Thursday, August 21, 2014

On Brink of Syria Invasion: One Year Since Ghouta Chemical Attack
Detroit anti-war demonstration through downtown in late Aug. 2013
demanding no airstrikes against the Middle Eastern state of Syria.
August 21, 2014 14:12
rt.com

A year has passed since a chemical attack in the rebel-held suburbs of Damascus killed more than 1,400 people. A US strike on Syria seemed a reality. Yet an international effort managed to forge a path to averting military intervention.

The attack took place in the early hours of August 21, 2013 in Ghouta, on the outer fringes of the capital. Rockets containing sarin gas were presumably fired, killing more than 1,400 people, including no fewer than 426 children. It was on the very day that a UN team of inspectors arrived in the city to investigate the March 19 alleged chemical attack in Khan al-Assal.

Western media was quick to cite rebels and Syrian opposition figures claiming the Ghouta attack was carried out by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces.

US and European politicians condemned the attack, expressing varying levels of confidence that the Syrian government was responsible for it. Washington officials meditated on Assad’s ‘capabilities’ and cited own intelligence data without providing any conclusive evidence.

In fact, US intelligence itself stopped short of laying the blame for the attack on Assad, only expressing “high confidence.”

“Our high confidence assessment is the strongest position that the US Intelligence Community can take short of confirmation,” a US intelligence report released shortly after the attack stated. “We will continue to seek additional information to close gaps in our understanding of what took place.”

Despite the lack of evidence and the fact that the international probe into the attack was still underway, Western leaders started lobbying airstrikes on Syrian targets as a response to the alleged ‘Assad atrocities’.

By September 2013, US admiral Jonathan Greenert said that US ships in the Mediterranean were “fully ready” for a potential Syria strike.

Meanwhile, Russia cautioned against intervention in Syria, warning that any unilateral military action bypassing the UN Security Council – “no matter how limited it is” – would be a direct violation of international law and would undermine the prospects for a political and diplomatic solution to the conflict in Syria. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry held regular meetings and conversations on the crisis.

Moscow then urged Damascus to sign and give up its entire stockpile of chemical weapons to international control for ultimate destruction, thus removing the pretext for a new US-led intervention in the region. The Syrian government accepted the deal that eventually led to a team of Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) experts dispatched to the war-torn country to secure the chemical weapons stockpile.

Faced with pressure against the Syrian strike at home in the US, as well as with the strong international divide on the military action at the September G20 summit in St. Petersburg, US President Barack Obama in the end accepted Assad’s chemical disarmament, presenting it as a victory for US diplomacy.

The deadly Ghouta attack prompted several rounds of UN discussions, and in September UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called it “the most significant confirmed use of chemical weapons against civilians since Saddam Hussein used them in Halabja in 1988.” Russia, at the same time, said that the report was “very technical” and did not contain exact details or conclusions that would indicate the Assad regime was involved in the attack.

Russian President Vladimir Putin outright said he believes the attack was a provocation carried out by the Syrian rebels to draw in the foreign intervention.

The fact that a new full-blown international conflict in the Middle East was narrowly averted did not go unnoticed, with the OPCW receiving the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts.

Ghouta aftermath

The chemical weapons deal did in no way put an end to the fighting in Syria, with combat actions actually hampering the work of UN experts on the ground and endangering the delivery of toxic agents to Syrian ports, from where they were meant to be taken away and destroyed.

The so-called Geneva-2 peace negotiations on Syria, where the conflicting sides were put together by international efforts for several sessions of talks in January and February, ended with no conclusive result.

Nonetheless, on June 23, Syria finished handing over 100 percent of its declared chemical weapons stockpile to the UN’s Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

The entire destruction of 600 metric tons of Category 1 chemicals from Syria on US maritime vessel Cape Ray was completed on Tuesday.

“This ends a crucial stage in the complex international maritime operation to remove and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile,” stated OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu.

The Syrians have also been far from reconciliation in spite of what the vote results showed, including the divided opposition overseas and the loose factions of rebel fighters on the ground that at times ruthlessly fought both government forces and insurgent groups.

The conflict in Syria has already killed 160,000 people and created nearly 3 million refugees, as well as displacing more people inside Syria. A long-term solution still appears to be a long way off.

Assad’s forces have stepped up their own campaign against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) strongholds in Syria. In the past month, the militants have been undertaking a massive campaign against Syrian soldiers and army facilities.

On Monday, IS fighters approached the last government-held army base in Raqqa province, northeastern Syria, the Tabqa air base, prompting at least 16 Syrian government airstrikes in the area, reported the Independent on Tuesday.

Syria remains the most dangerous place in the world for journalists for more than two years, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the most recent high-profile case being American photojournalist James Wright Foley, who went missing 2012 after being kidnapped in Syria.
US Tried and Failed to Save Foley, Other IS Hostages in Syria
Islamic State banner as the Pentagon prepares for more military operations in
Iraq and Syria.
August 20, 2014 23:06
rt.com

Earlier this summer, American Special Forces attempted to rescue photojournalist James Foley and other hostages held by Islamic State militants in Syria, but the mission failed because the prisoners were not at the suspected location.

According to the Washington Post, the United States acted after six other Western hostages were previously let go by the extremist group and had been debriefed by intelligence officers. White House officials said the operation involved several dozen US commandos engaging militants in battle – one American was wounded – but that Foley and the others could not be saved.

“It was not ultimately successful because the hostages were not present at the location of the operation,” a senior administration official said, speaking anonymously to the Post. “We obviously wish this had been successful.”

Officials did not reveal where the operation took place, nor did they offer a more precise timeframe outside of “earlier this summer.”

The news follows the revelation that Islamic State militants sent an email to threatening to kill Foley to his former employer, the Boston news outlet Global Post, just one week ago.

The White House was reportedly aware of the threat, but no negotiations were ever held with the extremist group.

Speaking with another local media outlet, NewsCenter 5, Global Post president and founder Philip Balboni said the company “received an email from the captors on Wednesday night of last week stating their intention to execute Jim [Foley].”

It’s been widely reported that Foley was working as a freelance photographer for Agence France-Presse when he was kidnapped in Syria almost two years ago, but the 39-year-old was also employed by the Global Post at the time.

An investigation into Foley’s whereabouts was conducted primarily by the Foley family as well as the Global Post, but his location was essentially unknown until video of his execution surfaced on Tuesday.

Noting that the tone of the email was full of rage, Balboni said, “you can see the seething anger. It could have been a bluff and we had to believe it was a bluff. You know when you kidnap someone and hold them for almost two years, you don't do it unless you believe there is value in those hostages."

In another interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Balboni added that one more message was sent to Foley’s family shortly before he was killed.

"We've not released this, but there was one communication after the bombing began that went to the family that stated that Jim would be executed," he said. "We hoped and prayed that it would not. We did everything we could ourselves to convey to them that Jim was just an innocent journalist who loved the Syrian people, who understood Islam and who only wanted to tell the story of the Syrian people."

Meanwhile, multiple sources – all anonymous – told the Guardian that they believe the English-speaking man who beheaded Foley is the leader of British Islamic State members in Syria. A former hostage of the man identified him only as “John,” saying that he is “intelligent, educated and a devout believer in radical Islamic teachings.”

The outlet’s sources described John as the key IS negotiator during a conflict earlier this year, when 11 hostages were released to Turkey after ransoms were paid.

Foreign-born fighters now compose a significant portion of the Islamic State’s ranks. Roughly 500 individuals from the UK – as well as 700 French and 500 Belgians – are believed to have gone to the Middle East to fight in Syria and Iraq.

Earlier on Wednesday, President Obama spoke out against Foley’s murderers, also known as ISIL or ISIS, saying “the entire world is appalled by” his brutal murder.

“Let’s be clear about ISIL,” he said. “They have rampaged across cities and villages, killing innocent unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence. They abduct women and children and subject them to torture and rape and slavery. They’ve murdered Muslims, both Sunni and Shia, by the thousands. They target Christians and religions minorities, driving them from their homes, murdering them when they can, for no other reason than they practice a different religion.”

"The US will continue to do what we must do to protect our people. We will be vigilant and we will be relentless,” Obama added, insisting that, with regards to the Islamic State, “There has to be a common effort to extract this cancer so that it does not spread.”
Pentagon Chief: ISIL Threat Bigger Than 9/11
Obama and his warmongers gear-up for another Iraq war.
Thu Aug 21, 2014 11:19PM GMT
presstv.ir

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel says the Pentagon will continue its operations against the ISIL militants in Iraq, calling the group an “imminent threat” to the United States.

"They are as sophisticated and well-funded as any group that we have seen. They're beyond just a terrorist group," Hagel said on Thursday.

"This is beyond anything we've seen. We must prepare for everything," he added.

"They marry an ideology with a sophistication of strategy and military prowess" that "represents a whole new paradigm of threats to this country," he said.

“I doubt if there were many people that would have thought there was much of a threat the day before 9/11,” he said.

The Pentagon chief made the remarks at a joint press briefing with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey.

Hagel also defended the operation to rescue journalist James Foley and other hostages earlier this summer.

"This operation, by the way, was a flawless operation, but the hostages were not there," he said.

A grisly video confirmed as "authentic" by the White House showed an ISIL militant executing Foley in retaliation for US airstrikes in Iraq.

The video came almost one month after US President Barack Obama authorized the use of force against ISIL in northern Iraq.

The White House revealed on Wednesday that a US Special Operations team tried and failed to rescue Foley and other American hostages.

During the press briefing, Dempsey said containing the militants can't be done permanently without going after the group in Syria.

Dempsey said the problem must be addressed diplomatically, politically and militarily by America and its regional partners.

"This is an organization that has an apocalyptic, and of days strategic vision that will eventually have to be defeated," Dempsey told reporters.

"Can they be defeated without addressing that part of the organization that resides in Syria? The answer is no."
Detroit Updates Bankruptcy Plan Saying Water Agency Possible
Thousands march through downtown Detroit against water shut-offs and
privatization on July 18. The demonstration was covered worldwide.
By Steven Church - Aug 21, 2014
Bloomberg

Detroit, the biggest U.S. city to file for bankruptcy, updated its debt-cutting plan with details about its offer to exchange more than $5 billion in water and sewer bonds for new debt and said a deal on a new water agency may emerge from mediation talks with its suburbs.

The city will agree to form an agency to take over its water and sewage department only if the surrounding suburban counties of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne agree to drop opposition to the debt-cutting plan. The counties object to the plan, claiming it might raise their residents’ water or sewage rates.

Bondholders have through today to decide whether to exchange their debt. After that, the city will decide whether to move forward with the settlement and close the financing.

Under the refinancing plan, the city will raise $5.5 billion, about $190 million of which will be used to improve its sewage-disposal system. The rest will be used to replace the old bonds on similar terms.

The new bonds are designed to help the city save money. Under the proposed debt-cutting plan, the city would take about $50 million a year from the water and sewage department to help shore up an underfunded pension plan. The city argues that the department hasn’t paid enough into the plan in the past.

The city should be in the early days of a six-week long trial over the feasibility of its entire bankruptcy plan when it decides whether to go forward with the exchange offer.

Investor Objections

Should the deal succeed, investors and bond insurers would drop their objections related to the water and sewer portion of Detroit’s debt-cutting plan, according to court records. That would shorten the bankruptcy trial and may make it easier for the city to win approval from U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes.

The city filed a record $18 billion municipal bankruptcy last year, saying decades of decline and the disappearance of manufacturing jobs left it unable to meet financial obligations while still providing basic services to its 700,000 residents.

Led by emergency financial manager Kevyn Orr, Detroit has proposed cutting some retirement benefits and reducing payments to some bondholders, in addition to tapping the water and sewage department for cash.

Dozens of witnesses are expected to testify at the trial, which is scheduled to end Oct. 17.

The case is In re City of Detroit, 13-bk-53846, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of Michigan (Detroit).

To contact the reporter on this story: Steven Church in Wilmington, Delaware, at schurch3@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew Dunn at adunn8@bloomberg.net. Charles Carter, Joe Schneider
Thousands Attend Funeral of Three Hamas Commanders
Mass funeral for Hamas military leaders killed by the IDF on Aug.
20, 2014.
Thu Aug 21, 2014 7:41PM GMT
presstv.ir

A funeral has been held for three commanders of the Palestinian resistance movement, Hamas, in the besieged Gaza Strip as the Israeli regime continues its merciless onslaught on the blockaded enclave.

On Thursday, thousands of Palestinians participated in the funeral of Mohammed Abu Shammala, Raed al-Attar and Mohammed Barhoum.

The three men were the commanders of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas.

They were killed in an Israeli airstrike on the Tel al-Sultan refugee camp in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

People from different walks of life, including the representatives and members of a wide variety of Palestinian political factions, took part in the funeral procession that set off from al-Awdah Mosque in Rafah.

In addition to the three commanders, people mourned the death of seven other Palestinians, who were killed in the relentless Israeli attacks.

Hamas has said that the killing of the three commanders will demoralize neither the Palestinians nor the resistance movement, warning that the Tel Aviv regime will pay the price for killing them.

Israel has claimed that the three commanders played an important role in expanding Hamas's military capabilities in recent years.

The death toll from the Israeli war in the Gaza Strip has risen to 2,075, after renewed Israeli airstrikes killed at least 26 people on Thursday.

Some 10,300 others have been wounded since the Israeli aggression began on July 8.
Targeted Assassinations of its Top Commanders Deal Hamas a Heavy Blow
Building where three Hamas military commanders and others were
killed by  the IDF in Gaza. Tel Aviv has been waging war against
the Palestinians since July.
Though the efficacy of targeted assassinations has been questioned in the past, it appears that with Thursday's killings Hamas has been thrown off balance for the first time

By Amos Harel
Aug. 22, 2014 | 1:07 AM
Haaretz

For 45 days, Israel has been searching for the tiebreaker in its confrontation with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The successful interceptions by the Iron Dome system, the destruction of 32 Hamas attack tunnels, the enormous destruction wrought in towns and neighborhoods close to the border — these were not enough to convince the Israeli public of a tangible victory.

The relatively high number of casualties sustained while searching for tunnels, the ongoing rocket fire (especially in the south) and Hamas’ repeated violation of cease-fires have given rise to a sense of confusion, and even impotence, in Israel. When residents of kibbutzim are afraid to return home and cabinet ministers publicly attack the prime minister for his weakness vis-à-vis Hamas, it’s difficult to speak of a decisive victory.

The assassination campaign launched by Israel this week reflects an attempt to break out of a military standstill and compel Hamas to accept a cease-fire. If the campaign ends successfully — assuming Hamas doesn’t exact a heavy price in countermeasures — the assassinations will help Netanyahu get rid of two burdens: the external pestering by Hamas and the internal political backbiting by cabinet members Avigdor Lieberman and Naftali Bennett.

The fate of Mohammed Deif, the commander of Hamas’ military wing, is still unknown. However, Hamas admitted on Thursday that two of its senior commanders, Mohammed Abu Shamaleh and Raed Attar, considered numbers 3 and 4 in its military wing, were killed in an air force strike in the Rafah area. Other senior officials are also in Israel’s sights. These are the hardest days yet for Hamas since the war started.

The arguments regarding the effectiveness of targeted assassinations have been going on for two decades. As opposed to instances in which serious and proven operational damage was caused, such as the killing of Hezbollah’s Imad Mughniyeh in 2008 and of the Islamic Jihad’s Fathi Shikakai in 1995, opponents of targeted assassinations will point out cases in which removal of a bitter enemy led to the appearance of a worse one (Hassan Nasrallah replaced Abbas Musawi as secretary general of Hezbollah in 1992; Deif replaced Ahmed Jabari as the head of the military wing of Hamas in 2012). At this point there is a consensus in Israel’s political leadership that assassinations are useful. This may stem from the lack of other alternatives.

Israel tried to hit senior Hamas figures from the outset of the war. Intelligence gaps as well as concerns over causing massive civilian casualties around their hiding places made this difficult. It seems as though these figures devised a formula for survival. Their maintaining of strict security measures made their exposure difficult. The network of tunnels and underground bunkers protected them, and the presence of civilians in adjacent buildings extended their protective umbrella. This envelope was breached in the attempt on Deif’s life, continuing with the assassinations of Attar and Abu Shamaleh.

These targeted assassinations followed the fruition of several processes. Military Intelligence and mainly the Shin Bet security services delivered information on their exact whereabouts in real time. In addition there was an apparent technological-operational factor which enabled the breakthrough. Apparently the air force used four one-ton bombs as well as four other smaller penetrating bombs in order to destroy the house Deif was suspected of being in. Aerial photos show that the house was completely demolished. More significantly, the penetrating bombs erode the secure space that senior Hamas officials created for themselves underground.

A third factor is the amount of civilian lives that Israel is willing to risk in order to target these senior figures. Before the attack on Deif it was estimated that up to 15 people may be in the building, mainly civilians. Until last night seven bodies were removed from the rubble, including Deif’s wife and two children. More bodies may still be buried there. Although Israel is not officially commenting, the leadership (with Netanyahu personally approving such strikes) made a cold calculation. The assassinations are needed to urge Hamas to cease firing. Civilians are killed in these operations, but many more will die if the IDF returns in a massive ground operation in the event that Hamas continues firing rockets. This consideration bends the rules regarding innocent civilian casualties.

Remaining Hamas leaders understand very well the message embedded in Israel’s moves: Your network has been penetrated (on the intelligence front) and pierced (as relates to underground shelter). If you don’t stop now this will continue and your families may be hurt as well. For the first time it appeared that Hamas was caught off balance on Thursday. The killing of Attar and Abu Shamaleh even disrupted intentions to target Ben Gurion Airport. Up to now Hamas has shown total control of its firing, which unfolded along a well-laid plan. On Thursday morning they seemed to be more preoccupied with personal survival than with fulfilling publicized promises.

Abu Shimaleh and Attar were veterans of the senior leadership of the military wing, people whom Deif gathered around himself in the 1990s. Recently they were known to have shared a safe house in Rafah. Presumably they were afraid to leave it after the IDF targeted many other hiding places in the area. It is possible that the shock caused by the attempt on Deif’s life impacted their behavior and enabled their assassination during consultations with other senior officials. No one will shed a tear for Raed Attar in Cairo – they had a long account to settle with him, following his aid to global Jihadist groups operating in Sinai.

On Wednesday morning there was concern in Israel that Deif had yet again survived a fifth (at least) attempt to assassinate him. Then there was a weak denial of his death by the military wing. Yesterday there was some optimism in Israel. It’s now not clear if even Hamas knows what happened to Deif. In any case, if he was killed or injured it will take time before a replacement with a similar murderous bent can be found. Deif was behind the murderous attack tunnels and shaped Hamas’ operational strategy. Will the string of assassinations force Hamas back to negotiations in Cairo, showing more flexibility? Despite the blows it suffered, it’s difficult to predict with any certainty. It will probably try to carry out a quick reprisal such as using an attack tunnel, if one remains, firing anti-tank missiles on the border and the usual attempt to abduct a soldier.
Observations on Corporate Media Behavior in Ferguson

Posted by ryanschuessler
Militarized police attack demonstrators in Ferguson.
August 21, 2014

I had been on the ground helping Al Jazeera America** cover the protests and unrest in Ferguson, Mo., since this all started last week. After what I saw last night, I will not be returning. The behavior and number of journalists there is so appalling, that I cannot in good conscience continue to be a part of the spectacle.

**A clarification edit: I am not a full-time employee of any Al Jazeera branch or network. I am a freelance journalist who contributes to several media platforms.

Things I’ve seen:

-Cameramen yelling at residents in public meetings for standing in way of their cameras
-Cameramen yelling at community leaders for stepping away from podium microphones to better talk to residents
-TV crews making small talk and laughing at the spot where Mike Brown was killed, as residents prayed, mourned
-A TV crew of a to-be-left-unnamed major cable network taking pieces out of a Ferguson business retaining wall to weigh down their tent
-Another major TV network renting out a gated parking lot for their one camera, not letting people in. Safely reporting the news on the other side of a tall fence.
-Journalists making the story about them
-National news correspondents glossing over the context and depth of this story, focusing instead on the sexy images of tear gas, rubber bullets, etc.
-One reporter who, last night, said he came to Ferguson as a “networking opportunity.” He later asked me to take a picture of him with Anderson Cooper.

One anecdote that stands out: as the TV cameras were doing their live shots in front of the one burnt-out building in the three-block stretch of “Ground Zero,” around the corner was a community food/goods drive. I heard one resident say: “Where are the cameras? I’m going to go see if I can find some people to film this.”

Last night a frustrated resident confronted me when he saw my camera: “Yall are down here photographing US, but who gets paid?!”

There are now hundreds of journalists from all over the world coming to Ferguson to film what has become a spectacle. I get the sense that many feel this is their career-maker. In the early days of all this, I was warmly greeted and approached by Ferguson residents. They were glad that journalists were there. The past two days, they do not even look at me and blatantly ignore me. I recognize that I am now just another journalist to them, and their frustration with us is clear. In the beginning there was a recognizable need for media presence, but this is the other extreme. They need time to work through this as a community, without the cameras.

We should all be ashamed, and I cannot do it anymore. I am thankful for my gracious editors who understand that. 
New Graphic Video Shows US Police Shoot and Kill Black Man in Missouri
African Americans object to yet another police killing in St. Louis
County.
Thu Aug 21, 2014 8:55AM GMT
presstv.ir

Watch this video depicting the shooting death of Kajieme Powell in St. Louis on Aug. 19
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2014/08/21/376081/new-video-shows-us-police-kill-black-man/

A new video shows American police officers shot dead a young African-American man in Missouri a few days after a black teenager was killed by police.

Two police officers on Tuesday killed 25-year-old Kajieme Powell after a report of robbery in St. Louis.

Powell was suspected of shoplifting drinks and donuts from a convenience store. He was acting erratically and had allegedly a knife in his pocket.

The video shows the officers pulled up to the sidewalk, where the video shows Powell walking up and down, with his right hand in the pocket of his sweatshirt.

Officers pull up in a squad car, exit and draw their weapons, and can be heard shouting indistinguishable instructions to Powell.

The victim can be heard shouting “Shoot me! Shoot me!” He retreats and then walks towards officers again, who fire on him.

He was killed four miles from Ferguson, Missouri, the scene of ongoing protests over the death of Michael Brown, 18, who was shot to death by police on August 9.

St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said that both of the officers opened fire on Powell when he came within a three or four feet of them holding a knife "in an overhand grip."

However, the footage undermines the statement, showing Powell approaching the cops, but not coming as close as was reported, with his hands at his side.

A witness said she did not believe the police needed to kill Powell.

“I think it was excessive. People said he had a knife but if he had a knife they could have shot him in the foot. Or Tasered him. They didn’t have to kill him,” she said. “I couldn’t believe my eyes, I have seen anything like that. I’ve never seen anyone get shot.”
Calif. Highway Patrol Officer Could Face Serious Charges for Striking Woman
Marlene Pinnock being beaten by California Highway Patrolman on
July 1, 2014.
A California Highway Patrol officer could face felony charges after a video showed him hitting a 51-year-old woman several times alongside Interstate 10

By Matt Hamilton, Associated Press  AUGUST 20, 2014

LOS ANGELES — A California Highway Patrol officer who was videotaped repeatedly striking a woman on the side of a Los Angeles freeway could face serious charges, the agency said Wednesday after forwarding its investigation to the district attorney.

Officer Daniel Andrew, who was put on a desk assignment after the incident, has been removed from duty and put on paid administrative leave, the CHP said.

The agency didn't reveal if it made a recommendation to prosecutors but said in a news release that its report outlined potentially serious charges he could face. It didn't specify possible charges.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office confirmed the case is under review. A separate, internal CHP investigation is ongoing.

The July 1 incident sparked outrage as video showed Andrew hitting Marlene Pinnock, 51, several times alongside Interstate 10.

Pinnock's attorney Caree Harper said District Attorney Jackie Lacey should file battery and attempted murder charges against the officer.

"I can't foresee any reason why she would not press felony charges against him," Harper said. "Our hope is that she acts swiftly."

Andrew's attorney James McGarry declined to comment on the case.

Andrew said in his report that Pinnock was a danger to herself and had tried to walk into traffic lanes. Drivers had called emergency dispatchers to report that a barefoot woman who appeared drunk or high was on the freeway shoulder.

Pinnock has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had been off her medication for two to three months before the altercation with Andrew, Harper said.

In a previous interview with The Associated Press, Pinnock said she believed the officer was trying to kill her.

"He grabbed me, he threw me down, he started beating me," she said. "I felt like he was trying to kill me, beat me to death."

Pinnock filed a lawsuit against CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow and Andrew in federal court alleging civil rights violations. The lawsuit claims excessive force, assault, battery and a violation of due-process rights.

Andrew joined the highway patrol as a cadet in April 2012 and became an officer six months later.

AP writer Tami Abdollah contributed to this report.
Israeli Airstrikes Claim More Lives in Gaza
IDF bombs fall over Gaza killing many Palestinians.
Wed Aug 20, 2014 10:56PM GMT
presstv.ir

More Palestinians, including women and children, are killed or injured as the Israeli regime renews its airstrikes on the besieged Gaza Strip.

The number of Gazans killed during Tuesday and Wednesday amounts to approximately 30 with at least eight children among the dead, according to medical officials.

More than 120 others are said to have been wounded in the past two days’ onslaught.

The heaviest death tolls were reported from airstrikes on mosques and refugee camps.

Tel Aviv’s recent attacks have been focusing on the Zeytoun neighborhood in eastern, Rafah in southern, and Deir al-Balah in western Gaza.

The Israeli military said it targeted 60 locations in the war-stricken sliver.

Israeli warplanes and tanks have been pounding the blockaded enclave since early July, inflicting heavy losses on the Palestinian land.

At least 2,049 people, mostly civilians, have lost their lives and more than 10,200 have been injured despite pressure from the international community on the Tel Aviv regime to end aggression against Palestinians.

Nearly 400,000 Palestinian children are in immediate need of psychological help due to “catastrophic and tragic impact” of the Israeli war, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, has been launching retaliatory attacks against Israel.
Why the Fires in Ferguson Won’t End Soon
Fires burning in Ferguson, MO after the brutal killing of Michael
Brown.
The tensions have been building for a long time, and even justice for Michael Brown won’t change that.

By Jamelle Bouie
Ferguson, Missouri August 18, 2014
The Slate

FERGUSON, Missouri—Talk to anyone in Ferguson and you’ll hear a story about the police. “One of my friends had a son killed by the Ferguson Police Department, about 10 years ago,” said Carl Walker, a Vietnam veteran and former parole officer who came to show his support for demonstrators in Ferguson. “They wouldn’t release the name of the officer who killed him. Why wouldn’t you release the name?”

“The cops said he shot at them—case closed,” said Al Cole, referring to a cousin who was killed by Ferguson police in 2000. “Even as a teenager, 13 or 14 years old, I’ve been slammed on police cars … now I try to avoid riding through Ferguson.”

“Some police say they saw me at a house, pulled me, said I fit a description, locked me up, and found out I was on parole,” said Craig Beck, who was watching demonstrators under the shade of a burned-out QuikTrip convenience store. “They said I threw a plastic baggie, which they didn’t have when they took me into custody.” He continues: “I beat the case, but you know, this isn’t new. This happens every day.”

Everyone—or at least, every black person—can recall an incident. Everyone can attest to friends and relatives who have been harassed, assaulted, or worse by the police.

Perhaps one of the most disturbing cases was last year’s shooting of Cary Ball Jr., a 25-year-old black student at St. Louis Community College–Forest Park. The official police report is that Ball crashed his car after a high-speed chase, ran away, and aimed his weapon at officers after they confronted him. Witnesses say Ball had thrown his gun to the ground and was walking toward police—hands up—when he was shot and killed with 25 rounds. A federal investigation cleared the officers. Likewise, that February, surveillance video from a casino showed St. Louis police slamming a black man’s head into the bumper of a vehicle, after a dispute over gambling and trespassing. And in March of this year, a video showed St. Louis police officers beating a mentally disabled man in his home, after the family called police for help.

These weren’t isolated events. A 2012 report from University of Missouri–St. Louis criminologist David Klinger found that, from 2008 to 2011, St. Louis police officers fired their weapons 98 times. “Any comparison across cities right now is still missing the lion’s share of circumstances in which people are shot by the police,” Klinger said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “There are only a smattering of cities that report their officer-involved shootings, and when compared against them, St. Louis is on the high end.” The data on police violence is incomplete, as there is no federal effort to pull together information on unjustified homicides. But the anecdotes of brutality and excessive force out of St. Louis  and St. Louis County are rampant and often startling. In 2009, for example, a man was wrongly arrested, beaten by police, and subsequently charged for bleeding on their uniforms.

This abuse is so ubiquitous that the shooting of Michael Brown might seem like static against a backdrop of awfulness. But even for the area, Brown’s death was brutal. Which is why—in an otherwise quiet town in an otherwise quiet area—we’re dealing with an explosive fire that shows no signs of ending.

By now, if you’ve followed the news, you know the story has two sides.

Police say Brown resisted arrest and assaulted an officer. “The genesis of this was a physical confrontation,” said St. Louis County police Chief Jon Belmar during a press conference after the shooting. In the official narrative, a routine stop turned into a struggle with two men, Brown and his friend. As officer Darren Wilson tried to leave his vehicle, one of the two pushed him back into the car and lunged for his gun. During the struggle, one shot was fired, and soon after, Brown was shot multiple times on the street.

Jamelle Bouie on what it’s like to shoot the police when it seems like the police might shoot you.
To the eyewitnesses, this story is nonsense. Dorian Johnson was with Brown at the time of the encounter. He was the “other man.” In his account, the two were walking down the middle of the street, having a conversation, when Wilson—the shooter—drove down and told them to “get the f--k off the street.” They continued, he drove off, and a few seconds later, he reversed his car in their direction and opened the door. As Johnson describes it, “He was so close to us that [the door] … bounced back toward him. At that point, he reached out the window and tried to choke my friend. We were trying to get away, and he tried to pull my friend into the car.” A few moments later, Wilson pulled out his gun and shot Brown, injuring him. “We look at [Brown], he was shot and there was blood comin’ from him. … We took off running, and I hid because I feared for my life. My friend took off running, too,” explained Johnson.

Wilson then stepped out of the car, weapon drawn, and shot again. “Once my friend felt that, he put his arms in the air, and he started to get down, but the officer still approached with the weapon drawn, and he fired several more shots, and my friend died. He didn’t say anything to him, he just stood over him and kept shooting.” Another witness described a similar scene. “I know he shot that child, and when he shot him, the little boy fell, then he shot him six more times,” said one woman in an interview with local newscasters.

To residents of Ferguson, in other words, the situation is simple. Michael Brown was executed by an angry cop. You can hear their shock and fear in a video recorded just after the shooting. “They killed him for no reason … they just killed this n---er for no reason,” said one man. “Do you see a knife? Do you see anything that would have caused a threat to these motherf--kin’ police? They shot that boy because they wanted to shoot that boy in the middle of the motherf--kin’ day in the middle of the motherf--kin’ street.”

A forthright police department could have calmed these nerves. They could have answered basic questions: Who was the shooter? How many times did he fire? What was Brown stopped for? And why did officers let his body sit in the street for four hours?

Instead, led by Chief Thomas Jackson, the Ferguson Police Department stonewalled at every turn, refusing cooperation and transparency. And when residents began to gather near the site of Brown’s shooting to demonstrate and memorialize, police responded with guns and dogs, sparking a cycle of protest and repression. Nightly demonstrations from residents were met with tear gas and rubber bullets by aggressive, militarized police, which sparked larger, more aggressive demonstrations and harsher, more draconian responses, justified by reports of looting and violence. After an especially bad night of clashes on Sunday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon sent the National Guard to Ferguson to attempt to keep the peace.

Given frustrated residents and a recalcitrant Ferguson Police Department—which has yet to release its autopsy report—it’s hard to know if calm is possible. Insofar that there’s new information, it’s from a private autopsy report, released on Sunday, which shows Brown was shot at least six times, including twice in the head. And on Monday, demonstrations took another turn for the worst, as police fired tear gas into crowds, and a handful of protesters returned fire with live rounds.

But while calm is hard to predict, one thing is clear: The events in Ferguson—from the shooting to the police response and everything since—are a product of familiar forces and stem from a familiar history. Put another way, the area’s long-bottled racial tension has burst, and it’s difficult to know if it can be resolved, much less contained.

Like many American cities, St. Louis can’t be untangled from segregation. In 1916, it became one of the first places to formalize racial segregation by designating particular “Negro blocks” where blacks would be concentrated and legally forbidden from leaving. The Supreme Court struck the ordinance in 1917, but private real estate agents and other groups responded with informal means of enforcing segregation. In 1923, the St. Louis Real Estate Exchange created zones in the city’s black neighborhoods to limit the extent of black housing. Real estate agents could sell to black families inside the zones, but would lose their licenses if they sold homes outside the zones.

In 1941—bolstered by federal housing discrimination—real estate agents combined these zones into a single district and adopted “racial covenants” that restricted or banned the sale of properties to black families outside of the district. As professor Colin Gordon of the University of Iowa wrote, “Both the City’s Real Estate Exchange and the Missouri Real Estate Commission routinely and openly interpreted sales to blacks in white areas as a form of professional misconduct,” and by the 1940s, “almost 380 covenants covered large and strategic swaths of the City’s residential property base.”

Soon enough, demonstrators will be chanting the name of another young black man killed by another agent of the state charged with containing blacks, not protecting them.

The G.I. Bill and the end of World War II sparked a massive move to the suburbs. Between 1950 and 1970, close to 60 percent of whites had moved to suburbs in the western parts of St. Louis County.

Blacks —pushed by “urban renewal” and other policies—also moved, but restrictive covenants limited mobility to northern parts of the city and county.

As the area entered the 1980s, racial succession had taken hold, as blacks entered older, inner-ring suburbs and whites left for the far reaches of the county. Depopulation accelerated—the city of St. Louis lost more than a third of its residents—and the suburban “color line” had drifted to include most of the North County suburbs. “Ghetto spillover,” said one local, noted by Gordon, “now stretches almost all the way across the county in a northwesterly direction.” In 1990, Ferguson was 74 percent white and 25 percent black. Now, at 67 percent black and 29 percent white, it’s nearly reversed.

As of 2010, 42 years after Congress passed the Fair Housing Act, greater St. Louis was one of the most segregated areas in the United States. And segregation comes with a familiar set of problems. Middle-class neighborhoods—and thus middle-class services—are few and far between, with most wealth concentrated in the farther, whiter reaches of the county.

As the New America Foundation’s Dana Goldstein finds, the schools are in bad shape as well. Michael Brown attended Normandy High, where he was one of the 58 percent of students who graduated this year (compared with a statewide average of 80). In 2011, 98 percent of the 1,064 students at the school were black, and 74 percent were low-income. Most tellingly, 45 percent of Normandy students were suspended that year, and—given what we know about the area—there’s no question some were funneled into the criminal justice system.

With broad housing inequality and entrenched segregation, it shouldn’t be a shock to learn that banks targeted North County—and other predominantly black areas nationwide—with subprime loans. The result was a community hit hard by the 2008 recession. The unemployment rate for blacks there is three times as high as it is for whites, and among black men aged 16 to 24, the unemployment rate is a whopping 47 percent. This high inequality is exacerbated by intense sprawl, which separates low-income residents from potential jobs. Which is to say that the same patterns of housing segregation that impede black wealth in cities like Chicago and Detroit—which top the list of segregated cities—are also operative in St. Louis.

“We’re continuously economically depressed, chronically unemployed, voter participation is typically low, and on any measure of health and viability, we would be at the bottom in the most deplorable ways,” said Etefia Umana, who sits on the board of Better Family Life, a local nonprofit, and hopes the Michael Brown demonstrations lead to broader social action.

All of these ills are made worse by the absence of black political and civic representation in many of the area’s 90 independent municipalities. For example, as has been widely reported, Ferguson has just one black city council member and three black police officers out of a force of 55. The mayor is white, the school superintendent is white, and the police chief is white. The disparity is easy to understand.

“North County is becoming more transient, and you have a lot of people who are moving in temporarily and moving right out,” said Wesley Bell, a local law professor and prosecutor who ran for a seat on the St. Louis County Council this year. “Therefore, they may not get registered, they may not get involved in local politics if they’re just moving through.”

Moreover, as New School professor (and former St. Louis politician) Jeff Smith explained for the New York Times, overwhelmingly white labor organizations and other groups run effective get-out-the-vote operations, which bring thousands of voters to low-turnout elections and ensure white dominance in local political bodies. It also helps that area municipal elections are held in the spring, on off years, a Progressive-era election reform that dramatically lowers turnout. In the 2012 presidential elections, turnout for Ferguson blacks was 54 percent. The next year, in municipal elections, turnout had dropped to 6 percent.

An overbearing police presence is a defining feature of life in Ferguson and the rest of North County. Last year in Ferguson, 86 percent of stops, 92 percent of searches, and 93 percent of arrests involved blacks, despite the fact that police found more “contraband” stopping white residents than black ones. I spoke to several young men in Ferguson—all teenagers or in their early 20s—who said they were stopped on a weekly basis. At a makeshift Michael Brown memorial, I asked one 20-year-old how many times he’s stopped by police, “About 10 times a month,” he said.

Again, the forces in St. Louis are familiar. And when it comes to police, what we see in Ferguson is a microcosm of the long and contentious relationship of black Americans to law enforcement.

During the first Great Migration of blacks in the early 20th century, a nascent group of black academics, lawyers, and other professionals began to study and report police violence toward blacks, prompted by the growing use of crime statistics to justify urban segregation—like the kind we see in St. Louis.

“They saw police officers as a form of state authority, and the most consistent form of government interaction for African-Americans,” says Khalil Gibran Muhammad, director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and author of The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America. For them, police weren’t civil servants as much as they were vectors for brutality, meant to isolate and contain black communities. “Blacks were the easiest targets of the police; their rights were the least respected, and they had only a modicum of political influence to hold officers accountable,” Muhammad wrote in his book. Criminality was well-distributed among the ethnic and racial groups of the North, but blacks were disproportionate targets for police. The result was a perception of black criminality despite the lack of clear evidence it actually existed.

That trend continued into the middle of the century. “African-Americans throughout the country confronted repressive police departments that were threatened by black demands for equality after World War II and intimidated by an expanded black populace as whites fled to the suburbs,” University of Texas professor Leonard N. Moore noted in Black Rage in New Orleans: Police Brutality and African American Activism From World War II to Hurricane Katrina. He continued: “[A] cursory examination of black newspapers in the postwar period reveals articles … detailing cases of police brutality. Likewise, the archives of local and national civil rights organizations are filled with thousands of affidavits and letters relaying first-person experiences of police brutality.”

One incident, the 1961 killing of 11-year-old Allen Bruce Foster in New Orleans, stands out for its brutality. As one witness described it, “I saw the child running toward a red automobile. Just as he reached it he was shaken violently as bullets tore into his body. The boy let out a piercing scream—one I shall never forget and fell to the ground. A policeman then stooped over the boy and said, ‘Why didn’t you stop when I told you to halt?’ The boy never answered, never moved. I never heard anyone tell the boy to halt.”

What’s important to understand is that these incidents and interactions reflect upon themselves. “Too often the policeman’s club is the only instrument of the law with which the Negro comes into contact,” wrote Howard University criminologist Kelly Miller in a 1935 op-ed. “This engenders in him a distrust and resentful attitude toward all public authorities and law officers.”

If you’re trying to grasp the looting that has struck Ferguson throughout the demonstrations, there’s some of your answer. For as much as there are bad apples and provocateurs in any mass gathering, it’s also true that there’s a deep distrust of law enforcement across the black community that stems from decades of unfair treatment. “That’s our life. We black. We get pulled over everyday,” said two young demonstrators who declined to give their names, but were adamant—as chants of “Hands up, don’t shoot” filled the air—that they were “out here for Michael Brown” and “they would do it however they [the police] wanted to do it.”

Perhaps the closest analogue to the Michael Brown shooting is the Trayvon Martin killing. Both were young men in their teens, and both sparked discussions of profiling and racism.

But there’s a key difference. Martin wasn’t killed by a police officer; his shooter was George Zimmerman, a neighbor. Which meant that, for supporters of Martin, there was a concrete goal and a clear hope: Bring Zimmerman to trial and hope he’s convicted. Zimmerman wasn’t convicted, but his trial brought a measure of closure to the situation.

It’s possible that Darren Wilson will also be arrested and go to trial. But even if he’s convicted—even if the Brown family finds a measure of procedural justice—we will still be left with an unequal, segregated Ferguson in an unequal, segregated St. Louis County. The underlying problems of white flight, discrimination, and disinvestment will remain, and—absent a dramatic and unexpected change—they’ll persist into the next generation. We may never see another “Trayvon Martin” in Sanford, Florida, but I’m positive we’ll see another “Michael Brown” in Ferguson, Missouri.

Or somewhere else. Soon enough, demonstrators will be chanting the name of another young black man killed by another agent of the state charged with containing blacks, not protecting them. We want it to be one way—a world where the police are here to serve us all—but it’s the other way, a world where black bodies are the chief targets of American fear.

On last Thursday, the scene West Florissant, the main site of the demonstrations, was jubilant. The streets were thick with people chanting slogans and demanding “justice,” while cars drove by honking in support. A gospel choir sang, and Capt. Ron Johnson—the Missouri Highway Patrol chief tasked with maintaining order—mingled with the crowd, going so far as to march with the demonstrators.

By the next night, everything had fallen apart. Despite Johnson’s promise, police used tear gas against protesters, prompting more anger and more destruction.

On Sunday and Monday, the chaos repeated itself, with more gas and more rubber bullets. In all of the live streams and videos, one scene caught my eye. A mother stands with her son, who has just been hit with tear gas. He’s 8 years old.
In Ferguson, Scrutiny on Police Is Growing
Women in Ferguson, MO walking through the streets against racist
violence.
By JOHN ELIGON and MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT
New York Times
AUG. 20, 2014

FERGUSON, Mo. — Early one morning in September 2011, an unarmed 31-year-old black man ran down a residential street here yelling at cars while he pounded his hands on them.

“God is good,” the man, Jason Moore, said. “I am Jesus.”

The first officer to approach Mr. Moore told him to raise his hands and walk toward him, according to a police report on the episode. But Mr. Moore, whose family said he was mentally ill, started running toward the officer “in an aggressive manner while swinging his fist in a pinwheel motion,” the officer said in the report. And when he failed to obey commands to get on the ground, the officer took out his Taser gun and fired it at him, the report said.

Mr. Moore fell to the ground, but after he tried to get up, the officer fired the Taser twice more into him. Mr. Moore let out a raspy sound and stopped breathing. He was pronounced dead soon after.

Mr. Moore’s death and how it was handled by the Ferguson Police Department are now receiving renewed scrutiny after one of the department’s officers, Darren Wilson, killed Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year old, on Aug. 9. On Tuesday, relatives of Mr. Moore filed two lawsuits against the Police Department in federal court, saying that the department wrongfully killed him. The suit was one of several filed in recent years that raised questions about excessive use of force or civil rights violations by the Ferguson Police Department.

The police contend that they behaved properly in all of those cases, and none of the lawsuits has yet led to a judgment against the department. But critics assert that the complaints show a pattern of violent behavior or weak discipline within the force — and say that the department’s conduct should be closely investigated by the Justice Department, which has already opened an inquiry into Mr. Brown’s death.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who visited Ferguson on Wednesday, and top Justice Department officials have begun weighing whether to open just such a broader civil rights review of Ferguson’s police practices, according to law enforcement officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal talks. Their discussion has been prompted in part by past complaints against the force, including a 2009 case in which a man said that four police officers beat him, then charged him with damaging government property — by getting blood on their uniforms. That case is now the subject of one of the lawsuits against the department.

During his daylong visit, Mr. Holder met with local and state officials, including Gov. Jay Nixon, but also with a group of residents that included Mr. Moore’s sister, Molyrik Welch, 27, who described her brother’s death. “A lot has happened here,” Ms. Welch said after the meeting. She added that Mr. Holder had promised that “things were going to change.”

Before a briefing at local F.B.I. headquarters, Mr. Holder promised that the investigation into Mr. Brown’s death would be “thorough and fair” and that “very experienced” prosecutors and agents had been assigned. “We’re looking for violations of federal criminal civil rights statutes,” he said. But at another stop, a meeting with residents at a community college, he also spoke in deeply personal terms about his own problems with the police when he was a young man.

Saying he could “understand that mistrust” that many young blacks feel toward the police, Mr. Holder recalled twice being pulled over on the New Jersey Turnpike and having his car searched. “I remember how humiliating that was and how angry I was and the impact it had on me,” Mr. Holder told the group.

He also recounted being stopped by the police in Georgetown, an upscale section of Washington, because he was running to see a film. “I wasn’t a kid. I was a federal prosecutor. I worked at the United States Department of Justice,” he said. “So I’ve confronted this myself.”

Mr. Holder continued: “We need concrete action to change things in this country. The same kid who got stopped on the New Jersey freeway is now the attorney general of the United States. This country is capable of change. But change doesn’t happen by itself.”

For most of Wednesday morning and early afternoon, the stretch of West Florissant Avenue that has been the center of protest and confrontation turned quiet enough to seem like any other commercial thoroughfare — save for the pieces of plywood covering smashed store windows here and there.

As evening came, a sparse crowd milled, caught up briefly in a heavy downpour.

At one point, tensions flared when a couple identifying themselves as Chuck and Dawn showed up along the route with signs supporting Officer Wilson. “Justice is for Everybody — Even P.O. Wilson,” one of the signs read. Some protesters began to crowd around and jeer, while others urged calm.

As the shouting grew louder and a water bottle was thrown, the police stepped in and spirited the couple away from the crowd.

Also Wednesday, the St. Louis County Police Department said that an officer from a local police department had been suspended after he pointed a semiautomatic rifle at a peaceful protester following a verbal exchange on Tuesday night. In a news release, the county police called the officer’s action “inappropriate,” saying that a police sergeant had immediately escorted him away from the scene.

The episode involving Mr. Moore began at 6:46 a.m. on Sept. 17, 2011, when an officer was sent in response to reports that Mr. Moore was running naked through the streets, according to police reports.

“I exited my patrol vehicle and advised Jason to put his hands in the air and to walk my way,” the officer said in a statement he filed afterward. Mr. Moore, the officer said, began moving aggressively toward him, and despite several commands to stop, he did not.

“Jason continued to charge, at the time I deployed one five-second burst from the Taser,” the officer said in the report. “The Taser darts made contact with Jason on his left side of his chest and the right thigh.”

The officer said that after the initial shot, Mr. Moore fell to the ground and then tried to get back on his feet. Again, Mr. Moore ignored commands to remain where he was, the officer said. “In fear for my safety and the safety of Jason, I administered a second five-second burst,” the officer said.

As another officer arrived at the scene and got out of his vehicle, Mr. Moore tried for a third time to get up. Mr. Moore again ignored commands to remain on the ground, and the officer used the Taser gun on him again.

The officer who had just arrived handcuffed Mr. Moore and laid him on his stomach, at which point emergency medical responders were sent to the scene. Another officer tried to speak with Mr. Moore but received no response, according to the police reports.

One of the lawsuits filed by Mr. Moore’s relatives says that the officers left Mr. Moore face down and did not monitor his vital signs.

According to the police reports, about a minute after Mr. Moore was handcuffed, the officer noticed that he was not breathing and removed the handcuffs. The officers rolled Mr. Moore over and began administering CPR for several minutes. “Moore would seem to start to breathe on his own and stop,” one of the police reports said.

Mr. Moore was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

In one of their lawsuits, the family asserts that Mr. Moore was unarmed and “suffering from a psychological disorder and demonstrated clear signs of mental illness.” A lawyer for the family declined to comment, or to explain why it had taken three years to file the lawsuit.

But in an interview posted on YouTube last week, Mr. Moore’s sister said the family had been unable to find a lawyer willing to handle the case until recently.

John Eligon reported from Ferguson, and Michael S. Schmidt from Washington. Reporting was contributed by Mosi Secret, Joseph Goldstein and Dan Barry from Ferguson, Matt Apuzzo from Washington, and Kitty Bennett from Seattle.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Movement Grows in Ferguson
African American masses in Ferguson demand justice for Michael
Brown.
BY JELANI COBB

In the eight days since Michael Brown, an eighteen-year-old, was killed by a police officer named Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, what began as an impromptu vigil evolved into a sustained protest; it is now beginning to look like a movement. The local QuikTrip, a gas station and convenience store that was looted and burned on the second night of the protests, has now been repurposed as the epicenter for gatherings and the exchange of information. The front of the lot bears an improvised graffiti sign identifying the area as the “QT People’s Park.” With the exception of a few stretches, such as Thursday afternoon, when it was veiled in clouds of tear gas, protesters have been a constant presence in the lot. On Sunday afternoon the area was populated by members of local churches, black fraternity and sorority groups, Amnesty International, the Outcast Motorcycle Club, and twenty or so white supporters from the surrounding area. On the north side of the station, a group of volunteers with a mobile grill served free hot dogs and water, and a man stood on a crate, handing out bright yellow T-shirts with the logo of the National Action Network, the group led by Al Sharpton.

The conversation here has shifted from the immediate reaction to Michael Brown’s death and toward the underlying social dynamics. Two men I spoke with pointed to the disparity in education funding for Ferguson and more affluent municipalities nearby. Another talked about being pulled over by an officer who claimed to smell marijuana in the car as a pretense for searching him. “I’m in the United States Navy,” he told me. “We have to take drug tests in the military so I had proof that there were no drugs in my system. But other people can’t do that.” Six black men I spoke to, nearly consecutively, pointed to Missouri’s felon-disfranchisement laws as part of the equation. “If you’re a student in one of the black schools here and you get into a fight you’ll probably get arrested and charged with assault. We have kids here who are barred from voting before they’re even old enough to register,” one said. Ferguson’s elected officials did not look much different than they had years earlier, when it was a largely white community.

Ferguson had, instead, recently seen two highly visible African-American public officials lose their jobs. Two weeks before Brown was shot, Charles Dooley, an African-American who has served as St. Louis County Executive for a decade, lost a bitter primary election to Steve Stenger, a white county councilman, in a race that, whatever the merits of the candidates, was seen as racially divisive. Stenger lobbed allegations of financial mismanagement and incompetence, and worse. Bob McCulloch, the county prosecutor appeared in an ad for Stenger, associating Dooley with corruption; McCulloch would also be responsible for determining whether to charge Darren Wilson. In December, the largely white Ferguson-Florissant school board fired Art McCoy, the superintendent, who is African-American. Those who were gathered at the QuikTrip parking lot on Saturday were as inclined to talk about the underlying political issues as they were about the hail of bullets that ended Brown’s life.

When word came that afternoon that the governor had announced a curfew, to take effect at midnight, the mood shifted to defiance and disbelief. Few thought that the curfew would do much practical good; many thought it was counterproductive, a move back to militarized police response earlier in the week. Curfew or no, the protesters felt that, with the exception of last Thursday, when Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, a black Ferguson native, took charge of operations, the amalgam of county and local law enforcement rolling through Ferguson had tried to clear the streets each day at dusk.

On Johnson’s first night in charge, the police presence in the neighborhood was hardly visible; officers withdrew to the perimeter and removed a roadblock that had cut off Florissant Road, which runs just south of the QuikTrip. The protests that night had a giddy quality. Cars drove up and down the strip, the sounds of honking horns accompanying shouts of Brown’s name and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” which has emerged as the signature slogan here.

But as early as Friday morning people began to wonder if Johnson really was in charge, in any meaningful way. Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson began the day by releasing Officer Wilson’s name, which had been kept from the public until then. He undercut that gesture by simultaneously releasing a video that appeared to show Brown menacing a local store owner soon before his encounter with Wilson—thus suggesting that Wilson had been pursuing Brown as a suspect. It took a few hours, and a second press conference, for Jackson to acknowledge that Wilson hadn’t stopped Brown because he thought he was a robber but because Brown was walking in the street and not, as Wilson believed he should, on the sidewalk.

Ron Johnson had to concede that he had not even known that the video would be released; he saw it on television just as everyone else had. (“I would like to have been consulted,” he said at his own press conference.) After sporadic looting on Saturday night—halted largely by other protestors who rushed to protect the establishments being vandalized—Governor Jay Nixon declared a curfew, further undercutting Johnson’s authority. In the span of twenty-four hours, Johnson had gone, in the community’s eyes, from empowered native son to black token. One of the local activists I’d met in Feguson sent me a text message after the curfew announcement saying, “Johnson has good intentions but no power. This is beyond him.” On Sunday, Johnson stepped into the pulpit at Greater Grace Church, the site of a rally, and apologized to Brown’s family, saying, “I wear this uniform and I feel like that needs to be said.” With that, he implicitly condemned the Ferguson Police Department for their failure to do so. Johnson had promised not to use tear gas in the streets of Ferguson but, during a skirmish with looters on Saturday night, police tear-gassed the crowd. Johnson’s address at the church carried the message that his allegiances were, nonetheless, with the people of Ferguson. James Baldwin remarked that black leaders chronically find themselves in a position of asking white people to hurry up while pleading with black people to wait. Johnson finds himself asking black people to remain calm while imploring white police officers not to shoot. The problem here is that few people in Ferguson believe that the former is any guarantee of the latter.

Brown remains unburied. His family, whose faith evaporated early on, refused to simply trust the autopsy performed by local authorities and held out for a second post mortem, by federal authorities. Attorney Eric Holder granted that request late Sunday morning. It might produce a definitive answer to some of the basic questions—like how many times Brown was shot, and whether any of the bullets hit him in the back—that, a week later, remain murky. From the outset, the overlapping bureaucracies in Ferguson handled the case in ways that suggested ineptitude. Yet subsequent developments—the stonewalling followed by contradictory statements, the detention of reporters, the clumsy deployment of sophisticated military equipment—all point not to a department too inept to handle this investigation objectively but one too inept to cloak the fact that they never intended to do so. One protestor held a sign that said, “Ferguson Police Need Better Scriptwriters.”

More than one person in the streets of Ferguson has compared what is happening here to the chaotic days of the Birmingham desegregation campaign in 1963. And, like that struggle, the local authorities, long immune to public sentiment, were incapable of understanding how their actions reverberated outside the hermetic world where they held sway—how they looked to the world. That incomprehension was the biggest asset the protesters in Birmingham had. Michael Brown was left lying in the street for hours while a traumatized community stood behind police tape in frustration, grief, and shock: an immobile metaphor for everything that was wrong in Ferguson, Missouri.

Jelani Cobb has been a contributor to The New Yorker and newyorker.com since 2013, writing frequently about race, politics, history, and culture.
Mya Aaten-White, Ferguson Shooting Victim, Says Police Have Not Interviewed Her
African American woman shot in the head in Ferguson on Aug. 12, 2014.
By Jessica Lussenhop
Published Wed., Aug. 20 2014 at 5:00 AM

Here's what Mya Aaten-White remembers from the night of August 12: It was about 11 p.m. She was walking back to her car on Highmont Drive near the burned-out QuikTrip after attending a Mike Brown rally in Ferguson. There were a few people in front of her. Suddenly, shots rang out. Everyone dropped to the ground and covered their heads. When she sat up, Aaten-White knew something was wrong.

"Oh my God, you're shot in the head," she recalls a young man telling her.

Several young men carried her into a nearby house where the residents called 911. She says police officers -- she believes they were St. Louis County police -- interviewed her briefly before she was taken to the hospital. She was able to take the above photo in the ambulance and upload it to Instagram. It went viral.

Now, a little over a week later, Aaten-White wants to know why no one in law enforcement has followed up with her about her case. Stranger still, she says, she doesn't know what happened to the bullet that doctors removed from her skull.

"Someone has the bullet. Someone has the bullet, and it was an officer," says her attorney, Marwan Porter.

Read all of our coverage about Michael Brown and Ferguson here.

A video that seems to show police reacting to Aaten-White's shooting:

Aaten-White is a St. Louis native who lives in Florissant. She says she's the great-granddaughter of local jazz legend Mae Wheeler and works at a law firm. She says she went out that Tuesday night in support of Michael Brown's family.

The bullet lodged against her skull, near the middle of her forehead. Aaten-White says it took doctors about a day to decide that it was safe to remove it. She says when she woke up from the surgery on Wednesday evening, August 13, the doctors and nurses told her police officers came and confiscated the bullet as evidence. As she recovered, she says, she waited for those officers to return and do a full interview about the incident.

"I would ask every day while I was there," she says, "'Did anyone from the police department come? Have they called for me? Are they going to be here today?' And nobody could give me an answer."

Media reports have characterized Aaten-White's shooting as a "drive-by." From Post-Dispatch reporting:

It appeared to be a drive-by shooting. Police said they were looking for four or five men. The woman was shot once and is expected to survive. It was unknown if the shooting was related to the protests in the area.

Aaten-White says she didn't see a car or a weapon, and the only "four or five" young black men she observed were the ones who brought her to safety.

"Those words never came out of my mouth. I didn't know what people were talking about. I never said it was a drive-by," she says. "Those young men carried me and saved my life."

Aaten-White is home now, recuperating, though she did appear at a church rally with Michael Brown's family. She also retained Marwan Porter, a Florida-based attorney who specializes in cases involving police misconduct and personal injury. He's in town now, and Daily RFT spoke with him yesterday as he drove to the Ferguson Police Department to try to obtain Aaten-White's case files.

"We want to find out who and what agency took possession of the bullet," he said. "We want to identify who was responsible for firing the weapon that ended up with a bullet being lodged in the front of Mya's head."

When we spoke with him several hours later, the story just got weirder.

"I've talked to both the St. Louis County Police Department and Ferguson...they have no record...no file number, no report," he said. "They don't have anything."

Daily RFT contacted Ferguson Police Department press officer Tim Zoll who referred us to the city's new media representative, Common Ground PR. The number went straight to voicemail both times we tried. Next we tried the St. Louis County Police Department. Press officer Brian Schellman emailed back that he believes this is a Ferguson Police Department case, but our request is being forwarded to their keeper of records for verification. He warned they are inundated with requests and answering may take time.

"It almost seems like, if, you know, if I did not follow up with this, they were hoping it would disappear," says Porter. "I don't know what the reasons are."

Porter did not yet want to give Daily RFT the name of the hospital where Aaten-White was treated, but he says he's going back there to request records to see who was admitted to retrieve the bullet.

Meanwhile, Aaten-White says she has no interest in either Ferguson or St. Louis County handling her case from now on. Porter says he'd like to see federal investigators from the U.S. Department of Justice take over.

"I want the situation to be investigated fully, and I want to find out who shot me," says Aaten-White.

Obviously this is (yet another) developing situation, and we'll update as we learn more.

Email the author at Jessica.Lussenhop@RiverfrontTimes.com.
How the Rest of the World Views Ferguson

Riot cops with attack dogs in Ferguson. The world has condemned
the US.
By Adam Taylor and Rick Noack
Washington Post
August 18  

In many ways, the chaotic situation in Ferguson, Mo., seems like something that shouldn't happen in America. As WorldViews has noted, many of the hallmarks of the conflict are reminiscent of scenes from the Arab Spring and the Ukraine crisis – our former colleague Max Fisher has even wondered how American journalists would cover Ferguson, if only it weren't happening "here."

There are plenty of foreign journalists reporting on Ferguson, however, and for them, Ferguson is international news. Their coverage of the shooting of Michael Brown and the subsequent unrest can offer a refreshing viewpoint on America's many problems. They can also reveal a lot about how such disturbances are viewed at home.

For most Americans, the most familiar foreign news outlets covering Ferguson will probably be the British ones: Not only is there a shared language, but some British outlets, most obviously the Guardian but also the BBC and the Daily Mail, have made big pushes into the U.S. news market. Notably, some publications are treating the conflict as they might a war zone — the Telegraph has sent its Afghanistan correspondent, Rob Crilly, to cover the protests, for example (he was arrested while reporting this weekend).

British coverage of Ferguson has emphasized the racial drama that lies behind the riots and the scale of the police response. And while Britain has had its own problems with race and riots (most notably the 2011 events in London and elsewhere, also caused by a police shooting involving a young black man), some journalists are struck more by the differences than the similarities. "While the [London riots] were at their worst, people were calling for rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons to be used against the rioters," Abigail Chandler of the free newspaper the Metro writes. "Ferguson is a living example of why we should be immensely grateful that those tactics were never used during the U.K. riots."

The German media leveled harsher criticism. Zeit Online, a centrist news site, saw the death of Brown as testimony of deep-rooted racism in the United States and concluded that “the situation of African-Americans has barely improved since Martin Luther King.” The publication went as far as to say that the “dream of a post-racist society, which flared up after the election of [President] Obama, seems further away than ever before.” Such criticism was echoed by its conservative competitor Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of  the biggest newspapers in Germany, which also specifically singled out the U.S. president for his failures: “It seems like mockery that [Obama] is still called the most powerful man on earth.”

Spiegel Online, a centrist, left-leaning publication, discussed Ferguson with Marcel Kuhlmey, an academic who studies police reactions. Kuhlmey told the site that in Germany, “weapons are the last resort, but in the U.S. police officers make use of them much faster” and went on to say that the “last time the German police owned assault rifles [which are being used in Ferguson] was during the Cold War.” The expert concluded that police officers “would never proceed like this in Germany."

These criticisms echo those found in the media of other U.S. allies. Le Figaro – the main conservative voice of Germany’s neighbor France – focused less on the remaining racial tensions in the United States than on “the excessive militarization of the police forces." Despite its right-leaning editorial stance, Le Figaro predicts repercussions for the Republican Party “which may be felt for a long time and even cost the GOP the next presidential elections.” El Mundo, a right-wing Spanish newspaper, writes that Obama's "words of peace and reconciliation are perceived by many activists as inadequate and almost treason to a situation they see as a direct result of slavery and racial segregation laws that were in force until 1965."

At the Globe and Mail, a Canadian newspaper with a conservative bent, it was time for some pride in how differently policing is done north of the border. "The sad events in the St. Louis suburb give us the opportunity to ponder how we do things differently, and to realize how comparatively well things work here," David Butt, a lawyer writing for the paper, explained Monday.

In Turkey, a U.S. ally with a more complicated relationship with the United States, a number of outlets compared the situation to Turkey's own anti-government Gezi Park protests that began last year. One pro-government newspaper made the comparison on the front page, while arguing that U.S. news networks were ignoring their own crisis:

Meanwhile in Russia, a country with a far more negative view of the United States, Ferguson has become a major news story. As our Moscow-based colleague Karoun Demirjian writes, the riots in Ferguson "provide an opportunity, in this era of sanctions and new Cold War-style sentiments, to accuse America of being a giant hypocrite." Russian state television has ominously warned Obama that the problem may soon become national. Russia Today, a state-funded English-language news network that portrays itself as showing views more mainstream Western outlets wouldn't publish, has covered the riots extensively.  One popular Russian Web site has labeled Ferguson's crisis as "AfroMaidan" and says that Americans have "prejudice towards African-Americans … in their blood.”

Russia's reaction is complicated not only by distrust of the U.S.  government but also an official fear of protests themselves — while Russian President Vladimir Putin seems secure and well-supported now, in 2011 and 2012, his government was rocked by a series of protests in major cities. These conflicted emotions may also be at play in the Chinese media. On Monday, state news agency Xinhua published an editorial that called America's racial problems a "deeply-rooted chronic disease." However, as Josh Chin at the Wall Street Journal has noted, official coverage of the Ferguson riots has been muted, perhaps due to worrying parallels with situations closer to home. Chin points toward the situation in the far-western region of Xinjiang, where members of the Muslim Uighur minority group complain of suppression by the Han majority, as one possible example.

Notably, the Xinhua editorial, for all its hard tone, ends with a passage criticizing the United States for its criticism of other countries. "Each country has its own national conditions that might lead to different social problems," it reads. "Obviously, what the United States needs to do is to concentrate on solving its own problems rather than always pointing fingers at others."

Perhaps the most direct criticism has come from a country that makes no bones about its opposition to the United States. In Iran, state media has covered Ferguson riots prominently. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country's supreme leader, even took to Twitter to voice his personal disapproval of America's race-relations situation:

So far, North Korea hasn't weighed in, though it may just be a matter of time – though the country has criticized the United States' racial issues before.
47 More People Arrested During Anti-Racist Demonstrations In Ferguson: Cops Use Mace To Break Up Protest
Anti-racist demonstrations continue in Ferguson.

August 20, 2014 2:38 AM

FERGUSON, Mo. (KMOX) - At a media briefing around 2:15 a.m. Wednesday, Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said 47 arrests were made after a night of protests that started out peacefully.

Johnson said that no smoke bombs or tear gas was used by police, but they did use mace.

“Tonight we saw a different dynamic,” Capt. Johnson said. “Protests crowds were a bit smaller. There were no Molotov cocktails tonight.”

There were no shootings, but a threat was made against officers. Around 8:30 p.m., police identified the vehicle in the area near the command post and located two handguns.

When asked what triggered the disturbance around 12 a.m., Johnson said that agitators embedded themselves and hid behind media. He said that they threw both glass and plastic bottles at officers, and also threw urine on them. That’s what caused officers to take action and make arrests, he said.

Johnson said that one of the arrestees was an out-of-state violator who was arrested for the third time.

Johnson said that citizens helped officers detect criminals and agitators by coming out early in the day to protest, rather than at night.

“I believe there was turning point,” Johnson said. “I believe that was made by the clergy, the activists, the volunteers, the citizens and the law enforcement who partnered together to make a difference.”

Johnson said they are always reassessing their operational plan and coming up with ways to preserve the rights of people who come out to peacefully protest. Johnson said that tonight, the elders in the community came out in large numbers and walked and talked with people.

“We are making steps,” Johnson said. “They’re not big giant steps, they’re small steps. But those small steps are going to turn into giant steps, and those steps will turn into strides for this community.”