An Open Letter to Protesters

fregPictured is Jamell Spann (middle) with Elizabeth Vega (right).

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.Spann1However, by September 1, 2014, he was apparently “ordered” to take some time to relax.  Spann3 By September 30, 2014, Mr. Spann was no longer affiliated with the NBPP claiming that he quit.Spann4It would seem that what follows is why he was forced to “quit.”Spann5Spann6Spann7Spann8 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.

http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C500-599/5750000280.HTM

http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/C500-599/5760000020.HTM

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.

WS

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5 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Protesters

  1. While I agree with some of what you write, I must address the rhetoric of fear you are trying to generate with your post. I have been to most every protest and feel that some of the points you are making are one sided and out of context. Foremost, I would like to address the many discrepancies in your article and the personal attack against myself and Jamell Spann. I am offended that you are using a picture of the moment that explains why I am in this movement so deeply to fuel fear when it actually captures a moment of restraint. While you gleaned information from my facebook page you clearly failed to outline the visceral context of when this moment was captured. So I will do it for you. We were two strangers who met on the sidewalk peacefully assembling and who then found themselves being advanced upon by police in full riot gear. Jamell was understandably upset and angry. Our civil rights were being violated in broad daylight. More than that he was clearly grieving multiple deaths and injustices. In that moment he was feeling the pain so deeply that his face for me will forever remind me of the anguish of injustice. Three of us surrounded him as he railed at the police with tears streaming down his face. Despite that he WALKED away PEACEFULLY. The young man in red in the picture was being led out by another woman and the police pulled him out of her arms and arrested him. To paint Jamell now as violent or mentally ill is incredibly unfair and just wrong. Yes, he is a leader in the movement. Yes, he is vocal and yes he is righteously angry and yes sometimes his facebook posts reveal the un-tempered passion of youth. However, I would never characterize him as violent. In fact, I have never seen him do anything violent despite intense pressure from the police. He has railed. He has yelled but he has never vandalized or destroyed anything. Moreover, I interviewed him on Sunday for Storycorp for 45 minutes. I saw reflected back to me a thoughtful, introspective and articulate young man who in just 60 days was trying to find his place, philosophy and voice in this movement. During our interview he talked about love and community. He spoke of trying to see the humanity of the police even as they refuse to see his, of fighting an unjust system but continually to love the people within it. While you may paint his words of sacrificing himself for the cause as a sign of instability, I would counter that those words written on the public journal of facebook like so many of the young people out here protesting are reflection of a generation who has been pushed to the fringes so long by society, the police, the educational system that they have nothing left to lose. In their own words they are fired up and can’t take it no more. However the majority — a very large majority while disruptive are simply stating their truths — that they do not trust the police who have killed so many of their friends and family, they no longer trust the “justice” system and they are prepared to face the violence they have experienced from the system head on to ensure change happens.

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    • Ma’am, there is no rhetoric inserted on my part when directly quoting someone who claims they wish to die and murder others in the process. These are the words of someone who needs psychiatric care. I posted his comments as they appeared with screenshots and in as great a quantity as I could afford to do with the limited space on my blog. Nothing was taken out of context. I think you’ve made the greatest argument for me in your effort to defend his words. Hate speech is hate speech and should be condemned regardless of the good he’s said. If murder/suicide can be justified, then there is very little left to be debated. If you could be so kind, would you care to mention Mr. Spann’s other relatives and friends who have been killed by the police?

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  2. As someone who had a job working with young adults, and being taught to look out for troubling signs in case you would need to recommend help, I read these screenshots and think that yes, Mr. Spann needs help. If this was a post by any other person, say a college student or high school student, action would be taken immediately. That person would be introduced to counselors/medical help or, if necessary, police involvement. Why is it that in any other instance, we would say this is un-safe/healthy but that here it is ok? Isn’t that double standards?

    The first comment says that Mr. Spann’s, “facebook posts reveal the un-tempered passion of youth.” Are youths passionate? Yes. I would argue all human beings are passionate. But for Mr. Spann, who is apparently has high visibility and seems to be actively involved, I don’t think he can afford to be “un-tempered.”

    Anyone who has ever held a leadership position knows that they are in a glass bowl; everything they do is visible, everything they say or do will be critiqued and talked about. If Mr. Spann wants people to protest peacefully, then his Facebook/Twitter/whatever social media posts shown up above are rather worrisome. I understand the concept of martyrdom but this sounds too much like suicide by cop and I fail to see how this will help the situation.

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