James Croft on the Debacle in Ferguson

My friend James Croft has been on the ground in Ferguson, MO from that terrible day in August when Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown, helping organize protests and bail people out of jail. He writes about his experiences and how they’ve shaken his faith in his adopted country.

The truth is I am not OK. I haven’t been OK for quite a while. The truth is that I am filled with rage, and I’m struggling to deal with it. The truth is that the things I’ve seen in St. Louis after the shooting of Michael Brown have challenged my worldview and my perspective…

Then there is the treatment by police of peaceful protesters. Yes, there have been some limited acts of property damage occurring in the vicinity of protests. But in the 115 days since Michael Brown’s killing there have been countless protests in the St. Louis area, the vast majority completely peaceful. This has been a remarkably restrained and well-organized protest movement. Yet the police, under the direction of our elected representatives, have taken the presence on the streets of large numbers of people – predominantly people of color – as an excuse to declare war on the citizenry. How else can we honestly describe the armored cars, the rifles, and the chemical weapons? The almost fetishistic attachment to excessive armor and weaponry displayed by the police? The indiscriminate arrests of members of the media, legal observers, and helpful bystanders – let alone peaceful protesters themselves?…

I took calls from these people myself as I volunteered with jail support, as they were being arrested and as they were released from prison, some with bail bonds of tens of thousands of dollars. They described charges being handed out essentially at random, while police denied medical aid to the wounded and suffering, laughing at their discomfort…

Last Thursday my friends were gassed by their own government, trapped in a designated sanctuary space while police filled it with tear gas and effectively prevented people from leaving. Amnesty International human rights observers (yes, they sent human rights observers to this city in the United States – think on that awhile) report being fired upon by police.

This may have been planned, the safe space targeted by the very forces designated – and paid – to protect us. Cops and ex-cops writing on St. Louis Cop Talk, an online space for police to discuss their experiences, expressed the hope that the sanctuary space would “burn…down, and that our fire department can’t get there in time to help”. One writes “Hope they burn that $h!t coffee shop to the ground! Then I’m gonna laugh when you call 911 and they don’t show up.” Apparently the word “shit” was more troubling to this person than the prospect of protesters burning alive…

Perhaps worst, though, is the apathy and inaction of many of my peers. We live in a transparently racist society – one in which people of color are targeted for unjust treatment at every stage of the criminal justice system. Yet most seem to be quite content with this, while others actively support it. What does this say about us, as people? What does it say about us that we have allowed this to continue? I fear it reveals us to be baser than we would prefer to imagine, unwilling to risk our privilege to secure others’ basic security. I am disgusted and ashamed.

I do not want to live in a society like this. This is not the sort of world I dream of. This is unworthy of America, my adopted home. My faith in the human capacity to face down oppression – our ability to improve our situation – has been battered by what I have seen and heard in St. Louis. I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t. The unrest in St. Louis has spurred an outpouring of the most vile forms of explicit and unapologetic racism I have ever seen, while the powerful who control this unjust system have closed ranks, their backs toward the people they are meant to serve.

James is not someone given to overstatement or melodrama. He is a man of enormous commitment to humanist ideals. If there’s anyone I’m going to trust to tell the real story of what’s going on in Ferguson, it’s him. And what he has to say is damn depressing.

POPULAR AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • https://www.facebook.com/neilcarter74 Neil Carter

    Thank you for reposting this. It’s been on my mind a good bit as well. Still processing it myself, but this needs to be discussed a lot more.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Well, sure, it looks bad. Have you tried not looking at it?

  • caseloweraz

    Obviously the police aren’t there to create injustice; they’re there to preserve injustice. It’s a Daley occurrence.

    Forty years ago it was The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. Looks like it will be. It certainly will be covered on the Internet. Gil Scott Heron can be forgiven for not foreseeing the Internet.

  • busterggi

    If he thinks it disgusts an adopted citizen then he needs to think how it feels to someone born & raised n the hypocrisy – hint, worse.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Some talk is going around of just raising your hands, slowly, whenever in the presence of a police officer. If enough cops get fed up with being treated like UXBs, maybe they’ll put some pressure on the ones who are UXBs.

  • tsig

    To Protect (our asses) and Serve (the public up on a stick)

  • http://www.facebook.com/jesse.needham jesseneedham

    I watched live from Eric Garner. Rebelutionary_Z. My life changed after 5 hours, and he was there for like 5 months. I saw what looked liked, a marine legion capturing people indiscriminately. One random guy was dragged away and beat by about 5 officers with their batons. The army gassed people away from the man protest, just for the hell of it; trapped them in a safe zone that they gassed. If they went into the gassed building, they were OK. If they walked off the porch, they were arrested. They were warned that if they stayed on the porch — a safe zone — they would be arrested.

  • magistramarla

    It all makes retiring in another country and never admitting that we’re from the USA look better and better.

  • lakitha tolbert

    Does anyone have any links to the global or UN response to Ferguson and New York? I’d love to have ’em if you got ’em. I tried looking myself but my Google-Fu just isnt’ strong enough?

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    lakitha: you might try America.aljazeera.com for starters.

  • DaveL

    We live in a transparently racist society – one in which people of color are targeted for unjust treatment at every stage of the criminal justice system. Yet most seem to be quite content with this, while others actively support it.

    Well, that just about sums it up right there, doesn’t it?