From the Streets of Ferguson

An hour ago, a group including poet Jessica Care Moore, Talib Kweli, folks from the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Philip Agnew of the Dream Defenders, Bgyrl ForLife Malik from Occupy the HoodTrymaine Lee from MSNBC and many others were chased like animals by the cops. As we ran to get away, we found ourselves on a small path on a bridge, surrounded by police from various units and told to lie down and put our hands up.

We were told if we did not stop moving we would be shot. We complied.

Let me be clear: we did nothing to provoke this. The first hour we were there, we merely walked and talked to folks--people were moving as they were told they had to and chanting. I caught up with Amy Goodman of NPR, and Trymaine. Right before that, I had talked to clergy members. As a prayer vigil came together, I observed that the police seemed to get very agitated because people were being still. I stood watch. Talib and Jessica were in a circle with young people who began to notice who they were and it seems that there was going to be an impromptu cipher. I kept my eye on the crew we were with; the amount of police officers was just as many as protestors.

As a long time activist against police brutality I have been trained by elders and my organization "Malcolm X Grassroots Movement to be alert, stay focused. So I was keenly aware when something shift. I stepped to Talib and said, "Something is about to go down."

I saw the police raising their batons and getting into formation. As I wrapped up a convo with Trymaine, we saw a plastic water bottle being thrown. People kind of looked up, turned back to what they were doing...and the next thing you know, the police came at us like charging bulls, weapons drawn, screaming, causing mass confusion.

“Leave the area now!” “Don’t move!”  

Jessica, Talib and I grabbed hands and ran. Officers swooped in on us from all directions and locked us down. The threats, their eyes, postures, weaponry said it all: "We have the power, we don’t care how many cameras there are, we can do what we want and we will never have to be held accountable." 

I held Devin, one of the young brothers there with us, who struggled to control his breathing. He said, "I'm choking" and a cop told him to stop or he would shoot him. I told the young man, "Try not to move. Just lay still, I got you." The gun was at his chest. I looked at the cop and said "Please, he is not doing anything." I tried to record the incident, but the cop had his finger on the trigger. 

I could feel Talib's hand on my back and Jessica behind me. We laid there until one Black officer said "Let them go, we got who we wanted." 

In all my life I have never been so terrified. 

Devin later said to me, "Thank you. I think you saved my life."

This is simply one of account of a small group of us. If those young people of color with us last night did not know where they stood, they surely know now and they told us as much. They are tired, still determined. They were deflated but not defeated. They were longing for direction and leadership that is definitely not coming from the older generation. They are acquiring knowledge in this moment and they are awake. While they were grateful for our presence, they shared with us their frustrations with so-called leadership in our communities. And I cannot blame them. In the midst of last night's unrest, I saw many older people of color shaking hands and laughing with the police. You know, the "house Negro" behavior that brother Malcolm so eloquently warned us about. Some of them were actually angry at these little brothers and sisters for standing up, told them to go home.

The young people replied, "We ARE home."

This might not be the most eloquent, succinct 500 word essay, but on the real, the moment I saw that rifle pointed at Devin, and I looked at this White bald-headed man, and I saw his eyes, I feared the moment that so many young Black and Latino y Latina men and women face: potential death. All I could think about is my daughter hugging me telling me “Be careful, Mommy. The police hurt women too.” That split second you think it is over is the one of the most harrowing things have ever experienced. 

What is going down here in Ferguson, in all my years of activism, organizing, I have never seen. This is a war zone, a military occupation and our children are the cannon fodder.

Devin and his boys got to go home tonight. They got to go home tonight. I hope they always get to go home.

(P.S.: To the white boy who threw the water bottle, a big fuck you, I am sure you were an agent provocateur.) (P.P.S: Women are also brutalized and terrorized by the police, at the end all of us are Black and Brown and animals to them.) 

Rosa Clemente is an activist and scholar. Follow her on Twitter: @rosaclemente