The Real Truth on the Ferguson Cover-Up:

Michael Brown—Like Thousands Before Him and Hundreds Since—Did NOT Deserve to Die!


March 9, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


On March 5, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released its report on the murder of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson. In a second report, the DOJ was forced to admit that the Ferguson Police Department was guilty of systematic racism of a pervasive, gross, and cruel character... but then turned around and claimed that none of this pervasive racism had anything to do with Darren Wilson shooting an unarmed Black youth to death, and that there was no need for a trial to determine whether it may have—that even without such a trial, the Justice Department said that there was no credible evidence to contradict Wilson’s version of what happened, in effect making him innocent in public opinion, and the killing of Michael Brown a case of “justifiable homicide.”

In other words, the Justice Department let out a sliver of the truth about the ugly reality of Ferguson—which, in fact, is the ugly reality of America. But then this sliver of truth was put in the service of a bigger lie: that once again the police were justified in pumping shot after shot into an unarmed Black youth. No government office keeps exact records (and think about why!!), but we do know that thousands of people have been killed by police in just the past decade. We know that hundreds have been killed by police since Michael Brown’s death. We know that most of those killed are Black or Latino—and that Black male teenagers are 21 times more likely to be shot and killed by police than white male teenagers, all over America! We know that the very day after the report came out, yet another unarmed Black youth, 19-year-old Tony Robinson, was killed by police—this time in Madison, Wisconsin. (See more coverage of police murders and mass incarceration.) But here we have the Justice Department once again declaring in effect that an egregious case of just such a murder—that of the unarmed Michael Brown—is “justifiable.”

Some people say that at least we got them to admit that the Ferguson police are racist. And yes, it is true that without massive struggle and upheaval, nothing whatsoever would have happened and nobody, beyond his family and friends, would even remember Michael Brown, and the horrible racist hell that is Ferguson would have hummed on without interruption. It is right that people feel vindicated that their struggle did indeed force out a bit of the truth of how Black people all over this country—and not just Ferguson—are treated.

But the fact remains that Michael Brown is in the ground and Michael Brown did not cause his own death. Michael Brown did not have a weapon. Michael Brown was not putting someone else’s life in danger. Michael Brown was walking down the street in a way that the cop Wilson didn’t like, so Wilson decided to mess with him. And Michael Brown was shot down by a cop who the same Justice Department has been forced to admit comes out of and works in a police department saturated with racism, a cop who said that Michael Brown looked like a “demon,” a cop who claimed the highly dubious scenario that even after he had shot Brown several times Brown then charged at him, a cop who some witnesses said had shot Brown when Brown had his hands up or in any case was not in fact charging. And yet with all this, the Justice Department would not even let this come to trial to see if there was any way in which this killing of Michael Brown had anything to do with him being Black and Wilson having some animus toward Black people, and went so far as to exonerate Wilson without even a trial!

We are even told by Barack Obama himself that since “reasonable doubt” existed, there was no basis for a trial—when in actual fact “reasonable doubt” is not the standard for indictment, but for conviction. And “reasonable doubt” is to be decided by juries, not Obama. So, no, this is not a victory—this is a further attack on the victims of police murder everywhere, and an attack on the people who stood up for Michael Brown, who are now being slandered for having “rushed to judgment.”

But let’s take a minute to look at the sliver of truth about policing in America that the DOJ did let out. (See "Dept. of Justice on Ferguson: A Sliver of Truth About the Thoroughly Racist, Rotten Police Department.") This report showed in some detail the widespread, pervasive, systematic, and inescapable racism that permeates the town of Ferguson and every branch of its government. Now Ferguson will be prodded by the government to make some changes. Most likely these changes will be cosmetic. But let’s even say that the government disbanded the Ferguson Police Department, as they are now “floating out there.” First, it is very reasonable to say—indeed people’s experience, all kinds of testimony, and high stacks of volumes of research bear this out—that the same essential policies and culture pervade each and every police department in this country and before very long would once again characterize the “new” police department in Ferguson—again, even if they did do a “housecleaning.” How would doing something to just one of those departments change that? And it is not just the police departments—it is the whole set of social relations (that is, the ways in which people are organized in society to live, work, survive, etc.) in society where white supremacy and racism are still as American as apple pie, where Black lives are NOT seen to matter by those in power, which the police departments enforce. Indeed, how in the world could anything short of a revolution, a whole new political and economic system in which people had the means and power to actually emancipate themselves, change this?

Again: it is part of and has been part of the “American way of life” and “American governance” in particular, that Black and Latino and other “minority” people must be controlled, surveilled, repressed, hounded, and generally kept down... in order to force them to accept the conditions of exploitation, oppression, robbery, and degradation that this system has consigned them to—again, since Day One. The fact that for now this is being enforced by a Black president and Black attorney general who understand their job to include assuring people that “progress is being made” does not change that fundamental fact.

In this light we have to comment on Obama’s remark at the recent commemoration of the bloody 1965 assault on civil rights demonstrators in Selma, Alabama, that “what happened in Ferguson may not be unique, but it’s no longer endemic [widespread]. It’s no longer sanctioned by law or custom,...” Really??!?! How is it that since Selma the number of Black and Latino men in prison has increased by eightfold? How is it that the police murders of Black and brown youth go untried and unpunished? Don’t the legal system and, yes, the laws of this country have quite a bit to do with that? Yes, there may no longer be “Black Codes” written down in a place for all to see—but those same codes are written into the minds and reflexes of every pig department in America, vindicated by virtually every judge and prosecutor, and covered up by big politicians like Obama.

Why did they do this? Imagine for a minute a different decision, one in which Wilson was indicted and had to stand trial. First of all, what would that do to their whole agenda of repressing Black and Latino communities, an agenda that relies on violence by the police and the continued insistence that this violence is justified and legally allowed? True, once in a great while they may send a cop to trial. Yet, on those rare occasions when they do, the prosecutors usually “forget” how to prosecute, as Bob Avakian has said. And if the police are even found guilty they almost always get only a slap on the wrist—just last week, in fact, three prison guards in New York State who beat a man so brutally that the medical personnel who treated him insisted he be taken to a hospital outside the prison, were allowed to get off their felony charges by promising to resign their positions and plead guilty to a misdemeanor. But mainly, the government has to and will stand by their enforcers, because those enforcers are key to their whole setup and they MUST maintain that their use of force is legitimate—even when it is clearly and egregiously ILlegal, IMmoral, and ILlegitimate.

There’s another reason as well, one that points to a weakness of the powers. Again, imagine if the Justice Department had actually said that depriving a young Black man of his life without due process is a crime and that Darren Wilson should stand trial for this crime. Don’t you think that would have caused an even more major shit storm among the powers-that-be—who are already at each other’s throats over a number of other crucial issues, like the Middle East? Remember what happened in New York when the mayor, Bill de Blasio, said that he told his son, who is Black, to take special care when approached by police? The head of the police union launched all kinds of accusations against de Blasio and the police rebelled against civil elected authority, refusing to carry out assignments for a week. Had the Justice Department indicted Wilson—again, as they most definitely should have—Obama could very well have come under attacks that would have made what was done to de Blasio seem mild by comparison.

At the same time, and more importantly, the powers knew that if they said nothing, when much of the oppressive horror of daily life for Black people in Ferguson had already come to light, when people had put so much on the line to demand justice, they would lose all credibility and risk renewed upheaval from the masses of people, and a loss of legitimacy among the oppressed and those who sympathize with the oppressed. When these conflicts break out among the powers, our response cannot be to “choose sides,” to “chill things out” for the sake of the liberals, to choose between the foxes who trick and the wolves who openly threaten, but to push on the cracks among the powers that have been revealed and push push push for real and fundamental change.

The powers-that-be, including very definitely Obama and Eric Holder, calculated this move not from the standpoint of truth, not from the standpoint of liberation for masses of people, not from the standpoint of justice... but from the standpoint of what was needed to hold their system together and preserve “legitimacy” among masses of people. In this case, they calculated that maybe they could get away with letting Wilson go, if they tossed people a scrap. This was a “compromise deal”—to make people think something will be done, but to maintain full support for the police... and to put the protesters themselves on the defensive.

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But whether the system does get away with this is up to us—all of us. And let’s state it clearly: they must not get away with this!! Now is not the time to cool out. Now is not the time to back off, to seek new laws or new procedures, to go through “established channels,” or to find some wing of the powers-that-be to shelter under (when they will use that wing to smother you). Now is not the time to allow the powers-that-be to cover up the fact that those who are fighting police murder have right on our side and more than enough evidence to show that this is systematic and widespread and part of a whole genocidal plan. In fact, everyone who stood up to call out these crimes was righteous and has nothing whatsoever to apologize for or explain. Only those who stood silent or, even worse, defended the police should be apologizing.

Listen: there is a major fight going on in society right now that people have to rise to and take sides—take the right side and push back—and not allow any of this “there are problems on both sides” bullshit. Those who cried “Black Lives Matter,” “I can’t breathe,” “Stop police killing of our people,” and, yes, “Hands up, Don’t Shoot” should be upheld. Those who publicly took a stand to influence society broadly, like athletes or medical students, were doing the right thing, taking a stand on the horrible reality that affects the lives of millions, and saying “no more.” And those who were arrested for bringing things to a halt need to be defended, strongly.

Now is not the time to play defense. Now is the time to take the offense... to say loudly that this whole New Jim Crow of mass incarceration and police brutality and murder, this whole genocidal program, must be STOPPED. And to be part of the massive efforts on April 14 to “shut it down.” No one who was moved by the cries for justice powerfully demonstrated in the streets of this country at the end of last year can stand aside now.

But as we do that, let’s look at the whole problem. This system has had 350 years to reform itself. It has not done so because it can not do so. And the systematic oppression of Black people since Day One in this country—horrific as this is—goes along with a system that subjugates women, that wages wars to dominate and plunder people all over the world, that destroys the environment, and that terrorizes those who have been forced to immigrate here looking for work. We need revolution to get rid of all this, and to bring in a new world without it. Get into this revolution. Find out about the strategy to make this revolution, its goals, and the leadership to carry it through in Bob Avakian and the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. Go to, and keep going to,


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