Protesters enraged at the police killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown have filled the streets of St Louis’s Ferguson suburb night after night.
A crowd first began to gather on Saturday 9 August after Michael’s body was left lying on the street for four hours (see below).
Time and again defiant protesters have approached heavily armed police chanting, “Hands up, don’t shoot!”
Police have met the protests in military fatigues. They have used tear gas, dogs, automatic weapons and armoured cars on demonstrators.
They tried to enforce a curfew.
Yet for more than a week they have met concerted resistance from local people. People have fought back with stones and bottles.
The one night there was no violence was when the police stayed off the streets.
Missouri state governor Jay Nixon responded to criticism of the brutal policing by declaring a state of emergency last Saturday. Rather than scaling down the repression he has called in the national guard—military detachments under the states’ control.
As was the case with earlier deaths such as Trayvon Martin in the US and Mark Duggan in Britain, smears about Michael soon appeared.
The police released CCTV footage which they claim shows Michael stealing cigars from a shop not long before the killing.
Michael’s friends and supporters dispute the evidence.
But even if it was true, it’s no justification to kill him. And police have admitted that the officers who challenged him had not been told about the alleged burglary.
Michael’s mother Lesley McSpadden said of the video, “This has nothing to do with what he did to my child.”
She added that peace can only be restored with justice. She called for Darren Wilson, the cop who shot Michael, to be arrested and made “accountable for his actions”.
Protests and anger at the shooting has spread across the US.
Nequasia Legrand, leading fast food worker in the US-wide strike movement for $15 and a union, spoke to Socialist Worker.
“They been killing my black people for years, and now this law enforcement think they just have the right to kill us blacks,” she said.
“Who next? My brothers? My unborn child?”
For the protesters the racism of the state is evident.
Now the police operation in Ferguson is being run by highway control captain Ronald Johnson. He was brought in as one of the department’s few black officers to cover the obvious racial gap.
The US national guard is a force of local troops controlled by each state.
This is the first time a national guard has been called out to deal with civil disturbances since the aftermath of the police beating of black motorist Rodney King in California during 1992. In that uprising 50 people died.
People have every right to fight back against the occupation of their town.
But the local police leadership decided they could not be seen to have lost control.
So when their heavy handed tactics were criticised they called for the national guard rather than scaling down the level of violence.
This is not a peculiarity of St Louis. It has sparked a wide response as people recognise the institutional racism of the whole US state.
US cops kill four unarmed black men in past month alone
At least four other unarmed black men have been killed by police officers across the US in the past month alone. It is almost impossible to check statistics for how many are killed in total.
On average 96 white officers are recorded as killing black “felons” each year—but this figure would not include either Michael Brown or Eric Garner.
Kerry Green has been on the Ferguson protests every night. He told the Washington Post, “We feel boxed in.
“It’s more than Mike Brown. It’s for the man who got choked out in New York.
“It’s for Trayvon Martin. It’s for us riding down the street with three friends in the car and we get pulled over.”
The man in New York was Eric Garner, a black man who died last month after police put him in a chokehold. He was being arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes.
Cornell Williams Brooks, president of civil rights organisation NAACP, said, “We need not look for individual racists to say that we have a culture of policing that is really rubbing salt into longstanding racial wounds”.
The state of Missouri is 12 percent black but Ferguson is 67 percent black. However six out of seven members of its school board are white, and only 6 percent of police officers in Ferguson are black.
Eyewitnesses—‘He fell on his knees begging for his life’
Michael Brown, an 18 year old black man, was shot down on the street at about noon on 9 August.
Officer Darren Wilson admits that he shot Michael.He says he asked Michael to walk on the pavement rather than in the road.
Wilson claimed that Michael attacked him, and was shot as he struggled for the officer’s gun.
But witness Piaget Crenshaw said, “I saw the police chase him… down the street and shoot him down.”
Another woman watching from the balcony of nearby flats reported that Michael raised his hands in the air shouting, “Don’t shoot!”
But she added, “The officer kept shooting and he fell to his knees, begging for his life.
“That’s when he finished him off, shot him in the head.”
Michael’s family got their own autopsy carried out.
Its results confirm he was shot at least six times. The wounds were consistent with him having his hands up and his head bowed.