Saturday, December 6, 2014

Ferguson Protests

My friends and I went to one of the protests against the failure to indict Darren Wilson, the murderer of Mike Brown. We ended up being photographed by the Tech. Since Wednesday, there have been national peaceful protests. In addition to protesting the failure to indict the murderer of Mike Brown, our government has failed to indict the murderer of Eric Garner, a murderer who used an illegal chokehold and had his crime caught on camera. It's an absolute perversion of justice to think that black people can be extra-judiciously murdered. I am so proud and honored to be part of a movement to stop racial violence in the country I call home.

[caption id="attachment_473" align="alignnone" width="300"]It me! It me![/caption]

i remember my mother telling me about the white dismissal of justified anger and grief in dc over the gov't sanctioned murder of MLK. While I am proud of my actions, I am sad that I may have to recount my own stories to future generations of young black women. I have written about my white passing privilege before. I feel that it is my responsibility to speak, write, and act in solidarity with black people, my people. The call 'white allies to the front,' strangely enough, applies to me. I do not want to be the face of this movement, but I want to utilize my resources to help protect black lives from institutional - specifically police - violence. We remember and we'll keep on dreaming!

On Facebook, people seem comfortable airing out their unsolicited racist opinions. Some such gems include:
People who are protesting should actually learn about about the situation and how rioting might not get them anywhere but cause more aggravation and riots itself

I'm sorry, but i think it's a little far to claim that it is a "burden" to be black in America.

1000s of lives, homes, and property have been destroyed in these riots! how terrible

While it is not the responsibility of black or minority people to deal with this sort of blatant ignorance, I have generously taken the time to address some of these concerns.

A Reality of Kindness

All of these statements go against factual evidence. They also go against my personal experience, of the kindness, peacefulness, and empathy exhibited by the protesters in Boston. The national protests have been non violent protests, including marches, die ins and boycotts.
Chief O’Neill said the protesters [in NYC] had not prevented ambulances or other official vehicles from responding to emergencies during the first two nights of demonstrations. No sick person, or civilian with a health emergency has been unable to get help, he said. (via Ny Times)

Protesters have moved to allow ambulances through in NYC. Protests have been attended by children. Protesters have carried injured people to safety, caring for those hurting from tear gas. Furthermore, protesters in Ferguson have tried to peacefully engage with police while helping injured people. In response, they were attacked with tear gas! Who is being violent here? The people carrying an injured woman? Or the people using military grade weapons?
Police fired tear gas at a crowd of protesters who were carrying an apparently unconscious woman to safety during violent clashes in Ferguson on Monday night. (Daily Mail)

Ferguson has often been described as a site of violent riots. While there are sensationalist titles like "Fires and looting at businesses as violence overtakes protests over no indictment in Ferguson," the reality is far less frightening and violent. The description of violent riots is not the reality, not in Ferguson and not nationally! Even the sensationalists have to admit
A short time later, Brown's family issued a statement asking people to keep their protests peaceful (via Fox News, Fires & Looting)

The protesters, an organized political movements, have consistently regulated their own behavior. When people were getting too amped up at the protest I attended, people would begin to chant "This is a peaceful protest" or urge once-strangers to calm down. I linked arms with black women who chastised their male friends for getting aggressive; I was ushered through the throngs by caring men when I told them I had been split from one of my friends; I was offered homemade food by an elderly couple. I was awed by the kindness and concern exhibited by the protesters in Boston; our protest was a gathering of empathetic people who were grieving a national loss of life and justice. Certainly the protest I attended was not every protest, but I don't think you can dismiss the 1400 people who protested in Boston that night nor the students who walked out of class Dec 1. Protests are groups of large people, thousands of people. It's impossible to control the actions of everyone, but protesters are doing their best to keep everyone level headed and in line with a standard of non violent behavior.

Property Damage

it's a disingenuous lie to claim that homes or lives have been destroyed.

Again, let's look to the location that's been described as a site of violent riots:

1 As news of the decision spread, protesters surged forward, throwing objects at officers in riot gear. The sound of gunfire could be heard. 2 Police officers used tear gas and smoke to disperse people who were hurling rocks and breaking the windows of parked police cruisers. A vehicle was set on fire.3 At least a dozen buildings were set on fire around the city, many in the vicinity of Ferguson Market and Liquor, the store Michael Brown was in before he was killed by Officer Wilson. (via Ny Times)

As the Ny Times explains, there have been instances of property damage. With the exclusion of privately owned cars, all property damage has been of either police property or commercial buildings. No private homes have been destroyed. While cops claim to have heard lots of gun fire, I cannot find any news coverage of serious injuries or deaths. So no deaths; no homes destroyed. Just property that was probably insured.

Causation: Was it even protesters?

Returning to the idea that protesters have called for non violence and peace, I wonder: did protesters cause these fires? The Klu Klux Klan has made their presence in Ferguson known, by threatening to use lethal force against protesters. The KKK also has a history of terrorizing black people by setting fires. Racist white people have a history of setting fire to black communities and businesses, as in the Tulsa Riots that destroyed the prosperous Black Wall Street. In those riots, white people killed at least 30 black people in addition to destroying what would now be $30 million in property damage, including the black hospitals.
At around 1 a.m., the white mob began setting fires, mainly in businesses on commercial Archer Street at the southern edge of the Greenwood district. (via Wikipedia)

Other sites have started to connect the KKK to the burning of Mike Brown's church. The KKK is entirely unlike the kind and empathetic people I met at the Boston protests. The KKK's members find joy in bombing churches, killing little children, and inflicting pain on black people. They incite and encourage violence in order to protect white supremacy; they pervert justice and lack empathy. Isn't it more reasonable to think that a violent hate group with a history of setting fires is responsible for fires in Ferguson? Rather than blaming protesters who have explicitly called for peace?

More so, police have been using tear gas canisters and smoke bombs. Both are known to be flammable.
Officers responded by firing what authorities said was smoke and pepper spray into the crowd. St. Louis County Police later confirmed tear gas also was used. (Fox News)

To counter the crowds, local police have attempted to use the same techniques that security forces use around the world, including tear gas, bean bag rounds and wooden bullets. [...] In Ferguson, MO, police have attempted to disperse protesters using smoke bombs – fireworks that generate smoke after ignition. (Al Jazeera)

Although modern smoke grenades are designed not to directly emit fire or sparks, they remain a fire hazard (Wikipedia)

A report distributed today by an Idaho State Fire Marshall shows that tear gas was the source of a house fire on July 12, 2006.  The canister first ignited the fabric covering and foam cushions of a couch in the residence (KHQ)

A video has surfaced of para military appearing individuals starting a fire at one of the confirmed locations, an Auto shop. These individuals are clearly not normal protesters. To ascribe their isolated and unsanctioned actions to the movement is very disingenuous.

Many people who were comfortable airing their uninformed racist assumptions suddenly fall silent when confronted with the deluge of evidence that protesters at the national level have been peaceful.

Moralities of Protest

The Rosewood Massacre was a racially motivated attack on African Americans and their neighborhood committed by a white mob in Florida during January 1–7, 1923. The town of Rosewood, a majority-black community, was abandoned and destroyed in what contemporary news reports characterized as a race riot (with the implication blacks had broken out in violence (Wikipidea)

Unfortunately, our country has a history of violence targeting black simply because they are black. At the same time, white mob violence targeting black communities is often ascribed as being the fault of black people. As if somehow one could provoke a lynching! As if the murder of black people could ever be justified! This tendency of whites to blame blacks for white violence is a historical reality that we must confront and dismantle, brick by brick, word by word. While some people would like to forget about our history of racial violence, that sort of forgetting is a support the dominant narrative of racial inequality. These sorts of narratives are violent and dangerous. I feel that it should be morally clear why you shouldn't blame black victims of racially motivated violence.
It’s depressing that we’re still dealing with these issues, but most of us are on the right side of history. Most of us. (Vanity fair)

I'd never that claim property damage is worse than the possibility of our nation approving of extra judicious murder due to the victim's race. Equating 'property casualties' to the loss of lives, especially black lives in this context, is particularly callous. Black people are not chattel or property. We cannot measure black lives against property values.
[Stop] the senseless killing of young black voters across the United States by law enforcement. (Hands up united)

At no point can individual acts of protest measure up against the injustices and violence of institutions. Even if these acts of property damage are ascribed to black people, the anger is justified! There are clear constitutional and moral protections for the right to assembly and the right to self defense. As members of DGR have wisely written, "Every resistance victory has been won by blood and tears, with anguish and sacrifice." We need to use short and long term strategies and tactics to disrupt the systemic police violence that is actually killing hundreds of civilians and incarcerating us when we flee or try to defend ourselves.

As a black mulatto person, as a woman, as a member of DGR, as a empathetic person, I feel that I cannot be silent or complicit. I urge people to take action to change the messed up violent politics that approve of killing black women and men, children as young as twelve, and that try to measure our value against cop's cars. 


  • Property damage is nothing in response to the extra judicious killing of a man

  • Unclear if these were caused by protesters or from other groups such as the KKK

  • Smoke bombs and tear gas canisters used by police can cause fires

  • Black lives >> property

  • What about the national non violent protests?