Wednesday, August 20, 2014

"What We've Got Here Is Failure to Communicate"

Some men, you just can't reach.

I went to bed before the situation in Ferguson once again devolved into... something. I couldn't sleep though, so when I got up, I checked the news to see what might have happened overnight.

Turns out that the police rampaged right at the media scrum soon after midnight, breaking up a crowd that had gathered after prayers for Michael Brown and the people of Ferguson, chasing people -- mostly young men -- down the street, and arresting what turned out to be dozens of them. Later, Officer ("Magic") Johnson of the State Highway Patrol would claim that the police rampage was triggered by people throwing bottles at the police, including glass bottles and bottles of urine.


In the video below,  near the end -- scroll to around 39 minutes -- you can see a line of khaki clad police standing in the middle of the street on the left. To the right, there are white-shirted police in the middle of the street apparently chatting with demonstrators. More and more of the khaki clad police assemble and form a growing line. Suddenly, the police move back, and the crowd shows considerable agitation. Media people prepare for... something. At about 40:30 helicopter lights are seen sweeping the crowd and the police are seen gathering their equipment from their car trunks. The crowd is quite agitated by this time. The police are donning helmets. They form a line beside their cars on the opposite side of the street from the now quite disturbed crowd. The helicopter overhead continues to sweep the crowd with its lights. People are standing and waiting, taking pictures of the police, some are crossing the street through the police line. Anticipation and anxiety seem high, but nobody really knows what's going to happen. A long line of police cars is coming into the scene from the upper right.

Several helmeted officers advance with flashlights on and raised. There is a "click" of some sort, and the police rush the crowd at 41:43. People start running in fear. There is yelling and screaming. The police appear to be trying to apprehend particular individuals, but they create chaos in the crowd. Shortly the video ends, and later the video crew will say that when the video cuts out, it is because they lost their internet connection -- which seemed to affect all the media at the site simultaneously, at least according to reports they heard from others at the site at the time.

I've looked at this video several times, and I cannot see any thrown objects at all. There may be other video that does show these alleged bottles thrown at police, but I haven't seen it. I am aware, however, that police accounts of what has been happening, and their justifications for attacking the crowds, have not been accurate or truthful. They've been so filled with lies, it's been surreal.

Many of the police lies have been challenged, but they continue to pile up, and eventually I imagine observers and questioners will simply be worn down. The police seem to act arbitrarily or they appear to deliberately incite the crowd in order to elicit a response they can then use as justification for their assaults.

It's a continual pattern.

Last night, the crowds were intent and quite orderly as they have typically been. There weren't quite so many in the streets which may have made a difference in the mood of the police. The police largely kept out of the way and didn't interfere with the marches and rallies and prayer circles taking place, although they made several arrests -- for what, who knows?

The police rampage last night around midnight broke up and dispersed the demonstrators and media. Most people were already preparing to go home in any case.

It was all very strange. It wasn't as appallingly violent as previous night's dispersals, and there weren't the kinds of reports of horrors taking place after the media was gone, but it is disturbing to imagine what might have happened to cause media's general loss of internet connection just as the rampage got under way right in their midst. The dozens of people arrested appeared to be random captures, not people involved in throwing bottles -- which was the only disturbance reported by police from the crowd last night.

There are messages, many messages here. This has been true from the beginning of the crisis in Ferguson, and as those messages pile up, Americans can begin to get a picture of what is going on. It's not comforting.

The failure to communicate through official violence has apparently been ameliorated sufficiently for the police to randomize and minimize their assaults... "calibrating" I think they call it.

Last night we saw some variations on their previous violent suppression tactics and overall rather better treatment of the people of Ferguson and America who continue to demonstrate against the rampant police misconduct and overuse of force that led to the death of Michael Brown and the non-stop demonstrations ever since.

I'm not sure it's progress...

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