The story of the officer killing unarmed teen Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri feels like déjà vu. We’ve seen this pattern before in Sanford, Florida; Monterey Park, California; Calumet City, Illinois; Dotham, Alabama; Galveston, Texas; Little Rock, Arkansas; Los Angeles, California; Jackson, Mississippi; Dayton, Ohio; and Staten Island, New York.
The cycle is like this:
Young unarmed black man or boy is shot by police. Police protected by authorities. Parents and community cry out for justice. Protests ensue. Police from the surrounding area converge on protesters with riot gear and tear gas. Victim is vilified. Heavy handed police state tactics garner national and international attention. Case is absorbed into courts and long investigations. When the case reemerges, nothing decisive is determined.
And so it goes. We can take strategic, concrete action now to end this pattern.
The Racial Powder Keg
Jerrel Christmas, former St. Louis prosecutor, commented that, “The lack of black police officers either on the street or administrative level…This whole area, this city is a racial powder keg.”
Today, one resident, an African American nurse who works in town, openly wondered what news is being reported; there is a media blackout in the area. This week, she saw her own Alderman get arrested for not leaving Ferguson by 9 pm. Her children couldn’t start the school year on Monday as planned, as schools were kept closed in the entire region, a decision she felt was unjustified. She called the police response, “overwhelmingly over the top” and asked “how many of the first ten amendments have been trampled in the last few days?” She condemned martial law rules that forced her to wait in long lines to reach her patients while police checked every driver entering the town.
Yet, the nurse was not surprised at the unrest in the streets of Ferguson. There's an incredibly undemocratic system of oppression in play.
Mother Jones compiled telling facts about Ferguson:
- 67% of the residents are black; up from 25% in 1990 and 52% in 2000
- Just 3 of 53 police officers are black
- In 2013, 483 black people were arrested compared to 36 white people
- 92% of searches and 86% of car stops involved black people
- 28% of Ferguson’s black population lives below the poverty line
And all of this in a suburb with a population of 21,135, according to the 2012 census. The truth is, when power is shared, there is no powder keg. There should be more people of color in city leadership and law enforcement.
Here’s what needs to happen now, no need to wait for an empty verdict.
Fund Grassroots Efforts Now
The Organization for Black Struggle is leading community response on the ground in Ferguson. They are fundraising for a much-needed field organizer to start immediately. We believe that these St. Louis-based organizers with over 30 years of history in the community will build the infrastructure to give the people of Ferguson power to take control of their town.
And right now, you can double your impact. Make your donation and we'll match it (*Up to $15,000). CLICK TO DONATE
** We did it! With our support, the Organization for Black Struggle hired a full-time organizer in Ferguson on August 18th. We will continue supporting the Ferguson community. More to come...
Commit to Change Ferguson Leadership (and all “Fergusons”)
Three Ferguson council members are up for re-election in 2015, and another three are up for re-election in 2016. The next mayoral election is 2017. That’s just around the corner. It is time to identify excellent local leadership to take the helm – and support them big time. Now is the time to get young people registered to vote and to the ballot box. With success at the ballot box, we can reverse the actions of this non-representative government, like allocating 20% of total city budget in 2014 for police over other city services.
Residents Want Change
Recently, Ferguson government officials spent $60k of the city's Capital Improvement Sales Tax fund not on improving parks or city buildings, but on replacing and upgrading handheld weapons for police officers. When power is shared in a local community, every decision – from how taxes are used, to who is hired and appointed, to job creation, to policing standards – reflect the entire community.
We are standing with the family of Mike Brown, who was supposed to be going to his college orientation this week. The people of Ferguson, and in cities across the nation, deserve a government that holds their dreams to be as just as important as the next fiscal year budget. Bullets can no longer be dispensed where simple words would suffice. We stand with all the Fergusons. We will change this.
We will win.