10 Things You Need to Know About Ferguson
... here we are in August of 2014, 10 years after I got back from Iraq, and the police agencies that have patrolled the streets of Ferguson, Missouri – until they were relieved of duty on Thursday amid public outrage over their heavy-handed tactics — have the kind of armor and weaponry that my men and I would have envied in the performance of our duties in an actual combat zone.
Let me repeat that: the police in Ferguson have better armor and weaponry than my men and I did in the middle of a war. And Ferguson isn’t alone — police departments across the US are armed for war.
The gear and weaponry worn by police officers in Ferguson aren’t just clothing and tools. They’re meant to accomplish certain tasks, and they will elicit certain responses from the people who encounter them. When my men and I donned our helmets and body armor, and carried our weapons out on patrol, we were at war. Our gear wasn’t just protective, it was meant to be downright unwelcoming. That was the point — it’s combat gear, not a costume you wear to look “tactical.”
For people in the news business, Twitter was initially viewed as one more way to promote and distribute content. But as the world has become an ever more complicated place — a collision of Ebola, war in Iraq, crisis in Ukraine and more — Twitter has become an early warning service for news organizations, a way to see into stories even when they don’t have significant reporting assets on the ground. And in a situation hostile to traditional reporting, the crowdsourced, phone-enabled network of information that Twitter provides has proved invaluable.
Police officials in Ferguson made it clear that they had no interest in accommodating news coverage. Officers in riot gear tear-gassed a crew from Al Jazeera working on a stand-up far from the action, then walked over and laid their equipment on the ground after they fled. Two reporters, Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post and Ryan Reilly of The Huffington Post, were arrested at a McDonald’s, perhaps for the crime of lurking with intent to order a cheeseburger. Antonio French, a Democratic alderman from St. Louis who had been documenting the protests and the security response nonstop on Twitter, was arrestedas well.
"To come out with that tape," Sharpton said, "is to assassinate his character after you've already taken his life. It's the epitome of an insult to people of this country."
He said the move is very similar to the actions of the NYPD, who released Garner's criminal record, which mostly consisted of petty crimes. And to add insult to injury, Pat Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said Garner did not die from a chokehold, despite video clearly showing the opposite, and a coroner's report to the contrary.
Garner died in July after a police officer arrested him for selling loose cigarettes. Officer Daniel Pantaleo, one of the cops who helped to take Garner down, applied the chokehold, which was recorded on a cellphone. Garner is heard saying, "I can't breathe" as the officer continues applying the illegal chokehold. Garner's death was ruled a homicide. Officer Pantaleo has not been charged in Garner's death.
Rev. Sharpton said Brown's family will join Garner's family Aug. 23 at a rally on Staten Island, in New York City.
In the eight days since Michael Brown, an eighteen-year-old, was killed by a police officer named Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, what began as an impromptu vigil evolved into a sustained protest; it is now beginning to look like a movement. The local QuikTrip, a gas station and convenience store that was looted and burned on the second night of the protests, has now been repurposed as the epicenter for gatherings and the exchange of information. The front of the lot bears an improvised graffiti sign identifying the area as the “QT People’s Park.” With the exception of a few stretches, such asThursday afternoon, when it was veiled in clouds of tear gas, protesters have been a constant presence in the lot. On Sunday afternoon the area was populated by members of local churches, black fraternity and sorority groups, Amnesty International, the Outcast Motorcycle Club, and twenty or so white supporters from the surrounding area. On the north side of the station, a group of volunteers with a mobile grill served free hot dogs and water, and a man stood on a crate, handing out bright yellow T-shirts with the logo of the National Action Network, the group led by Al Sharpton.