Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ferguson Calm?


I was up in Santa Fe, away from the "news" much of yesterday and last night, but the signs were that things had calmed down in Ferguson, and there was little or no police violence for once. It's only been eleven days since Michael Brown was shot down in the street by a Ferguson policeman, and there were only 10 days of "unrest."

I wish I could say that they were 10 days that shook the world, but despite the outrage and the continued police violence against the people of Ferguson, it doesn't look like anything has changed or will change soon.

That's not the way this game is played -- and I really hate to say it, but it is a game.

Black folk get arrested, jailed and killed in the streets disproportionately to their numbers in society, vastly disproportionately, and it's been this way for many a long year. It is my view that the current and continuing War on Blacks was part of the trade off for the passage and enforcement of Civil Rights legislation. De jure segregation would end, but the pressures on African Americans in general and their communities specifically would increase. Their men would be sent to jail and/or killed, families destroyed, communities uprooted and their economies broken. But there would be no legal separation of the races any more, no legal racial discrimination allowed.

It's a trade off that has allowed a black middle class to emerge and grow, so there is that. Opportunities for blacks are greater than they once were, but the counter-pressure is relentless, and the killing goes on and on and on.

Police, as we see, are on a hair-trigger, particularly in black communities, and they will harass, arrest,  and shoot to kill on any provocation or none at all, and if the people in these communities resist and rebel -- as they've done in Ferguson -- the entire weight of the police state will come down on them hard, fast, and viciously.

They got the dogs out in Ferguson the very afternoon that Michael Brown was murdered. While his body lay broiling in the sun for hour after hour and people gathered at the police tape to complain and shout and cry and commiserate with one another, the police in St. Louis County arrived with dogs and assault weapons at the ready to suppress any rebellion that might arise while they went about their police business at a rather languid pace. The Nigras would be kept in line.

Later that night, the police (St. Louis County again) came back with their dogs and assault rifles at the ready when the community murmured and said, "This ain't right." There was great upset, but there was no riot, not yet at any rate.

A march and demonstration took place the next day and into the night, and it was met with growing force by the police, but strangely, the looting that night was practically unopposed by the authorities. They used their force against the marches and demonstrations, not the looters. How strange.

This happened again and again, with ever greater displays of firepower against loud but unarmed and peaceful marches and demonstrations, and no action at all against the those who looted and destroyed. Nothing.

This was obviously not right. Authority was sputtering and flailing out of control -- or was this the plan?

Conspiracy theory has abounded in the face of continuing repression, revolt, and wildly inappropriate police conduct during the circus and crisis in Ferguson. The militarized response to a popular outcry against police brutality and murder looks very much like a chaotic implementation of previously planned actions should there be an outbreak of civil unrest.

We saw an inkling of it in Albuquerque in response to the unwarranted killing of James Boyd in March, and before that we saw many similar police actions against popular protests throughout the suppression of Occupy.

These are practiced maneuvers; they are not spontaneous police responses to civil unrest. In fact, the police actiona provoke unrest and rebellion which is then suppressed with ever greater levels of fury, brutality and blank-faced cruelty. Many observers have pointed out that this is "Israeli" practice and that many police forces are trained by Israeli advisers on these very tactics. If I get around to it, I'll put up some links, but it's easy enough to find the information on the Google Machine.

Last night, apparently, there was very little unrest. Much of the militarized hardware that had been on display night after night and all of the tear-gas and grenades that had been used repeatedly against peaceful protests were held in reserve; I saw a report that indicated there was only one instance of "snatch and grab" by police and it seemed to be in response to a fight among the people, not a simply arbitrary power action as was witnessed repeatedly on Tuesday night when approximately 40 people were grabbed from the crowd seemingly at random.

What calmed things down last night? Several factors may have played a part. For one thing, the crowds were reported to be smaller than on previous nights. There was a thunderstorm which interfered with the demonstrations for a time. Many people were exhausted and they stayed home. The police, according to reports I've seen about last night, did not provoke the crowd with displays or use of force, they did not use gas and grenades and armored personnel carriers. There were few or no police on the streets in riot gear or military camouflage, and so far as I'm aware, no one had an assault rifle pointed at them with threats to kill shouted from some roided up freak like happened the night before.

It made an obvious and apparently surprising difference.

But only surprising if this has all been a trial of tactics of suppression.

Some observers seem to think that even the killing of Michael Brown itself was part of a plan of suppression. Get the community roiled up over yet another killing of a black man, and see what happens. Test out tactics, debrief, try something else, see what gets people into a fury, see how the police handle it, debrief again, and so on.

Social manipulation on a grand scale.

The people of Ferguson are the pawns in this game.

Provocation was part of the military practice in Iraq as well; the troops would try to provoke an armed response to their presence and actions, and thus they believed they would be able to identify and suppress rebels and contain revolt against the occupation. It didn't work. There were unanticipated consequences including increasing casualties among military and civilians, ultimately turning into a still-raging civil war which has resulted in the destruction of a nation and society.

The Powers That Be seem wedded to this doctrine and practice of provocation though, and so we saw it again and again in Ferguson.

And then, last night, for the first time in a long time, we didn't.

Calm, though? Has civic calm been restored? If past experience is any guide, the answer is no. What's happened is a prelude. Civic authority has been almost completely discredited in Ferguson, and that discredit has extended far beyond it to include the County of St. Louis, and many of the localities that sent police-troops to suppress the "riots" in Ferguson. Actually, the police were rioting, but that's something the PTB like to ignore.

Civic authorities in Ferguson cannot restore their authority under the circumstances, and so something that more or less parallels the established civil authority will be established in the community. People will run their own affairs and will do their best to ignore the city authorities, and they will probably figure out ways to passively defy them too. The stories of what amount to extortion of the people of Ferguson by the city and the courts are legion, and defiance of that extortion is liable to be one of the first areas of defense.

Something like this has happened in a number of cities I can think of, including Detroit and Oakland.

There was a stark murder by police of a black man in St Louis a couple of days ago that has not sparked more than muted outrage, but that killing may have a broader and more lasting effect than the killing of Michael Brown.

The man was shot down in the street in front of witnesses seconds after police arrived after being called due to shoplifting of some soda or cookies or what have you. Police claimed the man charged at them with a knife held in an "overhand grip", but video shows nothing like that happened. The video shows that the man did not obey immediately and was shot down within seconds -- for failure to obey. Nothing more. Well, perhaps there was more. Police appeared to be so terrified of a disobedient black man, they panicked and killed him because they were... scared.

James Boyd was shot and killed for failure to obey as well, but it took Albuquerque police hours to act rather than seconds as in St. Louis. They weren't afraid of Boyd, they simply had to execute him.

In Ferguson, it took at least a minute or two for Officer Darren Wilson to execute Michael Brown for failure to obey. And perhaps because he was too frightened to do anything else.

The militarized, brutal and cruel actions of the police against the people of Ferguson (as before in Albuquerque, and before that in dozens of cities where Occupy had been) was also a response to failure to obey.

And fear. And most especially cowardice. Many are beginning to point to the utter cowardice of police in these situations, so frightened and terrified of what might happen -- to them -- if they don't kill the suspect or dehumanized object of their fear, that they can think of nothing else. It is cowardice so often, though. To assume the worst of everyone, to fear black and brown men especially, to respond inappropriately over and over again, to commit summary execution routinely, all of this brings dishonor and discredit to the police and to those who enable and encourage this behavior.

It has to stop.

What it will take to stop it is yet to be discovered, but more and more Americans are seeking the answer.

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