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Vol. 78/No. 32      September 15, 2014

‘Now the world knows about
our experiences in Ferguson’
FERGUSON, Mo. — The outpouring of protests chanting “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” following the Aug. 9 killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson — especially the determination and discipline of the vast majority of working people involved — has won support nationwide and put government officials from Ferguson to Washington, D.C., on the defensive.

“The importance of what is happening here is that now the world knows about our experiences,” Carmelita Williams told the Militant Aug. 24 at the memorial erected in the middle of Canfield Drive, a block from West Florissant Avenue where Brown was shot dead.

“We’ve maintained our numbers in the face of violations of our rights — that we cannot assemble, that we cannot huddle, that we have to keep walking,” she said.

On Aug. 20 President Barack Obama sent Attorney General Eric Holder to St. Louis to “help determine exactly what happened and to see that justice is done.” His visit came two days after Gov. Jay Nixon deployed the National Guard to Ferguson to protect the police command center there.

The day before two St. Louis police officers emptied their weapons on 25-year-old African-American Kajieme Powell, a suspected shoplifter who reportedly was brandishing a knife and yelling “shoot me.” They killed him less than four miles from where Brown was shot.

Holder’s visit took place in the midst of proposals from government officials for police reforms in several predominantly African-American working-class St. Louis County suburbs.

“This may have started out with the death of Michael Brown, but it’s about something much larger than that. It’s not only Ferguson or St. Louis County and it’s not Black versus white,” said Christopher Jones, an African-American musician and spokesperson for the Prophecy Gospel Singers, who have visited the memorial daily.

“Every time the cops gun somebody down they use the ‘fear of life’ excuse,” he said. “But what constitutes fear of life is at the officer’s discretion. That’s the problem.”

Nixon said Aug. 21 that the National Guard would begin withdrawing from Ferguson. A day later St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar announced the suspension of two cops, who had been assigned to crowd control in Ferguson.

Glendale cop Matthew Pappert was suspended for posting on Facebook that he thought protesters should be “put down like rabid dogs.” St. Louis County cop Dan Page was suspended for comments made in a two-year-old YouTube video where he said, “I’m into diversity. I kill everybody, I don’t care.”

“Really these cops should be fired. Suspension is not enough. But even that wouldn’t have happened if not for what’s been going on,” Demetrius Luckett, 26, a landscaper and daily participant in the protests, told the Militant Aug. 24 outside his parents’ home about three miles from Canfield. Pappert was fired a few days later.

“This was bound to happen here,” Luckett said. “Ten years ago seven of us were at a friend’s house a couple of blocks away and we were making a little noise. The cops rolled up and said somebody had complained. Instead of telling us to quiet down, they made us lie face down on the ground. They started choking one of us and released the dogs on us. Then they made us crawl around the yard.”

Michael Brown was laid to rest Aug. 25. His funeral at the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis was attended by close to 6,000 people.

On Aug. 27 Nixon nominated former St. Louis Police Chief Daniel Isom II, who is Black, to become the state’s top law enforcement official in an effort to mollify distrust in the cops and the capitalist “justice” system.

The following day, Ray Albers, a St. Ann police officer who had been serving on the streets of Ferguson, resigned. At an Aug. 19 protest Albers had pointed his rifle at a Ferguson protester during a heated verbal exchange, an episode that was captured on video and widely circulated on social media. St. Ann Police Chief Aaron Jimenez said Albers, a 20-year veteran of the force, quit on the recommendation of the municipality’s Police Board of Commissioners.

“What happened to Mike was wrong,” Devin Stone, a machinist who recently worked in a refinery near Ferguson but is now unemployed, told the Militant. “I knew him from the neighborhood. We used to play ball together. People need to say something. We can’t get anything done standing around.”

Laura Anderson and Arlene Rubinstein contributed to this article.
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