Topical 3.0

2014-08-16T112512Z_1_LYNXMPEA7F03A_RTROPTP_2_USA-MISSOURI-SHOOTING-PROTESTS

  1. Antonio French
  2. Twittergate
  3. White Flight
  4. Name tags
  5. “Will I be Next”
  6. Weekend of Resistance


53ecc20cbc97c.preview-6201.) Antonio French

Antonio French is the St. Louis City Alderman for Ward 21. He has been present in the protests largely from the beginning. However, there has been a bit of protester side distrust with the River Front Times and others describing him has “opportunistic.” Apparently, Alderman French hit a nerve on Thursday, 09/26/2014, when a fight broke out between Mr. French and a set of protesters across the street from the Ferguson Police Department on S. Florissant.

Another protester voice, Umar Lee (who represents a topic worth discussing on his own), posted several tweets alleging that Mr. French collected somewhere in the neighborhood of $500,000 supposedly to help Ferguson residents only to divert those funds to his own private non-profit geared exclusively toward North City residents. The tweets in question have since disappeared (or I might just be having difficulty locating them amongst the other tweets). If purposefully removed, I don’t know if their absence is due to the above information being discredited or simply to show unity amongst various protester groups as we inch closer to the “Weekend of Resistance” which I’ll discuss at the end of this post.


 

2.) Twitter-Gate

Misinformation in social media strikes again. A woman claiming to know a grand juror tweeted that there was not enough information to “arrest Darren Wilson” supposedly according to that juror in question. I found the use of the word “arrest” instead of “indict” to be oddly telling of the validity of the tweet. Regardless, if true, the tweet would mean that a juror was violating their court ordered mandate not to discuss the case with anyone outside of the court. It is and should be grounds for the removal of the juror. With eleven other jurors still remaining and presumably a list of alternates available, this shouldn’t have any effect on the grand jury process already in progress.

However, the media, national and local, have all decided to opt for the much more apocalyptic and damning, yet dishonest, headline that the entire grand jury is under investigation for misconduct. While, the headline isn’t exactly a lie per se, it implies that there is reason to suspect that every juror is guilty of misconduct as opposed to one individual. What’s more, the current evidence seems to indicate that the original tweet was simply a lie by someone with no ties to the grand jury and nothing more.

Interestingly, the Post Dispatch felt the need to release the address of the twitter user.  What use that information accomplishes is not clear.


 

3.) White Flight

I’ve referenced calls before by the crowd for racist violence and looting against portions of the St. Louis area that are viewed as predominantly white. The geographical focus of these threats has been West St. Louis County, known colloquially as “West County” and St. Charles City/County just across the Missouri River. The discussion of the geographical and corresponding racial make up of these regions is largely a discussion of “White Flight.” Individuals including Umar Lee, Maria Chappelle-Nadal, and Jamilah Nasheed have all expressed anger at West County and St. Charles the citizens of which they blame for “White Flight.”

The concept of “White Flight” indicates that as St. Louis became more diverse and minority populations grew, rich white St. Louisans began to migrate westward in order to flee essentially a black community they hated and feared. In doing so, rich whites supposedly took jobs, money, and general opportunities with them damning the remaining community to urban decay, poverty, and crime.

As a post-civil rights era phenomenon, the concept is undeniable when viewing the population / demographic shifts over time. North St. Louis City used to be predominantly white and in time, North County became predominantly white as the population shifted. Since that time, West County has grown in size and in the last twenty years or so St. Charles and St. Charles County municipalities like O’Fallon have experienced corresponding population explosions.

What never is discussed by anyone bringing up “White Flight” is the true nature of crime in North County/North City. Racist white people make for a better villain than racist white people who might actually have something to fear from crime rates in an area. I refer to the old idiom about even paranoid people having enemies sometimes.

While many would argue a chicken and the egg scenario in which whites leaving the area were responsible for gutting the tax base which in turn caused crime, many on the other side would argue that the increase in crime prompted White Flight in the first place. I’ve always been one to think the truth is somewhere in the middle. Historically, crime increased and preconceived racist perceptions were justified by those confusing correlation with causation. Thus, the tax base was lowered by the richer people fearful of crime fleeing the area and continuing the cycle.

Ironically, even if more modern “White Flight” was solely based upon racist attitudes and not fear of crime, the environment created by the riots in Ferguson has had the direct demonstrative effect of justifying the attitude that North County is a violent high crime area worthy of fear while chasing away businesses and the corresponding jobs and tax base they represent. I have to wonder why the anger is always directed at West County and St. Charles and not at the small compartmentalized municipal structure of North County that makes maintaining effective law enforcement difficult (thus high crime) and allows a vehicle for corrupt officials to bleed the community (thus high poverty).


 

4.) Name Tags

There have been repeated calls for officers to be forced to wear name tags. The calls have also been picked up by the Justice Department. However, there is no legal precedent to require officers to wear nametags. The argument is that officers are not accountable if they do not wear nametags. This is an argument I don’t disagree with during normal circumstances. The problem is that Ferguson protesters have regularly singled out officers who wear name tags and threatened them both in social media and on the streets abroad. See my earlier post, “The Need for Secrecy.”

Libel/slander has also been rampant. Furthermore, if you read the article I linked to in “Credit Where Credit is Due” the Ferguson Sergeant referenced in that article has even had individuals attempting to take out loans in his name since this all began. Accountability through name tags is a hard sell when there are no consequences for the crimes that prompted their removal.


5.) Will I Be Next?

There have been a number of discussions and corresponding signs stating that people in the community wonder, “will I be next” as the victim of an unjustified officer-involved shooting. It is interesting to note that the shooting of Mike Brown was the first officer-involved shooting death in the history of the Ferguson Police Department. Consequently, during August there were approximately five shootings in Ferguson by protesters on protesters. That number involves individuals actually struck with gunfire and not simply shots fired. It would seem that the likelihood of being shot by an officer unjustly instead of another citizen is a little skewed.


6.) Weekend of Resistance

Many are calling for a weekend of civil disobedience next weekend given the title of the “Weekend of Resistance” or “Ferguson October.” What this specifically entails is not clear. Some documentation references a “Return to W. Florissant” without indicating what that actually means. Of greatest concern is the website, Ferugsonoctober.com which allows users to sign up for updates during the event after plugging in their zip code for protest related information specific to that location. Seeing as there are not many zip codes in Ferguson, this is evidence that the event will be widespread. The website lists sixty-six (66) organizations which endorse the events next weekend. I know of several other unlisted organizations that plan to be involved as well.

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