Ferguson: Defending the Protesters and Demanding Justice

September 8, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


On September 4, revolutionaries who had come to Ferguson, Missouri, to support the rebellion and fight for justice for Michael Brown went to an arrestees meeting. The meeting was called by Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE), a group raising funds for legal support including bail, fines, and legal expenses; the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), and other progressive attorneys. About 30 people attended. This included mostly people arrested during the rebellion. It included MORE activists who were doing jail support, friends of people who were arrested, lawyers, and others who were assisting those who had been arrested.

The struggle for justice in Ferguson, arresting the killer cop and dropping these charges against protestors, is in the context of and the key front of fighting this whole program of mass incarceration, police terror, and criminalizing people. Photo: Li Onesto/revcom.us

First thing, people went around the room introducing themselves and telling their stories of their arrests. People spoke about being shot, tear-gassed, arrested with their hands up, beaten, and thrown in paddy wagons by police and National Guard. One brother spoke to how this last month had changed his life, another said, "If you are not willing to die, get out of the way." One man thought he would be playing a role of peacekeeper but then ended up getting arrested. One brother saw his sister getting arrested after a police car had damaged her car; others were walking home or away from the protest with their hands up but were also arrested, a truckload of people leaving got swept up in the mass arrests. One spoke about how this gave him a sense of a "community." Many people said the police covered up their badges or removed them.

The room was made up of a good mix of people: Black and white, mostly young, men and women. People from Ferguson, from other St. Louis areas, and from other states had come to stand with the people of Ferguson.

Two revolutionaries attended the meeting. As people spoke of their arrests, the revolutionaries spoke about how three revolutionaries, Joey Johnson, Carl Dix, and Travis Morales, had been arrested; how Joey Johnson was punched in the face by St. Louis alderman Antonio French while calling for the indictment and jailing of the cop who killed Michael Brown. Some people had seen the alderman punch Joey Johnson and saw Johnson handed over to the police. Some people were shocked to hear this, others insisted this was true and that French is not a good guy.

The next point spoken to was what people wanted to do as they went forward and what needed to be figured out at the meeting. There were a lot of people justifiably angry about having no recourse with the cops: they rob the people, arrest them, and disrespect them. And because they are cops, people are supposed to accept what they do. People asked, weren't the police supposed to "protect and serve" them? Some called for firing the whole Ferguson police department, getting rid of the police chief, voting them out, better evaluation, better training, sensitivity training, and getting a petition going.

One revolutionary shared his experience with the fight against stop-and-frisk in New York, and the arrests that came out of that. While taking on those cases, the reason for the arrests in the first place was that people were demanding an end to stop-and-frisk. And here we are: Mike Brown was murdered and then people boldly stood up demanding justice and police responded with tanks and tear gas, rubber bullets, and these arrests. And the motherfucker who killed Mike Brown is still free! This fight around the arrests is not just about getting these charges off some people who were wrongfully arrested; it's about this whole fight, and there is nothing right about attacking and prosecuting people demanding justice while the motherfucker is still free. The demand must be: arrest Darren Wilson and drop all charges on protesters.

And then the revolutionary spoke to the fact that voting does NOT change things. In New York, we have Black and Latino cops. We have Black and Latino faces in high places. And people fought like hell to take down stop-and-frisk, and then people voted for a new "progressive" mayor, Bill de Blasio, and so while the number of random street stops has been reduced, we now get people getting choked to death by police ON CAMERA, and gang raids that sweep up all the youth in certain oppressed areas as gang members, even putting pictures in the New York Daily News of seven-year-olds playing basketball and calling them the future gang members and thugs who will be the problem next. Just like the fight around Trayvon Martin, if they are allowed to get away once again with letting a killer cop go and sweeping this under the rug, the only change we're going to get is more of this shit, more of a green light on killing our youth. That's why, once again, people were in the street in the first place, this demand to arrest this killer cop must be won, and is key in fighting these arrests.

Next we talked about what it would take to get the charges dropped. One attorney spoke to direct action; others said calling or going to the office of Stephanie Carr, the prosecutor in Ferguson; or Judge Ronald Brockmeyer's court; or going to the city council meeting with the demands to drop the charges. An artist suggested that videos be done and statements made to put up on Facebook and Twitter. Others suggested that we work as a group and make a media "shit storm." People talked about other protests that were going on and meeting every week until the charges were dropped.

A revolutionary spoke to the fact that the struggle for justice here in Ferguson, arresting the killer cop and dropping these charges, is in the context of and the key front of fighting this whole mass incarceration, police terror, and criminalizing, and needs to be part of the October Month of Resistance called for by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, including packing the courts in October, when most of the dates for court appearances are so far, and also when the Grand Jury has said they would announce the decision of whether to indict Darren Wilson, the motherfucking killer pig. This was part of developing the two aspects that needed to be worked on in taking on these charges, which was political strategy and legal strategy. This point was also addressed by one of the attorneys working on the cases.

One of the local attorneys spoke to the fact that $90,000 had been raised for legal defense. He spoke to the criminalization of Black people and institutional racism in the area. Ferguson has 21,000 people in the county, yet there are 40,000 active warrants! He characterized these warrants as a crime against the poor because they had nothing to do with violation of the law, but just unpaid tickets. Another attorney who joined the discussion spoke to working against torture, a world issue, and the use of tear gas in Ferguson, and the need to document all the accounts of police brutality. He made the points "know your rights" and "don't talk to the police, everything said can and will be held against you."

There was discussion of a civil case, the need to document injuries that people had sustained. The NLG attorney asked people about red laser dots on their chests. Many people responded that they did see this, some knew what this was and some didn't. What this meant was that there was a police sniper taking aim at you.

As the meeting ended, 30 Revolution newspapers with the front-page cover of Cornel West and Bob Avakian's November 15 Dialogue got into people's hands, along with small bundles about the October Month of Resistance from the national Stop Mass Incarceration Network. Small groups of people got together after the meeting. One of the things we learned was that a gang truce had been called, that this truce still held, because in the middle of being in the streets facing the police, people looked around and saw that those who under normal times are supposed to be your enemy are right there next to you on the same side, fighting for the same reason. We were hooking people up to the need to be a part of the Month of Resistance and drawing people together to be part of the Revolution Club.

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