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Justice Department Pushes Ferguson Police to Ban Officers From Wearing ‘I Am Darren Wilson’ Bracelets

The Ferguson Police Department, as well as St. Louis County Police Department, have assured the Justice Department that their officers will no longer be permitted to wear “I Am Darren Wilson” bracelets while on duty in Ferguson, Missouri.

Darren Wilson is the white police officer, who shot an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown at least six times in early August. Ferguson residents have spotted police wearing bracelets in solidarity.

The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division writes in a letter to Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson, “We write to confirm that you will prohibit Ferguson Police Department officers from wearing “I Am Darren Wilson” bracelets while in uniform and on duty. We write to also confirm our understanding that you will ensure that other municipal police agencies prohibit their officers from wearing these bracelets while working in Ferguson.”

The letter goes on to not only call further attention to the bracelets but also to the practice of officers covering up their name plates:

…Ferguson residents told Department of Justice Civil Rights Division officials during our community interviews on Wednesday evening that law enforcement officers policing at protest sites in Ferguson on Tuesday were wearing these bracelets. Residents observed that these bracelets upset and agitated peopl.e We were shown pictures of officers wearing these bracelets. It further was reported that some officers affirmatively displaying these bracelets had black tape over their name plates. The practice of not wearing, or obscuring, name plates violates your own department’s policies, which we advised you earlier this week when we requested that you end the practice immediately…

In other words, it appears that the Justice Department told the department once earlier in the week that they were wrong to conceal their names from residents. That changed nothing.

While acknowledging that officers should be able to express their opinions, the Justice Department letter suggests—as if the officers suffer from massive ignorance—that the message being conveyed by these bracelets may mean something different to them than it does to community residents in Ferguson.

It goes on to state, “The expressive accessory itself is exacerbating an already tense atmosphere between law enforcement and residents in Ferguson. These bracelets reinforce the very ‘us versus them’ mentality that many residents of Ferguson believe exists.”

Meanwhile, as the Justice Department confirms that officers won’t show public solidarity with an officer under investigation for manslaughter while on duty, there appears to have been an escalation of repressive activity on the part of Ferguson police. “Activist gathering spaces” being raided and individual organizers being explicitly targeted for arrest.

Hands Up United, an organization that has been spurring community action in the aftermath of Brown’s death, put out a press release stating that Ferguson police raided an “encampment maintained by Ferguson youth” at 12:30 pm CST. Dozens of tens, along with personal effects, were seized and two young women—a 19-year-old “Lost Voices” organizer and a 30-year-old technologist with the group—were arrested.

“Ferguson police arrived at the encampment (located near the intersection of West Florissant & Canfield Drive in Ferguson) with approximately ten patrol vehicles and three flatbed trucks,” the group further stated. “The encampment had stood since shortly after the Ferguson protests began and was dismantled by dozens of police and town employees in a matter of minutes.”

“The Ferguson police did not indicate their intentions to move, dismantle, or seize the personal property at the encampment and provided no warning or order to disperse when they arrived this afternoon,” Hands Up United claimed.

This police action occurred less than 24 hours after a “similar siege at an encampment outside of the Ferguson Police department and as Ferguson residents are preparing a welcoming committee for a national series of protests” called “Ferguson October,” which will take place October 10-13.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."