As the “Weekend of Resistance” looms, I feel the need to address the protesters. Demographics have shifted in recent weeks with lots of new people answering the call for justice in the case of Michael Brown/Darren Wilson. I’ve seen projections that between two and ten thousand demonstrators may be out on the streets this weekend. If I didn’t believe that many of these individuals truly intended to participate in peaceful protests, I wouldn’t bother writing this post. Unfortunately, it has become clear that there are many new arriving people who are utterly unaware of whom exactly makes up the ranks of the established protesters in Ferguson, MO.
Take, for example, Jamell Spann, AKA “Dread Hampton,” AKA “Some Nigga in Black,” AKA “The Lieutenant,” an individual who has appeared in countless articles and pictures about Ferguson. What’s lacking from these depictions is as follows. On August 11, 2014, Mr. Spann was inducted into the New Black Panther Party. He even references Brother Maurice, whom I assume is Dr. Mauricelm Millere who I have written about before.However, by September 1, 2014, he was apparently “ordered” to take some time to relax. By September 30, 2014, Mr. Spann was no longer affiliated with the NBPP claiming that he quit.It would seem that what follows is why he was forced to “quit.” There are some of you that are probably assuming that Mr. Spann is on the fringe and that one bad individual shouldn’t poison the entire movement. That would be a fair point except that Spann has been interviewed in the media regularly since as early as 8/11 and is now part of the group of protesters arrested last week being referred to as the “Ferguson 13.” What’s more, Spann frequently communicates with Elizabeth Vega via Facebook. Vega was part of the protest during the St. Louis Symphony last week. It would seem that Spann cannot be characterized as a fringe character.
Moving on, I would like to make some serious recommendations to protesters for how to keep the protests peaceful and establish a more thoughtful message that can be more widely accepted.
1.) Identify and Isolate the criminals.
Agitator is too minor a phrase for what some of the violent rioters have been able to get away with in the past several months. People like Spann with clear mental health issues evidenced by his homicidal and suicidal social media posts should not be allowed to participate alongside peaceful protesters. Allowing him to stand beside peaceful protesters is to give justification to his viewpoints and perhaps unfairly associate his views with protesters who are not as militant as he self identifies.
If crimes are committed by other protesters, specifically violent crimes, then these people should not be protected. Hiding these individuals, giving them safe haven in safe houses, and pretending to have not seen anything when the police are forced to respond to assaults, Molotovs, and shots fired perpetuates these acts by keeping the responsible individuals free to act out night after night. What’s more, the result is further and necessary police escalation in order to protect ourselves and you from violence of which you are giving tacit approval.
2.) Speak out against hyperbole and misinformation.
There is no doubt that social media has been a great source of organization but also of utter falsehoods, some of which continue today. For example, I can do a google search and identify several claims of individuals recently stating that Ferguson Police confirmed that Michael Brown was not the individual depicted in the robbery video. Of course, this is completely wrong and what’s more, Brown’s family has even confirmed that he was pictured in the video even if they do not approve of the manner in which the footage was released. The point is, there is not enough vocal criticism of false information.
Everything seems to fall under the pretense that the ends justify the means. So any story that hurts the Police, regardless of validity, is seen to be worth spreading. The main problem, besides lacking integrity, is that true stories and accounts fall by the wayside, either overlooked due to the multitude of other stories available or discounted entirely because of all the false information out there. An ideal means nothing, a movement means nothing, if lies are used to prop it up.
3.) Learn the criminal justice system.
While falsehoods discredit the movement, failing to understand the basics of the criminal justice system makes protesters look uneducated or uninformed. Not understanding the difference between a trial and grand jury, or an arrest, a warrant, or an indictment hurts the cause because it forces the need to define terms before a discussion can take place. In order to say that something does not work, one needs to be able to describe on a basic level how that system is supposed to work in order to properly identify that there is a problem. If I don’t know how to drive a car, it’s going to be difficult to tell a mechanic that the car is broken. If I don’t know how to turn my computer on, it’s going to be difficult to tell an IT specialist that my computer is broken.
4.) Call for legislation that makes it easier to prosecute corrupt cops and politicians.
Corruption in the state of Missouri requires that someone take some kind of quid pro quo benefit. In a lot of political incidents this can be difficult to prove if the benefit is not financial. What’s more, a long term unstated political quid pro quo based upon prior friendships or relationships is near impossible to prove without an admission.
For example, if I’m a police chief and have a good relationship with my public works director, I might sweep a DWI of his son’s under the rug due to our relationship and with the understanding that I might need help on something else down the road. This is corruption by any definition, but it’s virtually improvable based upon the corruption state statute. What’s more, it can be successfully argued that without a benefit directly tied to this incident, per the letter of the law in Missouri, that corruption as defined did not legally occur.
One can argue that federal agencies could take up these claims, and I would agree that they should, however, if state laws were bolstered then there wouldn’t be the need for the FBI to investigate every incident in which a small town Muni mayor pulled strings to get a relative’s local DWI case dropped.
Furthermore, corruption does not include incidents of excessive force, rude attitudes, or other general unprofessional behavior.
5.) For God’s sake, leave your children at home during the protests.
Setting aside the safety issue for a moment, it’s a hard sell to argue that you fear for your life from a corrupt, racist, militarized police department who supposedly guns down unarmed children for no reason, and then you decide to bring your children into that environment. It either reflects on you as a parent unconcerned with the safety of your child(ren), or it reflects on how much stock you actually place in your argument that the police are killers. If I believe that someone is an indiscriminate killer, I don’t take actions that place my children in direct confrontation with that individual. The only reason to bring your children into an environment where you truly believe they are in danger from killer cops is to use your own flesh and blood as human shields. I’m willing to give protesters the benefit of the doubt that they don’t really believe that they have as much to fear from the police as they claim.
However, besides the police, there have been over five people shot in Ferguson during the protests, numerous people assaulted and robbed, and shots fired every single night. That alone should be reason not to bring your kids with you to these events. Leave your kids at home!
Stay safe out there.