Missouri gov. declares state of emergency ahead of Ferguson verdict

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (Reuters / Kenny Baht)

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (Reuters / Kenny Baht)

The governor of Missouri declared a state of emergency on Monday ahead of the anticipated grand jury decision surrounding Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson and the potential protests the verdict may bring to that city and others.

Citing what he called the “possibility of expanded unrest” ahead of the impending verdict, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said in a declaration on Monday that the St. Louis County Police Department and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department will operate as a Unified Command “to protect civil rights and ensure public safety in the City of Ferguson and the St. Louis region”.

A grand jury is expected to announce any day if they will charge Wilson with the August killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager.

“In the days immediately following Michael Brown’s death, peaceful protests were marred by senseless acts of violence and destruction,” Gov. Nixon said last week.”That ugliness was not representative of Missouri, and it cannot be repeated.”

In addition to declaring a state of emergency, Nixon issued an executive order which in turn has activated the Missouri National Guard to assist local law enforcement.

Due to the periods of unrest that Ferguson and the St. Louis region have experienced in the wake of Brown’s death, Nixon said the state of Missouri will be prepared to respond “appropriately” in order to protect citizens and local businesses from “violence and damage.”

“I further order that the Unified Command may exercise operational authority in such other jurisdictions it deems necessary to protect civil rights and ensure public safety and that other law enforcement agencies shall assist the Unified Command when so requested and shall cooperate with operational directives of the Unified Command,” the governor wrote in the executive order.

The move follows Nixon’s decision to put the National Guard on standby in order to ensure it can support police officers and rapidly respond to any reports of violence. Elaborating on where the Guard fits into the governor’s latest action, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay suggested on Monday that it will not be the primary force at any protest.

“The way we view this, the Guard is not going to be confronting the protesters and will not be on the front line, interacting directly with the demonstrators,” the mayor said.

Nixon, meanwhile, said the executive order was needed to provide for an orderly and effective response to whatever decision the grand jury announces.

“As part of our ongoing efforts to plan and be prepared for any contingency, it is necessary to have these resources in place in advance of any announcement of the grand jury’s decision,” the governor said in a news release, according to local KSHB News. “These additional resources will support law enforcement’s efforts to maintain peace and protect those exercising their right to free speech.”

Last week, the governor said it was necessary for the state to avoid the kind of confrontation that occurred following Brown’s death.

“In the days immediately following Michael Brown’s death, peaceful protests were marred by senseless acts of violence and destruction,” he said. “That ugliness was not representative of Missouri, and it cannot be repeated.”

It’s unclear how exactly the grand jury will rule, as competing accounts of the fatal incident have surfaced. Some witnesses say Brown was surrendering to Wilson when he was shot, while others, including Wilson, say Brown had confronted the officer and went for his gun.

It’s unclear how exactly the grand jury will rule, as competing accounts of the fatal incident have surfaced. Some witnesses say Brown was surrendering to Wilson when he was shot, while others – including Wilson – say Brown had confronted the officer and went for his gun.

Even with no decision, some demonstrators have taken to the streets. A crowd of protesters staged a peaceful rally in St. Louis on Sunday, marking 100 days since the tragedy. Protesters laid down on chalk outlines representing shooting victims, pretending they had been killed.

Police, Media Smear Victim of Missouri Shooting – Shifting Focus Away from Military-Style Occupation

By Patrick Martin
Global Research, August 16, 2014
World Socialist Web Site
 
Region: USA
Theme: Militarization and WMD, Police State & Civil Rights

police-state-ferguson-swat--400x299Police in Ferguson, Missouri have released material to the media which they claim identifies Michael Brown, the 18-year-old victim of a police killing last Saturday, as a participant in the robbery of a convenience store the same day.

At a press conference Friday morning, Police Chief Thomas Jackson finally made public the name of the police officer, Darren Wilson, who shot the unarmed youth multiple times in broad daylight, as he knelt with his hands up. Jackson then distributed 19 pages of photographs and purported eyewitness statements about the alleged robbery, and left without answering any questions from the media.

The documents have several political purposes: to shift the focus from the policeman who pulled the trigger; to provide a pretext for the execution-style slaying of Michael Brown, by smearing him as a violent lawbreaker; and to draw attention away from the massive military-style occupation of Ferguson earlier this week.

Even if the photographs and testimony were conclusive evidence—and they are not—there is no death penalty for grabbing a few packs of candy-flavored cigars, priced at two for 99 cents. And Jackson later admitted that Wilson had no knowledge of Brown’s alleged participation in a petty theft when he fired multiple rounds from his service revolver into the young man’s body.

These undeniable facts have not stopped the US media from giving saturation coverage to the claims that Brown robbed a store only minutes before he was shot to death, as though that made his killing justifiable.

Conveniently for the police, the principal eyewitness to the killing of Brown, his friend Dorian Johnson, is named in the robbery complaint. This means that the Ferguson police may now lock up and silence Johnson, who has been widely quoted in the press describing the wanton and unprovoked actions of Officer Wilson in shooting Michael Brown.

Speaking through their attorney, Michael Brown’s family denounced the police smear campaign. Benjamin L. Crump, who previously represented the parents of Trayvon Martin, said Brown’s parents were “beyond outraged.” He told the press, “Nothing, based on the facts before us, justifies the execution-style murder by this police officer in broad daylight.”

Ferguson residents echoed the family’s anger. “I am incensed,” Laura Keys, 50, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I can’t believe this is the tactic they are using, bringing up a robbery to make the victim look like he was the person who created this whole mess. Where’s the footage?”

The actions of the Ferguson police had the character of a deliberate provocation against the community, in the wake of the decision by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to put the Missouri state police in charge of police operations in the town, while relegating St. Louis County and Ferguson police to a backup role.

This maneuver, which placed an African-American police captain and native of Ferguson in command, succeeded at least temporarily in defusing tensions on Thursday night. There were peaceful protests over the death of Michael Brown, and none of the military-style attacks on demonstrators, using teargas, flash-bang grenades and armored cars, seen on four previous nights. No one was arrested.

Both Governor Nixon and Captain Ron Johnson, the Missouri state police officer in command on the scene, denied knowing in advance that the Ferguson police intended to release a load of derogatory information about Michael Brown Friday morning, along with the name of his killer. Johnson said he “would have liked to have been consulted” ahead of time.

It is unclear whether this reveals actual friction between the Ferguson cops and the state authorities, or represents a Missouri version of the “good cop, bad cop” routine, but that matters very little. The crude thuggery of local police and the more sophisticated maneuvering by the Democratic politicians have the same goal: to suppress the popular protests over the killing of Michael Brown and cover up the fundamental class issues revealed in this incident.

Governor Nixon, in consultation with the Obama administration, is using the services of a privileged layer of upper-middle-class blacks, including preachers, Democratic politicians and figures such as the Reverend Al Sharpton, to divert the anger over Michael Brown’s murder into safe political channels.

Sharpton’s comments Friday are particularly significant. The MSNBC talk-show host warned that one night without violence was not enough. “Let’s not act like we’ve solved the problem because we now have the cops marching with the marchers,” he said. “We’re not out of this yet.” Sharpton will appear Sunday at a rally with Brown’s parents and other nationally prominent African-Americans, including Martin Luther King III.

Sharpton cited the upcoming funeral of Michael Brown as a potential flashpoint, asking, “What happens when these kids see their friend laying in the casket? I’ve been through this more than one time. We’re not out of the emotions because we all of a sudden had a good night of marching.”

That is, for Sharpton and those he represents, the “problem” to be “solved” is not the police killing of Brown, but the anger that has erupted in response.

In its editorial Friday morning, the New York Times sounded something of the same note, criticizing the brutal actions of local police earlier in the week, while praising the actions of Governor Nixon and the rhetoric of President Obama. It commented that “law enforcement officers in Ferguson did not need to respond to mostly peaceful protests by deploying armored vehicles, pointing sniper rifles at civilians and tossing tear gas and shooting rubber bullets liberally into crowds. These tactics have been an affront to a community that needs to be heard, not suppressed.”

What the Times counsels is of consultation between the police authorities and so-called community leaders that changes absolutely nothing in the actual conditions of life for residents of impoverished working-class areas like Ferguson.

The occupation of Ferguson this week by police forces has exposed before the eyes of the country and the world the brutality of class relations in the United States. The militarization of police forces, particularly over the past dozen years, has a fundamental class logic. The US ruling class is building up an apparatus of violent repression to be used against the working class as a whole, the vast majority of the population.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). The Centre for Research on Globalization will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in this article. The Center of Research on Globalization grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles on community internet sites as long as the text & title are not modified. The source and the author’s copyright must be displayed. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: publications@globalresearch.ca

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Copyright © Patrick Martin, World Socialist Web Site, 2014

One Nation Under SWAT: The Militarization of U.S.’s Police

Topic: Civil Liberties

 

Micheal Brown

18 yr-old Micheal Brown

The man who squeezed multiple deadly shots into 18-year-old Michael Brown last Saturday is police officer Darren Wilson, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson said at a press conference Friday morning.

Officer Wilson, who has been with the force for six years, was responding to an armed robbery at a convenience store before his encounter with Brown, Chief Jackson said. Wilson is on paid administrative leave. The FBI and the Justice Department have begun independent investigations into Brown’s shooting.

Brown was walking home when when he was shot last weekend. Refusal to release the officer’s name earlier sparked frustration in the St. Louis suburb, leading to protests and distruction of property.

But law enforcement’s reaction to the unrest reflected a military response similar to that of a war zone. Police used armored vehicles and officers with crowd control dogs confronted the peaceful protesters, until Governor Jay Nixon ordered the Missouri Highway Patrol to take over security. Almost immediatedly, the situation became calmer, the New York Times reports.

What was disturbing about the press conference was how the police took the opportunity to criminalize Brown. According to a police report tweeted by Huffington Post reporter Ryan J. Reilly, Brown allegedly stole a pack of Swisher Sweet cigars at a store. Dorian Johnson, Brown’s friend and witness to his fatal shooting, is also suspected of helping in the alleged robbery. Police also released photos of a large man at the store where a robbery took place. It is not confirmed if that man was the 18-year-old Brown.

Johnson has said neither he nor Brown committed any crime.According to several journalists reporting from Ferguson, no information in the report deals with the shooting or Wilson’s interaction with Brown.

Though it is hard to believe that a teenager who was set to start college in a few days would steal cigars, it really doesn’t matter if he did. Cops are suppose to use deadly force only when lives are in danger. No one should lose their life for being a robbery suspect.

The only thing that is suspect so far is the withholding of information being released about Wilson’s final interaction with Brown before the shooting. And instead of releasing a photo of Wilson, police released photos of a large black man allegedly assaulting someone at a store.

A Google search of “Darren Wilson” shows the photos of the man who supposedly committed a robbery.

That is not a coincidence.

 

Amidst the outrageous police presence in Ferguson, a look at how local law enforcement is turning communities into war zones.

Think of it as a different kind of blowback.  Even when you fight wars in countries thousands of miles distant, they still have an eerie way of making the long trip home.

Take the latest news from Bergen County, New Jersey, one of the richest counties in the country.  Its sheriff’s department is getting two mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, or MRAPs — 15 tons of protective equipment — for a song from the Pentagon.  And there’s nothing special in that.  The Pentagon has handed out  600 of them for nothing since 2013, with plenty more to come.  They’re surplus equipment, mostly from our recent wars, and perhaps they will indeed prove handy for a sheriff fretting about insurgent IEDs (roadside bombs) in New Jersey or elsewhere in the country.  When it comes to the up-armoring and militarization of America’s police forces, this is completely run-of-the-mill stuff.

The only thing newsworthy in the Bergen story is that  someone complained.  To be exact, Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan spoke up in opposition to the transfer of the equipment.  “I think,” she  said, “we have lost our way if you start talking about military vehicles on the streets of Bergen County.”  And she bluntly criticized the decision to accept the MRAPs as the “absolute wrong thing to do in Bergen County to try to militarize our county.”  Her chief of staff offered a similar comment: “They are combat vehicles. Why do we need a combat vehicle on the streets of Bergen County?”

Sheriff Michael Saudino, on the other hand,  insists that the MRAPs aren’t “combat vehicles” at all.  Forget the fact that they were developed for and used in combat situations.  He suggests instead that one good reason for having them — other than the fact that they are free (except for postage, gas, and upkeep) — is essentially to keep up with the Joneses.  As he pointed out, the Bergen County police already have two MRAPs, and his department has none and, hey, self-respect matters!  (“Should our SWAT guys be any less protected than the county guys?” he asked in a debate with Donovan.)

striking recent report from the American Civil Liberties Union indicates that, as in Bergen County, policing is being militarized nationwide in all sorts of unsettling ways.  It is, more precisely, being SWATified (a word that doesn’t yet exist, but certainly should).  Matthew Harwood, senior writer and editor for the ACLU, as well as  TomDispatch regular, offers a graphic look at just where policing in America is heading. Welcome to Kabul, USA.

 

To Terrify and Occupy 
How the Excessive Militarization of the Police is Turning Cops Into Counterinsurgents 

Jason Westcott was afraid.

One night last fall, he discovered via Facebook that a friend of a friend was planning with some co-conspirators to break in to his home. They were intent on stealing Wescott’s handgun and a couple of TV sets. According to the Facebook message, the suspect was planning on “burning” Westcott, who promptly called the Tampa Bay police and reported the plot.

According to the  Tampa Bay Times, the investigating officers responding to Westcott’s call had a simple message for him: “If anyone breaks into this house, grab your gun and shoot to kill.”

Around 7:30 pm on May 27th, the intruders arrived. Westcott followed the officers’ advice, grabbed his gun to defend his home, and died pointing it at the intruders.  They used a semiautomatic shotgun and handgun to shoot down the 29-year-old motorcycle mechanic.  He was hit three times, once in the arm and twice in his side, and pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.