Editor’s Note: The events in Ferguson, MO over the past two weeks have shocked us. What began as outrage over the killing of unarmed black teenager Mike Brown has grown into a larger conversation about race and inequality in a nation that is still grappling with the political and cultural legacies of slavery. While occasionally conflicting reports are flowing out of the area, both mainstream media and civilian reporters agree that there has a been a highly militarized response to what have been mostly nonviolent protests, and that police officials have repeatedly sought to block press coverage by intimidating, threatening, and arresting journalists.
In this climate, we look to the people on the ground for their observations on what is happening in Ferguson. RodStarz, of Bronx-based Chilean rap duo Rebel Diaz, traveled to Ferguson to demonstrate solidarity with protestors and shared with us his observations and opinions from his time spent there. While some of the observations below are still in dispute (there is still no consensus over what exactly transpired in the convenience store and who, if anyone, called 911), we felt this raw, firsthand account was a valuable voice to add to the conversation.
10. Who was Mike Brown?
While many out of town activists/supporters were going straight to the scene in Ferguson to, as they said, “get it poppin’,” we didn’t want to lose sight of why the protests were happening. We were going to support and show solidarity with the people of Ferguson, but we were also going to show love to the family. Through our bro DJ Charlie Hustle, we had a direct connection to the family, as some of them had lived in Milwaukee, where he is from. We arrived straight to the home, and the mood was that of a family in mourning. That’s when we realized the main reason we were there. It wasn’t only to protest; we were there because a young unarmed black man was murdered. Standing with his family made things just that much realer. We got to learn more about Mike Brown and his character; a character the media has tried to smear over the last couple days. Mike Brown comes from a church-going family. His uncle is a pastor at a local church. He comes from a big family. You know, those big extended families with mad cousins and aunties. So he wasn’t out in the world as a loner. He comes from a musical family. His cousin Cal is a super dope producer, who two days before Mike’s death had been teaching him how to make beats. Mike was college-bound and supposed to start class the Monday after he was killed. It was heartbreaking to hear his mom talk about how hard it is to have a young black man graduate and to have that taken away. One of the thoughts they shared that stuck with me was their view on his final action. Right before Officer Darren Wilson executed him in broad daylight, he was walking from the store with his friend Dorian Johnson. As the police approached them, he told Dorian to run, as he fell back. His last action was a selfless act. He gave his life so his friend could get away. Mike Brown’s last action should be the biggest indicator of what kind of character he had. He was selfless. He put his hands up and surrendered.
9. There is No 911 Call Because He Didn’t Rob the Store:
First they assassinate Mike Brown and now they want to assassinate his character. Where’s the 911-call from when he supposedly pulled a “strong-arm robbery”? You don’t think we would have had it played over and over in the media? It doesn’t exist because they never called police. I live in The Bronx. I visit the same bodegas every day and buy cigarillos. Sometimes I pay and sometimes I don’t. That’s how it works. You get credit! They know you by 1st name, they know your family, you joke with them, sometimes you tell them off and sometimes they tell you off. I believe this is the case with Mike Brown. Think about it! Now, lets look at some facts. The police had no knowledge of any robbery or crime by Mike Brown when they stopped him, because a crime never happened.
Ed Note: There are conflicting reports about what transpired in the store. For example, the the lawyer for Brown’s friend, 22-year-old Dorian Johnson, said the following in an MSNBC interview about Johnson: “He told the FBI that [Brown] did take cigarillos. He told that to the DOJ and the St. Louis County Police.” [Source: MSNBC]
8. Ending The Monopoly on Violence:
Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Lets be clear! We would not be having this conversation or sharing this story if it wasn’t for the young people’s direct response to violence. In 2014, many of us thought that the idea of confrontational resistance was no longer an option. The youth in Ferguson have proven us wrong. For the last 10 days, they have been in defensive combat. The majority of these youth are unarmed, yet they have stood up to a militarized police force and proven to be resilient. For all the armchair revolutionaries and academics that have criticized and analyzed from afar, we can tell you that as the days pass, the youth are getting more and more brave. How dare folks criticize resistance when our young folks are responding to police terrorism? Police terrorism is the real violence! Those young men and women out there are an inspiration to the world. They are realizing that tear gas won’t kill them. They have dealt with pain and street violence before so they aren’t scared. A young man we spoke to said, “How am I supposed to respect a curfew if they don’t respect human life?” Another young woman said: “I’ve been stabbed 15 times and shot twice! My uncle just jumped off a bridge and committed suicide. You think I’m scared?” From solidarity messages from rebels in Palestine and Greece, they have learned how to deal with tear gas and fight back effectively. The monopoly on violence that the system holds has been going on for too long.
7. The Outside Agitators Argument is A Myth and Minimizes the Ferguson Resistance:
— Davey D (@mrdaveyd) August 19, 2014
The protesters that are resisting are the local youth. The resistance to police terror is not being led by “outside agitators”. That’s a bullshit media attempt to discredit the organic revolt that’s going down. Like Public Enemy once said, “Don’t Believe The Hype!” These are kids who have nothing to lose, and have had everything taken away from them. They have systematically been denied of their humanity and are reclaiming it on their own terms. What we saw firsthand was a whole community in resistance. The elders provide water and food to the young protesters, without judging the actions of the youth. Around the curfews some elders were asking youth on probation to make sure to not get arrested. There is however a need for more black and brown men from age 30-45 to be on the scene to show that OG love and support to the youth.
When we 1st arrived in Ferguson- Friday, August 15th- I walked up to a group of homies that were posted in front of a liquor store. They turned out to be a set of Gangster Disciples. They received us with open arms; literally giving us hugs and dap, when we told them we drove 17 hrs from The Bronx. Once we talked for a bit, they offered to give us a tour of the area. They all walked with us towards “Ground Zero” the burned down Quick Trip, where the epicenter of the resistance was located. On the way there, they made sure to make us feel safe, including stopping numerous times to make sure Claudia, who is 7 months pregnant was ok. After a while the older chiefs had to leave, and left behind a younger homie who was our “security” for the rest of the night. This is organization! Gangs have a structure and there’s definitely leadership. The young homie made it a point to tell us that what he loved most was that the usual beefs they had with other crews was over, and they were focused on fighting the bigger gang which is the police.
6. This is White America’s Biggest Nightmare:
The sight of young black men and women with long dreadlocks, and bandanas covering their faces, standing in defiant resistance to an armed force has for sure shaken up the insides of White America. Matter of fact, I’m sure its shaking up most of bourgeois black America and Latinos as well. It is safe to say that this is America’s number 1 nightmare. One of the GD’s told me, “This is different than New York or Los Angeles, this is the heart of America! The middle of America!”
The image of the Young Black Rebel is not the friendly familiar face of the Occupy activist on his Macbook. This is not the middle aged, caged-in anti war activist with their megaphone at full blast. Reality is that these are young Black men and women who have lived and survived street gang battles, who maybe have been shot at before, so they are fearless in the face of these heavily armored trucks. They have waged combat for 10 straight days, and though they have been heavily outgunned and outmanned they still keep coming back. This is a resilient population that will not stop until they see Justice for Mike Brown and at this point for their whole community.
5. Gentrification And Ferguson:
Hip Hop artist Vic Damone, who is from the area, provided an interesting observation. He stated, “This used to be a white suburb, but now they just mad cuz it’s a black neighborhood. But the cops are still white.” In fact, 94% of the Ferguson Police are white compared to a 67% black population. The geography of the area is an example of the effects of gentrification. The displacement of poor people from big cities is happening all over the country and is changing the face of rural America. The hoods that used to be in the cities are now moving to the suburbs. More than likely there is a Latino Ferguson that could be next. There are inadequate social services and the police departments’ demographics don’t reflect this change in population. So what you end up with is some angry white cops patrolling a displaced population. This was the case with Mike Brown.
4. The Disinformation of the Media:
Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Robert Cohen) (Credit: AP)
Part of our purpose on this trip was working as media, which in certain moments saved us from arrest and police violence. One of the most eye opening experiences of this trip was being in the media tent minutes after the curfew on Friday night. The media was not allowed outside of the tent and threatened with arrest if they did. A couple of the white reporters snuck out, but when G1 and Jesus from our crew tried to do the same the cops ran up on them right away. The reality is that in 2014, there is no freedom of the press. How could one cover what was happening, when we couldn’t see anything? CNN was on the scene and falsely reported to the masses that tear gas was not being used when in fact it was. We witnessed the exact moment when a police informer told them it was smoke bombs and not tear gas. We know what tear gas feels like from being around it before and it was obvious they were lying, however, like sheep CNN just did what they were told and reported a blatant lie. We also dealt with a black police informant who was dressed up as a peacekeeper. He came back with lies saying a protester had been shot and that the shooting came from other protesters themselves! Once again the media reported this lie.
4. What Molotovs and Who Got Shot?
Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images
We have heard Captain Ron Johnson constantly talking about shots fired and molotovs. with all the photographers on the scene, how come there isn’t one picture of a Molotov at the hands of protesters, being thrown and exploding? We have not seen one Molotov. We were there three days and never saw one. The whole time we were there they kept saying that protesters are shooting. Captain Johnson said, protesters were shooting each other. That’s bullshit! We were there and witnessed peaceful protesting. There’s a gang truce. The only enemy they have is the police. The racial make up of the media is similar to that of the police. Perhaps that’s why they’re in cahoots with each other.
3. Come and Support! Don’t Come and Impose:
Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images
We need all hands on deck and ready to work in Ferguson. We need 2014 Freedom Rides headed to Ferguson to show that Ferguson is not alone. To show the world that the injustices taking place there are unacceptable. Ferguson doesn’t need folks to go and impose their leadership and personal agenda. We don’t need any more Sharptons or Jesse Jacksons or other media characters. Those in solidarity need folks to assist the efforts already being locally led. We need to let the young people on the frontlines take leadership like they already have. The young people of Ferguson are giving all of us a crash course in Political Education 101. There is a need for people to go and document, and counter balance the lies of the corporate media. We need boots on the ground!
2. There is a need for International Solidarity:
— Rajai abuKhalilرجائي (@Rajaiabukhalil) August 14, 2014
To all of our comrades in Europe- Greece, Germany, France, England, and Italy; to our peoples in Latin America- Venezuela, Chile, Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, and beyond- we need solidarity! Support for the mobilizations in Ferguson. We need solidarity from all over the world! Organize marches or peaceful candle light vigils on USA embassies and let the world know that you are watching! There’s a young black uprising in the belly of the beast! It is a historic moment!
1. Ferguson is The Future:
Nothing in this country will ever be the same after what is going on in Ferguson. This is our generation’s calling! Those young people are the bravest and most resilient souls I have ever encountered. Think about it! With out any weapons and being heavily out numbered, they have fought back against the police for 10 days! Darren Wilson the cop who killed Mike Brown is still free. And they youth of Ferguson say,
“If we don’t get no justice, then they don’t get no peace!”