The Streets of Ferguson, Cleveland, NYC, Minneapolis

A 19 year-old African American walks into the Legal Rights Center (LRC). He insists on seeing the Executive Director.

He’s a large man, his speech is fast, his eyes are angry. He pulls up his shirt to show the swastika he alleges the police carved on his back while he lay on the street in North Minneapolis.

There are witnesses. Three women and a man who saw it happen  during another man’s arrest. “Raymond”, we’ll call him, was objecting to the arrest when two officers took him down to the pavement, face down, while one of the officers used his key to etch the Swastika into his flesh. He was not arrested.

Police abuse of power, racial profiling, the use of unreasonable force, shootings, and prosecutors and grand juries looking the other way always have been the way it is in America.  What’s new is the public outcry, the jarring of consciousness and conscience among those who do not live in places like North Minneapolis, Ferguson, or one of the poorer African-American neighborhoods in Cleveland or New York City.

After several years of the LRC Executive Director referring complainants to the Minneapolis Police Civilian Review Board without satisfaction of remedy, I proposed something out of the ordinary. We went directly to the commanding officer of the 4th Precinct of the Minneapolis Police Department.

The Commander’s attention seemed to wander as I introduced myself and Raymond until Raymond pulled up his shirt. The Commander asked if Raymond got the number of the squad car or remembered the badges of the officers. He didn’t. The Commander then, to my great surprise, named a number of officers, asking if Raymond recognized any of the names. Those officers were well-known for terrorizing the North Minneapolis African-American community.

“This is way beyond Internal Investigation,” he said. “You need to take this to the F.B.I.”

Raymond didn’t trust the F.B.I. any more than he trusted the Minneapolis Police Department. He decided to let it go.

Lots of people like Raymond have decided over the years to let it go. Until Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson and a grand jury decided not to indict him. Until 12-year old Tamir Rice was killed by a police officer in Cleveland. Until Eric Garner died of a police officer’s choke hold saying, “I can’t breath!” The inferno of anger boiling over across the streets of America is new only in the breadth of consciousness and conscience.

It will take time. It will take a change of heart and mind. But, mostly, it will NOT change until America gets it straight that for most African-Americans being black is also an issue of class. Class is about power and powerlessness. Only when what we call “the middle class” understands that its interests lie with African-Americans in Ferguson, Cleveland, NYC, and Minneapolis will thing change in America.

Attorney General Eric Holder just released a Department of Justice Investigation report. Click HERE for the story.

It’s all about the economics: up or down. There really is no middle. “Hands up!” “I can’t breath!”

“Homeland” Militarization

Thanks to MinnPost for publishing Views fro the Edge‘s submission this morning.

Click Homeland militarization — tanks in Ferguson, Blackhawks in Minneapolis — must be stopped to read, like, or comment on MinnPost’s site.

One of the more informed responses to this piece came in a personal email rather than through the MinnPost site. It’s worth sharing here.

“About 15 years ago, there were articles in the NYT about new, non-lethal, technologies for subduing criminals and quelling riots. They were clever, stuff like a slime-cannon that basically lobbed a ball of K-Y jelly into a crowd, making it impossible to walk, run, or even get up off the ground. Or sticky webs that wrap around the target with tenacity enough to immobilize an All-Star wrestler. But why mess with all that when you can really send a message?

“The six shots that murdered Michael Brown were an act of terror; and so is all the police combat drag, including the assault rifles and armored personnel carriers. H.L. Mencken once said about a Baltimore cop, with a wink, “He loved a long, hard chase almost as much as a quick, brisk, clubbing.” These are different times. They still love clubbings, and a little pepper spray in the face while your hands are zip-tied, but the number of police killings using insanely unnecessary levels of force these days broadcasts notice that, no matter what they’re doing to you at this moment, anything less than complete submission could cost you your life. Everybody should know by now that you could cross a cop in your birthday suit and have your birthday taken away by six rounds from a 9-millimeter.

“Do you know much about the 1967 riots on Plymouth Avenue in Minneapolis? I don’t really know what set it all off. Stores were burned and looted, and yet it all hardly drew mention in the national press, overshadowed, maybe, by the really angry riots in Watts and Detroit and on the East Coast. There was a war on then, too, but it’s said the National Guardsmen who were called in carried rifles with empty magazines.

“Today, everybody who complains that Americans never had to give up their domestic comforts during more than a decade of war should get some grim satisfaction out of the black helicopters and armored personnel carriers in the cops’ garages. Isn’t it ironic, when we remember how everybody likes to praise the warriors who fought and died in Iraq and Afghanistan ‘to keep us free’?”

Ferguson, Missouri

“Hands up. Don’t shoot!” Ferguson, Missouri is not new.

Think Detroit 1967. Think riot police, National Guard. Think Chicago 1968 Democratic Convention. Think The Kerner Commission Report on police violence. Think armored vehicles. Think tanks. Think guns on tripods. Think Afghanistan. Think Iraq. Think occupation. Think race. Think black. Think white. Think guns. Think Trayvon Martin. Think militarization. Think occupation. It’s all a replay.

Think… America.