A Not So Merry Christmas in Ferguson

Another day, another unarmed black man, Antonio Martin, shot by police, again in Ferguson, making this at least 4 since August (Mike Brown, Kajieme Powell, Vonderrit Myers and now Antonio Martin), and as I document here, 10 police shootings before Mike Brown that didn’t provoke national outrage.

And as we await the grand jury decision (to not indict the police who killed) Akai Gurley, we see another grand jury in Houston clear a police officer who shot an unarmed black man, Jordan Baker.

A Harris County grand jury today has cleared a Houston police officer in the fatal shooting of an unarmed man in January.

The panel, which has been meeting for months, cleared officer Juventino Castro in the death of 26-year-old Jordan Baker.

We are seeing an ugly trend.  Darren Wilson cleared, Daniel Pantaleo cleared.

I included this article in my post discussing Ferguson before Mike Brown brought national attention to Ferguson and reignited the discussion of police violence.

Two police shootings in Granite City justified, grand jury says

September 05, 2014 11:30 pm • FROM STAFF REPORTS

St. Charles man killed by Granite City officers responding to his 911 call

Officers said they feared for their lives when the man pointed a gun at them. Read more

Police: Man who attacked mother with baseball bat, was shot by Granite City police is charged

He hit mother, another relative with baseball bat. Read more

GRANITE CITY • Two officer-involved shootings here earlier this year — one fatal and one not — were justified, according to Madison County grand jury findings released Friday.

Yes we also mourn NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.  We mourn any and every violent unnatural death.  We condemn vigilantism and murder when it comes from criminals shooting cops, or gang members shooting each other or hitting innocent bystanders, and we condemn police who shoot unarmed civilians the second they arrive on the scene such as with Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley and others.

I was glad to see that NYPD is expanding the use of TASERS, but that is a small step in changing a much larger issue of the current culture.

The murders of Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos cannot be compared to those killed by police, if for no other reason then those who are not police are almost always punished for their actions.

According to a 2010 study by Harvard University on police-on-police shootings

Since 1981, some 26 police officers across the United States have been shot and killed by fellow police officers who have mistaken them for dangerous criminals. These fatal shootings are doubly tragic, first because both the shooters and victims in such situations are risking their lives to enforce the law and protect the public, and second because many of these deaths are preventable. The dangers that give rise to these deaths are inherent in policing, but those dangers can be reduced and more deaths prevented.

Over the last fifteen years, ten of the fourteen officers killed in these mistaken-identity, police-on-police shootings have been people of color.

Kevin Gosztola updates the list from there, and echoes my explanation on the difference between those who kill cops and those who are killed by cops

In 2014, 46 police officers have been killed by gunfire, according to Officer Down Memorial Page which tallies “fallen law enforcement heroes.” Three officers died from being struck by vehicles, five officers died while pursuing vehicles and ten officers died from “vehicular assault.”

By comparison, according to Killed by Police, which keeps track of reports of instances where police shoot and kill suspects, well over 1,000 people have been killed by police this year.

While there are potentially more vigilantes out there who may seek to execute police officers, there is no systemic problem with holding vigilantes who seek revenge against cops accountable for their crimes. There are systemic problems with how the American justice system is setup in ways that make it possible for killer cops to escape justice.

Linda Sarsour wrote very movingly on her blog, saying

We need to move together but before we do that – we need to listen to one another.

I find it ironic how we want to demonize an entire movement that’s mantra is‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬, a movement in which the sanctity of life, the value of life including Black life is at its very core. I find it ironic that the very same people will say don’t judge an entire political party, or faith community, or group of people by the despicable acts of a few – then are quick to blame hundreds of thousands of peaceful protesters for the acts of a few. This movement has never been about revenge or vendettas, its always been about love. I have never felt more love in social justice movements than I have felt this year.

People will say well why not then say ‪#‎AllLivesMatter‬, and I will say it is not all lives who have to justify their value and why they matter. It is not all life that has to prove why they don’t deserve to be treated as sub-human. We as a society have decided who matters and who doesn’t and we have proved it in the way the system works or doesn’t work, who it oppresses, which countries we choose to wage war with and the increase and nonchalant usage of the word “collateral damage.”

As Officers Liu and Ramos are laid to rest, leaving behind loved ones, and how difficult it must be for them that we must also remember there are families who go to bed every night without their loved ones who are also lost to senseless violence, including police violence. Sisters and brothers, we can mourn the death OF police and BY police. They are not mutually exclusive. Whether you are a doctor, lawyer, taxi-cab driver, cashier, street vendor or police officer – ALL lives matter. I will not engage in selective outrage over murders of innocent people. We should be calling each other to a higher moral ground – not engage in a divisive, toxic downward spinning cycle which creates more hate and animosity. This will not help us move closer to a better city, a better country or a better world.

I respect this time, the funerals and families of Ramos and Liu, but asking Black Americans and communities of color to “stop protesting” indefinitely is unreasonable. To engage in requests to elected officials to suppress the constitutional rights of segments of the American population makes you no better then the countries we are quick to criticize for lack of democracy. We have waged wars on countries in the Middle East and forced democracies down their throats meanwhile we are calling for the suppression of free speech and freedom of assembly right here in the United States.

We need to work hard to stop the violence, but it can be done.  The goal is to make this list stop growing.  So far we have not achieved that goal as more have fallen since August.  But it’s only been 138 days.  The fight continues.

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