Watch Police In Ferguson Force a Pregnant Woman To the Ground and Fire Tear Gas At Protesters

Since Saturday, the tragic shooting of unarmed teenager Mike Brown by police has turned into a story about looting and rioting and frightening black rage, and not about the brutal response of police to the fruits of their own brutality.

No, I’m not talking about the looters, some of whom were arrested, and most of whom, police say, were not even from Ferguson, Mo. The media has chosen to conflate their actions with the widespread anguish of the people of Ferguson, and those watching in the wider world, but as Brittney Cooper has said, these are the actions of an opportunistic few. Asking for their condemnation is like asking for a denunciation of the flies that gathered around Mike Brown’s body as it lay in the street for hours after his execution. It is beside the point, except to the extent that it gives people an excuse (that they didn’t even need) to ignore the very real causes and effects of the anguish in Ferguson.

By now, you’ve probably seen the videos of looting in Ferguson, and maybe you’ve noticed something missing in those scenes: the hundreds of police in riot gear and armored vehicles that could have prevented it. On Monday night, those police were still busy tear-gassing and shooting citizens indiscriminately:

“I was just trying to get to my sister’s house,” cried one 23-year-old, who lay sobbing on a lawn.

He said he was walking home when officers approached him and sprayed tear gas in his face and peppered him with rubber bullets.

“These m———— came out of the cut and sprayed me in the face like this is a f—– video game or something.” the man said.

Police also dragged six months-pregnant Mikiesha Wickerson from her car, guns drawn, maced her, forced her onto her stomach, and according to Wickerson, it was all for mouthing off:

YouTube Preview Image

Since police are always believed over black people (unless there’s video, and then only maybe), most media accounts of police force have toed the police line that their use of gas and rubber bullets has been in response to rocks thrown from the crowds, the same sort of rote justification they always use, right up there with “struggle for the gun.”

Last night, however, local Fox reporter Andy Banker seemed to have gotten the truth out of the cops before they had a chance to get their story straight. He reported that police began firing on demonstrators to disperse them, with no mention of objects being thrown, and even reported being gassed himself:

YouTube Preview Image

“You know, it’s dark, and they can see our cameras, but they can’t really tell whether we’re demonstrators, media, or whatever.”

Of course it’s possible, even likely, that rocks were thrown at some point, but it matters who shot first, it matters who did the shooting, and it matters what happened before that.

Mike Brown was shot down in the street, unarmed, on Saturday afternoon. As his body remained in the street for hours, anguished residents were met with overwhelming force, including tactical units and officers from 15 jurisdictions, who used police dogs to move the crowds. There were over a hundred police on hand to handle a crowd that reportedly numbered several hundred. You can debate whether such a show of force was necessary to protect public safety, but it certainly seems like the same sort of panicky reaction that leads to so many of these tragedies in the first place.

What isn’t really up for debate, though, is the complete absence of any effort to deal with the understandable anguish of Ferguson residents with anything other than force. For nearly 24 hours, there was absolutely no communication from police regarding the shooting, and even then, residents were treated to a seven-minute press conference at which the police chief laid out the cop’s version of the story. That’s it. With a community already in turmoil, expressing itself angrily but peacefully, no attempt was made to reach out to the public, to provide an outlet for communication. Only force. If all you get is a hammer, pretty soon everyone feels like a nail.

As if that weren’t bad enough, though, the police, while promising a “thorough investigation,” still had not, and still have not, interviewed Dorian Johnson, who was with Brown when he was shot. From the minute that police officer shot Brown down, to the minutes following that shooting, the lines could not have been drawn any more clearly.

More broadly, the relentless procession of events like these continues to clarify the lines that have been re-drawn, in the “post-racial” age of Obama, that make it possible for Mike Brown and Renisha McBride and Eric Garner, and the next black person who makes someone feel threatened because they exist, to be killed. Media outlets that focus on looting, and ignore the unmistakably brutal context in which this story exists, are making those lines bolder.

Update: President Obama issued the following statement at 4:33 pm, Tuesday afternoon (via email from The White House):

Statement by the President on the Passing of Michael Brown

The death of Michael Brown is heartbreaking, and Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family and his community at this very difficult time. As Attorney General Holder has indicated, the Department of Justice is investigating the situation along with local officials, and they will continue to direct resources to the case as needed. I know the events of the past few days have prompted strong passions, but as details unfold, I urge everyone in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country, to remember this young man through reflection and understanding. We should comfort each other and talk with one another in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds. Along with our prayers, that’s what Michael and his family, and our broader American community, deserve.

  • spiderbucket

    Who is the fool now ? The police were vindicated on every level this weekend.

  • SandmanFreddy

    Suuuuure you weren’t causing any problems LOL !

  • Demetrius Harris (Hulk)

    They should have Kent Stated the hooligans in the beginning. You knew they were going to destroy the community.

    • Sharrhan

      That’s a really disgusting and hatefully racist comment.

  • Aaron M. Litz

    Where are all the “anti-police state” whackos now? Where are the gangs of armed men traveling to Missouri to “protest” the police overstepping their bounds this time?

    Oh, it was just a black kid getting killed by the police for mouthing off. Nothing important or worth getting upset about, like a rich white person in a cowboy hat not wanting to pay money he owed to the government.

    By the way, this all kinda makes the Snowden crowd’s problems seem pretty petty, doesn’t it?

    • j hentai

      but that’s only ‘cos snowden’s crowd problems are petty.

  • Christopher Foxx

    If all you get is a hammer, pretty soon everyone feels like a nail.

    I think it’s more a “If all they are is uppity black folks, then I don’t have to actually try to deal with them” mindset. Less a “I’m using the tools I have available” than a “I don’t need to bother to find a better tool.”

  • Jason E

    Thank you for writing this piece, the media is spinning this away from the real story and it’s a goddamn shame! An injury to one is an injury to all. Americans need to stand together regardless of color or class.

  • brif

    why is renisha mcbride being compared to mike brown and Eric Garner? they were killed by police, she wasn’t. police brutality is completely different from a frightened homeowner.

    • tommychristopher

      Maybe you should read the link in that paragraph, or anything else I’ve written, before you comment.

      • brif

        i did. try again.

        • http://www.facebook.com/felonious.grammar Felonious Grammar

          And most white men are murdered by white men, that is completely irrelevant to the fact that black men are being murdered by whites and are routinely harassed by police officers and too often killed by them while they are unarmed and presenting no threat.

          • brif

            black men are being killed by other black men far more often than by police. hypocrites like tommy in his white liberal guilt can only bother to notice those deaths when they occur at the hands of white people.

          • http://www.facebook.com/felonious.grammar Felonious Grammar

            So what’s your point? When a black man is extrajudiciously executed by a cop we should ignore it? When it happens frequently, we should say, “Oh well. They kill each other, so what if the white police officers kill them too”?

          • brif

            I guess you can’t see the hypocrisy and racism in criticizing others for not comprehending the racial narrative tommy created while simultaneously determining that black men killed by the police are inherently more significant than black men killed by other black men.

          • Sharrhan

            The violence black men and women face IS a complex issue, but you, Brief (racist idiot) are not willing to look at the REAL context in which violence against black people has always been a shameful reality in America, from slavery to racial apartheid (which is still in effect), to economic and educational discrimination. No, you won’t look at that, because you are a hater, a person who blames the victims.

        • tommychristopher

          But your original question, you got the answer to that, right? I get that you don’t like me or my piece, I just wanna make sure you at least read it.

          • brif

            To your mind, the killings of virtually all black people at the hands of white people can fit into the same racial narrative that you’ve created. But hey, you’re making a living expressing contempt for those who clearly don’t get your narrative as well as dispelling your white liberal guilt, so more power to you.

    • http://vermillionbrain.blogspot.com/ Vermillion

      that make it possible for Mike Brown and Renisha McBride and Eric
      Garner, and the next black person who makes someone feel threatened
      because they exist, to be killed.

      I believe Tommy expressed his reasoning for connecting to Renisha McBride with this line. It wasn’t simply that she was shot and killed; she was killed trying to ask for help because the door she knocked on, unbeknownst to her, belonged to a trigger-happy paranoiac . And instead of trying to highlight that, the media seems more interested in stoking tat same paranoia in others.

      And as far as your other comments, yes it is a racial issue, and yes, Tommy is right to paint it as such. This country has had a gathering of self-admitted haters of the US government wielding near military grade weaponry facing down federal agents who simply trying to move some damn cows off public land, all because a millionaire rancher decided he wanted to be a deadbeat and not pay the money legally requested to keep said grazing lands available. We had similar heavily-armed yokels protesting children escaping crime and violence and threatening to shoot them in the face, while the leaders they voted for call these same children rapists and drug mules. We still have to deal with an entire movement whose goal is to bully and intimidate people into accepting that they want to carry heavy firearms on themselves at all times in public, because of a perceived threat that they might encounter, while figuratively spitting in the faces of people who are still recovering from great tragedy and whose only “crime” is working to prevent more. In all those cases, the perpetrators, the main instigators of all the conflict, the ones making the threats and wielding the arms to make good on them, were white. And nothing happened to them. Nobody touches them. They barely get a reprimand. They are free to continue their harassment, their intimidation, their terrorism.

      Here, in a town where people are exploding with rage over a senseless killing of an unarmed teenager by a police officer, the people involved still have not taken arms. They have not threatened to shoot children in the face. All they have done is declare that they want their voices heard, their rights defended. And the response? Mobilization of anti-riot teams. Excessive violence against the protestors, and reports of arrests and violence against bystanders and innocents. We have a pregnant woman being pulled out of her car and thrown down on the pavement because she dared to mouth off. Not threaten. not point a weapon, just saying some words. And the “perpetrators”, the ones whose actions demand such a swift and brutal response that the ones above didn’t? They are black.

      It shouldn’t be racial. It shouldn’t. Any child who dies is a loss to the human race, regardless of skin color. But the responses are chilling. If you are white, the authorities will give you your berth. You can literally carry firepower to rival their own, and the police can’t find anyway to stop you. But if you are black, don’t even say the wrong thing, because the hammer of God will fall upon you for it.

      But yeah, Tommy’s the only making this racial. He’s totally reading way too much into this.

      • YourMom

        You summed it up perfectly. Anyone want to place a bet on what the response would be if 4-5 black men showed up at Target wearing their guns? Anyone?

  • formerlywhatithink

    I just don’t understand the mindset that thought it was a good idea to meet people protesting the shooting of a teenager with even more heavily armed police. It’s like showing up to a house fire with a tank of kerosene.

    • mea_mark

      If you know you are guilty, which the police may know by now, your reaction is going to be to stir-up trouble so you can deflect attention. Everything about this looks like the cops blew it horribly and are doing everything they can to cover it up or distract attention away from it.

    • Steve Granger

      How ironic it is that the storm troopers are brought out in force to quell the anger of black people protesting the death of an unarmed youth and yet little if any response came with the Cliven Bundy militant crazies in Nevada. Think racism is once again confirmed in our society?

      • http://www.facebook.com/felonious.grammar Felonious Grammar

        It has always confirmed itself, it’s just rarely acknowledged in all its complexity and horror by the media and a whole lot of white people.