Ferguson Aftermath Hits Close To Home
By Jackson Quall
Originally published in the December 2014 issue.
Chants of “No justice no peace,” “Shut it down!” and “Black lives matter!” could be heard from blocks around.
On November 24th, a St. Louis County grand jury declined to indict officer Darren Wilson for firing six shots in the confrontation that killed Michael Brown last summer in Ferguson, Mo.
That same evening a group of around 50 people started to gather outside the main building of SCC to protest the grand jury’s decision. reading various slogans: “Justice For Mike Brown. Jail Killer Cops?” “#BlackLivesMatter” “We Stand WIth Ferguson.” and “Am I Next?”
Since then protests in Seattle and nationwide have occurred on a daily basis.
The whole situation was put on edge by the constant silent presence of the SPD bike fleet, which always had the group surrounded. One got the feeling that they were just waiting for justification to intervene. At more recent rallies protesters and The Stranger magazine have called out SPD’s alleged use of plain clothes officers to infiltrate activist circles.
The protests have also featured a tense melting pot of competing political interests. There were at least three unique groups present for all the demonstrations that this reporter was involved in. People were present to mourn Michael Brown’s death while lambasting police brutality. There were followers of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (RCP) and black bloc anarchists, who have been causing the majority of property damage at these rallies. During the tree lighting shut down at Westlake Center on Black Friday, black protesters could be seen confronting anarchists attempting to damage store fronts.
Everyone has been coming out to support Mike Brown but each group had their own explicit political agenda that could be heard being voiced throughout all the demonstrations.
“It seemed like there are a lot of conflicting interests going on here,” said Bianca Bryant, a (by her own description) mixed black protester present at several of the demonstrations since the Nov 24th decision. “I think the ACAB [all cops are bastards] people and the anarchists really are distracting from the real reason why we are all here.”
According to the “Justice For Mike Brown – Seattle” Facebook page, the point of the demonstrations are to “Demand Justice for Mike Brown and other victims of police brutality. WE SAY NO MORE Injustice. NO BUSINESS AS USUAL. NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE.”
In contrast, according to the RCP’s website their goal is to “Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution,” with no explicit mentions of an anti-racist agenda.
During the demonstration, cries of “Why are they lighting off fireworks?” could be heard from some black activists. “It’s like they’re celebrating! We’re supposed to be mourning here.”
Bryant wanted to make clear that “[she thinks] white allyship is important as long as violence against black folks is centralized. And it’s not used for a competing agenda. Allyship, not opportunism.”
Since the original Ferguson Grand Jury ruling, numerous other instances of police violence have influenced the national discourse, and resulting in almost daily protests in marches.
In Cleveland, OH, Tamir Rice, a 12 year old black boy, was shot dead on November 22 by police officers responding to him holding a bb gun in a playground.
In Phoenix, AZ, a police officer killed, Rumain Brisbon, a 34 year old unarmed black man when he reached in his pocket for prescription pills on December 2.
Additionally, a grand jury declined to indict NYC police officer Daniel Pantaleo, in the death of Eric Garner – another black male – via a chokehold, an incident which was all captured on video by a bystander. The decision came just a week after a grand jury concluded not to indict Darren Wilson.
Though SPD has already been considering implementing police body cameras, in wake of recent events, Seattle City Council Member Bruce Harrell has called for full implementation by 2016.
With racism and police brutality now at the forefront of the national discourse, protests and Seattle and across the nation show no sign of abating.
“People in power don’t think racism is a problem, but the next generation does,” said a protester at a Ferguson solidarity rally at University Village shopping mall earlier this week.
If you’d like to get involved look up the Justice for Mike Brown – Seattle Facebook page.