The Chief of Police in Ferguson, Missouri, held a press conference Thursday morning, and spent most of his time talking about a petty robbery allegedly committed by Michael Brown, shot dead later that night by Officer Darren Wilson, who was then given a running start of a few days and is now nowhere to be found. In the afternoon, the Chief talked to the press again, and he admitted that the shooting of Brown had nothing to do with the robbery. Officer Wilson, he said, was unaware that the robbery had even occurred.
Brown was rousted for jaywalking, as it happened, and then summarily gunned down by Officer Wilson. Two eyewitnesses say so, including Brown’s alleged accomplice in the theft of a pack of cigars earlier. The other eyewitness says she took video, although it’s not known at this point what is on it, where it is or who has seen it. In any case, their stories jibe. Brown was unarmed. He had his hands in the air. And Wilson shot him, again and again, until he was dead. Brown’s body was allowed to lie in the road for hours.
Think this was some sort of one-off? Take a read of this, and be sure to remind yourself that you aren’t reading The Onion. An out-of-town Black man, Henry Davis, mistaken for another Black man, is arrested. His story checks out, but the Ferguson cops jail and beat him to a bloody pulp anyway, and then they hunt around for something to charge him with. “Ah,” says one inbred, “let’s charge him with getting blood on our uniforms!” And so he was. They held him for days.
Think that tops any satire you’ve ever seen? Well, read on. There are more chapters.
Davis started a civil action against the cops. The prosecutor wasn’t having that nonsense, and had him charged with felonious assault on top of the alleged uniform damage. The cops duly showed up in civil court to answer to Davis’ lawsuit — and admitted, under oath, that there had been no blood on their uniforms after all.
All criminal charges were dropped.
The end? Nope. The officers’ blatant perjury was winked at by the federal judge hearing the civil case, who invoked the de minimus rule, claiming that the perjury was too minor to have affected due process, and that the victim’s injuries (a concussion) were too inconsequential to be considered excessive force.
An appeal will be heard this December. The smart money says that the Brown killing may have improved Davis’ chances.
Ferguson, Missouri. Mayor: white. City Council: all but one white. School Board: white, with one Latino. A 53-member police force, 50 of whom are white. The town: two-thirds Black.
God knows how many other American hellholes are operating like this, below the radar, beneath the media’s notice. #EverydayRacism in the United States of America, a carceral nation that holds 25 per cent of the entire world’s prison population. You can guess at the demographics, too. Nearly 40 per cent of that prison population is Black, and another 20 per cent or so are Hispanics. And too many of the ones remaining outside the prison walls are confined to ghettos, socioeconomically shunted aside, and casually brutalized by cops, slapped around good or even murdered if they get too uppity.
Two investigations of the Brown slaying are now under way. One by the US Attorney-General’s department will determine if Brown’s civil rights were violated — about the only way you could get at the nests of Dixie peckerwoods enforcing Jim Crow with rope and gun back in the day. The other is being carried out by the St. Louis County Police. Yup, that self-same army of yokels playing dress-up who terrorized Ferguson for days until they were stood down by the Governor of the state.
The latter “investigation” is a completely pointless exercise, as we might already have surmised. The coming whitewash has effectively been announced in advance:
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, who’s leading the investigation, has made favorable comments about the Ferguson police department, telling reporters, “I would not think anybody would [ask for an investigation] if they had anything to hide.”
But back to the robbery stuff. This was manna from heaven for the racist Right, as you might imagine. Aha! Just another Black thug who asked for it and got it. Like young Trayvon Martin. Remember the stories dredged up about Trayvon’s past, to suggest he was a gangsta who got what was coming to him, to portray him as something other than he was, to make his killer the victim? And the media is always glad to play its part, running photos carefully selected to make the real victims look like violent, lawless ni—, er, African Americans. (One brilliant response to these media shenanigans was the volley of Tweets under the #IfTheyGunnedMeDown hashtag on Twitter. Go check it out.)
The aim here, as always, is to take the heat off the racist institutions that govern America — in fact, to legitimize them. And as we’ve seen again and again, it’s ridiculously easy to do. Too many folks like their victims pure as the driven snow, and I use that hackneyed simile advisedly. Brown may — or may not — have stolen a package of cigars. If so, he probably got what he deserved — even if stealing a handful of smokes is not, officially at least, a capital offence.
All just too predictable. Will Brown see posthumous justice? Not if the good burghers of St. Louis County and their hired guns can help it. And they have their share of supporters, so they do, in the Land of the Free.