By Charlene Muhammad, Special to the NNPA from The Final Call
(FinalCall.com) – Outrage, frustration, disappointment describe how many Blacks and others are feeling over the Department of Justice’s decision not to file civil rights charges against former Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for killing unarmed teen Michael Brown, Jr., in the Missouri suburb.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced findings of the Justice Department’s two investigations following the shooting that sparked world-wide protests, marches, and mobilization against police brutality and misconduct.
One probe conducted by the Justice Department, with the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Missouri and the FBI cleared Mr. Wilson of civil rights violations.
But the other, an investigation by the Civil Rights Division, found a widespread pattern of race-based unconstitutional policing by the small police department.
Details were contained in a scathing March 4 report titled, “Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department.”
“I recognize that the findings in our report may leave some to wonder how the department’s findings can differ so sharply from some of the initial, widely reported accounts of what transpired. I want to emphasize that the strength and integrity of America’s justice system has always rested on its ability to deliver impartial results in precisely these types of difficult circumstances—adhering strictly to the facts and the law, regardless of assumptions,” Attorney General Holder stated.
“In America, in 2015, it is perfectly legal to murder Black women, men and children,” said Tef Poe, a young activist and hip hop artist from St. Louis, which is near Ferguson. He has been active in protests, organizing and speaking out. “It’s perfectly legal, and if anybody tells you that it’s not, they’re lying,” he told The Final Call.
Police pimping the public?
Generating money is the top priority of the Ferguson Police Department with Black residents seen as offenders and less as constituents, the federal government found.
Blacks are 67 percent of the city population, yet from 2012-2014, represented 85 percent of vehicle stops, 90 percent of the citations, and 93 percent of the arrests.
Large court bails, fines and fees were common and unjustified. A Black woman was jailed for six days and ordered to pay more than $1,000 in fines stemming from a parking violation that was originally $151, said the Justice Dept.
Trumped up charges for code enforcement generated fines and fees for Ferguson’s budget that reached $1.38 million of the $11.07 million collected in general funds in 2010, said the Justice Dept. Budget predictions continued to exceed expectations year after year. In 2012, city officials “predicted” that fines and fees revenue would increase 30 percent to $1.92 million; however Ferguson courts exceeded the “pre-diction” and collected $2.11 million. Predictions were exceeded again in 2013 by courts, which essentially are under the control of the Ferguson police chief, collecting $2.46 million in fines and fees.
“This really does show you that these cases like what went down in Ferguson and these situations, they have very little respect for us as human beings, but there’s also very little respect for our intellectual capabilities, and that shows you the in-depth nature of racism. They don’t even respect our minds enough to come up with schemes and cover ups that make sense when they are covering something up,” said Mr. Poe.
The government is just playing mind games, and relying on the same tactics that they’ve always relied on, he told The Final Call. “And once again, a community and us as Black people as a whole are being treated as if we’re some fools,” he stated.
“They piece it together very sloppily. The story doesn’t even make sense. The facts don’t add up, and they present it to us with no clear path as to how what they claim happened, and we’re just supposed to accept it,” he continued.
Justice Department recommendations for fixing the Ferguson Police Department included prohibiting ticketing and arrest quotas and increasing community relations through efforts like police sports leagues and informal activities. The feds also recommended creating frequent, positive interactions with people outside of an enforcement context, especially groups that have expressed high levels of distrust of police.
“That report can go to hell, because that’s exactly where it came from,” said Mr. Poe.
The Justice Dept. may have closed its case, but Michael Brown’s parents are not sitting idly by and accepting what’s happened. Michael Brown, Sr. and Lesley McSpadden are planning to file a wrongful death civil lawsuit against Darren Wilson and the city of Ferguson, according to their attorneys.
“Today we received disappointing news from the Department of Justice that the killer of our son wouldn’t be held accountable for his actions. While we are saddened by this decision, we are encouraged that the DOJ will hold the Ferguson Police Department accountable for the pattern of racial bias and profiling they found in their handling of interactions with people of color,” said the parents in a joint press statement.
Mr. Wilson had other options but chose to use deadly force against, and the parents intend to prove his choice to use deadly force was unreasonable and unnecessary, family Attorney Anthony Gray said during a press conference one day after the DOJ’s announcement.
A license to kill?
It appears with the Justice Dept.’s Ferguson decision comes the proverbial “open season” and “license to kill” Blacks at whim and with impunity, said critics. However, the sentiment at ground zero in Ferguson is not one of fear, said Mr. Poe.
“For us, right off the rip, there’s no fear applied to our response because we saw that you can’t be afraid to engage in the situation, because they’re not afraid. So the glamorous parts of the situation—the armored vehicles, the tanks and the tear gas, and the M16s and the rubber bullets and the National Guard—all of that issue brought in to sort of enforce fear mechanisms on the community … but the community here feels like you can only kill us or you can send us to jail,” Mr. Poe said.
“If those two things don’t scare you to death, then what do they have left? They’re not God. They might mock God and try to play God, but they’re not, so their options are actually quite limited. Once you realize that, the playing field changes,” he said.
President Barack Obama spoke about the Justice Department’s decision at a town hall March 6 in Columbia, S.C., saying Mr. Wilson, like anyone thought to have committed a crime, benefits from due process and reasonable doubt. “And if there is uncertainty about what happened, then you can’t just charge him anyway just because what happened was tragic. That was the decision that was made. And I have complete confidence and stand fully behind the decision that was made by the Justice Department on that issue,” he said.
Dr. Ava Muhammad, an attorney and student national spokesperson for the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, said it’s highly unfortunate that President Obama is restrained by concerns over the reaction and response of Whites to any actions he could take regarding oppression Black people suffer in America.
“It was disappointing to hear the president explain the Justice Department can sue the local government if officials of Ferguson refuse to comply with a consent decree. Anyone can sue them,” Dr. Ava Muhammad said. The federal government has the authority and resources to stop the oppressive and unconstitutional actions of the police department in Ferguson and police departments all over America, she added.
“When the Honorable Elijah Muhammad called for an ‘immediate end to the police brutality and mob attacks against the so-called Negro throughout the United States,’ he was not asking the federal government to do something it is not capable of doing,” said the attorney.
The federal government has the power to immediately bring an end to the atrocities occurring in Ferguson, she stressed. “They violate the 13th Amendment in that the effect of these punitive measures, which generate revenue for the city, are a form of involuntary servitude,” said Dr. Muhammad.
She echoed some observers’ sentiments that what’s happening in Ferguson reflects the climate in Missouri, and anywhere U.S.A. In Chicago, she noted, similarly fines for parking and red lights violations are used to raise revenue for the city. City officials recently admitted they’d resorted to such measures as shortening the period that traffic lights are yellow, she added.
“President Obama could use the power of his office to protect the legal rights of Black people in Ferguson, Mo., just as President John F. Kennedy did more than 50 years ago, when he instructed his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, to send federal troops into Alabama and Mississippi. It is unfortunate that President Obama appears to choose what is politically safe over what is right,” Dr. Muhammad told The Final Call.
“It was very disappointing to learn the Department of Justice would not prosecute Darren Wilson when all evidence points towards guilt; it is way beyond the minimum requirements of probable cause (that a crime was committed) to sustain an indictment,” she said.
“Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin and then of course … Tony Robinson (in Madison, Wisconsin), the cop followed him home and killed him in his own house, and yet the federal government cannot intercede, but all of this points to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s words, ‘Allah will make you separate,’” Dr. Muhammad continued.
“The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan just delivered his Saviours’ Day Message. If we are willing to speak the truth, we have to say he is the only man on Earth directing attention to the intensifying universal cry for justice,” she said.
Rebuild not reform
Damon Jones, New York representative for Blacks In Law Enforcement of America, also felt President Obama nor the Justice Department’s efforts went far enough. They’re just telling people what they already know, but what ultimately will they do to correct the problem? he asked.
“You have hope in the system but we remember what Justice Roger Taney said in the Dred Scott case, there’s no right that the White man has to respect for a Black man,” Mr. Jones said.
“When you think about it, there’s never been a rebuttal from a Supreme Court justice on his statement since! So no, they don’t have to respect us. The law doesn’t allow them to respect us,” he said.
He feels Blacks have not set the standard high enough for their elected officials, particularly Blacks currently in office. Blacks continue to give Democrats their votes, despite the failure to solve the police abuse problem on federal, state and local levels, he said.
“We need to ask for state or national legislation defining what police criminality is,” said Mr. Jones.
In Pt. 1 of his Saviours’ Day address, Minister Farrakhan warned that the people’s cry for justice can and will only be met by God, not in the political arena, or the voting booth.
“Now, you can vote for whoever you want for mayor! But it is an exercise in futility; because you are never going to get what you think you might get if you put ‘the right man’ in office. I don’t care what his color is—he can’t fix it because he doesn’t know enough to solve the problems. The problems are too complex, and the cry continues to get stronger and stronger,” Minister Farrakhan said.
Rika Tyler, a member of Hands Up United, an activist group in St. Louis, argued the Department of Justice is only saying what activists have been saying about Ferguson for the last 200 days.
People must continue to work to create their own narrative and investigations to end police murders and attacks, because people have no hope in the system that continues to fail them, Ms. Tyler told The Final Call.
“We’ve been saying this for the longest. Now you have proof that this stuff is going on. I need to see action. I need to see people fired, or just dismantle the whole Ferguson Police Department and other corrupt police departments as well,” Ms. Tyler said.