You are invited to join us at the National March on Ferguson, on Saturday, August 30, 2014. The Justice for Michael Brown Leadership Coalition will begin the march at 10 am at “Ground Zero,” the corner of W. Florissant Ave. and Canfield Dr. (63135). This site of ongoing activity is a block from where policeman Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown by pumping six bullets into him as he held his hands up saying: “Don’t shoot!”
Ever since thousands of people gathered at the site of the murder, the power elite and corporate press in St. Louis have tried every tactic they can think of to get people to go home and be quiet. They brought in armored vehicles and armies of cops loaded with weapons pointed at demonstrators. This infuriated local residents and the order went out to get rid of armored vehicles and scale down the number of police.
During the most intense looting and burning, protestors tried to stop anyone from breaking into stores. Dozens of observers reported police standing by and watching. Had they received orders not to intervene in order to justify increased repression?
Governor Jay Nixon took control away from local authorities and put black Highway Patrolman Ron Johnson in charge. He imposed a curfew. Then he lifted the curfew. The National Guard was brought in. Then the Guard’s role was reduced to only protecting police headquarters.
It looked like a tremendous tug-of-war between elites who wanted to squelch the anger of black youth but disagreed on how best to do it. Simple-minded elites could only imagine brute force. But their more sophisticated kinsmen imagined various strategies of creating the appearance of less police violence today in order to prepare for more repression tomorrow. Central to their strategy has been demonizing protestors.
In recent days, St. Louis press has been parroting the police claim that the biggest problem is “outside agitators.” “Outside agitators” is the identical phrase used by racists during protests of the 1950s and 60s that led to Civil Rights legislation. Now, as 60 years ago, white power elites suggest that people would be happy if others would not “stir them up.”
There are others with memories of those historic days of civil rights demonstrations and cops feeling free to attack with clubs and dogs. Less than four days after the murder, “[t]he South Carolina-based New Empire Knights of the Ku Klux Klan” said that its Missouri chapter was raising money for the cop who killed Michael Brown, even though the Ferguson Police Chief was still refusing to release his name.
On August 13, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that the Klan announced that it was “setting up a reward/fund for the police officer who shot this thug. . . . He is a hero!” The Klan justified its plans: “We know that Michael Brown was nothing more than a punk.”
Soon after Darren Wilson was identified as the cop who killed Brown, those who supported Wilson appeared on the streets of St. Louis (in the far south, almost completely white neighborhood around Chippewa and Hampton). After they had been there for several days, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (August 24, 2014, p. A5) ran a full-page ad by the National Association of Police Organizations expressing “a deep and profound concern for Police Officer Darren Wilson.” Several TV stations reported that, by that day, the pro-Wilson group had raised over $300,000 for him.
The way corporate media has reported the pro-Brown and pro-Wilson demonstrations has been as different as black and white. Day after day, St. Louis media has blared out how many of those arrested for supporting Michael Brown are from Chicago, New York, or Texas, as if coming to St. Louis is a heinous crime. TV stations feature Police Chiefs bellowing that this proves that action in Ferguson is due to “outside agitators.”
Yet, as local media cover the pro-Wilson pickets, not one reporter asks the question of how many are from out of town. No reports ask where their money is coming from. There is not a single story addressing whether there is a connection between the KKK and those raising money for the cop who killed an unarmed black man.
Everyone who has been attacked or mistreated by police anywhere should meet us in St. Louis. We are all part of the same struggle to end police brutality. This includes victims of racial profiling (whether black, brown, yellow, or red), victims of police sexual harassment, anti-war protestors, environmental activists, civil rights demonstrators, and Occupiers.
Darren Wilson is currently on paid leave from the Ferguson Police Department. The August 30 march will demand that he be immediately fired.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon should immediately remove St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch. McCulloch has a track record of extreme bias against prosecuting police who shoot black victims. He drags out judicial processes so that nothing is done. McCulloch’s current plan to turn the case over to a grand jury instead of charging Wilson with murder is a common tactic to ensure that cops who kill blacks walk free.
When police are encouraged to harass blacks on a daily basis, the stage is set for them to believe that they can get away with murder. Therefore, the Coalition is asking US Attorney General Eric Holder and Missouri State Attorney General Chris Koster to investigate practices of municipalities throughout Missouri who have a history of racial profiling. There must be penalties for municipalities that show racist patterns of arrest.
Currently, many Missouri municipalities generate money by profiling blacks for traffic stops and fines. Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich must audit funds of municipalities to find out which have a history of racial profiling.
The death of Michael Brown is largely due to the institutional racism of the City of Ferguson. Ferguson Mayor James Knowles and Police Chief Thomas Jackson must immediately resign from their positions, and, if they refuse, the people of Ferguson should recall the Mayor.
The Justice for Michael Brown Leadership Coalition is growing. As of now, it includes the Universal African Peoples Organization, Tauheed Youth Group, Nation of Islam, Organization for Black Struggle, Black Lawyers for Justice, St. Louis Urban League, Better Family Life, St. Louis City NAACP, St. Louis County NAACP, MOKAN, Missouri Green Party, New Black Panther Party, St. Louis Stop the Killing Initiative, Attorney Jerryl Christmas, Rev. Spencer Lamar Booker, Ferguson Committeewoman Patricia Payne, Greendale Alderman Robert Ringo, and Missouri State Senators Jamilah Nasheed and Maria Nicole Chappelle-Nadal.
This is very short notice for the August 30 demonstration — but tactics of government and police repression are changing daily and it is vital to build a broad movement of opposition to ongoing killings by police. While we welcome everyone, those coming to Ferguson need to be “self-sufficient,” which means having a place to stay in the St. Louis area. Organizers are already stretched thin and cannot provide housing.
Don Fitz is the Missouri Green Party representative on the Justice for Michael Brown Leadership Coalition. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.