By now probably many (in the US anyway) are aware of the shooting of Michael Brown by police and ongoing protests and rioting (sample timeline
) in Ferguson, Missouri.
Brown was a Black youth reportedly shot on the street
as police investigated a robbery in a convenience store. According to the police, Brown was found to have no weapons on his person at the time he was shot. A friend also on the street who observed the shooting, and the police have given differing accounts about whether Brown was fleeing or turning, facing or not facing the police in the end and about what his posture was at that moment.
There has been over a week of protests against the use of lethal force with bursts of violence -- both civil unrest and an often militarized police response and later attempts to set a curfew. This is now about to be followed by deployment of the Missouri National Guard
(state-level, largely part-time citizen soldiers) in support of the police. Meanwhile, while the state process continues as I understand it, the federal government plans an additional federal autopsy on Brown and parallel (federal) criminal investigations of both Brown's death and
the police response in civil rights terms.
The string of events has again (see Rodney King, Trayvon Martin..) developed to highlight a disconnect that exists in many American cities between predominantly Black, generally poorer communities with little state investment, versus police forces that rarely patrol those communities so much as they very actively protect the property of wealthier districts and neighborhoods. And with Ferguson in particular, something of an extreme case perhaps of general trends: The Ferguson police force is not only somewhat to much better off financially than many in the immediately aggrieved Black community, and again perhaps drawn from a population that tends to live in separate neighborhoods
of the city, but it also happens to be a police force of almost no Blacks and vastly majority White. I expect these three items -- net wealth, separate homes, and race -- quite often go together to a noticeable degree, but they are reported to be especially pronounced in Ferguson.
While there is, I suppose (hopefully), still the possibility that a more cohesive bundle of evidence will be assembled on the particular situation of Brown's death... It's all very frustrating and trying that these explosive, racially thick situations seem to be just as inevitable and recurring in American history as say, increasing gaps between the middle and working class from the later 20th century on... Which are certainly not
only along ethnic lines, though that also does often overlap.
I also feel a deepening pathos and grinding cynicism about this week when Palestinians in Gaza, very recently themselves shelled by an American-sponsored occupying military to the tune of hundreds
of dead children, show up posting tear gas endurance advice
for Black protesters facing police equipped with surplus military vehicles
unloaded by the federal government to state police in the wake of the (umm, previous) Iraq conflict.
I am a world away from all this, except well... I will walk into the college classrooms in about a week, and I doubt a week will pass before the usual periodic questions running "Did you own a gun in the US? Have you ever fired a gun? Have you ever shot anyone?" come along with probably, some understandable added earnest. I could possibly make some allusion to the Chinese government's handling of the Uighur and Tibetan populations, but that does not change the fact that much of the world often sees America as both replete with quasi-military quantities (if not quality!) of weaponry starting from private households to local police on up, and
chronically locked in racial abuses. And you know, sitting in a country where almost no one
has a firearm in the home and most have been taught to insist
they are each oh so "normal" members of "common" society (for better and worse and despite some histories of serious differences, but still?)... That diagnosis seems to have quite a lot going for it. Of course there are serious exploitation problems here too. But there is a difference in those specific types of violence and division many of us here simply do not
need worry about day to day.
------------------------ A couple questions to bounce:
About using the military: I was rather young and busy at the time of the 1992 LA rioting. In that case, as I understand it
(I plead desire for quick idea here and consulted a Wiki right off
-- but hey, point me to something else manageable summary level if ya got it)... The federal government sent in not only some Guard but moreover the full-time military (some of them even Marines) and did it under federal command
. Does anyone have opinions about this case? Is deploying the National Guard and having them sent under state command, a good move? Would federal troops, a federal command structure, or more regular troops perhaps be better? Or if you like... Would you agree the troops are necessary?
Do you think the federal government (or some organization perhaps?) should be involved in some way that hasn't been discussed much in all the reporting? Has something perhaps been overlooked?
Again, I don't know enough of what happened in LA. I suppose it was a much larger urban area to manage? (Ferguson is population 32,000 or maybe somewhat less, seeing different numbers...) I am wondering though, how exactly the conflict petered out there. While I'm sure there are various reports somewhere online, I'd also be curious if people who were perhaps in the area have some take on it. What was done militarily -- or was that basically an occupation of troubled districts? -- and how long did it take to matter. Or was it more a matter of exhaustion, political settlements, or more. Again, even if the summary report is out there... What did it feel like to be there? Were things really settled?
Finally... If people will errm, "humor" me but I can't help asking. How does something like this go on for over a week, and nobody makes a thread about it? Is the Elliquiy demographic just so dramatically removed from the experiences of people in those neighborhoods? Have we perhaps gotten ourselves into some corner where people hold back from discussing it, based on how previous threads about race or armed conflict have played out (or maybe just how/how far they have/not been allowed to play out)? Or is this not acceptable summer Politics fare? Ahem. I know I've taken some time to get around to it myself, wondering if this would end sooner. And I know there have been a few police shootings of Black youths over the past couple years that have drawn a lot of media attention. But I'm still kinda surprised this one hasn't gathered visible interest here sooner.