To hear the news reports or listen to Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri yesterday, you’d think the protesters of Ferguson were bent on looting and destruction, and that a midnight curfew and police were needed to protect the people.
But last night at 12:30 a.m., the dozens of police who amassed on the street to enforce a midnight curfew launched a brutal attack on 75 protesters peacefully standing their ground to demonstrate. First, the police fired multiple tear gas canisters into the middle of the crowd, and dense clouds filled the air.
Next came a fire of rubber bullets, sending those of us in the line of fire to crouch to the ground to avoid getting hit. Several were wounded, one man critical in circumstances still not clear.
The riot came from the cops, not the people.
What is stunning to witness in just our first 24 hours in Ferguson is the enormous amount of resources being employed by the city, county, state and federal governments to protect Darren Wilson, the cop who attacked and gunned down 18-year-old Mike Brown on Aug. 9.
Last night, in just the first night of curfew, several police forces were deployed—city, county and state—free to wage an attack on anyone remaining outside. Multiply that cost by each night the curfew is to be enforced.
There are a reported 40-plus FBI agents swooping down on the community, as one police official announced yesterday, to go door-to-door in the neighborhood where Brown was gunned down.
Why is the FBI needed to investigate a crime that several people witnessed and clearly described as cold-blooded murder?
It is the same notorious federal police that created and waged the Cointelpro war on Black organizations and leaders in the 1960s and 1970s. The FBI will make their target the growing resistance of the Black community of Ferguson.
No Justice, No Peace
Ask anyone in the community what will bring peace, and they will tell you: Indict Darren Wilson for the murder of Mike Brown.
Instead, officials have gone to extreme lengths to protect Wilson.
Early Saturday afternoon, Governor Jay Nixon held a press conference at the Greater St. Marks Family Church, covered by dozens of local and international media.
Instead of prosecuting the police, he ordered a state of emergency and curfew of 12 midnight to 5 a.m., to be imposed immediately and indefinitely.
Nixon said, “We will not allow a handful of looters to endanger the rest of this community.” He of course had nothing to say about the danger Black youth face from the police. The night before, the television repeated over and over the scene of one person carrying out a handful of goods from a beauty-supply shop.
A number of people in the press conference audience shouted for Wilson’s indictment.
After the conference, outside the church and down the streets of Ferguson, those who heard of the curfew expressed indignation. One man said: “I am a grown man. I don’t need anyone telling me to stay inside my home.” Some did not know of the curfew.
The curfew announcement evoked an amazingly rapid and impressive response.
For several hours in the early evening, hundreds of youth and older adults came into the streets, holding creative homemade signs along West Florissant Avenue, chanting the now universal, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.”
Hundreds of cars and trucks drove up and down the avenue, filled with people of all ages, honking horns, denouncing the curfew.
The mood was buoyant, the community united, proud and strong.
One sign stood out, written entirely with fingernail polish, held by a young girl: “If it had not been for a great noise out of St. Louis the world would still be sleeping.”
Then, amidst a heavy downpour in the night, some 200 protesters continued to march up and down Florissant Avenue, as the police were transported in, with shields, handcuffs, long nightsticks and weapons. Despite the urgent call by some community activists for everyone to go home before 12, many courageous youth stood in the street, refusing to leave. As the tear gas canisters landed, some youth picked them up and lobbed them back, in a scene reminiscent of Palestine.
There is a deep sentiment of anger that goes beyond the criminal murder of Mike Brown. It is the deep-seated racism where Black youth are picked up for being Black, in a town similar to others surrounding St. Louis. They are enclaves that are majority Black but whose ruling circles and police are almost entirely white.
Young Mike Brown’s murder is the final straw. It is reverberating in the African American community throughout the United States and has the solidarity of many other people.
Adding insult to injury
The so-called investigation into Mike Brown’s murder quickly turned into a condemnation of the young man, with a video that supposedly showed him shoplifting cigars, aired multiple times on national and local television. It was accompanied by a 19-page report on the alleged act, including its description as a “strong-arm robbery.”
It was timed for the announcement of the identity of the police who gunned down Mike Brown, Darren Wilson. Oh, and by the way, the police said, Wilson is suffering from a bruised face because of the supposed confrontation with Brown.
It is these daily outrages in a week’s time that has deepened the anger and resolve for justice.
The people of Ferguson have stood up to police terror and racism. They are a true symbol of resistance.
Gloria La Riva, Jamier Sale, Ana Santoyo and John Beacham, representing the ANSWER Coalition, are in Ferguson, participating in actions in solidarity with the community. La Riva and Sale were in the Saturday protests, including during the curfew. Their dramatic video footage will be online soon.
Gloria La Riva is a national leader of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. She is a long-time labor and community activist in San Francisco. La Riva is a frequent contributor to Liberation News, writing on Cuba and Latin America, racism and national oppression, and labor struggles.