Over the past month, events surrounding the killing of Michael Brown, Jr.—a murder, in my eyes, and in the eyes of many, many others— has been broadcasted over every means of media and press you could imagine and as you have seen, the people will not take this laying down. We will not accept this loss of life, nor will we accept the actions of militarized police against those simply wanted to exercise their rights to peacefully assemble and protest a death which has become a symbol for the systemic problems of police brutality and racism as a whole. When you google “Ferguson,” you see images of crying mothers, angry youth, praying clergy, and signs with “I AM MIKE BROWN” on them. Those blurbs and snapshots only give the nation a glimpse into the actual story of what’s going on in Ferguson. Now that the national media and press are gone, we are left to make this moment into a movement and I believe that here is where the real story can begin.
A lot of people believe that the killing of Mike Brown Jr. was the start of the outrage in St. Louis. Or, maybe it was the length of time that the body stayed on the ground for public viewing—reminding us of the lynchings that we only had heard about from our grandparents—that set us off. But I believe that it was the fear of being next that motivated people to action.
These weeks of rebellion were defined by something that the media won’t explain to you. They won’t tell you that local youth have outsmarted the local Ferguson police department a number of times over the course of these protests.
Don’t look to the news to mention how the brief period of rioting was essentially allowed because of the political and press capital it gave the police department.
What they won’t tell you is that St. Louis County police officers used live ammunition against unarmed American citizens in the streets of Ferguson and that 911 would respond to your phone calls with “Will respond later.”
You probably don’t know that on the nights when the midnight curfew was enforced hours earlier, local police departments committed drive-bys using rubber bullets to bruise the bodies of teen boys who weren’t afraid of tanks and armored vehicles roaming West Florissant Avenue.
With my own eyes, I witnessed Bloods and Crips coming together to protect women and children who were too tired to run anymore from tear gas, as these US citizens were merely trying to leave the chaotic scene sanctioned by the National Guard. On days where people just wanted to peacefully assemble and stand still, we were forced by sniper rifles and officers equipped with full war time gear to keep marching or be subject to arrest for the dubious charge of “failure to disperse.” You may not want to hear this, but the most intense nights of protest were heightened by plain-clothes police officers and out-of-town anarchists who were allowed to bypass police barricades and tempt angry youth with Molotov cocktails so that state-sanctioned mayhem could commence.
Here is something else the media hasn’t shared far and wide as they have images of that burned out QuikTrip: in Ferguson, we have seen the unity that Black people have been asking for since the Million Man March in 1996 and throughout our history in America. Some elders like Brother Anthony Shahid and youth like local ‘raptivist’ Tef Poe were called in to make a truce between rival gangs and to attempt to negotiate peace with local police departments. The New Black Panther Party, often made fun of and described as a crazy hate group by conservative media, protected people in streets of Ferguson and helped bring order in the middle of the pain and chaos.
So what are the next steps? People, we are going to continue fighting. Young people like myself have come together under the banner of ‘Hands Up United’ and we are working with national organizations like the Dream Defenders to make this movement a national one. We are calling for a period of national mobilization here in Ferguson from October 9th thru October 13th. We must keep the energy going, for this is our best opportunity to receive the freedom and justice for all we always hoped for.
Reporting Live from Ferguson,
Taurean Russell, Hands Up United