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Ferguson’s Militarized & Racist Response to Protests Against Police Killing of Mike Brown

Mike Brown (Photo from Brown’s Facebook page)

Police clad in riot gear fired rubber bullets and tear gas at predominantly black residents near a QuikTrip in Ferguson, Missouri. They were protesting the killing of an unarmed black teen shot by police on Saturday. It was the same QuikTrip that was set on fire and looted on Sunday night.

The riots in north St. Louis county have become the dominant news story with little to no focus on the fact that another unarmed black youth in America was gunned down by police. But it is important to recognize who Mike Brown was and who he could have been, as well as the fact that it was police who turned the situation violent first—not the residents of Ferguson.

Brown was 18-years-old and only two days away from starting his freshman year at Vatterott College, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. A Ferguson police officer shot him “multiple times outside an apartment complex.” His dead body was left lying in the street for hours.

The family’s attorney, civil rights lawyer Benjamin L. Crump, who previously represented the family of Trayvon Martin, has called Brown’s killing an “execution.”

At a press conference, Crump declared, “You just can’t fathom as a child puts up his hands, and people continue to shoot,” and, “This child was shot multiple times and left on the ground like a dog. It’s a combination of things like this happening over and over and over again, and people are getting no sense of justice.”

Brown had graduated from African-American Normandy High School, which is a school in a district that has a high rate of poverty. While many of his fellow classmates were headed to school with sports scholarships, he wanted to have his own business.

A profile put together by the Post-Dispatch mentions how teachers regarded him as a “gentle giant,” someone who was a big student but did not cause trouble. He “loved music and had begun to rap.” He struggled to get to the point where he had the credits he needed to graduate. He was someone who would give to his friends when they were in need. He also did not want to end up living a life on the streets and was committed to completing further education.

Aisha Sultan of the Post-Dispatch provided some critical context for the killing of Brown:

…Ferguson, a community of 21,000, is an inner-ring suburb, a place where it’s easy for the economic recovery to bypass the poor. It’s a city of 6 square miles, about 10 miles north of downtown. About two-thirds of the residents are African-American. The median income is $37,000, roughly $10,000 less than the state average. Nearly a quarter of residents live below the poverty level, compared with 15 percent statewide.

It’s part of north St. Louis county, where whites left en masse beginning over the past few decades. In the ’60s, they began rapidly leaving north city, creating one of one of the most extreme cases of “white flight” in the country. But many who remained in power are still white, including much of the law enforcement. A local lawyer said whenever she goes into courthouses in North County, all the defendants are always black, the cops always white…

Residents gathered on the streets to peacefully protest after Brown was killed. There had been no looting reported as of Saturday night and police were not roaming the streets like a military patrol. However, police deployed dogs and shotguns to control the demonstration.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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