Everything Wrong with Police Has Been on Display in Ferguson
After Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown on August 9, the cops’ reaction provided a neat snapshot of just about every dangerous aspect of policing in modern America.
For starters, there’s the reliable archetype of the racist cop. Brown, though he allegedly stole cigarellos from a convenience store not long before he died, was not stopped over a theft report. The weak jaywalking excuse for a police stop adds a flavor of profiling which angers people further, and makes the racial element of the shooting more pronounced. In Ferguson, the numbers suggest that black individuals are targeted for police stops more than whites. A few of their cops also once beat a 52-year-old man, then charged him for damaging their uniforms with his blood. Brown himself may have been a dumbass teenager who committed a petty crime, but now he can never grow up to be better than that.
The police showed up like an army, thereby antagonizing the mostly peaceful crowds, both before and after looting began on August 10. This reaction, where store owners often got screwed by the mob but the peaceful, pissed off folks got their First Amendment rights violated, underlined another major problem with the police: Aren’t they violating Posse Comitatus by now? Men in SWAT gear that resembles paramilitary garb may bust down the doors of various suspected drug criminals at night, but that mostly goes without video evidence (when there are exceptions to that,people tend to be shocked, even when it’s a normal drug raid). Seeing a roadblock that belonged in the Middle East during a weekday afternoon in Missouri was jarring to people just starting to grasp its new normalcy.
Yet another strike against the Ferguson Police was their incredible opacity after one of their own killed. They initiated a curfew, and then took six days to release the name of Wilson. They did everything they could to block media attention. On Sunday night, a SWAT officer screamed “Turn off that light! Get down!” and then “Get the fuck out of here!” at a student who was broadcasting live radio. The officer, allegedly pointing a gun, also yelled what sounds like: “Get that light out of here, or you’re getting shot with this.” Some outlets—including Mediaite—thought the cop yelled “or you’re getting shot in the face.” Others say the cop might have been yelling “getting shelled with this” instead of “shot.” Regardless, it was bad.
What Happens After Police Shoot Innocent Bystanders?
On Wednesday, a judge ordered the city of Torrance, California, to release the name of the police officer who shot at surfer David Perdue during the February manhunt for former LAPD cop Christopher Dorner, who at the time was out to murder as many of his ex-colleagues as he could. At the time the officer came after Perdue, Dorner had already shot two sheriff’s deputies, killing one, and gunned down the daughter of a LAPD officer and her boyfriend.
Fearful that Dorner might go after a local LA police official next, Torrance cops pulled over Perdue on February 7, asked him a few questions, then let him drive away. A few seconds later a second cop car rammed his truck, and an unnamed officer fired three shots, all of which (thankfully) missed. Perdue’s attorney also alleges that he was dragged from his vehicle afterwards. Dorner, by the way, was black and Perdue is white.
Perdue wasn’t the only victim of the police and their sudden inability to see color during this manhunt. A pair of newspaper carriers—47-year-old Margie Carranza and her 71-year-old mother, Emma Hernandez—were fired on by LAPD officers that same day because their pickup truck apparently looked like vaguely like Dorner’s. That incident provoked a backlash against the LAPD after Hernandez was hit in the back twice and her daughter suffered a hand injury. In fact, Torrance police said they were responding to the report of these mistaken shots when they fired on Perdue. The mother and daughter received a combined $4.2 million from the LAPD for their troubles, while Perdue has refused to settle with the city for the $500,000 they offered him.
At the NSA, analysts follow a law that is “effectively the same standard that’s used for stop-and-frisk,” according to the agency’s general counsel, Rajesh De, when asked this morning by Rachel Brand of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight board to explain the Reasonable and Articulable Suspicion Standard—the legal method through which NSA determines to further examine and query the phone records of supposed terrorists.
Los Angeles Police Killed a Homeless Man for Waving a Stick
People are always divided on solutions for homelessness in Los Angeles. You’ll meet some “get a job” kinds of folks just like you’ll meet “take this hand-out” kinds of folks. You’ll also come across “homeless… what? Ew!” types. There’s also the “shoot them in the chest several times” camp, which is how two deputies from the LA County Sheriff’s Department see things.
Last Sunday around 3:30 PM, two deputies from the Sheriff’s Transit Services Bureau pulled over under the 10 freeway and shot a homeless man named Donald five times in the chest. Donald had reportedly approached them waving a wooden stick over his head.
The LA Times
the Department’s press release in their Monday reportage, despite the dozens of witnesses available. The official version of the story goes like this:
“Deputies with the Transit Services Bureau came into contact with the man when he suddenly armed himself with a wooden stick. He then advanced toward the deputies with the wooden stick overhead, prompting them to open fire. Officials said the man, who has not been identified, was taken to a hospital, where he died.”
That’s all the information the Department would provide, citing the investigation as “ongoing,” when I contaced them. They refused to answer my questions about the caliber of the stick or the identities of the deputies involved. They gave me no explanation as to why the deputies eschewed non-lethal means to subdue the allegedly maniacal and stick-wielding homeless man.
We Spoke to Barret Brown from Prison
Since my initial piece on Barrett Brown about a month ago, there has been a small development in his case. Barrett, of course, is the journalist who is popularly mislabeled as a spokesperson for Anonymous and is facing a century of hard time in a federal prison for threatening an FBI officer, hiding evidence that obstructed his warrant, and sharing a link within an IRC chat room that contained the stolen credit card information of Stratfor customers (a security company that had 5 million of its internal emails stolen from them). While Barrett is still sitting in a federal prison waiting to see a judge, news broke last night that Barrett Brown’s mother pled guiltyto her own charge of obstructing a search warrant. She hid Barrett’s computers from the FBI and is now facing $100,000 in fines and six months of probation.
In addition, Jeremy Hammond, the hacker who is accused of actually hacking into Stratfor has been sitting in prison for 13 months without trial. His case was further delayed when it was discovered that the original judge who was appointed to try Jeremy is the wife of a man whose data was compromised by the Stratfor hack.
A couple of weeks ago, Barrett Brown called me from prison to talk to me about his case. We discussed the winding intricacies of his story in two 15-minute bursts, which was all the time the restrictions of his imprisonment would allow.
VICE: A lot of people say that you’re the spokesperson for Anonymous. What do you say to that?
Barrett Brown: I’m not. For two years now, I’ve denied that publicly. Every time I’m asked, it turns out that I’m not. The first thing people find when they google me should be a D Magazine article in which I explained that. No one is the spokesperson for Anonymous. It doesn’t work that way. I wouldn’t want that position if it were a position.
I don’t necessarily agree with everything Anonymous does. I don’t necessarily like a lot of Anons. I was very supportive of the dynamics that Anonymous represents. I’m very much an advocate (and continue to be) of these new sorts of communities to express yourself on the internet and the next move I’ll be making is deploying some communities—a little more structured than Anons’—to perpetuate themselves, and grow, while maintaining Anonymous’s core qualities. I’ve identified with Anonymous very closely for two years now, but one of the interesting things to me is how all the articles refer to me as the self-proclaimed spokesperson for Anonymous. They all copy off each other.
You did also call yourself Cobra Commander at one point.
Oh yeah, I called myself that after the NBC Nightly news called me the “underground commander in a new warfare.” Which is just a ridiculous thing to be called.
Yes, it sure is. What do you think of your 100-year sentence?
I’ve known for a long time that I was going to be incarcerated. There are several documentaries where I say that I’m going to jail at some point. You just can’t do these things and not fall on the radar of the FBI without retaliation or reprisal. I don’t want to talk to you about the case or the people involved at this point, but obviously I’m not terribly worried about it.
Why aren’t you worried?
Just because of my knowledge, I know how long they were in there monitoring our stuff… I know what documents and records of my activities are available. They’re trying to claim that I intentionally tried to spread credit card information, but I was opposed to that. And I was on record being opposed to it. They’re just not aware of that.
They don’t have their shit together in terms of going through what they spied on me regarding… and I obviously know what’s there in that evidence, so… I’ve always been opposed to spreading credit cards.
Kimani Gray and Two Weeks of Struggle in Flatbush, Brooklyn
“This is about Kimani Gray!” interrupted Fatimah Shakur, the most vocal of a loose network of organizers who have been holding nightly demonstrations in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn since the 16-year-old boy was murdered by the NYPD on March 9th. A representative from the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) was attempting to tie Gray’s shooting into a larger context of police repression and economic exploitation, making the case for revolution in the United States. Shakur was not having it. “Revolution is alright,” she conceded, getting on the microphone, “but this is about Kimani Gray!” RCP members jeered. This was the impassioned tone of Sunday’s daytime demonstration—a march down Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn— which was attended by around 75 protestors, 25 reporters, and literally a thousand cops.
Daily demonstrations in the neighborhood began two weeks ago, after Kimani Gray was gunned down by two plainclothes cops with lengthy histories of misconduct, who ambushed the young man on the street. The cops jumped out of a vehicle and discharged seven shots, three into his back. The NYPD maintains Gray brandished a weapon. Many friends and neighbors, including an eyewitness, dispute this claim. The NYPD has attempted to smear Gray by portraying him as a gang member with a criminal record. Meanwhile, Gray’s school principal wrote his parents a heartfelt letter, portraying the boy as a bright, motivated student and a sweet young man. These are the kinds of discussions that follow when the police “kill you twice,” as the saying goes: once in body, once in reputation. The shooting of a young, black male by the NYPD is an occurrence so common in New York City that few could have predicted what happened next.
It’s not a problem of a few bad apples, as some people suggest, but instead a matter of irresponsible leadership, a pathological law enforcement culture, and a public ready and willing to sacrifice notions of justice, fairness and humanity for … what exactly?