VIOLENCE IN FERGUSON AFTER GRAND JURY DECISION: PROTESTS IN SAN DIEGO

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Photo courtesy Times of San Diego

Update November 26, 2014:  Two protests were held last night in San Diego. A downtown rally was peaceful, but protesters in City Heights engaged in civil disobedience blocking a bridge; some bottles were hurled at police officers, UT San Diego report.  In Washington, President Obama called for calm after the jury verdict, but voiced concerns over the racial divide and mistrust of police, adding that despite strides made in civil rights, America still has a long way to go.

By Miriam Raftery

November 25, 2014 (San Diego)—A Grand Jury in Ferguson, Missouri announced Monday night that there will be no indictments against police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed African American teenager.  Jurors heard conflicting testimony from witnesses including some who said Wilson shot Brown when his hands were up as if to surrender, but others described Brown as confrontational and one witness claimed Brown charged at Officer Wilson, head down.

The verdict has prompted protests in cities across the nation.  California Campaign to End Police Terror has announced demonstrations statewide including a protest planned Monday night, November 25th at 6 p.m. at the City Heights library, located at 3795 Fairmount Avenue in San Diego.

A statement on United Against Police Terror-San Diego’s Facebook page reads, “Ferguson is everywhere—and we are building a movement for justice for Mike Brown and an end to police violence nationwide. “ Noting that people in Ferguson have faced tanks, tear gas and militarized police forces, the post adds, “Just like people have done throughout American history, we are making our voices heard, taking to the streets and using our First Amendment rights to engage in strong actions of civil disobedience.”

In Ferguson, the streets erupted into violence after the verdict, resulting in over 80 arrests, 10 News reports. Several police cars and other vehicles were burned.  CNN reports sounds of gunshots were heard though police claim no shots were fired. Police did however shoot bean bags and tear gas into a crowd.  Some in the crowd hurled bottles, including one that struck a CNN reporter in the head.

The Brown family was reportedly “devastated” by the decision but urged supporters to channel their energies in ways to make “positive change” in the system and not to resort to violence.

Wilson, who was married last month, issued a statement through his attorneys thanking those who “stood by his side.”

Wilson could still face consequences, since the U.S. Justice Department is conducting two civil rights investigations (one into Wilson’s actions and a second into the police department’s treatment of minorities).  A civil suit by Brown’s family also remains a possibility.

 

Comments

Re: MJ's Comment

MJ: Indeed, hope is what is needed here, that all can use the past as a pattern and template to remind society that violence and forgiveness tend to foster more of the same. Otherwise, November 24 may well become known as "Throwback Monday" for its close resemblance to the American Civil Rights era as portrayed in dramas such as "Ghosts of Mississippi". In a time when racial segregation against people of color was the norm, Medgar Evers organized demonstrations, boycotts of companies that practiced discrimination, and led voter-registration drives. When he was murdered by one Byron de la Beckwith, a Euro-American who believed just as strongly that segregation, its most enduring bastion being the Deep South, was an institution that should endure. It took a third trial, a new generation, and a jury makeup that included both black and white jurors, before his conviction over three decades later. Today, sadly, a generation of young people across ethnicities who were not then born, are facing yet another challenge in which legal, institutional, social, and structural hindrances have proven that certain cultural and traditional practices are just as deeply entrenched now, and just as resistant to change. While we must give the police their just dues as being a necessary component of the society that they are sworn to protect and serve, we must continue to challenge and demand the removal of systemic impediments that allow those officers who are guilty of violating that trust to be brought to justice. There will, no doubt, be continuing debate on the events of Ferguson. Among others, Alex S. Vitale, a Brooklyn College Sociologist who focuses on the politics of policing and the policing of politics, in a recent article, states that "There are significant structural barriers to successful police indictment or prosecution." One of the barriers he cites is that the investigations are more likely than not to be conducted through both police detectives and investigators from the prosecutors' office. He further states that, when there is reason to believe the shooting is not justified, prosecutors are more likely to take a more significant role. On the other hand, he cites, they must depend on police cooperation in the gathering of required evidence. Such includes witness statements from both the officer who is implicated and other police officers (if any) at the scene. Sometimes he (or they) may be the only live witnesses regarding what took place. While cooperation between the two entities is an asset during investigations regarding homicides, Vitale states that it can also become an impediment in shooting cases involving police. In most cases, prosecutors rely on the cooperation of police. This, Vitale says, creates a major conflict of interest. In such cases, he states, prosecutors are frequently reluctant to pursue such cases with the necessary zeal. Not surprisingly, he implies, local district attorneys, who are elected, do not wish to appear as hindering police in the carrying out their jobs as enforcers of the law. All this said, what is needed is the addressing of built-in systemic barriers that allow such barriers to exist in the first place, and which leave many who believe they were deprived of justice to express their discontent in sometimes peaceful, and at other times, violent ways. Looting and burning, such as in the town of Ferguson will change nothing except that such acts will devastate communities where people most affected by this tragedy live. Peaceful protests that are organized and that vocalize discontent, on the other hand, force the public to listen to and focus attention on issues in justice systems that need to be addressed, including certain built-in practices within agencies and how they handle their affairs. Until such is done, nothing can or will repair those areas that are fraught with practices that discriminate. Other Fergusons will no doubt erupt until the system itself changes, and other avenues couched within a higher law demand it to change. KB Schaller, Author 100+ Native American Women Who Changed the World Winner, International Book Award, Women's Issues http://KBSchaller.com/

Hope

Of all things necessary in human life hope is among the most essential. My hope is that all the suffering and wrongs that have been done can combine with the heritage of the United States of America and bring a healing that will help the entire population of this country to embrace. We can each, in our own small or large way, add a piece of the tapestry of hope for the larger good .I do hope that each person who hoards anger and hatred will relinquish it and realize that in God we Trust. MJ Payne Author The Remembered Self

Keep Investigating

I think the civil rights investigations by the U.S. Justice Department are essential. A civil suit by the Brown family will continue to put pressure against the violation of the rights of American citizens. The US tradition of agitating for the rights of different groups that is encouraged by the United States Constitution is a means of bringing positive change. Bringing it through the judicial system after getting attention through demonstrations that we all truly hope remain peaceful after these first bursts of rage will encourage people of good will of all races to put some teeth in the process of changing the volatile dynamics that cause eruptions. I do think issuing the outcome at night was a bad decision. Thank you for this announcement Miriam. We know the East County Magazine is in favor of solidarity in the appeal for social change and justice for The African American community which will bring additional positive changes for US society in general since we all live in the same country. We all have an interest in justice. Every injustice that creeps into our world drags us all down. MJ Payne Author The Remembered Self