Ferguson and Double Standards

[Content Note: White supremacy; guns.]

Last night, after a state of emergency was declared, protests continued in Ferguson, Missouri, marking the anniversary of the police killing of Michael Brown, advocating for civil rights, and continuing to push back on police brutality, over-policing, and police militarization in Ferguson and elsewhere. Nearly 150 people were arrested. (Note: The following excerpts are from a piece written by Jon Swain, who is on the ground in Ferguson, and whose coverage has continually challenged police accounts of "unrest" used to justify escalation of force.)
Officers in riot gear from St Louis County police and the Missouri highway patrol snatched several demonstrators from the crowds and made 23 arrests through a hot August evening on Monday. Projectiles such as stones and plastic bottles filled with ice were repeatedly thrown at police lines during a standoff on a main street.

"Safety, our top priority, is now compromised," a St Louis County police spokesman said on Twitter soon after 10pm. "This is no longer a peaceful protest. Participants are now unlawfully assembled."

At least three men were pinned down and arrested in one abrupt mass swoop on the front of a row of shops by police, which took a large group of protesters by surprise. "They had weapons on them," one county police officer said to the Guardian about the men arrested, declining to elaborate.

In other confrontations, officers liberally sprayed pepper spray or mace in the eyes of protesters while driving them from the road on to the pavement. But by 2am, as the final protesters dispersed, no teargas or smoke canisters had been used as on several previous nights.
This is what protests have become in Ferguson: It's a good night when no one is shot by police and no teargas is deployed. The police only pepper-sprayed people in the eyes.

Also last night, four heavily armed white men who call themselves "Oath Keepers," [CN: sexual assault] a radical rightwing group, showed up in Ferguson to "patrol the streets" and protect someone affiliated with Infowars (possibly Infowars' chief conspiracy theorist Alex Jones). The men were "carrying military-style rifles and sidearms."
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar condemned their appearance in Ferguson.

"Their presence was both unnecessary and inflammatory," he said, adding that police would work with county prosecutors to see if the men had broken any laws.

Led by a man who gave his name only as John, the group, whose members wore bulletproof vests and carried sidearms in addition to combat-style rifles, said they had come to protect a journalist from the conservative "Infowars.com" Web site.

"There were problems here, there were people who got hurt. We needed to be prepared for that," said the man, who noted that Missouri state laws generally allow the open carrying of heavy weapons of the kind that his group were brandishing.

...[M]any in the crowd questioned the wisdom of openly carrying such heavy weapons into an emotionally charged situation.

"You're going to bring some uncommissioned citizens, white citizens, into a black community like this? It's disrespectful," said Talal Ahmad, 30, who is black and has been a fixture of the last year's protests, which prompted a Justice Department review that found Ferguson's police department routinely violated city residents' civil rights.

"Here, in a black neighborhood, we're already living in a state of terror," Ahmad said.
And, to acknowledge the obvious, it hardly matters if what the white "Oath Keepers" were doing was legal, because if black men had shown up to patrol the streets displaying that sort of weaponry, the police would not have merely let them stroll about town and shruggingly suggest they'll check out "if the men had broken any laws." It would have been: Arrest first and establish legality (or not) later.

The St. Louis County police spokesperson tweeted last night that the police's safety had been compromised by protesters throwing rocks and bottles at them, but nary a peep about white men from outside the community strolling around their streets with military rifles.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus