March 20, 2015

Shooting Cops In Ferguson

When I saw, last week, a news bulletin announcing that two cops had just been shot in Ferguson, MO at the end of a demonstration, I thought, “Fuck. This could get really ugly, really fast.”

My fears have not been borne out, I am happy to admit. The cops both went home after a day or two in the hospital. The dude arrested for doing the shooting, Jeffrey Williams, reportedly said, and there’s other evidence, that he wasn’t even aiming at the police.

Still I was a bit puzzled by the low-key approach to the whole thing taken by the mainstream media and even moreso by the rather limited stir it caused in the fairly revolutionary corner of Facespace where I spend too much time.

Even as I noticed this, I was reflecting on some lessons from the incident, lessons that folks may have missed because there was relatively little attention paid.

The Ferguson Movement Continues to Amaze and Inspire

Most of all, it showed how astounding the movement in St. Louis has become. Even as it sparked the first real nationwide, as opposed to localized, movement against racist police violence ever in this country and triggered the reawakening of the Black Liberation Movement, it has remained the epicenter of the struggle, despite murders even more shocking than that of Mike Brown, like those of Akai Gurley in New York City and Tamir Rice in Cleveland.

Consider the March 12 protest which the gunfire ended. It was the community seizing on important victories it had just won and pressing the offensive. With the damning US Department of Justice report on racism in the St. Louis county police and court system, several perpetrators were fired or resigned, including a judge. That very day, the chief of the Ferguson PD resigned.

In the evening, 500 people gathered at Ferguson Police Department headquarters, where most of the protests take place, facing off against a couple hundred battle-dressed cops. They were celebrating by demanding the resignation of Ferguson Mayor James Knowles as well.

Reports indicate there were disagreements, sometime heated, among the protesters over tactics, particularly blocking traffic on South Florissant, the main drag in front of the cop shop. Some of it evidently arose when the core who have been keeping the protests alive month after month tried to school newbies and irregulars who came out for this action in how the struggle has been built and conducted,
 (I saw this dynamic myself acted out when I was among the couple thousand folk from around the country who answered the call to #FergusonOctober last fall. The way in which the organizers and the marshals on that weekend recognized and provided productive outlets for young militants, locals and visitors alike, to challenge the system and the police in non-approved ways without threatening the united front that had been built for the demo was a marvel of political astuteness.)

The fifty or so protesters who were left on the scene at midnight when the shots rang out were themselves terrified. And well they might have been. With two cops down and many others with weapons at the ready, a massacre could have easily resulted.

Despite this, the protesters returned the next night, 50 strong, around the norm for the frequent protests over the winter, to

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