This story is a familiar one: Michael Brown, an African American teenager, and his friend are walking in the street. There is an encounter with the police, not because a crime has been committed but because they have been racially profiled by a white police officer. Words are exchanged and there ensues an alleged physical tussle. The two unarmed teenagers run. The officer shoots at them several times. Michael Brown stops running and with hands in the air shouts out, “I don’t have a gun, stop shooting!” The police officer continues shooting; Brown collapses into the street and bleeds to death under the broiling, August sun.
No matter what version or twist the police put on this tragic unfolding of events in Ferguson, Missouri, there is one unalterable fact and that is an unarmed teenager was shot multiple times by a cop who was bent on killing him. One who is trained in the use of firearms does not shoot an unarmed person with their hands in the air unless he intends to murder.
Michael Brown, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner and all the Black and Latino teenagers murdered routinely by Chicago police do not deserve death at the hands of racist cops.
The media has focused on the so-called “rioting” and the police with dogs, clubs and guns ready were poised for making the usual blood bath to put down the rebellion. But the determined will of the people to stop police crimes also erupted in organized mass protest and cries of “no justice no peace!” We can say to our sisters and brothers in the struggle in Ferguson thank you for not being quiet and tame in the face of death stalking our communities like a hungry lion. Thank you for your outrage and for finding the courage to stand up to police who are more and more behaving like an organized lynch mob. Criminals who operate under the authority of the badge are the worst kind of criminals because the system will not jail them or prosecute them when they commit crimes against African Americans and Latinos. So we say to the powers that be don’t you dare counsel us about “rioting” until you stop these lawless acts of cops who kill and brutalize our people with impunity! Who do you think you are that you can murder and abuse us and spew your racist venom at us and then chide us about being outraged?
Let’s look at some underlying realities. The population of Ferguson is at least 60 percent African American and its poverty is double Missouri’s average. While Black people are struggling with poverty there is also in Ferguson Emerson Electric, a $24 billion company with 132,000 employees all around the world. In an area where there are billions of dollars in revenue, poverty is commonplace and police repression rampant. This is the reality of the United States of North America, which claims to be concerned about democracy in Iraq but can’t take a stand against the unwarranted violence perpetrated against its own citizens and residents.
We must make this a political struggle because we are confronted with political repression with a racist cutting edge. In our righteous anger we must not just engage in rants of rage. We must start now to organize people to force our political representatives to enact laws that will empower the people to hold the police accountable for the crimes they commit. We need a strong democratic voice through an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council. That’s what we are fighting for here in Chicago, but police crimes are not confined to Chicago we must fight for this everywhere. Ferguson included.
We must find a way to stop police from racially profiling and murdering people. We must call upon and demand that local, state and federal government outlaw police crimes and establish civilian control over the police.
In the aftermath of the rebellion in Ferguson, where police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at non-violent protestors, an 11-year-old boy said to a local news station, “It seems like police are about to go to war with the people.”
The insight of this child should resonate in the White House, the statehouses, and city halls because the time to stop this war is long overdue.
Frank Chapman is field organizer for the Chicago Alliance Against Racial and Political Oppression.
Photo: Heavily militarized police walk toward a man with his hands raised, Aug. 11, in Ferguson, Mo. (Jeff Roberson/AP)