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New York’s Colour Line, Between Black and Blue

When American police officers shot dead two black men – Anton Sterling and Philando Castile – within 24 hours in the sweltering heat of July, thousands took to the streets to protest against the violence that they say is predominantly aimed at African Americans. Two days later, a sniper killed five police officers, who were guarding a demonstration. His aim? To kills as many white cops as possible. The reciprocal violence exposes a raw inflamed wound, where many hoped there was a scar. Photo by Ruth Hopkins, © 2016

When American police officers shot dead two black men – Anton Sterling and Philando Castile – within 24 hours in the sweltering heat of July, thousands took to the streets to protest against the violence that they say is predominantly aimed at African Americans. Two days later, a sniper killed five police officers, who were guarding a demonstration. His aim? To kills as many white cops as possible.
The reciprocal violence exposes a raw inflamed wound, where many hoped there was a scar. Photo by Ruth Hopkins, © 2016

August, 2016

When American police officers shot dead two black men – Anton Sterling and Philando Castile – within 24 hours in the sweltering heat of July, thousands took to the streets to protest against the violence that they say is predominantly aimed at African Americans. Two days later, a sniper killed five police officers, who were guarding a demonstration. His aim? To kills as many white cops as possible.

The reciprocal violence exposes a raw inflamed wound, where many hoped there was a scar. Has Martin Luther King’s dream evolved into a nightmare? In 1903, sociologist and chronicler W.E.B. DuBois presciently wrote that the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of ‘colour line’ the invisible line that divides the darker and lighter races in America. Despite King’s civil rights movement, which has found a worthy successor in the Black Lives Matter movement, achievements such as desegregation in schools and the first black president in the White House, the colour line seems sharper than ever.

And although awareness of institutional racism – see for example Beyoncé’s and Kendrick Lamar’s  protest performances against the mass incarceration of people of colour – is growing, the reality on the ground is refractory.

New York has the nation’s largest police force, the NYPD, and is also one of the most racially mixed cities in the country. The men and women in blue and the black and brown communities are frequently at loggerheads.

Delrawn Small died on a sidewalk in Brooklyn on Independence Day, 4th July, after a police officer in plainclothes shot him following a dispute about a traffic violation.

A few days later NYPD Police Commissioner William Bratton added insult to injury. During a radio interview he blasted the Black Lives Matter movement, which gained national and international fame with demonstrations against police violence against black people. Bratton said that the activists should stop “yelling and screaming at cops about police brutality because it accomplishes nothing.” This led the occupation of City Hall Park under the banner #ShutDownCityHallNYC, where protesters demanded Bratton should be fired because he is a racist. They rechristened City Hall Park to Abolition Square.

To everyone’s surprise – but certainly not as a result of the protests, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised – Bratton resigned on 2 August. Some breathed a sigh of relief that his controversial term had ended, while others were sad to see him go.  He is credited in law and order circles for stemming soaring crime rates in New York City in the nineties, during his first appointment as NYPD commissioner. But his opponents say Bratton’s approach has led to a drastic deterioration in race relations between the police and people of colour in New York.

Those detractors viewed Bratton’s re-appointment as police chief in 2014 with suspicion. Progressive mayor Bill de Blasio won the elections with a promise to improve relations between the police and minorities in the city.

From that perspective, Bratton’s appointment was indeed a strange choice. He is the architect of ‘Broken Windows’, an approach to crime reduction he embraced as NYPD boss in the nineties. Broken Windows led to aggressive surveillance, investigation and enforcement of minor offenses committed mainly by people of colour. The theory is based on the premise that minor violations of the law, such as a broken window, adversely affect social cohesion and thus produce more serious offenses. The rationale behind the doctrine is that crime rates will go down if you tackle all offenses equally thoroughly. Although the Broken Windows theory is theoretically colour blind; formally not aimed at a particular group, it did not work out that way in practice.

Bratton’s approach led to ‘overpolicing’ of mostly minorities, who were stopped, searched and often arrested on street corners. There is no objective reason to supervise these groups more. For example, while the rate of drug use among whites and non-whites is roughly the same, African Americans are detained and arrested much more frequently. A 2014 study published by the American Psychological Association furthermore found that police view black children and youngsters as older and more dangerous than their white peers.

Human rights lawyer Chaumtoli Huq was arrested in 2014 on 'broken windows' grounds. On a sunny summer day in Times Square Huq, a Bangladeshi-American, had her face and body pressed against the window of a restaurant. "I shouted, ‘I’m not resisting the arrest. I’m not resisting the arrest’." When her husband and two children returned from a visit to the bathroom in the restaurant they saw her shoe lying on the crosswalk. Huq had been pushed into a police car. Photo by Charles Meacham, © 2014

Human rights lawyer Chaumtoli Huq was arrested in 2014 on ‘broken windows’ grounds, while waiting for her husband and children to return from visiting a restaurant bathroom. When her family came outside they saw only her shoe lying on the crosswalk; Huq had been pushed into a police car. Photo by Charles Meacham, © 2014

Human rights lawyer Chaumtoli Huq was arrested in 2014 on ‘broken windows’ grounds. On a sunny summer day in Times Square Huq, a Bangladeshi-American, had her face and body pressed against the window of a restaurant. “I shouted, ‘I’m not resisting the arrest. I’m not resisting the arrest’.” When her husband and two children returned from a visit to the bathroom in the restaurant they saw her shoe lying on the crosswalk. Huq had been pushed into a police car.

That day, Huq and her family had attended a demonstration on Times Square against the Israeli occupation of Gaza. Times Square was a manic hustle and bustle of demonstrators, tourists and New Yorkers. The police officer arrested her after he had told her to move from the sidewalk and she had explained to him that she was waiting for her husband and children to return.

“He pressed his lower body against my pelvis, I could not move. After he twisted my arms behind my back, he pushed them up, so I could only walk bent over. “

In the car on the way to the police station, the officer grabbed Huq’s identification from her purse. “I’m a lawyer, so I told him that was not allowed without my permission. He then said to me: “You are my prisoner, I can do what I want. ‘” Months after the arrest Huq still suffered from insomnia and a feeling of discomfort, “like I was sexually assaulted.”

But it could have ended much worse. Exactly one day earlier, on July 17, 2014, Eric Garner was also standing on a sidewalk when a New York police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, approached him. He accused Garner of selling illegal loose cigarettes and Pantaleo tried to handcuff Garner. When the six foot tall Garner pushed Pantaleo’s arm, the officer grabbed him in a chokehold from behind, around his neck. Chokeholds were and are prohibited within the NYPD. Garner fell to the ground with Pantaleo still holding him. Five other police officers stood around and watched. They heard Garner’s last words: ‘I can’t breathe’ ‘I can’t breathe,’ which became the rallying cry of the Black Lives Matter movement. Garner died some time later.

Garner put the Big Apple’s racial divide between black and blue on the map. His death was widely reported in the media and was one of the first high profile cases the Black Lives Matter movement rallied around.

Since then, the NYPD has tried to improve relations with the communities. It has designed new guidelines around the use of force by police officers. The new policy includes improved definitions, streamlined research and better documentation and monitoring of the use of force.

Edwin Raymond, Photo Ruth Hopkins © 2016

Police officer Edwin Raymond, above, says community relations problems are deep seated. Photo Ruth Hopkins © 2016

But the real problem is much more deep seated than a chokehold, says Edwin Raymond. Raymond works as a police officer in ‘transit’, which means his work place is the vast web of New York’s underground subway transportation. Last year he joined the “NYPD 12”, minority officers who started a lawsuit against the NYPD because, so they say, they were deemed to comply with ‘inherently racist’ quotas for arrests. “Officers are expected to hide in broom closets, refuse rooms and rest rooms. The doors in these rooms have vents and officers would have to peek through the vents.” According to Raymond his superiors expected him to hide in these rooms so he could arrest unsuspecting commuters for minor offenses, such as ‘jumping the turnstile’. People who can’t afford train tickets are usually poor and non-white New Yorkers.

Annabelle,* a 33-year-old black writer and rapper, was late for an appointment a few years ago. At the turnstiles, she found her card wasn’t working properly. “The machine spat out my card, because there was not enough money on it, but I had just paid. So I jumped over the turnstile and out of nowhere a cop appeared. I tried to explain to him what had happened, but the handcuffs were already around my wrists.” The cop arrested her and she was transported to a police cell in ‘the tombs, a large complex of police cells in Manhattan and then on to New York’s largest prison, Rikers Island. Her stay at the notorious detention centre lasted only three days, but has had a huge impact on her life as it resulted in a criminal record. At the time, employers were allowed to run a check for criminal records before interviews. Ten months ago, that changed and employers can only do a background check after they have the applicant a job. Finding work was practically impossible for Annabelle: “I would apply everywhere, but would never hear back from them.” She now works at a direct-sales company, selling energy contracts door-to-door. Some months she still doesn’t earn enough for the subway fare to get to work.

Raymond, the whistle-blower, knows the negative spiral that many black youth end up in. Its trajectory is a sequence of negative steps: a young person wants to apply for a job or go to school, but skips the fare because he or she has no money for a subway ticket. He gets caught because the police have produce a certain number of arrests, this leads to a criminal record for the kid and as a result he will have a hard time finding work and education. Raymond, who still works as a cop: “I never participated in this quota system. I went out there and I policed properly, I used discretion and would arrest people when I had to.” Raymond’s stance on the issue first led to friendly ‘chats’ with his superiors, then his application for overtime and leave days would be rejected. “I’ve seen people being slammed to the floor just because they spat on the floor, took up two seats in the train or because they were kissing their girlfriend goodbye and were blocking the turnstiles. They are arrested just because you need a day off or you need overtime. And these quotas barely exist in white neighbourhoods.” Raymond’s ultimate refusal led to dismal work evaluations, which are crucial to career progression.

Whether or not there is a possible quota system is a sensitive issue because of the profound implications of the lawsuit Floyd vs. New York. David Floyd, a young African American was one of the plaintiffs in a collective civil lawsuit against the city of New York in 2013. The city was held responsible for ethnic profiling and unconstitutional stopping and frisking people of colour. The case exposed a racist undercurrent within the police. It led to compensation for the victims, but also to a federal monitor – a supervisory body – which issues reports on the issues that were central to the lawsuit.

The figures support Floyd’s and Raymond’s experiences and allegations. Preeti Chauhan, a researcher at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, conducted a study in 2013 on the demographic composition of people who were arrested for misdemeanours. The research concluded that non-white males between 18 and 25 years were three times more likely to be detained and arrested compared to white men in the same age group.

Raymond, who grew up in East Flatbush, an African American neighbourhood in Brooklyn, knows what this feels like. He lived in a small apartment with his brothers and single father who had emigrated from Haiti to the Promised Land. “One day a group of officers in plainclothes jumped out of a car and threw me against the fence and started going through my pockets, I was shocked and put my  hands up and asked ‘what did I do’ and I was told to ‘shut the fuck up’. They let me walk and it was just such a traumatizing experience, because, on the corner the actual criminals in the neighbourhood were watching me and I remember thinking the police have to be racist, because the only thing I had in common with the criminals was our race. Later, as a police officer, I would learn that officers are required to get a certain amount of stop and frisk.” That Raymond and his co-plaintiffs complain about a racist system of ethnic profiling is a sign that the comprehensive system of control and accountability that Floyd created, is not functioning properly.

In 2014 a young police officer, Peter Liang, shot and killed Akai Gurley, a young black man.

In 2014 a young police officer, Peter Liang, shot and killed Akai Gurley, a young black man in a case that continues to reverberate. Photo by Ruth Hopkins, © 2016

A recent ruling by the Supreme Court, Strieff, offers little hope for change. With a narrow majority the Supreme Court decided in June that an arrest, search or interrogation of a person, conducted without reasonable suspicion of a criminal offense, can be deemed legitimate, if it turns out there is an outstanding fine or an earlier offense committed by that person. Such a flexible interpretation of the law will lead to ethnic profiling and excessive use of stop and search, Judge Sonia Sotomayer wrote in an exceptional dissenting opinion. Sotomayor broke an unwritten rule: she explicitly mentioned the problem of the racial bias of the law. She not only referenced W.E.B. duBois, but also contemporary authors Ta-NeHisi Coates and Michelle Alexander, who wrote the ground-breaking the New Jim Crow, on the racial bias of the criminal justice system in the US.

While ethnic profiling has thus become easier at the federal level, the NYPD is trying to mend broken down relations at the city level.

In 2013, Bratton appointed Susan Bratton Herman a deputy-commissioner to head the department of collaborative policing, with the aim to heal the damaged relationship between blue and black, before guns are drawn or chokeholds applied.  Herman explains in her office at Police Plaza, the NYPD skyscraper in downtown Manhattan: “Collaborative policing is about promoting shared responsibility for public safety.” Herman works with other departments within the police, city services, but also with the community: residents, activists and religious leaders. Her department launched an initiative in four police districts where 1300 police officers are exempt from ‘911’ emergency calls. They are instructed to start conversations with locals, to be a visible presence and to cooperate with shelters for battered women and the homeless. Collaborative policing has also led to Ceasefire, an initiative in North Brooklyn where gangs and crews who are responsible for shootings and murders take a seat at the table with local residents and the NYPD. Herman hopes to address violence crimes through conversations and the power of communication. The NYPD could not produce figures on the impact of these projects. Herman’s office is also closely involved in changing the policy around marijuana possession, moving away from arrests and instead issuing a summons. Since the new policy was introduced, marijuana arrests have declined by 40%, according to an NYPD spokesman.

These and other reformed enforcement policies have reduced the number of arrests and enforcement interventions. But the question is whether the reforms really address the problem, because despite new policies, minorities are still targeted disproportionately. Sotomayor’s ground-breaking dissenting opinion was so remarkable because she explicitly mentioned race. Race and racial discrimination are rarely mentioned in policy reforms. As a result, it is possible that the number of arrests drops, but the tripled risk of arrest for young non-Caucasian men can continue to exist. Despite extensive reforms at Rikers Island – the prison population fell from 25,000 in 8000 over two decades – 95% of the population is still black or Hispanic. The organization Reforming Police Organizing Project (PROP) produced a report a few months ago on 524 ‘broken window’ charges (among others disorderly conduct and marijuana possession) that came before in courts in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx. Approximately 90% of the suspects were black or Hispanic, which is an indication of an underlying racial prejudice.

The anger about the injustice of these figures was palpable when in April of this year, Ken Thompson, a prosecutor in Brooklyn, advised a judge not to impose a prison sentence for Peter Liang. In 2014, Liang, a young police officer, shot and killed Akai Gurley, a young black man. Gurley lived in one of the projects in East Brooklyn, a predominantly African-American district that is regularly patrolled by the police. Liang came up a dark stairwell, with his finger on the trigger, when he heard a strange noise. He fired his gun. The bullet ricocheted against the wall and landed in Gurleys chest. When Liang was charged and found guilty of manslaughter it caused a stir, because until then barely any police officers had been prosecuted, let alone convicted, for the shooting of a civilian. But the hope that change was afoot soured when Thompson recommended that house arrest and community service was a more appropriate form of punishment.

Nicholas Heyward Senior, a tall man with a gold front tooth, stood in the crowd in front of the DA’s office and he shouted along with angry protesters, “NYPD, KKK! How many kids have you killed today?”

Heyward lost his 13-year-old son, also named Nicholas, 22 years ago when an inexperienced agent saw him in the stairwell of a building, playing with a toy gun and shot him. “The NYPD has killed my son and I’ve fought for recognition for 22 years.”

Hawa Bah also feels let down. Every day, when she sets foot outside her Harlem apartment, there’s a chance she might bump into the cops who killed her son, Muhammad four years ago. The DA decided not to prosecute them. Bah, who immigrated from Guinea to USA five years ago, explains in tears what happened. “My son called me and he sounded sick and confused. I rushed to the apartment. When I saw him, I knew he needed help, so I called the ambulance.” But instead of paramedics, police officers arrived at her door. “I told them my son needed psychological help but they pushed me aside.” Muhammad had barricaded himself in the apartment and according to the NYPD, he opened the door naked and armed with a kitchen knife and tried to stab a cop. The police shot eight bullets, one to the heart and a bullet in his head. Self-defense, the police claimed. However, according to Bah there was no knife. The NYPD could not produce the weapon, they said Hurricane Sandy had damaged the storage unit with forensic evidence.

“Muhammad was not a criminal; he was a working student, a loving guy who was always there for others. He needed medical help, but instead he was slaughtered like an animal. The NYPD has never apologized. They see us as slaves that you can kill when you want. Don’t they know that slavery was abolished?”

New York Hip Hop artist KRS-One rapped in 1993 in Sound of Da Police about the unmentionable: the unresolved history of slavery in the US and how it has had a formative effect on the organization of the police.

The overseer rode around the plantation

The officer is off patrolling all the nation


And if you fought back, the overseer had the right to kill

The officer has the right to arrest

And if you fight back they put a hole in your chest!

James P. O'Neill, NYPD Chief. Photo @NYPDChiefofDept, Twitter

James P. O’Neill, NYPD. Photo @NYPDChiefofDept, Twitter

Several historians, including Victor E. Kappeler, professor at the University of Eastern Kentucky, write that the predecessor of the American police were slaves patrols and night guards. They had to catch escaped slaves and return them to their ‘rightful owner’. When the first police forces were established between 1820 and 1850, they were mainly employed in the suppression of slave rebellions and race riots. Monica Dennis, a New York Black Lives Matter activist believes that that history is still felt today: “Our capitalist society is built on the exploitation of black bodies. It is inconceivable that black people will decide who they are and what they do. That’s why there is so much surveillance in black neighbourhoods. “

The City Hall Park occupiers also claim the police is a continuation of the overseer on the slave plantations. They’re demanding, among others, that the NYPD budget should be re-invested in communities of colour in New York.

It’s unlikely that James O’Neill, Bratton’s handpicked successor, will calm the frayed stand-off between the occupiers and the officers. O’Neill is a strong supporter of neighbourhood policing, which, say his opponents, boils down to Broken Windows-based harassment of minorities. As long as there is no recognition of the “colour line” that divides Americans, non-white New Yorkers, will, despite reform efforts, remain victims of racist policing policies.

Copyright Ruth Hopkins 2016

*Update: Annabelle is not the real name of the person interviewed. This story was changed at 8:34 PT Aug. 23 to remove her real name to protect her privacy.

Veteran South African/European journalist Ruth Hopkins spent two and a half months on a fellowship in the United States with the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery and the Marshall Project in New York, investigating the similarities between issues facing both the American and South African criminal justice systems.

Related stories by Ruth Hopkins:

The Irreconcilable Narratives of America’s South, by Ruth Hopkins, Wits Justice Project

In Montgomery the narrative of a proud confederacy is visceral and dominant and is echoed in its street names, buildings, signs and statues. But the Equal Justice Initiative, instead of protesting the display of Southern pride and honour, has started an elaborate and ambitious remembrance project that not only includes the collection of soil from sites of lynchings to remember the victims.  . … read more

Prisoners at Angola Prison. Photo © Ruth Hopkins 2016

The Prison Rodeo  By Ruth Hopkins

Angola prison, formally known as the Louisiana State Penitentiary, is built on 18,000 acres of land in an American river basin nestled in between the Mississippi river and Lake Killarney. It would be beautiful if I hadn’t seen the disturbing pictures of African American prisoners picking cotton while a big white guy on a horse oversees their work. Angola prison takes its name from the Angolan slaves who picked cotton on the slave plantation that used to thrive on these very grounds.


RuthHopkins-FAORuth Hopkins is a senior journalist with the Wits Justice Project in Johannesburg, South Africa. She wrote a book on trafficking in women in/to Europe, which was published in 2005 (Ik laat je nooit meer gaan, I will never let you go again), based on five years of research in Albania, Bulgaria, Ukraine and the Netherlands.

In addition to her journalistic work, Ruth set up and taught a human rights course at a journalism college in the Netherlands. Ruth was named print Legal Journalist of the Year by Webber Wentzel 2011 – 2014.

Read more of Ruth Hopkin’s work on F&O here.


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Six Days in Ferguson: Voices from the Protests


by Lois Beckett, ProPublica
August 15, 2014

On the afternoon of Saturday, August 9, a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, 18-year-old Michael Brown. The killing sparked immediate protests in Ferguson which was followed by a heavily militarized police response that drew national condemnation.

Here is a day-by-day chronology of what happened in Ferguson, drawn from the best reporting by journalists and witnesses on the ground.

Saturday, August 9

“I know they killed my son. This was wrong and it was cold-hearted… [He] doesn’t kill, steal or rob. He doesn’t do any of that.”

Lesley McSpadden, Brown’s mother, overheard speaking to an acquaintance at the scene of her son’s shooting.

“Ferguson police just executed my unarmed son!!!”

Words on a sign held by Brown’s stepfather.

“Police have brought out the large gear in #Ferguson.”

Tweet from St. Louis alderman Antonio French, Saturday, 4:35 pm.

“Don’t shoot me!”

Protesters held up their hands as they faced off against police officers with barking dogs, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Sunday, August 10

“We want this to come to a conclusion quickly.”

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson.

“How can we protect our children?”

A mother screams at County Executive Charlie Dooley as he visits the protesters.

“Ferguson killed my son. Ferguson flat-out murdered my son in the street.”

Brown’s stepfather, Louis Head, sitting by a memorial for Brown on Sunday.

“It’s bad… I don’t blame the police, but they can’t keep up.”

Jimmy Muhammad, 32, told the Post-Dispatch that he and others had just fought off a gang of young men with guns who tried to break into his uncle’s store, which was one of several stores targeted that night.

Monday, August 11

“Michael Brown didn’t get due process. The still unnamed police officer who shot the 18-year-old black teenager dead in Ferguson will get plenty of it.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Monday editorial focused on the broader context behind the outrage over Brown’s death, including the racial profiling of black men.

“After that was done and people were leaving, I remember seeing him off to the side. He kind of just came up to me and said, ‘We made it.'”

Raquan Smith, one of Brown’s friends, describing what Brown told him the day he graduated.

“This is exactly what is supposed to be happening when an injustice is happening in your community. You have kids getting killed for nothing.”

DeAndre Smith talks to a Post-Dispatch reporter about the looting on Sunday night.

“Look out here right now. The lack of black police officers either on the street or at the administrative level… This whole area, this city is a racial powder keg.”

Jerryl Christmas, 50, a defense attorney and former prosecutor for the city of St. Louis, talking to the Los Angeles Times at a protest on Monday.

“Fuck the police.”

Julie Bosman of The New York Times describes what protesters are singing in Ferguson, 6:46 pm .

“Insurance is high, gas is high, but that’s not why I get mad. At the end of the day, when I’m driving home, they ask me to pull over and get out of the car. No ‘license and registration, please.‘ Get out of the car. Lay on the ground. Put your hands on your head.”

Ricky Jones, 34, at a protest in Ferguson on Monday night .

“These are the next kids to get shot, right here.”

St. Louis resident Troy Woods describing the young demonstrators massed on a hill on Monday night.

“These m———— came out of the cut and sprayed me in the face like this is a f—– video game or something.”

A 23 year old resident of the neighborhood near West Florissant Street, a center of protests. The young man said police had sprayed tear gas in his face and hit him with rubber bullets. “I was just trying to get to my sister’s house,” he told the Washington Post.

“You have a son, I have a daughter. Let’s go home now.” “No, I’m tired of putting up with this.”

A Washington Post reporter hears a conversation between the female passenger and the male driver of a car approaching the police line, with “NWA’s “F— the Police” playing loudly from its speakers.”

Tuesday, August 12

“He’d accomplished it. In the last two months, man, Mike was there every doggone day and he was giving it his full effort.”

John Kennedy, one of Mike Brown’s teachers at Normandy High, describes how hard Brown had worked to get his high school diploma.

“‘Get the f—k on the sidewalk.’ His exact words were get the f—k on the sidewalk.”

22-year-old Dorian Johnson, who was with Brown when he was killed, gives MSNBC his account of their interaction with the police.

“This is how the boy died! With his hands up in the air!”

Kendrick Strong, 42, at a protest in front of the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office on Tuesday morning.

“See this dent? I got smacked in the head with a flashlight because I didn’t say, ‘Yes, sir.’ I was 14 years old.”

Aha Sen Piankhy, 38, describing his motivation for being at a protest in Clayton, Missouri, on Tuesday morning.

“We’ve sold a variety of handguns, shotguns and AR-15s. All of the sales are having to do with home defense.”

Steve King, owner of Metro Shooting, a gun store near Ferguson, told the St. Louis Business Journal that gun sales had spiked 50 percent in response to recent events. Both black and white customers had purchased firearms, he said.

“Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!”

Protesters in Ferguson, Tuesday night, 7:34 pm.

Wednesday, August 13

“Very shaken.”

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson describes the condition of the officer who shot Brown. Jackson said the officer was injured in his confrontation with Brown. The “side of his face was swollen” and he went to the hospital for treatment, he said.

“The clock is ticking and the time is late. This situation has been thirty years in the making.”

Malik Ahmed, the C.E.O. of Better Family Life in Ferguson, to New Yorker writer Jelani Cobb.

“This story’s going to get out there. It’s going to be on the front page of The Washington Post tomorrow.” “Yeah, well, you’re going to be in my jail cell tonight.”

Washington Post Reporter Wesley Lowery, describing his conversation with a police officer after he was arrested for “trespassing in a McDonald’s.”

“Oh, God.”

Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson’s response when a Los Angeles Times reporter told him on Wednesday night that police have arrested two journalists. “I told them to release them,” he then said.

Thursday, August 14

“We have a right to protest 24 hours a day. Our constitutional rights don’t expire at 9 p.m.”

St. Louis alderman Antonio French, on his release from jail on Thursday morning. French, who has been live-tweeting the protests, was arrested at Wednesday night for “unlawful assembly.” He said a police officer dragged him out of his car.

“We are appalled.”

Washington Post Executive Editor Martin D. Baron, in a statement on Lowery’s arrest.

“We must demilitarize the police.”

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) decries the use of military-style force against protesters in Ferguson.

“The police response needs to be demilitarized.”

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) decries the use of military-style force against protesters in Ferguson.

“There is never an excuse for violence against police or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting. There’s also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights… we’re all part of one American family.”

After discussing the situation in Iraq, President Barack Obama makes a statement on the events in Ferguson.

“I don’t want to see tanks on American streets, period.”

Iraq war veteran Tyson Manker, 33, to Los Angeles Times journalist Matt Pearce, in Ferguson.

“This is a place where people work, go to school, raise their families, and go to church… But lately it’s looked a little bit more like a war zone and that’s unacceptable.”

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon pledges that there will be a “much better and much different tone” in response to the protests.

“I’m not afraid to be in this crowd.”

Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ronald Johnson, who was sent in by Gov. Nixon to lead a changed police approach to the protests, talks to reporters in Ferguson. Johnson, who is African-American, is a Ferguson native.

“Tell her Capt. Johnson is sorry and he apologizes.”

Johnson responds to a man who asks what he would say to his niece, who had been tear-gassed.

“Yes, that is Thomas the Train.”

FOX2 reports on changed tone of the protests on Thursday night.

“Weird party/protest vibe hard to explain, it’s a Partest.”

Post-Dispatch photographer David Carson, describing mood on Thursday night.

“I’m excited… relieved.”

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson tells the Los Angeles Times about his reaction to the calmer protests.

“It is a celebration. Now, we can focus on Mike.”

A protester to KMOV reporter Craig Cheatham.

Friday, August 15

“The officer who was involved in the shooting of Michael Brown was Darren Wilson.”

After nearly a week of protests, Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson names the officer who shot Michael Brown. Wilson is a six year veteran of the force with no disciplinary record. He was responding to a “strong-arm” robbery at a convenience store. Wilson encountered Brown at 12:01. By 12:04, when another officer arrived, Brown had been fatally shot.

“Where’s the footage?”

Laura Keys, 50, of St. Louis, responding to the new police account of Brown’s death. “I can’t believe this is the tactic they are using, bringing up a robbery to make the victim look like he was the person who created this whole mess,” she said.

“Stills from the convenience store.”

Reporters, including Los Angeles Times reporter Matt Pearce, immediately share the two pages of images the police provided to journalists.

“After viewing Brown and reviewing this video, I was able to confirm that Brown is the primary suspect in this incident.”

Police release the incident report of a reported robbery at a convenience store just before Brown’s shooting.

Creative Commons

Further reading:
A letter to Missouri police forces from the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, from media outlets and advocacy organizations
Michael Brown, Ferguson and the nature of unrest, an essay by Garrett Albert Duncan in Loose Leaf, Facts and Opinions


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A snapshot of the police beat this week in Toronto, Canada’s biggest city and its national centre of commerce:

The Day the Rob Ford Story Stopped Being Funny

 “If this guy isn’t in jail, why bother having police at all? Why not just round up poor people whenever powerful people get the urge? The least we can do, it seem to me, is let everyone currently serving a sentence for drug use out of prison. Otherwise, the whole system is pure hypocrisy. Rob Ford is a threat to the still scared idea of equality under the law.”

 – Esquire, popular American magazine aimed at men (We suspect the author means “sacred.” But “scared” works.)
Dancing crosswalk guard sidelined by police

“A Toronto crossing guard has been told to stop dancing while on the job out of concern that she could be distracting drivers. Kathleen Byers is known for dancing back and forth across Dufferin Street, south of Dundas Street West, to music from a boombox, which she wears slung over her shoulder.”

– Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, local station report.

Further reading:
Free Range: A Rob Ford Nation. My small comments about the larger political picture; what the choice of mayor by Toronto’s citizenry says about Canada.
Andrew Coyne column in The National Post: Rob Ford mess a monster born of divisive and condescending populism

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