United States: Another killer cop gets off as Ferguson outrage sparks new protests, nation-wide debate

St Louis police demanded disciplinary measures against five Black St Louis Rams players who came onto the field on November 30 m

The news came through on December 3, as I write this, that another grand jury has refused to indict a white cop for murdering an unarmed Black man.

In this case, the murder was caught on video in New York City on July 17.

The widely watched video, taken by a bystander, showed 43-year-old Black man Eric Garner being set upon by a group of cops for selling individual cigarettes on the street.

One cop is seen putting Garner in a chokehold. The other cops pile on, and Gardener is choked to death. The cops then arrested the man who shot the video and his girlfriend.

The ruling comes hard on the heels of the similar exoneration on November 24 by a grand jury of the murder of Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. The new ruling is sure to inflame the protests that have continued nationally since the Ferguson verdict.

The recent protests, while given impetus by the Ferguson events, centre on the national epidemic of police murders of young Black and Latino men.

These have been mainly civil disobedience events, including “die-ins” where activists lie down on streets or in front of police stations, symbolising the murdered victims.

On November 30, millions watching the St Louis Rams football game on TV saw five Black Rams players come out onto the field doing the now ubiquitous “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” gesture.

The St Louis police force were infuriated, and demanded the National Football League apologise to the police and discipline the players.

About 70% of NFL players are African-American, so league officials wisely decided to ignore the outrageous police demand.

Not to be outdone by their big city counterparts next door, the Ferguson police announced they have opened an investigation into Brown’s stepfather.

It seems someone made a video of the man as he burst into tears after the grand jury decision that the man who murdered his stepson would not even have to face trial.

Crying and angry, he blurted out something like the “place should be burned down”. The cops, puffed up with renewed swagger after the decision in their favor, aim to go after Brown’s stepfather for “inciting” riots.

If they pursue this course, what happened in Ferguson on the night of November 24 will look like a English tea party by comparison.

The day after the football players took their stand in support of justice for Brown, there were student “walkouts” in Ferguson and in about 30 other cities.

In Washington, DC, a “die-in” was held in front of the Justice Department building. One protester led a chant repeated by the crowd that went: “It’s our duty to fight! It’s our duty to win!

“We must love each other and protect each other! We have nothing to lose but our chains!”

There is a seven-day march under way, called by the NAACP, that is wending its way from the site where Brown was gunned down to the governor’s mansion in Jefferson, Missouri, 200 miles away.

All this has created a national discussion that is reflected in the media. In the first days after Wilson was exonerated in a judicial farce, he was given a great deal of TV time to present his racist version of the killing.

Because of the national scope of actions since, more attention has focused on the protests and the issue of police brutality.

The mass pressure has even reached into the White House. President Barack Obama, the first Black man to hold that office, was forced to hold meetings on the question, not just with government officials, but with a delegation of young Black activists.

Afterwards, Obama said on national TV: “Ferguson laid bare a problem that is not unique to St Louis or that area, and is not unique to our time. And that is a simmering distrust that exists between too many police departments and too many communities of colour.

“The sense that in a country where one of our basic principles … is equality under the law, that too many individuals, particularly young people of colour, do not feel they are being treated fairly.”

That is a bit understated, but true.

One of the young activists who met with the president was Ashley Yates, a Black poet and artist, and a member and co-creator of Millennial Activists United. There were four people from Ferguson, including Yates, among the delegation of seven.

Speaking to Democracy Now!, she said: “I told the President that this movement has to be maintained. I gave him a very personal story about why I continue to do this work.

“[I said:] ‘In particular, one of my younger cousins, who likes to run’ — I looked the President in the eye — ‘I want to make sure that unlike [other victims] Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin and unlike Mike Brown, my little cousin can make it home safely.’”

Yates said of Obama’s promise to investigate the militarisation of the nation’s police departments by the military: “That’s just a step.

“We laid on the table that the whole [militarization] program needs to be abolished. There is no reason why local law enforcement should have military weapons.”

Countering the administration’s excuse that such weapons are needed to “fight terrorism”, she said: “They are the ones carrying out terrorism on our communities … it’s being used to oppress American citizens, so it needs to be stripped away.”

On other measures Obama promised, she said they were just small steps. She said: “The real root of the problem has to be addressed.

“And the real root of it is racism in America. The anti-Black sentiments that exist.

“We have to have a cultural shift. Darren Wilson is able to get in front of a grand jury and say he saw a young Black boy as a ‘demon’, and people accept that.

“We have to address why that is a reality in our community, and until we address that we can’t have real change, all we have is these small steps toward justice, but we need leaps and bounds.”

When asked about Wilson’s resigning from the Ferguson police force, she said: “He should not have been able to resign. He should have been fired over 100 days ago.

“Also, he is resigning a much richer man. It is profitable to kill a Black boy. Not only profitable, but you get away scot free.”

She was referring to the fact that Wilson’s supporters set up a website to raise funds from fellow racists nationally that has so far netted him over $500,000. He is getting paid for interviews and has other sources.

The combination is likely to have made Wilson a millionaire.

Yates is not alone. There is a new generation of young Black leaders emerging. They are forming different organisations around the country. They are beginning to break free from the older Black leaders, who have to a greater or lesser extent made peace with the powers that be.

They can “look [a Black President] in the eye” and tell it like it is.

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