Scenes from the Class Struggle in Ferguson, MO


Michael Brown’s stepfather Louis Head walks through Ferguson, on or after 8/9/2014. (Photographer as yet unknown. Source: blue cheddar via Flickr cc)

I’ve lost all ability to concentrate tonight because I’m transfixed by the current scene this evening in Ferguson, Missouri — a scene of protesters, armed police response, copious canisters of tear gas, alleged attempted media blackouts, and two journalists who were under arrest for nearly an hour when they failed to leave a McDonald’s in the correct fashion.

For those just joining us, the details are very roughly like so:

Saturday, August 9, 2014: Black, 18-year-old, unarmed Michael Brown, who had no criminal record, was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson. There was some kind of altercation beforehand, but Brown was ultimately unarmed when shot.

Sunday, August 10th: Police refuse to release the name of the policeman in question due to death threats and concern for his safety. Then there were protests, but then there was also looting, which became a concern for more than a few people’s safety. This was the only looting day on record this week.

Mon.-Wed., August 11th-13th: Protests and vigils continue in Ferguson without looting, but continue to contain black people. They keep being met by armed responders — rubber bullets, tear gas, at least one tank, all reported by residents and numerous reporters on the scene from national organizations. Police in riot gear keep ordering people to go home, apparently not caring that many of these protests and vigils were being held by citizens standing on their own lawns at the time. And we’re not talking five or ten stubborn ragamuffins.

Wednesday, August 14th: Here’s an excerpt from the Washington Post‘s Wesley Lowery telling his own story tonight for one and all to read. If you’re not familiar with Twitter, these tweets are in reverse chronological order. Y’know, like Facebook when you have your News Feed set on “Most Recent” instead of defaulting to out-of-order “Top Stories”. You can check out the full, head-shaking details if you comb backward through Lowery’s own feed.

[Updated 8/13/2014, 11:45 p.m. EDT: Lowery has now posted his full narrative and the fifty-one-second video he shot at McDonald’s in the moments before his arrest.]

The other temporary detainee, the Huffington Post‘s Ryan Reilly, tweeted his version at length as well. They were released after an hour thanks to an assist from the Los Angeles TimesMatt Pearce. Funny story, that. The damage was done, though.

Ever since that happened, I’ve spent tonight watching live updates roll in on the most useful List I’ve ever seen on Twitter:

If you’re not on Twitter but interested in staying informed…well, I guess you could wait for mainstream media to absorb it, filter it, tweak it, and eventually share the TL;DR version sometime this month, with value-added talking-heads commentaries by people who weren’t there. Or disregard it and go back to Facebook pet photos on parade. It’s your call to make, really. Sooner or later I’ll have to let it go, get to bed, and recharge for my own ordinary unprovoked life, so I know how it goes.

But it kills me to watch something so unjust, volatile, and outrageously mishandled at this order of magnitude…this is somehow happening in America. Sure, you could write off the whole string of ludicrously escalated incidents as the most convoluted and unfunniest comedy of errors in our nation’s history, or get very alarmed about these parts of the ostensible “first world” around us that really shouldn’t be the way they are.

Again, your call to make.

UPDATED 8/14/2014, 12:05 a.m. EDT: Last word on what journalism needs to thrive: your support.

4 responses

    • Thanks, I appreciate that. 🙂 Really, in this case all I wanted to do was pass along the work being done by other, better men on the scene. I wasn’t seeing much coverage from major new outlets (such as they are) and thought it deserved a lot more. So I chipped in my two cents plus.

      On a related note: I just picked up the morning edition of the Indianapolis Star. Ferguson is a lead item in the second section (their “USA Today” section) that boils all this police action down to a single clause “four days of angry calls for reform and tear gas lobbed at protestors” and then spends the rest of the article interviewing the police chief on race relations and a primary witness to Brown’s shooting, who — at least as of Monday, and maybe even up to now, for all I know — hadn’t yet been interviewed by police.

      And on our 7 a.m. morning news (Fox 59), “tear gas at protestors” didn’t rate a mention till the 13-minute mark. Not dramatic enough to deserve any strong concern, I guess.

      Neither the Star nor Fox 59 mentioned the McDonald’s incident with Lowery and Reilly.


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