19 Aug 2014

What I saw in Ferguson last night

The push and pull of protest became a violent drama on the streets of Ferguson overnight.  Here’s what we saw:

•    Young black men arrested on their knees with guns trained on them.
•    An exhausted and frustrated Captain Ron Johnson (of the State Highway Patrol, now in charge of police on the ground in Ferguson) surrounded by a ring of protesters making the case for his tactics, rooting out criminal elements within the crowd.
•    Critics of Ron Johnson shouting; “it sounds scripted, it sounds scripted.”
•    Pastors singing We Shall Overcome.
•    Pastors pulling aside young men who were improvising their own version of the chant; “Hands up, don’t shoot” (in memory of Michael Brown, who eyewitnesses say was shot with hands held high.)  The young men were chanting instead; “Hands up, shoot back.”
•    Pastors pleading for calm standing between the frontline of protesters, facing off against a full line of police, flanked by armoured vehicles.

•    A full line of police in riot gear with shields, helmets, and batons, as well as guns for firing tear gas.
•    Tear gas, fired at protesters, who had been corralled inside a car park, at one end of the street where the protests were permitted.  Police said shots had been fired.
•    A man at the front of the crowd with a loudhailer trying to direct their behavior, asking protesters to stand down, stand aside and stand on the footpath, as police had requested.
•    The same man with a loudhailer trying to direct behavior, asking protesters who were the “real men” and urging them to join him in more trouble down the road.
•    Protester after angry protester, insisting they would not stand down – that these were their streets.
•    People falling down and pouring water on their faces, to stop the tear gas stinging.

•    Everyone on their phones and tablets: filming, photographing and uploading every moment.
•    A father with a young boy on his shoulders, saying the reason why he’d joined the protests with his family, was to safeguard his son’s future.
•    Nelly, the hip hop star, in a car park, saying how important it is to remember and act in support of Michael Brown’s family.

•    An aggressive state trooper wielding a gun who started to ask the observers from Amnesty International to get down on their knees, when he couldn’t place what their business might be.
•    Observers from Amnesty international criticising the police for heavy-handed tactics, for firing tear gas and for restricting the right to protest.
•    Bottles being thrown.
•    And finally – the police helicopter, buzzing low over Ferguson.

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One reader comment

  1. Robert Moore says:

    In the United States we have the right to assemble and protest the wrongs perpitraited against the citizens. The right to protest is not given by man, it is a right given by our creator and can only be revolked by our creator. The city of Ferguson is a small example of a larger problem in the United States, the abuse of authority. The people do not concide their rights when they appoint public servants to perform certain duties and public officals who does not uphold their oath to defend the Constitution are no longer a representitive of the people’s government. The police escalated the problem in Ferguson simply by showing up in riot gear. The Ferguson Police Department is clearly a party to this shooting and has no business using any force on citizens who are by all outward signs unarmed, and though gun fire may have been heard no police officer was struck by a bullet to warrent the use of force, of any degree. In closing, a permit to assemble is permission to assemble and we the people do not need permission to assemble from the people we the people appoint.

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