony.

“The justice system isn’t doing its part,” she said. “They need to indict Darren Wilson. That’s what’s got everyone enraged. They are ducking and diving. We want justice. Even though he’s a cop he should be treated the same as everybody else.”

The man next to her, who give his name as Big Woody, interjected.

“It’s going to get real ugly if they don’t indict him,” he said.

Webb agreed.

“I pray to god this is settled in a human manner,” she said.

Among the city’s white residents, the mood is no less concerned.

“I know there are citizens worried about it,” said Brian Fletcher, a former mayor. “At least we will know when the verdict is coming. We’ll be prepared.”

The problem is not only that many people in Ferguson, whether they have been out on the streets demonstrating or not, believe Wilson shot Brown because he was black. They say that if the officer it is not indicted it will be because the authorities have covered for him.

Chris McGreal writing in Divided Ferguson awaits grand jury decision on Michael Brown killing for The Guardian.


Thousands of people from around the nation have traveled here under the banner #FergusonOctober to protest the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. And while local citizens and politicians, visiting demonstrators and even media personnel have been subject to police confrontation since the earliest days of action, the latest round of demonstrations around the city have resulted in dozens of arrests – including those of Union Seminary professor Cornel West and African Methodist Episcopal pastor Renita Lamkin, who was also recently shot with a rubber bullet.

Although local organizations called for protestors to gather in St Louis last weekend, many in the press and general public are still questioning the presence and politics of what some – including Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson – have called “outside agitators”.

Some of us, however, are asking a radically different question: what and who, exactly, is an “outside agitator”? Because, depending on the definition, I might be considered one.

I first went to Ferguson in August with #BlackLivesMatter, a national movement that serves as a “response to the tragic history of racial supremacy – one that renders black life valueless”. We witnessed the tanks and teargas. We saw local police officers uniformed in military gear. The American midwest looked more like the Middle East, and 2014 felt more like 1964.

Just when it seemed like the mainstream media was done reporting on Ferguson, another black teenager from the St Louis area, Vonderrit Myers, was gunned down by an off-duty white police officer, enraging an already infuriated community and putting the area back in the spotlight. The entire nation – and much of the world – has its eyes on Ferguson, once again. And as police repression continues to increase, so do questions of who should be involved in the resistance to it.

Nyle Fort writing in The only ‘outside agitators’ left in Ferguson are the white cops who don’t live here for The Guardian.


Police arrested more than 50 people, including members of the clergy and the radical intellectual and activist Cornel West, during a day of civil disobedience protests on Monday over the killing in Ferguson of an unarmed 18-year-old African American man, Michael Brown, by a white police officer two months ago.

Several hundred people marched on Ferguson police station for a “Moral Monday” protest on the final day of a “Weekend of Resistance” that brought activists from across the US to demand that Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Brown, be put on trial and to protest over broader issues of racial profiling and use of excessive force by police officers in other places.

In a series of guerrilla protests, demonstrators unfurled banners at an NFL game hosted by the St Louis Rams, laid siege to several WalMart stores and stormed St Louis city hall, drawing the promise of a meeting with the mayor to discuss policing.

The protests began in the pouring rain as about 100 members of the clergy led the march on Ferguson police station from a local church up the street. They included a female rabbi from Detroit, a Quaker minister from Portland, Oregon, and the dean of a St Louis cathedral.

Chris McGreal writing in Clergy among dozens arrested on final day of ‘Ferguson October’ protests for The Guardian.


Frustration and anger among young black Americans at an older generation’s apparent failure to adequately respond to the killing of Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson upended a key event at a weekend of mass protest on Sunday.

The showdown exposed a generational divide over how best to confront police racism, brutality and use of excessive force as organisers of the “weekend of resistance”, which has drawn activists from across the US, plan to stage mass civil disobedience across St Louis on Monday.

While older civil rights leaders hark back to the more peaceful methods of half a century ago, some younger people question their effectiveness today and are pressing for more confrontational tactics.

The fuse was lit when hundreds of people who came to hear the intellectual and activist Cornel West speak were subjected to speeches by a succession of preachers from the major religions offering essentially the same message about loving one’s fellow man and standing up against injustice. The meeting was billed as being “in the tradition of the civil rights movement” but the tone was in part governed by the venue for the meeting, St Louis University, a Catholic institution.

Some in the audience grew restless and then angered at the series of reverends, imams and rabbis until a small group of activists demanded to speak. Ta rallying cry at protests over Brown’s shooting.

Chris McGreal writing in St Louis protests: Ferguson activists reject religious leaders’ platitudes for The Guardian.


Thousands of people marched through downtown St Louis on Saturday, to demand the arrest of the white police officer who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson two months ago and to condemn racial profiling.

The organisers claimed the protest drew about 3,000 people – far fewer than they had predicted – from across the country as part of a “Weekend of Resistance” against police forces in many parts of the country that are seen to target people of colour in general and young African Americans in particular.

“We’re fighting for our lives,” a St Louis rapper, Tef Poe, told the crowd.

The demonstration was in part prompted by frustration at the slow pace of the grand jury investigation into the actions of Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Brown, 18, six times even though the victim was not armed and witnesses said he had his hands raised. There was little confidence among the protesters that Wilson will be indicted.

The protest was also fuelled by other killings and the use of what critics say is excessive force in several incidents since Brown’s death, including the shooting of another 18-year-old African American in St Louis on Wednesday.

Police said Vonderrick Myers Jr fired a gun at an off-duty officer who tried to stop him for what the force called a “pedestrian check”. The killing has prompted its own nightly demonstrations amid accusations that the officer used excessive force in firing 13 bullets, hitting Myers six times. There are also questions about whether he had a legitimate reason to stop and question the victim.

Chris McGreal writing in Thousands march through St Louis to condemn police shootings of teens for The Guardian.


Authorities in Missouri are braced for a weekend of reinvigorated protests around the city of Ferguson over the killing of Michael Brown, after another black 18-year-old was shot dead by a police officer in nearby St Louis.

Three days of demonstrations, marches and acts of civil disobedience have been scheduled by activists demanding justice for Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old whose shooting by a police officer led to intense unrest in Ferguson, a northern suburb of St Louis, in August.

The plans were given fresh impetus after Vonderrit Myers Jr was killed by an off-duty officer in south St Louis on Wednesday night. Police said Myers was shot after shooting at the officer three times with a handgun following a chase. The officer, who fired 17 times, was unhurt.

Myers’s death led quickly to tense scenes. Dozens of angry demonstrators chanted slogans such as “hands up, don’t shoot”, the motto of those protesting over the shooting of Brown, while relatives mourned. Police were forced to close down sections of a major thoroughfare.

Speaking at a hastily-convened press conference in the early hours of Thursday, St Louis police chief Sam Dotson said that an unidentified six-year veteran of the police department had been patrolling in the Shaw neighborhood at about 7.30pm while working a second job for a private company.

Chris Campbell writing in St Louis area braces for protests after police shoot dead black teen for The Guardian.



A white off-duty police officer in St Louis, Missouri, has shot and killed a black teenager who fired on him, police said, triggering protests just miles from the flashpoint suburb of Ferguson.

There have been almost nightly protests in Ferguson since the fatal shooting in August of Michael Brown, a black 18-year-old, by a white police officer.

In the latest incident another officer fired 17 times at another 18-year-old, who had himself fired at least three shots, according to Sam Dotson, the St Louis Metropolitan police chief.

But some who identified themselves as relatives of the man who was shot told the St Louis Post Dispatch newspaper that he was not armed.

One woman said the victim was her cousin, Vonderrit Myers Jr.

“He was unarmed,” Teyonna Myers told the newspaper. “He had a sandwich in his hand, and they thought it was a gun. It’s like Michael Brown all over again.”

Mark Tran writing in St Louis police officer shoots dead black teenager while off duty for The Guardian

[I don’t usually rewrite headlines, except for brevity and fit, but this one is pretty horrible. I might suggest: Off-duty St. Louis Police Officer, Shoots, Kills Black Teenager. JH]


Attendees at Saturday night’s performance of the St. Louis Symphony were treated to an addition to the evening’s scheduled program when a flash mob of protestors serenaded the audience with a civil rights song dedicated to slain Ferguson teen Michael Brown.

According to the St. Louis Dispatch, as the symphony musicians and chorus prepared to perform Johannes Brahms’ Requiem following intermission, two audience members stood up and began singing “Which Side Are You On?” to the stunned attendees.

Fellow protestors stood up throughout Powell Symphony Hall and joined in the song as banners were unfurled from the balconies reading: “Racism live here,” and “Requiem for Michael Brown 1996-2014.”

To drive home the point of their protest, the singers added “justice for Mike Brown is justice for us all” into civil rights classic.

Tom Boggioni writing in Ferguson flash mob interrupts St. Louis Symphony with Requiem for Michael Brown for Raw Story.


Authorities were searching on Sunday for two men suspected of shooting and wounding a police officer in Ferguson, the St Louis suburb where there have been angry protests since a white officer fatally shot an unarmed 18-year-old black man, Michael Brown, last month.

Although there were two separate protests about the 9 August shooting of Brown happening around the time the officer was shot on Saturday night, St Louis County police chief Jon Belmar said he didn’t think they were related in any way to the attack on the officer.

The men fled when the officer approached them at around 9pm because the community center they were standing outside of was closed, Belmar said at a news conference early on Sunday. When the officer gave chase, one of the men turned and shot him in the arm, he said.

Belmar said the officer is expected to survive, but he didn’t identify the officer or give further details about his condition. He said the officer returned fire, but that police have no indication that either suspect was shot.

From Two suspects sought after shooting of Ferguson police officer in The Guardian.


Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson’s Urgent Announcement from Devin James Group on Vimeo.

From Jon Swaine reporting in Ferguson police chief ‘truly sorry’ for delay in moving Michael Brown’s body for The Guardian.

So, why is the apology coming from a public relations flack shack and not the the City of Ferguson, or at least the police department? As commenter Nogodsnomasters wrote: “Too little, too late.” I wonder how many tax dollars went to the Devin James Group for this cockup?


At least two protesters were arrested and some businesses were damaged Tuesday night after a memorial to Michael Brown was destroyed in a fire. The confrontation reignited tensions in the St. Louis suburb that was rocked by violence this summer after Brown, an unarmed teenager, was shot by a Ferguson police officer.

Police responded Tuesday evening to a reported break-in of a beauty supply store on West Florissant Avenue, according to multiple reports. Then several gunshots were heard and approximately 200 people gathered at the site where demonstrations were held following the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown, 19, by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

Casey Nolen reporting in Tensions flare in Ferguson after Brown memorial burns for KSDK-TV.


Civil rights leaders have described the deal [in Portland, Oregon, JH] as a potential model for co-operation in other cities, such as Ferguson, Missouri, which was rocked by protests over the killing of Michael Brown by a white police officer last month.

The Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform, an association of Portland civil rights groups that is a party to the deal, welcomed it as a “major step to creating a true community policing culture”. It said the agreement was important “to prevent a Ferguson upheaval in Portland”.

But the AMA Coalition chair, Reverend LeRoy Haynes, like others pressing for police reform, is also critical of the agreement because he says the Justice Department sidestepped the real issue – race.

“Six percent of this city is black, but about a third of those shot by the police are African American,” he said. “There certainly is a racial issue in this city with police shootings. But the Justice Department and the city took the easiest route and made this something else.”

The AMA Coalition pressed for a comprehensive Justice Department investigation of the Portland police following Campbell’s death. The federal authorities agreed but framed it as an inquiry into the excessive use of police force against mentally ill people.

Campbell was evidently upset at his brother’s death, but he was also African American. He is widely regarded in Portland’s black community to have been a victim of his skin colour.

“The issue of race is a footnote when it should have been central to this investigation,” said Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch, which monitors the city’s police. “What’s been happening here is not that different to Ferguson.”

Haynes visited Ferguson last month in support of the campaign for justice for Michael Brown. He said that while Portland, with its professed liberal values, hipster culture and laid-back image, appears to be a world away from Ferguson, he saw parallels.

Chris McGreal writing in Portland police’s problem with race: ‘This city is not as liberal as it thinks it is’ for The Guardian.


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Protesters seeking the immediate arrest of the Ferguson police officer who fatally shot an unarmed 18-year-old loudly disrupted another government meeting Tuesday, renewing calls to remove the county prosecutor investigating the case and vowing political retaliation against an elected official tied to the prosecutor.

The demand for Darren Wilson’s arrest and the recusal of the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney began with the final utterance of the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of the St. Louis County Council meeting.

“For all,” crowd members shouted, emphasizing the second word, as the pledge concluded with, “and justice for all.”

A larger protest also took place a week ago, at the Ferguson City Council’s first meeting since Michael Brown’s death. That was followed by unsuccessful efforts to block an interstate highway during rush hour in a demonstration that led to 35 arrests, and a weekend demonstration in downtown Ferguson linked to calls for a boycott of local businesses.

Protest leaders said they plan to broaden their efforts with demonstrations at upcoming games hosted by the St. Louis Cardinals, who sit in first place and await a likely playoff berth, and the NFL’s St. Louis Rams, who host the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

“It’s no more business as usual,” said activist Anthony Shahid, who addressed the seven council members with a noose symbolically tied around his neck.

Ferguson protesters make new call for prosecutor’s removal from The Associated Press.



A planned highway shutdown fell through Wednesday as a wall of officers in riot gear kept people who planned to protest the Ferguson police shooting from walking onto Interstate 70 during the late afternoon commute.

State troopers and St. Louis city and county officers warned the roughly 150 demonstrators who gathered in a nearby suburb to stay out of the road as they protested last month’s shooting of Michael Brown, a black, unarmed 18-year-old, by a white officer. There were nearly as many officers as demonstrators.

Organizers said the protest in Berkeley was designed as an act of nonviolent civil disobedience similar to a 1999 demonstration in the same location. During that protest, hundreds of people shut down the interstate in a dispute over minority hiring for road construction projects

Alan Scher Zagier writing in Highway shutdown averted at Ferguson protests for the Associated Press.



Efforts by city leaders in the St. Louis suburb where an unarmed black 18-year-old was fatally shot by a white police officer to repair the local government’s fractured relationship with its residents got off to a rocky start Tuesday at the first public meeting of elected officials since Michael Brown’s death.

The shooting last month exposed an undercurrent of racial unrest in Ferguson and other nearby suburbs in mostly black communities of north St. Louis County, and prompted days of sometimes-violent protests.

The Ferguson City Council announced a set of proposals this week that include reducing the revenue from court fines used for general city operations and reforming court procedures. Critics say reliance on court revenue and traffic fines to fund city services more heavily penalizes low-income defendants who can’t afford private attorneys and who are often jailed for not promptly paying those fines.

The city also plans to establish a citizens’ review board to help guide the police department.

Within minutes of the start of Tuesday night’s meeting — where the proposals were being discussed — several demonstrators stood up and shouted as the council tried to cover some routine business. Later, others stood up and chanted, “Shut it down!” while raising their hands in the air. Protesters have used the gesture because several witnesses say Brown had raised his hands as officer Darren Wilson shot him.

The first speaker to take the microphone during the public comment period said he was there for the mayor’s job. It was a theme echoed throughout, as speaker after speaker expressed doubt about the city’s planned reforms — and anger at the government officials seated on the podium.

“You’ve lost your authority to govern this community,” said St. Louis activist John Chasnoff. “You’re going to have to step aside peacefully if this community is going to heal.”

Alan Scher Zarier writing in Ferguson Reforms Met With Rancor at City Meeting for the Associated Press.


The city of Ferguson, Missouri, where days of unrest followed the fatal shooting last month of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, is to reform the system of court fines that residents have blamed for raising tensions with authorities.

A new rule dictating that no more than 15% of the city’s budget may come from court fines is scheduled to be introduced at a meeting of the city council on Tuesday. Any excess revenue is to be “earmarked for special community projects” rather than running the city bureaucracy.

“The city believes that this ordinance sends a clear message that the fines imposed as punishment in the municipal court are not to be viewed as a source of revenue for the city,” said a statement issued by Devin James, a public relations representative for Ferguson.

According to its annual budget the city expects to collect $2.7m in court fines this year, which is more than 21% of its $12.5m annual “general revenues” and second only to sales taxes as the biggest component.

Jon Swaine writing in Ferguson to cap court fine revenue for The Guardian.

Spiffs, a bonus for a sale, intentionally skew whatever activity they fund by making that activity financially beneficial to the authority awarding the Spiff. We should never trust a salesperson or any service provider working on commission and we ought to doubly mistrust any legal authority that financially benefits from the enforcement of laws.

The most egregious instance of this takes us back to the years of the Spanish Inquisition (1478-1834) when the inquisitors were rewarded for rooting out heretics, mostly Jews, by receiving a portion of the wealth of those discovered and made to confess. In modern America we have the despicable practice of asset forfeiture without trial or even criminal charge.

Most drivers are familiar with the practice of police speed traps (the police of the tiny community here in Cuyaghoga County are famous for the patrolling their snipped of I-71) to pay not only the salaries of officers, but whole village programs.

Clevelanders have been incensed by the use of traffic cameras—unmanned speed traps—and we’ll finally get to vote on the matter in November.

Courts, and police, must not be allowed to directly benefit from the enforcement of laws. Any money collected ought to go to non-governmental entities or to programs intended to treat, and possibly rehabilitate, the convicted.


When Ronald Ritchie called 911 from the aisles of a Walmart in western Ohio last month to report that a black man was “walking around with a gun in the store”, he said that shoppers were coming under direct threat.

“He’s, like, pointing it at people,” Ritchie told the dispatcher. Later that evening, after John Crawford III had been shot dead by one of the police officers who hurried to the scene in Beavercreek, Ritchie repeated to reporters: “He was pointing at people. Children walking by.”

One month later, Ritchie puts it differently. “At no point did he shoulder the rifle and point it at somebody,” the 24-year-old said, in an interview with the Guardian. He maintained that Crawford was “waving it around”, which attorneys for Crawford’s family deny.

Ritchie told several reporters after the 5 August shooting that he was an “ex-marine”. When confronted with his seven-week service record, however, he confirmed that he had been quickly thrown out of the US marine corps in 2008 after being declared a “fraudulent enlistment”, over what he maintains was simply a mixup over his paperwork.

Crawford, 22, turned out to be holding an unloaded BB air rifle that he had picked up from a store shelf. After Ritchie said Crawford appeared to be “trying to load” the gun, the 911 dispatcher relayed to an officer that it was believed the gunman “just put some bullets inside”.

The Crawfords’ attorneys told the Guardian that they had learned the preliminary findings of an autopsy were that he was shot in the back of his left arm and in his left side, supporting their claim that he was turned away from the police officer who shot him.

They have pleaded with Mike DeWine, Ohio’s attorney general, to release the store’s surveillance footage of the shooting to the public. Having viewed it, they say that it disproves Ritchie’s version of what led to the deaths of both Crawford and a 37-year-old woman who collapsed and died in the ensuing panic.

“It was an execution, no doubt about it,” alleged Crawford’s father, John Crawford II. “It was flat-out murder. And when you see the footage, it will illustrate that.”

DeWine has said that releasing the footage would be “playing with dynamite” and prevent any trial from being fair. He has assigned a special prosecutor from the neighbouring Hamilton County to handle the case. A grand jury will begin hearing evidence on it later this month. A Beavercreek police spokesman said in a statement: “Preliminary indications are that the officers acted appropriately under the circumstances.”

John Swain writing in Doubts cast on witness’s account of black man killed by police in Walmart for The Guardian.

Artez Hurston is curled up on a concrete bench in a Missouri jail cell, fast asleep. He snoozes peacefully, despite the fact that just a few hours ago he was staring down the barrel of a gun. His slumber wouldn’t be that noteworthy except that our cramped cell, with its bright lights and white bricks, is filled with about a dozen wired young men still buzzing over their recent arrests in a nationally televised display of explosive civil unrest. At least two of them are bleeding. One man is missing a shirt. Another’s is stained white with the residue of tear gas.

The prisoners make no effort to keep quiet as they replay the night’s events. There’s laughter and shit-talking. The military guys—two veterans, one on reserve—swap stories of their deployments, while another prisoner pulls out a pack of menthols that the guards missed and passes them around. One of the men says he was walking home from work when cops pounced on him. Most of the others, it turns out, were arrested together, as they piled into vehicles in an attempt to escape the mad scene on W. Florissant Ave.

One way or another, everyone in the cell was swept up in a pitched battle for control of a four-lane road that, for the better part of an hour that night, looked and sounded like a suburban war zone. A handful were white, the majority were black, Artez included. Two of us were reporters. Most lived in or around Ferguson, the now famous municipality outside St. Louis where a white police officer named Darren Wilson shot and killed an unarmed African-American 18-year-old named Michael Brown on August 9.

The Justice Department plans to open a wide-ranging investigation into the practices of the Ferguson, Missouri, Police Department following the shooting last month of an unarmed black 18-year-old by a white police officer in the St. Louis suburb, a person briefed on the matter said Wednesday night.

The person said the investigation could be announced as early as Thursday afternoon. Missouri officials were notified Wednesday of the probe.

The investigation will look at the practices in the past few years of the police department, including patterns of stops, arrests and use-of-force, as well as the training the officers receive, the person said.

The inquiry is separate from an ongoing civil rights investigation the Justice Department is conducting into the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. A local grand jury is also investigating the shooting, which set off about two weeks of unrest in the streets of Ferguson and became a flashpoint in the national discussion of police treatment of minorities across the country. Attorney General Eric Holder two weeks ago visited the St. Louis suburb, where he met with investigators and Brown’s parents and shared personal experiences of having himself been mistreated by the police.

From the Associated Press: Justice Department to investigate Ferguson police

ferguson hands up 140830

Hands up. Don’t shoot. The image of black men and women repeating this simple action at protests in Ferguson, Missouri – and across the globe – generates its power from what happens before that moment.

In Ferguson and too many places, police are more likely to pull over people of color for driving – indeed, often for simply being a person of color.

But there is lasting power in the stories people never forget. They are stories of “broken” taillights, of police brutality that doesn’t show up in an arrest report because there never was one, of no justice because nobody knew where to turn.

To help reach beyond Ferguson, the opinion departments of Guardian US and the St Louis Post-Dispatch partnered to gather hundreds of reader experiences. Our hope is that this sampling will help spur empathy – and then action, everywhere. These are your stories, lightly edited for space, privacy and clarity, and your hope for what’s next.

Tony Messenger and Matt Sullivan writing in ‘I could have been Mike Brown’: your stories of racial profiling by the world’s police for The Guardian.

[Update on 20 August at 0551: I learned this morning of a historic connection between Dred Scott and Ferguson, Missouri. You can’t make this shit up.]


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