To Provoke and Suppress: The Military Occupation of Ferguson, Missouri

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War Zone

“Bring it, you f*****g animals! Bring it!” taunted a tonsured thug in the employ of the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department during protests over the police killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown. According to Dorian Johnson, who witnessed the killing from just a few feet away, the incident began when a still-unidentified officer hurled a similar taunt at the two of them from a patrol car.

“Get the f**k on the sidewalk!” the officer reportedly snarled at the young men from his patrol vehicle. Johnson told the officer that they had nearly arrived at his home, which was their destination. The officer then slammed on his brakes, threw his vehicle into reverse — nearly hitting the pedestrians, and growled, “What’d you say?”

According to Johnson’s account, the cop began to exit his vehicle, but his door slammed into Brown. At roughly the same time, the uniformed assailant grabbed the terrified 18-year-old by his neck. As Brown tried to escape, Johnson testifies, the officer repeatedly sneered, “I’m gonna shoot you.”

The first of several gunshots rang out a few seconds later. Brown and Johnson turned and fled. The officer fired a second shot at the fleeing victims, hitting Brown, who fell to the ground with his hands in the air, pleading: “I don’t have a gun — stop shooting!” The assailant fired several more shots, killing the unarmed teenager outside an apartment complex. His body was left about 35 feet from the vehicle, surrounded by empty casings from the officer’s gun. Brown was unarmed.

Police officials are peddling the claim that Brown supposedly “assaulted” his killer and attempted to grab the officer’s gun. Eyewitnesses, particularly Johnson, dispute that claim. Even if this were true, however, Johnson’s account would indicate that Brown acted in self-defense, seeking to disarm someone who had threatened to shoot him without cause. There is no dispute that Brown was unarmed and attempting to surrender when he was fatally shot.

A crowd that gathered at the scene of the killing grew into a protest that extended through Saturday evening, and a protest march the following day. More than 100 officers from 15 police agencies converged on the neighborhood to confront the protesters. One officer described the scene as a “war zone.” A group of violent people group hived off from the protests and attacked local businesses, including a QuickTrip convenience store. Predictably, the riot police who had assembled to “restore order” by suppressing the protests did nothing to protect private property. That role was carried out by local businessmen bearing arms in their own defense.

Many black residents of Ferguson regard themselves as living under a military occupation, subject to the whims of violent, uniformed strangers who can detain, abduct, or kill them on a whim. The reported behavior of the officer who killed Michael Brown — and the documented behavior of the officer who was caught on film taunting the protesters — would tend to validate that perception.

10:42 am on August 12, 2014
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