This post had been a long time coming, and in truth I was rendered unable to write anything coherently for a long while. I still really can’t, but NEEDS MUST and so here I am. I’ve also sprinkled lots of twitter hashtags around – you should check those out. First, a brief background on who I am and what I’ve done so you know where I’m coming from.
My parents marched with Dr. King. My siblings and I grew up in a household that taught us what civil disobedience was and is, and why it was necessary at times to engage in activism. I learned about boycotts. I remember as a kid old going to a rally that was protesting the South African Krugerrand. When I was 15 or 16 I got arrested at Cal Berkeley for “obstruction of a public walkway” while I was participating in a sit-in urging the University to divest from South African interests. My folks took me out to dinner to celebrate my activism that night after I got released from the campus jail.
In college I stopped many of my fellow students from being unnecessarily arrested when they decided to protest – too little, too late, not organized – on the eve of the first Iraq war. I’d already known from experience that you need to have a plan, and most of them were, unlike myself, already 18 and getting an arrest on their adult record was not a good idea. Especially for something that was a done deal, and they were jumping into the fray without any knowledge or anyone to help them through the arrest and release process.
I marched in Los Angeles with hundreds of thousands of people in similar marches around the nation to protest us getting into the second Iraq war. I had been organizing a group of spoken word folks at a local cafe at the time, and we marched under the banner of Patriotic Poets for Peace. The word “Patriot” being thrown around a lot those days by war mongers. We wanted to show that going to war wasn’t the only way to show how much you love America. Being a Pacifist and a Buddhist and raised as a Quaker and all that.
So that’s most of my background in a nutshell when it comes to activism and protesting.
What was sad to see over these past months since the Mike Brown murder, and really in the intervening years since the last time I was physically able to get out onto the streets; is how many Americans – particularly white Americans – seemed completely confused by and totally ignorant of what civil disobedience is, why Americans engage in it, and how it relates to the Constitution – the fabric that this nation was created with.
Sure, lucky me, I grew up within an activist family, lived in the hotbed of activism and student protest – Berkeley California – but dayum yall folks can’t hit up the Google machine and get your learn on if you’re confused?
You went so far as to hold “a protest” for Darren Wilson the officer who shot and killed an unarmed teen – not even a “rally in support of” but you yourselves called it a PROTEST. What exactly are you protesting? The man is not doing a lick of work, yet he’s receiving his paycheck. Should anything legal happen to him, his lawyer and defense is PAID FOR by the police officers union. Which is the same entity that makes sure officers get put on PAID leave/suspension during investigations in the first place.
Are you protesting him being called a murder, a killer? Well golly gee, if we know one thing, we know that he shot and killed an unarmed teen. What happened to officers using their training to make an arrest and take people into custody?
You don’t even have the correct words for the things you do. You look puzzled and upset when the people who have everything to lose – their very LIVES – are actually Doing It Right and exercising their constitutional rights.
You should stop for a moment and read this link right here. I’ll wait. It’s from August 11th, and documents what had been actually happening night after night up to the point the article was written.
Perhaps you didn’t see any of that on the news. I’d be surprised if you did. Because I was following people on twitter who were there on the ground every night. And I’d watch as they’d document the mainstream media leaving, and then police moving in right after to lob tear gas canisters and shoot wooden bullets…at peaceful unarmed protesters, who were breaking no laws. I’d read a report from MSM how “calm and peaceful” the protests were last night, when I’d been watching footage of people being gassed, and shot at and manhandled, beaten and arrested.
These past recent weeks, military grade pepper spray, ie MACE has been deployed, choke holds have been documented, police shoving people to the ground, using unnecessary force with arrests, HOG TYING, pointing lethal weapons at unarmed women, children and men – and the footage of this officer shoving down with all his weight on his baton onto a seated protester made me physically ill.
Let me tell you something. Like those doing sit-ins in the civil rights era, and what we were doing at CAL Berkeley and the other protests I’ve participated in – There was a protocol. We were trained on it, and knew what to expect. For the most part, by and large in my experience the cops were cognizant of those protocols too, and adhered to them.
If you opted to be arrested, you were clearly shown the places where you should stand or sit. The areas outside the “arrest zone” nobody was touched. You could choose to link arms and the police had to extricate you one by one from the line and take you into custody. You could choose to go limp, or walk. No officers would beat you over the head, punch or shove you, or cut off your circulation with the cuffs or restraints. The idea was to simply arrest you, get you off the protest line and into jail.
Because it was understood that the protesters were getting arrested on purpose, going to jail to make a point, and to show how far you were willing to go for your cause. The police were there to do their job, as you were there to do yours. There was mutual consent to and adherence to the protocols. I’m not saying they were gentle, or always respectful – in individual cases, with individual officers, some weren’t adverse to being a bit more rough with their methods of taking protesters into custody.
But this casual brutality, out of control and targeted hate and aggression at protesters simply just shattered my soul and boggled my mind. It’s bad enough to just see it outright, but to have experiences under my belt that were far opposite to what has been going on in Ferguson, Shaw and all around St. Louis now has fucked up my brain and bruised my heart.
It’s a brand New Day and the Old Protocols no longer apply.
That was brought home all to clear this past weekend during #FergusonOctober where the activists who have been protesting the Mike Brown’s murder and subsequent NON-arrest of Darren Wilson invited everyone to come down and march, rally, vigil and protest with them. When on Sunday the usual marching out of clergy intoning platitudes was met by the youth who’ve been out there from day ONE with a general “Oh NO, you really do NOT understand. Those tactics are NOT going to work this time around”.
It became even more clear, as I saw similar commentary and retweets flowing down my screen. These police, backed with city AND state officials are given free reign to behave in any manner they please, and the protocols of the past are gone from the playing field forever.
We got to see the clergy getting into the spirit of things on #MoralMonday. Kneeling and praying in front of the line of officers, putting themselves in between out of control cops and protesters and getting arrested. Some of the feeds showed a few (male clergy) who still hadn’t twigged to the new paradigm, unsure and not very happy that a young woman was both leader and catalyst. I’m sure they’ll eventually catch on. Either join in, pass the torch, follow the new leaders of the revolution or tap out.
Thoughts and things that pop into my head as I write this:
-How upset I was to see the National Guard come in. Not to protect civilians, but to protect the cops going loco, and to protect property. I was not prepared for that. The last time I’d seen the National Guard deployed they were there to help protect US Citizens and not cordon off a McDonalds like protesters were out there laying siege to retail establishments instead of fleeing to them for refuge from tear gassing, rubber bullets and to get milk for burning tear gassed eyes.
-When Amnesty International was escorted out of the area at gunpoint. My first thought was that in my mid-forties I’d lived too long. That image is forever burned into my soul. It is the epitome of what is all wrong with what is happening there.
-Seeing the exiled Tibetan Buddhist monks come out to Ferguson to show their support. It was amazing to see and warmed my heart. I’ll never forget those images of them out there interacting with the protesters, letting them know they are not alone, that people world-wide are watching, and that truly yes indeed: #BlackLivesMatter
-Outright lying from the local and STL police departments and erroneous reporting from MSM who do little if no research whatsoever and continue with their inflammatory headlines. The combination is a wicked brew and serves only to perpetuate the painting of the protesters as rioting thugs, criminals and miscreants. The truth is on Twitter. Getchu some. Want updates from folks who pack it in at 8pm every night or from those on the ground who stay there until the wee hours of the morning night after night?
-The 5 Second Rule finally being thrown out and deemed unconstitutional. Because oh hey it WAS. Police just made up a policy – they were doing that a lot – and forced US Citizens to keep moving and would be subject to arrest if they stopped for more than 5 seconds. Children, the elderly, disabled people – EVERYONE.
-The protest at the St. Louis symphony. That was amazing, beautiful and powerful. Despite what you HEARD, every single protester bought a ticket to the show. They unfurled banners and sang during the intermission. And filed out quietly when they finished. The director of the symphony was fine with it, and members of the orchestra applauded them.
-Watching white people push back on protesters with racist commentary, remarks and in some cases outright attacks. If I see/hear one more person come say “we gave you all the freedoms you have” I don’t know what I’ll do. You didn’t “give” us anything. You fought tooth and nail to keep us enslaved, went to war, sent your sons to DIE and even cobbled up a flag to represent your traitorous actions. What little we do have, surely wasn’t given to us by you or anyone else. We have struggled, and fought and died. GTFOH with that mess. Case in point look at how begrudging, upset and downright angry you are at seeing us out there continuing to fight for equality, dignity and our human rights and citizenship.
-Police officers on duty at the protests seen wearing “I am Darren Wilson” wrist bands. They’ll wear that, but not their badges or their name tags. Watching them use Bull Connor tactics of intimidation, provocation and aggression on people peacefully exercising their constitutional rights. Pointing loaded weapons at unarmed women, children and men.
-Exhausted at seeing officers going about their “duties” like a gang of thugs with no respect for human dignity and rights. Pepper spraying a passenger after breaking a window to get at them during a traffic stop, tazing and then arresting a middle aged woman for no apparent reason, shoving a pregnant woman to the ground, slapping and beating children, tazing people who are breaking no laws, stopping, questioning and arresting people because they’re standing waiting for their family or having a drink at a bar, opting to shoot and kill rather than make an arrest. Being judge, jury and executioner is NOT your job description! iCan’t anymore. All out of cans.
-STL police department tweeting about their broken tail light like it’s a THING when one of their own just murdered another young Black person. Watching them make up stories about protesters throwing a rock or was it rocks plural? Their story kept changing. Watching them finally start to get the hang of twitter…and then using to frame their story and broadcast outright lies and disinformation.
What I really don’t want to think about as being true but I have to wonder…
I’ve blogged a lot about what is called Legal Slavery. I’ve talked about the Prison Industrial Complex, the School-to-Prison-Pipeline and other entities that pretty much end up as ways for billions of dollars to be made off of Black and Brown people.
There is this thing that has been going on for awhile, but in recent years almost happenstance in that it happens so often. White people co-opting, and appropriating Black culture, mores and fads and making millions off of it. All without the inconvenience of having to be Black. And actual Black people doing similar things are looked down upon, not given the same kudos and money making opportunities etc.
All these ways, large and small to make money off of us. From plagiarism, co-opting, appropriation, exploitation, white-washing and reframing. And now murder.
Yes, I said it.
MURDER for MONIES.
I wasn’t the only one who began to wonder if the murder of Vonderitt Meyers on the eve of #FergusonOctober was motivated by financial gain. Think about it. This is an officer who is moonlighting ie working another job – for a private security firm – when he accosts Mr. Meyers in what the police called a “Pedestrian Check”.
1. WTF is a Pedestrian Check. And why you exercising your police powers when you are officially OFF DUTY and working another job? Even though you were wearing your PD uniform – you’re not on their clock, dig?
2. Shoulda went back to your actual job you were being paid to do – instead of chasing after and shooting down that guy. And 17 shots? You were seriously TRYING TO MAKE SURE HE WAS DEAD.
3. Because him coming out of your altercation alive wouldn’t work for the FINANCIAL PLAN YOU HAD SET UP.
Hell if I wasn’t a Buddhist (I know from karma), a decent person and owned a gun, and killing a white person dead brought me a work-free paycheck and protection behind the blue line as well as city and state backing: I MIGHT GO AROUND CHASING DOWN AND MURDERNG WHITE PEOPLE.
You might call me paranoid.
You might call me an alarmist.
You might call me a conspiracy theorist.
But really, think about it for a minute. Very few cops get to see the inside of a courtroom if it even gets that far when they murder a Black person. Usually they walk if they go on trial. In cases that are settled, the money comes from the department or the city – not the individual officer. In very rare cases the department will outright fire the cop in question, and I think that only happens if they are tired of ponying up the cash for officer shenanigans, don’t want the hassle and spotlight on their department.
They almost always across the board get put on paid leave. The cop who killed 7 year old Aiyana Jones IN HER HOME has been on paid leave since 2010.
“On October 3 2014, the judge dismissed the involuntary manslaughter charge against Weekley, leaving him on trial for only one charge: recklessly discharging a firearm.”
Darren Wilson got at additional half a million dollars from his “supporters” via donations from the gofundme website campaign set up for him. Which btw we are boycotting because yeah. Yes, people were sending money to the guy who’s still getting his paycheck and benefits. He hasn’t been indicted or charged or even arrested and has no legal fees to worry about. Which are covered by the police officers union anyway. That is not support money, that is reward money. For murder.
A cop who’s hard up for cash, working two jobs, might see murder for monies as an option. IJS.
Lastly Before I Go. Please Do NOT Forget About the Women and Girls Being Murdered by Police Officers.
I know that the youth are the leaders of this movement. I also know that young women have been at the forefront, behind the scenes, organizing, on the front lines, getting arrested, leading marches, leading the chants, reporting and live-streaming, out there IN SUPPORT OF THE BLACK MEN AND BOYS who are the focus and highlight of these goings on.
I know that they are doing this for All Of Us. I know that they are out there in solidarity.
I ALSO know that I expect the same when it comes to Black males to return the favor. I appreciate that there are MORE men and boys being targeted and murdered, but that is no reason to not ever mention the women and girls sharing the same fate.
I CALL TO YOU NOW, MY STANDUP BROTHAS: DON’T LEAVE OUT WOMEN AND GIRLS IN YOUR MESSAGES OF PROTEST, RAGE AND SOLIDARITY.
I’ve seen so many panels, speeches, tee-shirts, posters, protest signs, websites, blogs, tumblrs, interviews etc. etc. that always focus ENTIRELY on Black males. It is BLACK PEOPLE that are under duress. We fly the flag upside down for ALL OF US. We are ALL in acute distress. We burn the flag to protest the government that condones the actions of those keeping ALL OF US under duress and in fear for our lives that enacts and supports the laws that do the same.
-Also, the reports I saw of women being street harassed while out there in #STL fighting for justice… that really saddened me. During all the Arab Spring protests and celebrations women were assaulted, raped and gang raped. So freedom for men to continue to behave like mindless predators? No respect for your Sisters out there in Ferguson supporting the cause? Standup brothas: Shut your boys down. This is unacceptable.
Remember Aiyana, Renisha, Rekia, Yvette, Tyisha…
#NeverForget. Black Women are killed by the police too. And not only that, we face sexual harassment, rape, sexual assault and battery as well. ADD DANIEL HOLTZCLAW TO YOUR LIST OF POLICE OFFICERS WHO NEED TO FACE JUSTICE.
He specifically targeted Black women because he’s seen that not much hue and cry goes up when its us coming up missing, shot, killed, beaten, raped. He wasn’t wrong about that. So CHANGE IT UP and make sure he gets put under the jail for the crimes he committed.
When your turn comes: Step up to the plate and do what your Sisters have been doing for you. Return the support and solidarity. We march on together or we fall apart divided.
Lemonade out of these godawful lemons – to paraphrase Elon James White CEO of #TWiBNation – a whole generation has just been radicalized by these events. Thank goodness for them. I might not be to old to get out in those streets, but I’m broken and tired and I gladly pass the torch. March on Sisters and Brothers! LEADERS.