Ferguson in Context on the Eve of the Grand Jury Decision

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Ferguson and the St Louis metropolitan area await the findings of the Grand Jury investigation into the the shooting of Mike Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson; “any day now,” perhaps, but nobody knows which day. I don’t want to address the particulars of the case here, or for that matter the potential for “mass panic” in the St Louis area.

Rather, I hope to show that some of the baselines that affect us all — the rotten economy, for example, or neo-liberal theories of governance — affect Ferguson, too; and I hope to convey some sense of what it’s like in Ferguson on the ground, although I must confess that since Missouri is, er, a flyover state, it seems very very distant to me, even though I grew up in the Midwest, and I’d welcome reader commment from those in the area.

Further, I’m not going to address the actions of the extremely dedicated and persistent protesters[1], which strike me, again, from a distance, as strategic, ingenious, and principled; I especially liked unfurling a banner during a performance from the St Louis Orchestra, although presenting to the United Nations Committee Against Torture in Geneva runs an awfully close second.

Finally, I’m not going to venture a prediction on whether whatever happens in Ferguson after the grand jury verdict — the protesters would like the verdict to be murder — will scale out, whether as “violence” (that is, not police violence), or strategic non-violence, or both, or neither.

So, I’d like to start by looking at the “ground truth” of the protests, then the disproportionate forces arrayed against them, the oddities of the grand jury process itself, closing with the political economy of Ferguson and the words of Mike Brown’s father.

1. The Protest Area Is Very Small

When I say small, I mean small: Geographically, numerically, and in terms of property damage caused. (That’s not to denigrate the protests, everything starts out small. How not?)

Geographically small: Here is a map of yesterday’s protests from the New York Times:


As you can see from the scale, the protest area on West Florissant is half-a-mile long. That’s small. Maybe not Zucotti Park small, but small.

The protests are also small numerically. Here’s yesterday’s:

However, that doesn’t mean that the protests are reported as small; here a second photo of the same demonstration. Notice the cropping:


So, in place of a small band of hardy protesters in the cold seen from a distance, we have a tightly cropped image of one protester, with her companions, but many people will project an unknown but — doubtless!! — fearsomely large number of other protesters out of the frame. I think the same cropping technique happens in a lot of protest images[2]; the cropped photo will show one or two boarded-up buildings and people will project miles of boarded-up buildings; but the protest area on West Florissant just isn’t that big! So when you see the coverage that is to come, ask yourself how the photos are cropped; the more context, the better. So, indeed the protesters may be a “great force,” but if they are, it’s not because of raw numbers, at least not yet.

Finally, the protest are small in terms of property damage[3];

28 businesses were reported to have been burglarized on Aug. 10, the first night of unrest after the Brown shooting. … One business in the city of St. Louis was burglarized in a targeted operation by looters on Aug. 11… Insurance claims from property damage due to Ferguson protests reported to the state totaled $250,000 after the first month of unrest; one prominent local insurance adjuster who processed three claims on West Florissant Avenue estimated damages were no more than $5 million, which included $1 million to $1.5 million for the burned QuikTrip. By comparison, damage to property in the 2001 St. Louis hailstorm: $2 billion.

That’s it, despite hysterical media coverage. Watts, or Detroit, or Newark Ferguson is not. The scale and the timespan are simply not comparable. And the (public) police planning reflects this:

They expected four areas to emerge as protester “hot spots” after the announcement: the Ferguson police station, the stretch of West Florissant Avenue near the QuikTrip that burned the day after the killing, the business district in Clayton, and the Shaw Neigborhood, where VonDerrit Myers Jr. was killed by a St. Louis police officer last month after the officer said Myers fired at him.

(Man, you’d think if there were going to be riots, there already would have been, given that another black guy got whacked by a cop while the Wilson Grand Jury was still out[4].) So, three small town centers are larger than one small town center, and they’re dispersed, but small they are. I’m reminded of nothing so much as an elephant trumpeting and stamping at the sight of a mouse.

2. The Forces Of The State Are Anti-Occupy Scale

Given, as we have seen, the small scale of the Ferguson protests, the State forces arrayed against them are remarkably large. We’ve got the Ministerium für Staatssicherheit DHS:

Yesterday should have been a normal workday for 28 year old Mark Paffrath, a Houseman at the Drury Plaza Hotel in Chesterfield. Instead, it turned out to be anything but.

Mark, a veteran of the US Navy [and born in Ferguson], having served in the middle east, has been employed at the Drury Plaza Hotel for approximately the last year and a half. Yesterday, however that employment abruptly ended. Mark says that on Thursday after work he snapped 2 photographs and a short video of several dozen Homeland Security vehicles in the parking garage. He then uploaded them to his Facebook page.

The vehicles in the photo at the link look like SUVs to me, so figure 4 Stasi agents operatives to a vehicle, for a minimum of 96. That’s like a one-to-one ratio with last night’s protesters. So what the heck are they all doing?

And then of course Governor Nixon called out the National Guard:

“[NIXON:] These additional resources will support law enforcement’s efforts to maintain peace and protect those exercising their right to free speech. The National Guard is well-suited to provide security at command posts, fire stations and other locations as well as perform other functions that will free up law enforcement officers to remain focused on community policing and protecting constitutional rights.”

“Command posts,” plural?

The Governor would not go into operational details as to how many troops would be on the ground, but maintained the decision was in line with the original timetable laid out by St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch that the grand jury announcement would be made by mid-to-late November.

“[H]ow many troops would be on the ground”? Huh? Why, you’d almost think St Louis County was enemy territory, wouldn’t you?

“People need to feel safe. Everything we are doing is being driven by the dual objectives, what I call the dual pillars,” Nixon said. “Keeping the public safe while allowing protesters to speak.”

Gee, I dunno. Call me crazy, but my thought is that if “people” “need to feel safe” Governor Nixon could give consideration to the concept of stopping cops from whacking people, and especially to stopping cops from leaving the bodies in the street, for hours, in the summer sun, that would be a big help with the feels.

And of course, we’ve got the FBI, and I imagine they’ve already set some clown up, or set some agent provocateurs in motion[5].  FBI Sends 100 Agents to Ferguson Ahead of Grand Jury Decision. Wowsers. I wonder if they’re staying at the Drury too? That parking garage is gonna be crowded. Anyhow:

The 100 FBI agents were ordered to mobilize and arrive in Ferguson Friday, and additional personnel have been put on alert so they can be called in as a second emergency wave.

“Additional personnel”? If not FBI, what? Mercs? Vigilantes? The Orange Order?
And all this before we even raise the issue of militarization, the armored personnel vehicles, and all the ridiculous goony paraphernalia surplus to requirements for the wars the military lost in Iraq and Afghanistan. Trebuchets, for all I know.

Anyhow, the State response is on the same scale as the 17-city paramilitary crackdown the Obama administration orchestrated with DHS and Democratic mayors plus Bloomberg to smash Occupy. And I hope you are persuaded it’s just as disproportionate a response.

However, bloated multi-agency responses like this are probably the new normal, because ka-ching, but also to gather intelligence on all protesters, no matter how peaceful, to infiltrate and discredit them, but also perhaps for practice.

3. The Grand Jury Process Is Sketchy

No matter the result, one would think that the powers that be would like the Grand Jury to be credible (that is, if avoiding violence is a goal for the State). Unfortunately, there are several reasons to think that it might not be.

First, there are several ways this Grand Jury is unusual. Here’s how its structured:

A lawyer for the family of the black 18-year-old fatally shot by a white police officer said today the grand jury process playing out in Missouri is unlike anything he’s seen before and is unfair.

The St. Louis County prosecuting attorney, Robert McCulloch, has said that, unlike with a typical grand jury, he would present to this grand jury all the evidence gathered in the police investigation and offer the jurors the opportunity to hear from any witness with relevant information.

The target of the investigation, Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, was among those who testified.

A spokesman for McCulloch has indicated that the prosecutor’s office will not likely make a specific recommendation about charges, but would give the grand jurors a range of charges to consider, from involuntary manslaughter up to first-degree murder.

While it is true that McCulloch isn’t railroading through a non-indictment of Wilson, this process amounts to the same thing, doesn’t it? What McCulloch has done is abrograte his prosecutorial authority and handed it over to the Grand Jury (who also have not been sequestered). No theory of the case, no recommendation of a charge, and, above all, nobody to speak for Mike Brown. It looks to me like the deck is stacked for acquittal, with McCulloch able not only to avoid blame, but to point to the deliberative process used!  And one might also wonder why a cop gets a special process that ordinary citizens don’t get, especially in Ferguson.

Now, it is true that McCulloch has said that the proceedings have been recorded and will be made public, but a judge might not agree.

Second, Grand Jury proaceedings are supposed to be secret, but there are leaks, and none of them seem to favor Wilson’s indictment. There are the (supposedly) hacked tweets. Then too, the autopsy favorable to Wilson. And Wilson’s testimony:

The only significant disclosure [!] from the current proceedings has been a description of Wilson’s four hours of testimony before the grand jury that was reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper.

So that’s alright, then. Finally, there’s yesterday’s leak:

The signs pointed to the grand jury drawing near a decision as to whether Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson will be charged with a crime for fatally shooting Michael Brown.

But word leaked out Saturday that when the Missouri grand jury wrapped up its session Friday, it hadn’t wrapped up the case. The 12 grand jurors will meet again Monday, sources said.

People are getting antsy. Supporters of Brown’s family want to see Wilson go to trial. The officer’s supporters want him to be vindicated.

Business owners worry about their property. Officials are concerned about keeping the peace.

Gee. It’s almost like that leak was orchestrated for the benefit who it did benefit: Business owners and “officials” (including the DHS, FBI, and the National Guard).

So, a Grand Jury with a weird process, that leaks for acquittal, that looks like a play-toy for the powers that be. Would you trust it?

4. Ferguson, a Small Municipality, Has Big Problems

I don’t have a general account of the collapse of America’s industrial heartland — back in the day before we became a petrostate, and actually made stuff — but it’s apparent that collapse constrains Ferguson deeply. (Again, comments from knowledgeable locals or expats welcome.) Road and Track, in a splendid essay:

St. Louis is a difficult place to explain. During its heyday as a boomtown for industrial migration, mixed-race factory workforces weren’t uncommon, but all-white housing covenants were stringently enforced. The Shelley v. Kraemer US Supreme Court case, which effectively disallowed explicitly racist housing codes in 1948, originated from a disputed two-story masonry at 4600 Labadie Avenue. Housing covenants fell away in the 1950s. By and large, St. Louisans’ were too quaint for defiance. Instead, they left.

White flight from downtown accelerated around the time of the Shelley verdict. A de facto race line replaced legal segregation, driving a stake between St. Louis City and St. Louis County, with resources falling towards the latter in staggering disproportion. Inadequate public transportation, gerrymandered districting, and circumspect zoning policies all insured wealth discrepancy between the areas became an incredible, and insurmountable, plateau. Separate tax structures. Separate police forces. Separate schools. A fragmented St. Louis of Haves and Have-nots, often synonymous with white and black as a consequence of geographical composition, swelled westward.

Even so, a handful of communities straddling the northern edge of this fault line—among them Hazelwood, Florissant, and Ferguson—proved unique. They had nearby factories and infrastructure and manpower, an expansive socioeconomic palate anchored by thousands of blue-collar heads of household. Things here were okay, and this is where the Stingray was born.

(Here’s an article that tracks white flight up Florissant through architecture.) And of course, the Stingray is gone. We can pile the foreclosure crisis (i.e., accounting control fraud) on top of the loss of Ferguson’s industrial base:

Nationally, 17 percent of homeowners are underwater — they owe more on their mortgages than their homes are actually worth. In Ferguson, that figure sits at 50 percent. Because so many homeowners are struggling, the town is ripe for institutional investors — often hedge funds or private equity groups on the coasts, thousands of miles away — to buy up homes, then rent them to low-income tenants. And that’s what has happened. Investment firms are responsible for roughly a quarter of all recent housing purchases in the town.

[P]eople of color with good credit received high-interest mortgages or subprime mortgages far more often than white borrowers with similar credit. These mortgages were meant for only the riskiest borrowers. Because of their higher rates, houses purchased with these mortgages were harder to pay off, and were more likely to face foreclosure.

In addition, we’ve got Ferguson, facing a revenue crisis as property taxes from the factories disappear, turning to the law enforcement system to raise revenue (a public policy approach suggested by an especially vile libertarian, Robert Poole). From Governing:

Ferguson’s budget relies heavily on public safety and court fines that have skyrocketed in recent years. A review of Ferguson’s financial statements indicates that court fine collections now account for one-fifth of total operating revenue. The St. Louis suburb of about 21,000 residents [like I said: small] took in more than $2.5 million in municipal court revenue last fiscal year, representing an 80 percent increase from only two years prior, when fines netted about $1.4 million.

[Brendan Roediger of the Saint Louis University School of Law] described a court system in Ferguson and select areas of St. Louis that function primarily as a revenue generator. “They don’t want to actually incarcerate people because it costs money, so they fine them,” he said. “It appears [because it is] to be a blatant money grab.”

And finally, there’s the breakdown between black and white not just in the St Louis area, but Ferguson itself:


And Ferguson is undergoing a gentrification as well. From a Munchies review of Ferguson’s restaurants:

But despite the community’s efforts, Ferguson remains a divided city. There are two main sides of Ferguson, and two main business corridors. There’s Florissant Road, where the police station and Corner Coffee are. The restaurants there are predominantly white-owned, and the strip is experiencing a mini-renaissance, with a new wine bar, and even some new loft apartments.

On the other side of Ferguson is West Florissant Avenue. That area is predominantly poor and black, and served mostly by fast food joints.

Just a thought, but I wonder how much of the tax dollars from the police shaking down West Florissant Avenue went to the wine bars and lofts of Florrisant Road, in the form of tax breaks and municipal services? If Ferguson is like my town, I would bet a lot.

So, if I were in a situation where the economy was shattered, foreclosures were rife, the police and the courts had turned into a shakedown operation, and then those same police whacked a friend of mine and left his body in the street to rot in the sun, and then the courts gave the perp every break I’d never been given, and then a ginormous military force parachuted in to enforce “calm” and prevent “violence,” I’d be ticked. Frankly, I think the reaction of the aggrieved citizens of Ferguson has been remarkably mild, mellow, even, given the givens. Long may it remain so[6].

5. Conclusion: Mike Brown’s Dad

Here’s the statement from Mike Brown Sr., from the Los Angeles Times:

“My family and I are hurting, our whole region is hurting,” Michael Brown Sr. said in the video, uploaded by St. Louis Forward, a St. Louis civic collective. “I thank you for lifting your voices to end racial profiling and police intimidation. But hurting others or destroying property is not the answer. I thank you for lifting your voices to end racial profiling and police intimidation. But hurting others or destroying property is not the answer. No matter what the grand jury decides, I do not want my son’s death to be in vain. I want it to lead to incredible change, positive change, change that makes the St. Louis region better for everyone.

FWIW, and from far away, I think the question is not so much justice for Mike Brown, though it is that, or even straightening out Ferguson’s municipal government, though it is that too. It’s a question of who should run St Louis and why. If there is to be:

[I]ncredible change, positive change, change that makes the St. Louis region better for everyone.

it’s very dubious that will come from Governor Nixon. Or, for that matter, Barack Obama and Eric Holder, or anyone else in power in official Washington, or aspiring to be. So who, then? Hmm….


[1] This article from the Wall Street Journal, “Ferguson Grand Jury Set to Reconvene,” addresses the question of how police tactics achieve police goals; but not how protester tactics achieve protester goals.

[2] And people like black bloc types know this, and exploit it; violence is photogenic!

[3] Unlike some, I believe that property damage is violence; try driving through the riot-torn areas of DC if you don’t agree.

[4] To be fair, this cop wasn’t told Myers was carrying a toy gun. So there’s that.

[5] And right on cue, a “sting operation” netted two New Black Panthers. Well, naturally. One would expect nothing less.

[6] Of course, there’s always an asshole.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. S.Kane

    Well said.
    Note to author/editor: the title of the article has a spelling error (“Decsion”). Should be “Decision”.

  2. TarheelDem

    One of the things that is striking about Ferguson is that it fundamentally is that first step community to a middle class life, or was when blacks started moving there. And the black population are working class and working hard even if the economy at the moment has put a number of them into unemployment. These are people with positive attitudes, and that shows in the persistence with which they have continued the protests, no matter how small the turnout gets. The characterization of Ferguson as a ghetto is only true to the extent that the white community is redlining housing opportunities.

    The second striking fact is the deliberate system of transferring funds from renters to subsidizing property owners through the corrupt system of municipal courts, bogus offenses, inconvenient municipal court hours, and the extensive use of warrants. What we saw on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights is the deliberate use of previous charges of “unlawful assembly” used as warrants to arbitrarily detain livestreamers and perceived protest leaders pre-emptively. The fine and bail system functions as a way of imposing costs on the protesters. Needless to say, it blatantly is in violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution (that quaint document).

    The third striking fact from this week was CBS News’s mainstreaming of disinformation about the arrests of the alleged New Black Panther Party members who were arraigned on weapons “straw purchasing” charges. And the fact that it was done at the executive producer level through Mosheh Oinounou pimping the story to other journalists with a tweet before the CBS News tweet with the link to the story came out. What is interesting about Oinounou is his deep roots in the homeland security community (GWU Presidential Fellow at the GWU Homeland Security Institute) but his career path that first had him parked at FoxNews. And the fact that CBS News in New York was the source of disinformation about explosives from an anonymous “law enforcement source” that was spread across the national media before CBS News made a quiet correction.

    That information war operation and the heavy presence in St. Louis of all levels of the homeland security apparatus indicate to me that contrary to being driven by the protests, the grand jury permits a training exercise in the strategy and tactics that homeland security Fusion Centers are planning to use for anticipated major unrest on a large scale. It is a contingency planning training exercise and a deterrent shot across the bow to any large nonviolent protest movements to confine themselves to the current corrupt, ineffective, and manipulated electoral process. And it is security theater to try to convince the paranoid portion of the white population that Barack Obama, Eric Holder, and Jeh Johnson will protect them too. That seems to be an impossible task IMO given the corrupt media environment.

  3. fresno dan

    When I was 12, I was stopped by a cop because I was carrying a toy gun (very realistic looking). He asked me if I wasn’t too old to be playing with guns. I asked him if he was afraid of children carrying toys, maybe he shouldn’t be a cop. (I try not to be such a smart as* now…but its difficult. Police do have a dangerous job…but there are plenty of jobs more dangerous as well).
    I didn’t get arrested or shot. But I’m white, and it was a different time. A time if a cop had arrested a 12 year for carrying a toy, he would have been fired for wasting taxpayer dollars, as well as not having a “pair.”
    Now we have been indoctrinated to believe that its perfectly logical for authorities to shoot children…..and they say the “Hunger Games” is fiction….


    How many police are killed by “civilians” each year?
    How many civilians are killed by police each year?

    Almost assuredly, the average person has much, much more to fear from the police, than the police have to fear from the population. But I have screwy libertarian tendencies that believe the government is engaged, not in a conspiracy, as much as a pseudo secular religion that the state must protect us, (from ebola, terrorists, and criminals, criminals, criminals) and that to be safe we must be at war with everybody, and monitoring everybody, including a significant number of US citizens….

    1. Laruse

      And now we have this:
      12-year-old boy shot by Cleveland police
      Cleveland authorities have surveillance video showing the weekend shooting by police of a 12-year-old boy who was brandishing an ultrarealistic air gun, a department spokesman said Monday.

      Tamir Rice died Saturday after a witness called 911 to report someone pointing a weapon — “probably fake” — at people outside a city recreation center.

      A police officer responding to the call shot the boy when he pulled the weapon from his waistband, according to police. He later died at a Cleveland hospital.

  4. sleepy

    What McCulloch has done is abrograte his prosecutorial authority and handed it over to the Grand Jury (who also have not been sequestered).

    In theory at least, in many states the grand jury has the right to subpoena witnesses and investigate any crimes in their jurisdiction without the approval of the prosecutor, and bring indictments on their own, with the prosecutor essentially functioning only as the legal adviser for the grand jury. On the rare occasions when a grand jury takes its responsibilities seriously you have a so-called “runaway grand jury”. There have been cases where the grand jury has chosen to indict the district attorney’s office.

    Although whittled away in the contemporary justice system, the basic theory that the grand jury holds prosecutorial authority, and not the district attorney’s office, was thought to act as a bulwark against state high-handedness.

    While I don’t think for a minute that the prosecution isn’t completely running the show in Ferguson and rigging the case, the point you make appears in a general sense to deemphasize a grand jury’s rights.

  5. Benedict@Large

    One has to wonder who needs a bigger protest at this point, the Ferguson protesters or the governor?

  6. dcblogger

    While the riot corridors retained a bombed out look decades after the 1968 riots, starting in the 1990’s they started a come back. Today the 14th riot corridor is a very expensive part of town. The H Street riot corridor is in the process of gentrifying. But the larger point is correct, violence against property is violence against an entire community.

  7. ambrit

    We were driving along I12 to Baton Rouge yesterday morning. Between Hammond, where the North South I55 crosses the I12, and Baton Rouge, a distance of 45 miles, we counted five tractor trailers carrying those pure white, unmarked, big vans, or small panel trucks from the West towards the East. The vans you usually see Security loading detainees into. None coming the other way. Anyone see something similar going North on I55?
    Somethings up.

  8. Denis Drew

    I find the police officer here to have been heroically careful not to kill this man — to shoot to wound. Michael Brown was shot three times in the lower arm (not raised) before being shot in the head. How likely is that to have happened by accident?

    I lived in the baddest of New York City’s bad lands for fifteen years: East Village, West Village, Times Square when it was as bad as Robert DeNiro’s picture made out (I saw Shaft in the movie shaft started outside of), Bronx gypsy cab driver, been in six prisons as a visitor, weekly in criminal court with kids — and I never heard of anything so crazy as what Michael Brown did, forcing a police officer back inside his vehicle and beating on him, possibly trying to disarm him.

    Brown was 20 feet away from Officer Darren Wilson. At his age I could have covered that in one second from a standing start. Brown moved forward, possibly lunging or possible falling on his face: from Wilson’s point of view it would look like the same thing — can’t blame him under the crazy circumstances with this six foot, four inch kid to fear he was about to be disarmed. Yet he apparently took careful aim and shot him in the arm three times first. The from of the arm — indicating his hands were down in lunging (falling flat?) mode.

    I heard the voice of an elderly Black man moments after the shooting — who did not realize he was being recorded by a cell phone — saying “He went back at him.” The cell picture was right in the middle between the police car and the dead boy.

    In my opposition to NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk I snail mailed this to 21 NYC legal aid offices (they don’t have email): that if it is a thousand one that cops have a legit reason to stop one kid on the way to school (half of stops included a frisk) then it must be a million to one to stop two kids to together, a billion to stop three — and it’s the same three, four, five kids over and over.

    In the past I have pointed out [snip}:
    Oakland won’t educate its way out of poverty and crime. Catch 22: political scientist Martin Sanchez-Jankowski, from neighboring UC Berkeley — who spent nine years in five poor New York and Los Angeles neighborhoods (and ten years before that researching street gangs) — explains in his 2008 book Cracks in the Pavement that ghetto schools don’t work mostly because students (and teachers!) don’t expect anything decent awaiting for them in the labor market, so think it hopeless to make the effort.

    My current effort points out [snip]:
    100,000 out of (my estimate) 200,000 gang age, Chicago males are in street gangs – I say because they wont work for a minimum wage several dollars below LBJ’s 1968 minimum wage ($10.95) after per capita income about doubles. A $15 an hour minimum wage might actually put American born workers back to work at America’s McDonald’s.

    After explaining the new American slave market (for black and white) to my brother he came back with: “Martin Luther King got his people on the up elevator just in time for it to start going down for everybody.”

    I might add my notion that a big part of the increasing encroachment of the micro-police state on everybody is that the middle-class (God help the poor) has lost it’s mojo through de-unionization. Politically It can’t happen here is happening on the micro level.

    Economically It can’t happen here is happening on the macro level — therefore:
    Everybody better get together to come up with something real soon — or else:
    If the top 1% income continues to receive all the economic growth, then, by the time the output per person expands 50% (25-30 years?) the top 1% income will “earn” half of a half-larger economy (25% + 50% = 75% of 150%). By the time output per person doubles (typically 40-50 years) the equation will read 25% + 100% out of 200% = 62.5% of a twice-as-large economy.

    IT’S THE ECONOMY, STUPID! (To quote a 1990s president)

    1. Denis Drew

      Some suggestion on where to find the up escalator may be found here:
      If average Walmart nonsupervisory pay were raised to $100 an hour, the price of $10 items would only rise to $15. Walmart labor costs are 7%. Nonsupervisory workers average $12 an hour. $12 X 8 = almost $100. One of the $12s is there already. 7×7% = 49%.

      Double current Walmart nonsupervisory pay to $24 hourly, throw on 25% for benefits to make it $30 and prices rise about 10%.

      Somebody challenged me that raising Walmart prices 10% (at $30 — only 3.5% at $15 min wage) would charge low income consumers $26 billion more a year ($260 billion sales). I pointed out they could take it out of the $560 billion raise they would get from a $15 minimum wage.

      A $15 minimum wage would shift about 3.5% of income from the 55 percent of the workforce who garner 90% of income to the 45% who scratch only 10%. $8,000 average raise X 70 million (45% of 140 million + 5% at minimum now) = $560 billion out of $16,000 billion GDP. BTW, 45% of workforce not going to be sent home over a 3 1/2 percent shift in income share.

      100,000 out of (my estimate) 200,000 gang age, Chicago males are in street gangs – I say because they wont work for a minimum wage several dollars below LBJ’s 1968 minimum wage ($10.95) after per capita income about doubles. A $15 an hour minimum wage might actually put American born workers back to work at America’s McDonald’s.
      * * * * * * * * * *
      ”Denmark has no minimum-wage law. But Mr. Elofsson’s $20 an hour is the lowest the fast-food industry can pay under an agreement between Denmark’s 3F union, the nation’s largest, and the Danish employers group Horesta, which includes Burger King, McDonald’s, Starbucks and other restaurant and hotel companies.”

      What Denmark does have – along with most of continental Europe and French Canada and Argentina and Indonesia — is a labor market setup called centralized bargaining where every employee doing similar work (e.g., retail clerk) negotiates one common labor contract with all employers doing similar business (e.g., Safeway, Best Buy, Walmart).

      $20 an hour + benefits: it’s the centralized bargaining/truly-free market! Supermarket workers (think Walmart gutted two-tier contracts) and airline employees (think regional pilots making $500 a week) would kill for centralized bargaining. The only practicable way to re-unionize — by law. Only way to reconstitute political democracy as well.

      Truly-free labor market education: 2011 book, Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?: How the European Model Can Help You Get a Life, by Thomas Geoghegan.

      1. pretzelattack

        from what i read, police don’t shoot to wound, they are trained to aim at the center mass to stop people. this tends to be fatal. if brown was shot in the arms, it was not heroism on the part of the cop.

      1. Working Class Nero

        Brown was indeed killed 148 feet from Wilson’s SUV. What is being assumed is that Wilson shot from his SUV — but no witness has stated this (quite the contrary) and while trying to imply this, the DKos article never states he shot from his SUV.

        After reading the DKos article I decided to look into the details. The DKos article is correct about the distance between the SUV and Brown’s body and also correct that the police lied (or were mistaken) about this distance by a large factor.

        But a critical reader would have noticed this sentence in the DKos article:

        How far Mike Brown actually fled, how far Darren Wilson chased him, and where each of them were in relation to each other and to the SUV, are facts of paramount importance. If Mike Brown fled over 148 feet away from Darren Wilson, it clearly suggests that Brown—unarmed, shot, missing a shoe, in lounge clothes—feared for his life and not the other way around.

        While the DKos article tried to imply the location of the SUV was where Wilson shot from, they never even attempted to actually established this with any evidence or witness statements. But the question about distances has nothing to do with the SUV. Instead it is actually whether Brown was close enough so that Wilson feared for his life at the time he shot him. Obviously at 148 feet the answer is no. But at less than 20 feet I’m not so sure. So it really doesn’t matter how far the SUV was from Brown — it matters how far Wilson was when he shot him.

        From various witnesses:

        About a half-hour later, the worker heard a gunshot. Then he saw Brown running away from a police car. Wilson trailed about 10 to 15 feet behind, gun in hand. About 90 feet away from the car, the worker said, Wilson fired another shot at Brown, whose back was turned.

        The worker said Brown stumbled and then stopped, put his hands up, turned around and said, “OK, OK, OK, OK, OK.” He said he told investigators from the St. Louis County police and the FBI that because of the stumble, it seemed to him that Brown had been wounded.

        A private autopsy showed that all but one of his gunshot wounds came while Brown was facing Wilson. Shawn L. Parcells, who participated in the autopsy, said one of the wounds to the arm could have occurred when Brown was facing away from Wilson. “It’s inconclusive,” he said. St. Louis County and federal autopsy results have not been released.

        Wilson, gun drawn, also stopped about 10 feet in front of Brown, the worker said.
        Then Brown moved, the worker said. “He’s kind of walking back toward the cop.” He said Brown’s hands were still up.

        Wilson began backing up as he fired, the worker said.

        After the third shot, Brown’s hands started going down, and he moved about 25 feet toward Wilson, who kept backing away and firing. The worker said he could not tell from where he watched — about 50 feet away — if Brown’s motion toward Wilson after the shots was “a stumble to the ground” or “OK, I’m going to get you, you’re already shooting me.”


        Phillip Walker, 40, another Canfield Green resident, told the Post-Dispatch on Tuesday that Brown was walking at a steady pace toward Wilson, with his hands up. “Not quickly,” Walker said. “He did not rush the officer.” Walker, who is distantly related to a Post-Dispatch reporter not involved in this report, said the last shot, into the top of Brown’s head, was from about 4 feet away.

        “It wasn’t justified because he didn’t pose no threat to the officer. I don’t understand why he didn’t Tase him if he deemed him to be hostile. He didn’t have no weapon on him. I was confused on why he was shooting his rounds off like that into this individual,” Walker said.

        The co-worker in the KTVI interview said he “starting hearing pops and when I look over … I seen somebody staggering and running. And when he finally caught himself he threw his hands up and started screaming, ‘OK, OK, OK, OK, OK, OK.’”

        He said the officer “didn’t say, ‘Get on the ground.’ He didn’t say anything. At first his gun was down and then he … got about 8 to 10 feet away from him … I heard six, seven shots … it seemed like seven. Then he put his gun down. That’s when Michael stumbled forward. I’d say about 25 feet or so and then fell right on his face.”

        No witness has ever publicly claimed that Brown charged at Wilson. The worker interviewed by the Post-Dispatch disputed claims by Wilson’s defenders that Brown was running full speed at the officer.
        “I don’t know if he was going after him or if he was falling down to die,” he said. “It wasn’t a bull rush.”

        What’s clear from these accounts is that Wilson was most certainly not at his SUV when he shot Brown as the DKos article implied.

        In looking into the DKos story I found a conservative blog that had pointed out back in August the 35 feet error . In this blog they have some interesting images of orange cones that were near Michael Brown’s body. They claim these mark the location of spent shell casings. If true then this again reinforces the idea that Wilson was not only very close, but also back pedaling. The fact that furthest spent shell casing is actually behind Brown’s body, which is pretty strong evidence that Brown was moving forward and Wilson backwards, within very close range, just as several witnesses state.

        Now obviously this conservative site and so is just as biased as DKos, only in the opposite direction. But it seems that only partisan sites are really getting into detail on this.


        The point of this comment is only to disprove the idea that Wilson was 148 feet away from Brown when he shot him. On the question of whether the shooting was justified or not I will leave to others to decide.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          [Oops, flippant comment deleted; I thought you were somebody else.]

          The original story — and I confess that I haven’t followed the twists and turns — was that Brown grabbed for Wilson’s gun through the car window. In that case, Wilson staying by the SUV while Brown flees seems plausible.

        2. fresno dan

          Yeah, I understand your point. I also do not believe the distance of the SUV from Brown’s body is all that germane. If Wilson fired from the SUV, its open and shut. But I think its pretty clear that Wilson and Brown were approaching – the details of that are at issue.
          Until all the evidence is released, it will be hard to draw any conclusion.

          But my concern is that whether the Diallo shooting or the shooting yesterday in Brooklyn, there appears to be a willingness to accept a shoot first attitude – and an mythology about how dangerous BEING a police officer is, and at the same time how dangerous the public IS.
          The whole notion that “being afraid for my life” is a justification to blast away…when somebody doesn’t even have a gun, really is kind of screwy. We don’t let solders in Iraq, who were in far more frightening circumstances than police in American cities just shoot anyone they thing may be ready to detonate a car bomb.

        3. Yves Smith

          Straw man.

          The issue is whether Wilson shooting Brown was warranted.

          Brown was AT MOST (and it is unclear as to what Wilson knew) a suspect in a convenience store robbery.

          Wilson was well away from the SUV when shot, which means he had run away. That means he was not threatening Wilson but seeking to escape.

          Since when is it permissible to shoot a mere suspect who is not threat to the policeman, particularly over a mere suspicion of a crime over property?

          All of your discussion over Wilson possibly being in pursuit is a diversion from the issue of threat of harm.

          1. Working Class Nero

            Just before the fatal shooting there was an altercation between Brown and Wilson inside the patrol car, where it is claimed Wilson was punched in the face by Brown (and/or others claim a seated Wilson grabbed the 6’4’ Brown by the neck). There was also a struggle for Wilson’s service pistol, and it discharged twice, striking Brown in the finger once. There is no policeman in the world who is just going to let a suspect run away after an altercation like that. I see no way of arguing that Wilson was wrong tin pursuing Brown–that he should have instead just let him go — especially given that two shots had been fired.

            And so Wilson was NOT AT MOST pursuing Brown for stealing cigars; he was trying arrest him for at least assault and probably even attempted murder due to the struggle for the gun. It is true that while Brown was running away he was not a threat –the evidence and witnesses seem to lean towards the shots being fired when Brown was facing Wilson although this is not totally clear. The private autopsy says all but one shot were from the front and the direction of the other is not clear. But the moment Brown turned around and headed back towards Wilson, given what had just transpired, it seems obvious that at that point Brown was potentially a threat to Wilson. It will be a judgement call as to whether the shooting was justified or not and the distance between the two will play a critical role in making this decision.

            1. pretzelattack

              i don’t think we know that brown turned and headed back toward wilson in any way that could reasonably be construed as a threat. there have been various pro prosecution leaks, but i don’t trust those to tell the whole story.

            2. Binky Bear

              all the unsupported allegations of the unindicted perpetrator. Here is the perspective of the other living witness to the events:

              “In order for Big Mike to have touched the gun, it is almost like his whole top half of his body had to be inside the vehicle and that never happened,” Johnson says. It’s a pretty specific objection: he doesn’t just say Brown never went for the gun, but that he was never so deeply embedded in the car that he could have gone for the gun. Johnson’s whole memory of the fight is Wilson trying to pull Brown towards the vehicle and Brown trying to get away.

              I wonder where Brown’s fingerprints are located on the vehicle, the firearm, and on Wilson’s uniform? I wonder…http://huff.to/1ysHIbo

              1. Jim in SC

                The ‘pulling Michael Brown into the car’ thing doesn’t seem physically possible. That can’t work if he’d been 5’5″ and 150 lbs, because he had his feet on the ground, and Wilson’s were in the car. This means that he can just use his core muscles and stand up straight, but Wilson has to rely on his upper body strength, because he’s sitting. Brown could only be in the car leaning through the window if he wanted to be there. And didn’t some of his DNA (skin) show up on the gun?

        4. FrY10cK

          What kind of people kill an unarmed teenager and leave the body lying in the street uncovered for four and a half hours? Who does that? Charles P. Pierce tells us:

          There is something gone badly wrong in the way police are taught to look at civilians these days. This is the logic of an occupying power being employed on American citizens. Ever since 9/11, when we all began to be told that we were going to have to bend a little bit, and then a little bit more, to authority or else we’d all die, the police in this country have been militarized in their tactics and in their equipment, which is bad enough, but in their attitudes and their mentality, which is far, far worse.

          And from the email announcement to Bill Keller’s new journalistic enterprise:

          … by the numbers, the United States is a global outlier, with a prison population matched by no nation except, possibly, North Korea, with a justice system that disproportionately afflicts communities of need and of color, with a corrections regime that rarely corrects.

          p.s. If the good cops close ranks around the bad ones, are they still good cops?

      2. ian

        Do you shoot?
        You would be very lucky to hit even a large person 6 times with a handgun from 148 feet, especially when running or with the adrenaline going.

    2. James

      I find the police officer here to have been heroically careful not to kill this man — to shoot to wound.

      No accounting for alternative realities I guess. Talk about your racial paradigms!

        1. Denis Drew

          Wilson would have had nothing to fear had he, himself been unarmed. When you have a gun the (mortal) danger is that the attacker can take the gun from you. That Brown was wounded in the finger (or hand) when the shot was fired during the struggle inside the vehicle …
          … struggle in the this case being the six foot four inch, three hundred pound, twenty year old male reaching inside to attack the police officer (I’ve never heard of such behavior) — and reportedly trying to disarm him …
          … which left powder burns on Brown’s hand which in turn strongly suggests (or supports) that Brown was trying to take the officer’s gun — he knew the police might be looking for him for the strong arm robbery in the convenience store, possibly making him desperate to escape the consequences. This kind of unthinking response happens on the streets all the time.

          In any case the gun Wilson had to fear was his own gun — and the NFL size kid who very plausibly tried to disarm him once made that as credible as possible a disarming threat.

          1. Yves Smith

            You didn’t read the comment above. The body was 148 feet from the car and Brown lost his shoe running away. The fatal shots had NOTHING to do with a struggle in the car, even assuming there was one. Wilson was not in danger. Brown was running away when gunned down.

            1. Bridget

              Brown was 148ish feet away from Wilson’s vehicle. You don’t know where Wilson himself was. Some testimony indicates Wilson gave chase after the altercation in the vehicle. Physical evidence, like shell casings, will show more accurately where Wilson was when he fired.

              1. Yves Smith

                You are missing the point. If he was chasing Ferguson, shooting him was not warranted. The shots were warranted ONLY if Wilson thought he was in danger. But I gather in some parts of the country, it’s considered reasonable for cops to shoot unarmed black men.

                1. Bridget

                  It is true that ordinary citizens are not permitted to use deadly force unless they reasonably fear for their lives.

                  But as a police officer, the standard by which Wilson is to be judged is not whether he feared for his life, but whether he believed Brown posed a threat to the public. Additionally, Wilson may well have believed that his own life was in danger. From what I heard tonight, Brown turned during the chase and travelled 25′ (at least) toward Wilson.

                  I want to digest the grand jury evidence before venturing a definitive opinion about what transpired between these two people.

                  1. Yves Smith

                    You are correct to add that but that idea is equally indefensible. Brown was at most a suspect in a shoplifting. He was unarmed. There was no basis for deeming him to pose a danger to the public. You are really grasping at straws to defend Wilson’s conduct. It is obvious that the DA did not want to take up this case and bent over backwards not to make a compelling argument.

                    1. Jim in SC

                      Yves, Brown was more than a suspect in a shoplifting at the point that Wilson got out of his car and pursued him. He had had a very serious altercation with Wilson in the police SUV, where two shots were fired. Wilson–who was undoubtedly pumped full of adrenaline by that point–might have suspected that Brown’s behavior indicated something more than a box of cigars was at issue. Eighteen year olds don’t think straight on a good day. The problem is: why did Brown rob the convenience store? And why did he have the fight with Wilson in the police car? He probably saw his college dreams failing after a conviction. I keep on expecting for it to come out that they were mixing PCP in the marijuana/cigars. Because the shoplifting was anomalous, as well as the fight with Wilson.

                2. Jim in SC

                  Yves, according to Missouri law, shooting Brown as he was running away was permissible, as he’d just committed a felony. But Wilson didn’t shoot (whether he fired one shot from the car is still unclear to me) until Brown turned around and came towards him. We’ll never know whether Brown was rushing him with malicious intent, or whether he was stumbling forward to surrender, but he definitely came forward, as indicated by the blood trail. And Wilson interpreted this as a mortal threat.

                  Denis Drew: Wilson would have had plenty to fear if he’d been unarmed. It’s not hard to imagine getting beaten to death in unarmed combat by someone who outweighs you by fifty percent and who has just given you a drubbing in your police car.

                  The media has played down the convenience store robbery, where Brown was physically aggressive with the store clerk, but this speaks to Brown’s state of mind when he encountered Wilson just ten minutes later.

          2. James

            Wilson would have had nothing to fear had he, himself been unarmed. When you have a gun the (mortal) danger is that the attacker can take the gun from you. That Brown was wounded in the finger (or hand) when the shot was fired during the struggle inside the vehicle …
            … struggle in the this case being the six foot four inch, three hundred pound, twenty year old male reaching inside to attack the police officer (I’ve never heard of such behavior) — and reportedly trying to disarm him …

            Ahh, there we have it! The BNBG defense. That’s pretty much what it always boils down too when poor lil’ ol’ white folk have to shoot one of them uppity knee-gars!

    3. James

      And my alternative view:

      First of all, excellent article! Lots of meat to chew on there.

      That said, I have no doubt that the initial incident was simply a case of a spineless little white racist weasel named Darren Wilson trying to throw his government sponsored weight around in a black neighborhood, which ended in a temper tantrum fueled barrage of bullets after he got his nose bloodied during the initial encounter. Execution by rage, plain and simple. A schoolyard brawl if you will that got out of hand because the wimpy little white kid had a gun and a badge.

      All that said, you have to wonder exactly when and to whom it first occurred to turn this into one of the biggest domestic paramilitary and extralegal shows of force since the 60’s? Long festering “OJ rage” being played out by white racists who NEVER forget that sort of thing, perhaps? The interesting thing to me is that white working class types I know readily admit that a fix of some sort is in, but they either view that as somehow “necessary” lest society spin out of control, or that the “young black punk had it coming to him anyway.” I don’t know what to add to that, other than the support for this kind of unapologetic government crackdown still seems to be universal among most in the white community I know.

      Having grown up in a Midwestern lower middle class white community myself (Omaha NE in the late 60s – early 70s) and listening to my family members voice their overt and often condescending racism openly, I always viewed it as a case of ignorance and denial on the part of my relatives, who had (obviously) been brought up to believe that they were racially superior to blacks, but who soon realized to their horror that they were no better off economically than their racial inferiors, and quite often worse. The cognitive dissonance for poor whites having to come to grips with the fact that they have far more in common with impoverished blacks and other “third world brown types” is simply too much for them to bear. They’d rather believe pretty much anything than come to grips with the fact our society has been subject to the greatest class warfare this nation’s ever seen for the past 20-30 years, that their side has already lost, and that they too now belong to what they derisively refer to as “the ghetto class.”

    4. Oregoncharles

      It’s more likely Wilson was just a terrible shot. Most police seem to be; it’s one reason they are taught NOT to shoot to wound. They’re lucky if they hit the perp – handguns are very inaccurate at best, worse in an emotional situation.

      If you look at the whole set of facts and testimony, it’s clear it was a rage killing: Wilson was having a bad day, it just got worse because of his own stupidity (grabbing this huge kid through the car window – really, really dumb), so he lost it and unloaded on the kid – who was in the process of getting away. Footnote: He was a reject from another town; that’s how Ferguson staffed their police force – a really good reason to fire the chief.

      1. FrY10cK

        If a cop has a bad day, and you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, you can be beaten and charged with destruction of police property (your blood on the officer’s uniform — it happened in Ferguson, MO IIRC) or murdered. There is nothing your family can do about it. The civilians who support Darren Wilson seem not to understand that it could be their family next.

  9. Ulysses

    “So, if I were in a situation where the economy was shattered, foreclosures were rife, the police and the courts had turned into a shakedown operation, and then those same police whacked a friend of mine and left his body in the street to rot in the sun, and then the courts gave the perp every break I’d never been given, and then a ginormous military force parachuted in to enforce “calm” and prevent “violence,” I’d be ticked.”

    Excellent, pithy summary of the situation! The sad reality is that there are thousands of similar situations across the nation, from South Providence, RI to Oakland, CA and everywhere in between. I think the absurd security state over-reaction to the highly justified, and mostly peaceful protests is indeed, as Tarheel Dem points out: “a contingency planning training exercise and a deterrent shot across the bow to any large nonviolent protest movements to confine themselves to the current corrupt, ineffective, and manipulated electoral process.”

    People may well be deterred from taking to the streets in the short term by tanks and rubber bullets, but the elites who deploy this repressive apparatus are making a grave mistake. They are throwing away any chance of maintaining the fiction that their rule is legitimate, and exposing themselves as mere thugs with too much money and power.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      “taking to the streets” has worked when? And worked for what? I’m not against the sincerity of the impulse, but outcomes matter just as much as they do with the f*cking Democrats. What’s the outcome?

      1. Oregoncharles

        Los Angeles (Rodney King) and Oakland (Oscar Grant ). In both cases, “taking to the streets” on a large scale got a real trial in which the perpetrator cops were convicted. As far as I know, they’re essentially the ONLY cases where on-duty abuse or murder by cops were punished – short of some serial rapists and burglars.

        Then there’s Ferguson itself: the grand jury was called AFTER the riots. Not much, probably a coverup, as you indicated, but at least a gesture, and more than they usually get in these cases (grand juries have been used for coverups in Portland, OR, too – when there was an outcry).
        Otherwise, the impunity is total. He’s right – they’re begging for vigilante retaliation, and there are now at least three cases. (Doerner, Frein, and now a guy in Florida). All of them are inarticulate (well, Doerner made a case for himself) politically, but that’s what you’d expect initially. I think this situation is going south in a hurry.

        So do the authorities; that’s why they’re “practicing.”

        My previous post is gone; I’m hoping it wasn’t blocked by the moderator. In this case, I’m answering a direct question.

          1. Oregoncharles

            They’re primarily a measure of how deep the impunity is and what drastic actions it takes to break it. Until we put effective restraints on the police, with real consequences, the situation on the streets will continue to go south. I really wonder what’s happening in St. Louis right now.

            The parallel to the impunity of the financial predators is exact and illuminating.

            You asked for examples, and I provided some. they aren’t GOOD examples, but there they are.

  10. wayne in ec

    Info from MarketWatch’s David Weidner in “Ferguson and money — where did all the banks go?”:

    Ferguson has three banks and six payday lenders
    St. Louis, at 9.7%, ranks among the highest metro areas for unbanked residents.
    A total of 29% of African-Americans in the community are unbanked, compared with only 3% for white residents.


  11. scraping_by

    On the one hand, Ferguson’s police chief has encouraged citizens to buy guns to protect themselves and their property. On the other, undercover cops vandalizing property as a pretext for mass arrests of protesters is the standard game plan. Put them together, and it’s not impossible undercover cops will end up getting shot.

    They could go the route of the Mexico City demonstrations, where published photographs show a squad of riot police protecting the man in the black coat setting fire to the doors of the National Palace. But that would be difficult to pour down the memory hole.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          I looked at the photo, and I’m not sure the circled guy is the same guy. It’s entirely plausible (“the first one to call for violence is always the cop”) but no more than that to me. More?

  12. fresno dan

    Best comment I have seen on the shooting of the 12 year old in Cleveland:

    Irish|11.23.14 @ 8:07PM|#
    ” ‘But if he did it, not being a cop, you wouldn’t have a problem with it. Self defense. Liberty. What the second amendment is for. You seem to think that cops should have less of a right to self defense than ordinary citizens, I think that’s bullshit.’

    I would absolutely have a problem with it because you shouldn’t open fire on a kid in a residential neighborhood unless you’re certain he’s some kind of threat.

    Moreover, someone would go to jail if he did this – unless he’s a police officer. The issue is that we actually hold cops to a lower standard than the general public when it should be the other way around.”

    When did it happen? The idea that if the police face any danger, they can shoot*….and no consequences. Was it the Diallo case???
    *even if the person shot is innocent, doesn’t have a gun, and you are looking for a black man and you shoot latina women…..

    “The post-shooting investigation found no weapons on Diallo’s body; the item he had pulled out of his jacket was not a gun, but a rectangular black wallet**. The internal NYPD investigation ruled the officers had acted within policy, based on what a reasonable police officer would have done in the same circumstances with the information they had”
    ** I have read the advice that if someone is holding you up, throw your wallet at them and run away

    I can understand the police writing the rules to completely and totally indemnify themselves against any accountability (you shoot dead a totally innocent person who has no gun… and of course, you all testify you identified yourselves as police – maybe if everyone is yelling at once, nobody can understand what your saying)

    But when did everyone else decide that the police can shoot innocent people with impunity?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Another moral of the story is never, ever call 911 if there’s the slightest chance of the cops whacking somebody. In this case, the caller told the 911 dispatcher that the gun was probably fake, but apparently the information didn’t get through. I subscribe to a “police shootings” news feed, and there is case after case of the cops being called in by 911to deal with people with mental issues, or even just angry and upset, and then the person getting shot. I don’t have any statistics, just the anecdotes, but still…

  13. Oregoncharles

    ” but also perhaps for practice.”
    Yes, exactly what I’m afraid of. The thought creeps me out.

    The basic reality the people of St. Louis Cty. are up against: the historical record at this point is very clear; if blacks want justice of any degree for a police shooting, there has to be a riot, and a fairly impressive one. First Los Angeles, then Oakland (Oscar Grant), then Ferguson itself: burn the Quik Trip, get (at least) a grand jury proceeding. Almost certainly a cover-up, but a little better than nothing. If I’m aware of this history, then directly-affected blacks certainly are – and so are the Gestapo. Police impunity is just that deep. It’s a very expensive way to get justice, and not one I’m at all happy about, but that’s the record.

    Just as important: it isn’t just about race. Race is a big exacerbating factor, but the cops abuse and kill white people, too, just not as often (there was a flagrant case in Illinois recently – no riot, so no justice – and there’ve been some in Portland and Eugene in very blue Oregon, too). It’s really important that we not leave blacks hanging out there by themselves, if only because the Gestapo will come for us next. And that’s what that throwaway line of Lambert’s is about.

    Of course, there’s also Ka-ching, but in this case I think it’s a bonus; this one is about power.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I think “justice for a police shooting” is much too small a scope. After all, if the City of Ferguson is, basically, an extortion racket where fees and fines make up the budget, and that’s unchanged, what’s the point? Even police cameras, though a good idea, don’t address that. So, “a clean bust.” It’s still extortion!

  14. Jim

    Can anything be learned about organizing strategy from the urban uprisings which have taken place between 1965 and the present.

    With increasingly massive displays of police force any strategy which simply relies on street demonstrations and marches without being able to protect its organized citizens who are marching as well as their property seems futile and ultimately counter-productive (high-risk of violence, arrest, beatings and death by the National Security State (along with political defeat and psychological demoralization).

    Perhaps there is a partial analogy to the historical situation Polish citizens faced between 1945 and 1976, when attempting to take on the Polish authoritarian police state. Back then collective action tended to appear almost choreographed. Some outrage would occur (as in Poznan in 1970) and citizens would take to the streets usually deciding to march on local communist party headquarters, such buildings would eventually go up in flames, then government troops would end up firing into crowds killing many people, than mass rioting and prolonged street battles, then armored troops and tanks and more deaths followed by political defeat, increased hatred of authorities and permanent alienation.

    Out of such a cauldron of death and destruction as well as 30 years of political defeat Solidarity by 1980, was able to come up with a successful organizing strategy which largely protected its citizen-activists and created enough leverage to force the national authorities into real negotiations.

    We now live in our own emerging Police State and the organizing strategy of Solidarity should be closely examined for possible application to particular urban regions like the St. Louis/Ferguson area.

    1. Nathanael

      It’s probably also worth looking at the fairly successful 19th century movements. They built parallel governments — there’s no other way to describe the organizations. There’s probably some similarity to how Solidarity organized.

  15. Bill Frank

    The words were meaningless, pointless and even insulting. The press conference before the Grand Jury decision, the prosecutor’s carefully scripted report and Obama’s plea for peaceful protest wrapped around the “rule of law” reminder. Fewer and fewer people are buying it. The injustices are too obvious and ever growing. Soon, as more people discover first hand the true magnitude of American injustice, violence will explode. When people believe and experience gross injustice, they will resort to violence. Non-violence can not be guaranteed when peaceful options like the “rule of law” are considered nothing more than a waste of time. Is violence justified? Perhaps the answer warrants more consideration than the automatic, reflex-like “no.” In any event, violence will come when anger surpasses fear. It’s only a matter of time.

    1. Nathanael

      And then, a bit later, people who want the rule of law are going to start making their own legal system.

      That’s when things really start to change.

  16. bob

    I’ve read through quite a bit of the testimony already. Most interesting was the dr the family brought in-


    The da’s, through the entire case, try trying to make a case that the guy who got shot posed a threat, in theory.

    page 75, line 11 where the da makes a theoretical case that a man who was shot 4 times, once in the face, hand, arm and chest could still pose a risk to the officer.

    This poor victimized officer! No bill? No surprise. The whole case was put forward in the officers interest. Justice!

    Wait, who got shot?

    All the docs, no picutres…but lots of testimony, and lots of da’s putting on a case for a no-bill. “we’re going to put it in front of a grand jury, and argue for the guy who did the shooting, in theory…”

    Who speaks for the guy who got shot? Not the DA. Right after accusing the guy who got shot 4 times of charging an officer, the da goes onto ask about toxicology. Marijunana! The DA then goes onto impeach the expert witness about a subject that she brought up.

    Then why bring it up?


    Complete fucking joke of “justice”.

  17. Malmo

    I hope the economic side of this blog is more accurate than the tangential stuff you write on here than the wholly unrelated tangential material pontificated on ad nauseum. Grow up and accept that you were wrong and the grand jury was right BASED ON ALL THE EVIDENCE, not the speculative BS you’ve fronted here the past few months. Christ, show a little humility.

    1. bob

      What evidence? Read through the transcripts, there wasn’t much.

      One unarmed walking guy was shot by an armed cop patrolling in a car.

      All is right with the world! Evidence proves it! Humility be damned!

    2. abynormal

      In fact, for all kinds of offenses – and, for no offenses – from murders to misdemeanors, men and women are put to death without judge or jury; so that, although the political excuse was no longer necessary, the wholesale murder of human beings went on just the same.
      Ida B. Wells

      1. James

        Amazing ain’t? Given Christianity, the Ten Commandments and all that. But you know what, it’s time to move along now, no story here. Just another uppity street kid that needed some good old fashioned street justice to put him in his place. He got his and rest assured we’ll get yours too if we persist with this kind of thing. The authorities have decided and that’s that. And in the end Michael Brown probably had a fairly quick and relatively pain-free death, which is about as good as most of us can hope for these days.

    3. Binky Bear

      A few blocks from home, Brown and Johnson are walking in the middle of the road. This is when Officer Darren Wilson pulls up — and when Johnson and Wilson’s accounts begin to both converge and diverge.

      As Wilson tells the story, he was extremely, unfailingly polite — more befuddled than anything else by these two young black men who seem to have forgotten to use the sidewalk. “Hey guys, why don’t you walk on the sidewalk,” he remembers saying. That’s not how Johnson tells it.

      “He said ‘Get the F on the sidewalk!'” Johnson tells the grand jury. Either way, on this next point, Johnson and Wilson agree. It’s Johnson who replies and says they’re just a minute from their homes, and they’ll be off the street shortly.

      “We continued to walk and have our conversation,” Johnson tells the grand jury, “but almost a split second [later], we heard the tires screech, and the officer, he pulled back in the truck very fast at an angle [where] if we didn’t hear his tires screech, the back of his cruiser would have struck one of us.”
      Wilson had almost hit him with a truck. Brown is pissed. And so is Wilson. Brown says something and then Wilson hits him with the door of his cruiser. “He thrust his door open real hard,” says Johnson. “We was so close to the door that it hit mostly Big Mike, but it hit me on my left side and closed back on him, like real fast. Just the same speed, boom, boom, that fast.”
      Johnson says Wilson slammed the door into Brown and then “his arm came out the window, and that’s the first initial contact that they had. The officer grabbed, he grabbed ahold of Big Mike’s shirt around the neck area.”
      Johnson described a tug-of-war, where Brown has “one hand on top of the cruiser and the other hand more right up under the window, the side mirror. He’s trying to pull off the officer’s grip.” Wilson is trying to pull Brown in, Brown is trying to escape.
      While the officer is grabbing ahold of Big Mike, he kind loses grip around his neck, that’s how I knew he had a good grip. He never fully let Big Mike go, now he has a good grasp on his shirt. So now Big Mike’s able to turn different angles while he is trying to pull away. And at a point he turned, now we are face-to-face, and he put his hands like, grab these, Bro. And in shock, I’m so not unconsciously, my hands open to where he could put the rillos in my hand.
      “In order for Big Mike to have touched the gun, it is almost like his whole top half of his body had to be inside the vehicle and that never happened,” Johnson says. It’s a pretty specific objection: he doesn’t just say Brown never went for the gun, but that he was never so deeply embedded in the car that he could have gone for the gun. Johnson’s whole memory of the fight is Wilson trying to pull Brown towards the vehicle and Brown trying to get away.
      (Johnson) says Brown had already been shot and was running away. He says Brown stopped running after the second shot. He says Brown turned and yelled, “I don’t have a gun,” and took a kind of half step towards Wilson. And then he began to say something else, and since this is the crucial, terrible moment in the testimony, I’ll let him tell it:
      The second statement he was starting to say I, you know, he couldn’t get the full sentence out before the rest of the shots hit his body. And I stood and watched face-to-face as every shot was fired and as his body went down and his body never — his body kind of just went down and fell, you know, like a step, you know what I’m saying? Like a step, his body just kind of collapsed down and he just fell.

      Not the Hulk. Not a demon. An unarmed teenage boy shot to death in the street for nothing with no justice for the shooter.


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