Tag Archives: Ferguson

Michael Brown’s Parents Testify Before U.N. Committee Against Torture

On Tuesday, Michael Brown Sr. and Lesley McSpadden addressed the United Nations Committee against Torture, in Geneva, Switzerland, as part of a delegation of human rights advocates, in an attempt to raise awareness about the death of their son Michael Brown.

Although he was unarmed, Michael Brown (18) was shot and killed by Police Officer Darren Wilson (28), during a confrontation on August 9, which sparked riots that were met with a militarized police force in the town of Ferguson, Missouri.

According to CNN, the teenager’s parents reached out to the U.N. Committee against Torture, which “works against cruel or degrading treatment or punishment by government authorities,” because they want the world to know “what’s going on in Ferguson.

We need answers and we need action,” said McSpadden. “We have to bring it to the U.N. so they can expose it to the rest of the world, what’s going on in small town Ferguson.

Michael Brown Sr. said they hoped to offer an outlook “on what’s going on in the United States and all over the world with the police, police brutality, no justice.

Regarding their trip to Geneva, McSpadden said that it had been a “great experience.”

We’ve been received very well,” said McSpadden. “They’ve given us a lot of love and support since we’ve been here. Everything seems to be positive.

As the grand jury determines its verdict on whether Wilson will be indicted on murder charges for Brown’s death, Ferguson residents prepare for the worst.

ABC News reported that Metro Shooting Supplies, a store in a town near Ferguson, “has been selling between 30 and 50 guns daily,” for the last three weeks, which is a “nearly 300 percent increase” over regular sales of 10 to 15 guns per day.

According to the Huffington Post, while Brown’s parents are saying “Wilson got away with murder,” and they are calling “for his immediate arrest,” they are also asking Ferguson residents to “pause, plan and prepare” in response to the grand jury decision, rather than acting out impulsively.

We don’t want anyone acting irrational or acting before thinking,” said McSpadden, who went on to say that those actions wouldn’t serve a purpose. “We’re trying to get a message across,” McSpadden explained.

USA Today reported that Brown Sr. and McSpadden believe that if Wilson is indicted, it will “send a message around the world that police must change their tactics.”

We are praying for an indictment,” said McSpadden. “To me that would mean that the police did do their investigation fairly and it was unbiased.

When asked about life after the death of their son, Brown Sr. told CNN that he and his wife are staying strong.

“It’s a situation where I’m surprised we haven’t even lost our mind yet,” said Brown Sr. “But we’re being strong. Hopefully, justice will prevail.”

Rand Paul visits Ferguson, urges people to vote

After another shooting a few days ago of a second black citizen by police officers, Sen. Rand Paul went to Ferguson, Mo. Friday, to meet with black leaders in the area, including leaders of the local NAACP chapter.  

While in Ferguson, Paul took part in a 45-minute “listening session,” which has been described as a more informal question and answer session.  Paul was joined by local pastors, business owners, and representatives from other social change groups, such as the Urban League, at this session.  

“I came to Ferguson today to listen to leaders in the community and to learn more about how we can fix the problems of criminal injustice together,” said Paul, according to the Daily Caller.

During the session, one person asked Paul if he thought a more diverse policing force would help with the issue of racial tensions between police and black communities across the country.  Paul responded by saying if people wanted to see change, they should vote appropriately at the ballot boxes.

“My opinion is they have a great deal of power and if they wanted an African-American police chief they’d get it in one election if they just go vote for the mayor and register people,” Paul said, according to Politico.  “Violence gets nowhere and it actually sends us backwards… If that energy, and some anger, if that were channeled into registering voters and getting people out to vote, then you can have constructive changes.”

After Michael Brown was shot over the summer in Ferguson, about 3,200 people in Ferguson, which is about a seventh of the population, have registered to vote in the upcoming elections.  

Liberal registration booths were setup near where Brown was shot in Ferguson, and this has made some Republicans upset, saying this has only fanned “political flames.”

Paul on the other hand, has said he is not concerned about party lines and simply wants to get more people to vote. 

Billionaire Koch Brothers Fund Campaign Against Police Militarization

Left-leaning American politicos often complain about the political activities of the “evil” Koch brothers. They argue that Charles and David Koch use their disproportionate wealth to bend the American political system to suit their will. However, mainstream media outlets rarely point out the types of causes that the duo advocate for with their hard-earned wealth.

As Koch-funded Nick Gillespie at Reason pointed out, the billionaires have used their unusually-massive financial power to promote a wide range of liberal-friendly causes like drug decriminalization, marriage equality, cuts to defense spending, and opposition to the USA PATRIOT Act. Deroy Murdock at Newsmax wrote, “…since January 2009, the wicked Koch brothers’ companies have won 792 awards for environmental quality, operational safety, community service, and philanthropy.” The Obama administration, through bureaus like the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Department of Agriculture, has issued many awards to well-run, Koch-funded companies.

In the wake of the crisis in Ferguson, progressive politicos might also find common ground with the Koch brothers on police militarization. Tim Mak at The Daily Beasta recipient of a Koch fellowship, points out that Charles and David Koch have bankrolled opposition to police militarization for years. As an example, Radley Balko, author of Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, took Koch-funded paychecks early in his career to write about the dangers of police militarization when he worked for Reason and The Cato Institute. Several organizations funded by the Koch brothers have been active in opposing what many see as an emerging police state.

The brothers Koch also helped fund the political campaign to re-elect Congressman Justin Amash, who recently said on Facebook, “The images and reports out of #Ferguson are frightening. Is this a war zone or a U.S. city? The government escalates tensions with its use of military equipment and tactics.” Amash was forced to fight tooth-and-nail to keep his seat during this year’s primary, mainly because he faced opposition from neoconservative groups. With help from the Koch brothers, Amash prevailed over the Dick Cheney wing of the GOP.

Speaking to The Daily Beast, Koch Industries Inc. attorney Mark Holden said, “We need to address issues such as overcriminalization, excessive and disproportionate sentencing, inadequate indigent defense that is inconsistent with the Sixth Amendment, and the militarization of police.” He continued, “We have deep respect for the moral dignity of each and every person and because of this, we’ve worked for decades to support those who defend the full range of individual rights.”

Even today, the news cycle is full of negative articles about the Koch brothers, laced with criticisms of their protected First Amendment activities.

Ferguson Woman Shot After Protest, Police Have Yet to Investigate

Following the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by Police Officer Darren Wilson, on Saturday, August 9, the city of Ferguson, Missouri has been filled with chaos. Public demonstrations protesting Brown’s death have been ongoing, and the local law enforcement in Ferguson has responded with military-level equipment.

While many protesters have obtained injuries from tear gas, Ferguson resident Mya Aaten-White was shot in the head when she was walking to her car after a protest, on Wednesday, August 13.

The St. Louis Dispatch reported that at “about 12:20 a.m. Wednesday, a woman was shot in the head in the 1300 block of Highmont Drive.”

I made it a block and a half then I heard gunshots,” Aaten-White told News 4 in St. Louis. “I put my hands to my head and realized I had been shot in the forehead.”

Aaten-White received aid from other local residents, who picked her up and carried her to a “neighbor’s house of a young man who had just moved into a new home with his fiancé and their children.”

We had to call 911 three times before we got a response vehicle there,” said Aaten-White, who went on to say that when they finally did arrived, “Officers came with guns drawn.”

Aaten-White said the officers questioned the homeowners about how long they had lived in the house, and if it was under their name. When they questioned Aaten-White about what had happened, she responded, “I was shot, obviously.”

Aaten-Whie was taken to the Hospital, and she posted a picture of her ambulance ride on her Instagram account:

 

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Doctors performed surgery to remove the bullet from Aaten-White’s forehead. She was told that the bullet was confiscated as evidence.

However, regarding any contact between Aaten-White and Police while she was at the Hospital, Aaten-White told News 4, “No officer ever showed up to speak with me… neither from Ferguson police or St. Louis County,

Despite the fact that no formal investigation had been conducted, the St. Louis Dispatch reported that the incident appeared to be a “drive-by shooting.

Aaten-White graduated from Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 2012. Following the shooting, they took to Twitter to express their condolences:

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When Aaten-White’s alma mater learned that no formal investigation had been conducted, they hired a lawyer, in an attempt to convince police to take Aaten-White’s case seriously.

Bill O’Reilly calls Al Sharpton a ‘charlatan’ and coverage of Ferguson ‘garbage’

After cutting his vacation short, Bill O’Reilly came back to FOX News today to report on what he calls the “liberal media’s” coverage of the protests and riots in Ferguson, Mo., as “garbage.”

“I came back from my vacation because I am furious,” said O’Reilly, “about how the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown is being reported and how various people are reacting to it.”

O’Reilly goes on to say the riots and looting taking place in Ferguson are a disgrace to the memory of Brown, and the federal investigation into the death of Brown is needed to fully understand and come to the best conclusion about what should be done in its wake.

However, O’Reilly seems to shift the focus from the death of Brown and the response surrounding his death, to railing against Al Sharpton and trying to say “police brutality” is not an issue.

“Al Sharpton has the nerve to insult the American police community,” said O’Reilly.  “This charlatan has the gall to do that and NBC News is paying him.”

O’Reilly also calls out people who are saying police brutality is an issue, and calls it “police efficiency.”  Out of the 12 million police arrests in in 2012 in the U.S., O’Reilly cites the FBI, saying only 400 arrestees were killed by police.  Of the 400, O’Reilly calls many of these deaths justified, but he fails to recognize how police brutality is not just limited to those cases which result in the death of the arrestee.

Later, O’Reilly tries to redirect, once again, the focus of the Ferguson protests and riots back onto the black community by saying “91 percent of black homicide victims are killed by other blacks…”

At the end of his segment, O’Reilly does say he agrees with how President Obama has responded to the situation, saying he was right to call for peace in Ferguson.  “That is his job,” O’Reilly says.

Egypt, China, Iran Criticize US Over Crackdown on Ferguson Protesters

“The eyes of the world are watching,” said Missouri Governor Jay Nixon last Saturday when he announced a curfew in Ferguson, MO. Ever since the controversial officer-involved shooting death of unarmed African-American teen Michael Brown, police, National Guard troops, protesters, and a handful of violent agitators have clashed in scenes that remind viewers of footage from battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan. The militarized police response in Ferguson has been widely criticized by American politicos, both on the left and the right, inspiring a national conversation over the militarization of domestic police forces.

According to ABC News, political figures from around the world have also piled on to condemn the harsh crackdown on protesters and journalists in Ferguson. Quite ironically, some of the voices calling for restraint come from Egypt, China, and Iran, nations that have often been criticized by US officials over human rights abuses. Though Russia did not join other nations in criticizing the US, anti-Putin activists in Russia did, fearing that Putin himself would point to police tactics in Ferguson to justify future escalations against demonstrators.

Grand Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, tweeted, “Today like previous years, African-Americans are still under pressure, oppressed and subjected to discrimination. #Ferguson.” The barrage of tweets from his account continued, saying, “Racial discrimination is still a dilemma in the U.S. #Ferguson,” and also pointing out, “Look at how US govt treats black community! It’s not about 50-100 years ago but it’s about today!”

China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency released an article condemning the US response to Ferguson protesters. “The Ferguson incident once again demonstrates that even if in a country that has for years tried to play the role of an international human rights judge and defender, there is still much room for improvement at home,” reads the op-ed. It also said, “…it is undeniable that racial discrimination against African Americans or other ethnic minorities, though not as obvious as in the past, still persists in every aspect of US social lives, including employment, housing, education, and particularly, justice.”

The Xinhua commentary also touched on the NSA controversy, “…the US human rights flaws extend far beyond racial issues. As revealed by famous whistleblower Edward Snowden, the US government has hacked into emails and mobile phones of ordinary Americans as well as leaders of other countries, including traditional US allies.” Criticism of US drone strikes came next in the commentary by China’s press agency, “What’s more, Uncle Sam has witnessed numerous shooting sprees on its own land and launched incessant drone attacks on foreign soil, resulting in heavy civilian casualties.” The piece concluded, “Each country has its own national conditions that might lead to different social problems. Obviously, what the United States needs to do is to concentrate on solving its own problems rather than always pointing fingers at others.”

Egypt’s foreign ministry also capitalized on the opportunity to criticize the US over Ferguson, saying it would keep an eye on the situation and urging restraint. A recipient of US aid, Egypt’s government was widely criticized, even by the US, for its own crackdowns on demonstrators during tumultuous protests in 2011 and 2013.

US State Department spokesperson Marie Harf defended America’s human rights record, claiming that the Ferguson crisis has been dealt with “openly and honestly” despite the realities on the ground that journalists have been jailed by police and authorities declared a no-fly zone over the protests, preventing news helicopters from providing coverage. She also slammed comparisons by reporters between the US and nations like Egypt, China, and Iran.

Additionally, a spokesman for United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reminded American officials to respect the free speech rights of protesters in Ferguson, and Amnesty International responded to the controversy by deploying human rights observers to the US for the first time in world history.

MO Law Enforcement: “We’re Not Sure Who’s a Journalist and Who’s Not”

Ferguson, MO- Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, who was placed in charge of security in Ferguson by Governor Jay Nixon, has said that journalists are being arrested due to safety concerns stemming from abounding protests. Johnson blamed unrest and chaos for the detainments and has not yet explained if the arrests of media members will continue or cease.

“I’m going to tell you in the midst of chaos, when officers are running around, we’re not sure who’s a journalist and who’s not,” said Johnson in a recording. “Yes, if I see somebody with a $50,000 camera on their shoulder, I’m pretty sure. But some journalists are walking around, and all you have is a cellphone because you’re from a small media outlet. Some of you may just have a camera around your neck,” he said.

“So yes we are- we may take some of you into custody. But when we do take you into custody and we have found out you’re a journalist, we’ve taken the proper action. But in the midst of it we cannot – in the midst of it, in the midst of chaos and trying to move people on, we have to be safe.”

Scott Olson, a photographer for Getty Images who captured many iconic photos of the protests in Ferguson, was shown being arrested by police Monday despite wearing a large camera and what appeared to be a press pass.

A court agreement was signed August 15th by the city of Ferguson, the county of St. Louis, and the Missouri Highway Patrol Superintendent acknowledging that “media and the members of the public have a right to record public events without abridgment unless it obstructs the activity or threatens the safety of  others, or physically interferes with the ability of law enforcement officers to perform their duties.” It is unclear whether or not the multiple reporters who have been arrested had interfered with police activity.

Johnson also has defended a new rule that prohibits protesters in Ferguson from standing in one place. According to the Huffington Post, protesters were told on Monday by police officers to continue walking, with an exception for those standing in an “approved protest area”.

“We are not going to let groups congregate and build into larger groups because that’s what causes problems,” said Johnson. “Because what happens is, the peaceful protesters gather, and the other element blends in. Now they blend in, and that’s what’s been causing us some issues. So by allowing them to walk, that’s not going to let the other element blend in and define this group.”

Getty Photographer Arrested by Ferguson Police

On Monday, Ferguson Police arrested Scott Olson, a veteran photographer for Getty Images.

Olson’s arrest marks the second time journalists have been arrested while covering the protests over the death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Similar to the experiences of journalists Wesley Lowery from the Washington Post and Ryan J. Reilly from the Huffington Post who were arrested, Olson claimed he was “arrested for just doing my job.” All three journals were detained for several hours, and then released without any charges.

While before it had been Reilly who was arrested, this time he was able to bring attention to Olson’s arrest by posting a photo on his Twitter account:

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According to The Guardian, police were trying to detain all media to a certain area near the convenience store where Michael Brown “allegedly stole cigars minutes before he was shot by a police officer,” and when Olson was found across the street from that area, he was  “thought to have declined a request to move on.

Scott Olson is responsible for a series of iconic photographs from the protests in Ferguson. Jack Moore, a Foreign Reporter for International Business Times featured a few of those images on his Twitter account:

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The Vice President for News at Getty Images, Pancho Bernasconi, released a statement prior to Olson’s release saying, “Getty Images staff photographer Scott Olson was arrested this afternoon in Ferguson, Missouri, while on assignment documenting the events there.”

“We at Getty Images stand firmly behind our colleague Scott Olson and the right to report from Ferguson. Getty Images is working to secure his release as soon as possible,” said BernasconiWe strongly object to his arrest and are committed to ensuring he is able to resume his important work of capturing some of the most iconic images of this news story.”

Following Olson’s release, Bernasconi took to his Twitter account to share a statement from Olson:

I want to be able to do my job as a member of the media and not be arrested for just doing my job.

LOTFI: Missouri Governor speaks out- Adds fuel to fire in Ferguson unrest

MISSOURI, August 20, 2014– As we watch the unrest unfold in Ferguson, Missouri, which has been ongoing for almost 10 days now, regarding the death of a teenage boy, we might think we are watching a scene from the Middle East. We see journalists in combat gear, tear gas filling the air, and many people have come to conclusions before knowing the facts of the case, or letting it be decided before a court of law.

Tuesday night, in a statement to the press, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon  expressed his sympathy for the family of Brown. In the same statement he also “a vigorous prosecution must now be pursued.” Many would see this as taking sides and pleading his case to the public who may be charged with deciding a case in a court of law without knowing the facts. While this may be politically savvy for Nixon, it is wrong and gives the impression that the young officer Darren Wilson is guilty before having the chance to defend his actions undermining our legal system.

“The democratically elected St. Louis County prosecutor and the attorney general of the United States each have a job to do,” Mr. Nixon said. “Their obligation to achieve justice in the shooting death of Michael Brown must be carried out thoroughly, promptly and correctly, and I call upon them to meet those expectations,” said Nixon.

Many may agree with Nixon’s statements on the surface. However, in his speech, Nixon completely undermines the rule of law. Details remain blurred at best. However, Nixon instigates that the “Brown family must receive justice”. By delivering this statement, Nixon has named himself judge, jury and executioner, and has all but ensured a fair trial will not ensue.

Follow Michael Lotfi on Facebook & Twitter.

Ferguson Police Have Body Cameras… But Don’t Wear Them

Recent events such as the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, have attracted a multitude of criticism. One thing the public questions is how this shooting could have been avoided, and if the newly popular body-mounted cameras worn by police officers would have made a difference.

While Ferguson police claim that Wilson “fired only after Brown tried to grab his gun,” eyewitnesses maintain, “Brown’s hands were raised when he was killed.”

According to NBC News, over a thousand police departments in the U.S. are using body cameras. The question stands: Would Wilson wearing a body camera have made a difference?

According to the Wall Street Journal, just as dashboard-mounted cameras in patrol cars were met with criticism when they became popular in the mid-1990s, body-mounted cameras have also been criticized.

One group that is not in favor of the new trend is the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, which responded to an order that the New York Police Department must wear body cameras in certain districts, with a report calling the cameras an “encumbrance.”

In contrast, the American Civil Liberties Union released a statement saying that the cameras “have the potential to be a win-win, helping protect the public against police misconduct, and at the same time helping protect police against false accusations of abuse.”

A criminology professor at Arizona State University, Michael White, believes that just like the dashboard cameras, the body cameras will also become a part of standard procedure. “It could be as little as 10 years until we see most police wearing these,” said White.

White told the Wall Street Journal that he doesn’t believe the body cameras will necessarily solve all of the problems between citizens and law enforcement. “There is a presumption that citizens will be happy with this because it seems to provide more transparency and accountability, but that might not be the case,” White said. “Especially in areas where there are long-term tensions between police and their communities.”

Missouri lawmaker, Courtney Curtis, also believes the use of a body camera would have made a difference, especially in preventing the major protests that broke out following Brown’s death. Curtis told NBC News that even if the potential use of audio-video hadn’t provided all of the answers, it would have at least given them a “starting point.”

While one of the concerns about arming each and every police officer with a body-mounted camera has been the cost, new competition in the market has set the current price of individual cameras between $300 and $400.

Two of the major companies supplying these devices are Vievu LLC and Taser International Inc. Both companies require extra monthly subscription fees regarding the storage and management of the data in a cloud-based system.

Petitions have been created on both Change.org and on the White House website have been created, demanding that police officers be required to wear body cameras. As of Tuesday, the petition on Change.org has almost 43,000 signatures, and the petition on the White House’s website has over 120,500 signatures.

While many are crying out for the use of body cameras to be adopted in towns such as Ferguson, Missouri, the Wall Street Journal reported, “Police in Ferguson have a stock of body-worn cameras, but have yet to deploy them to officers.

Another Violent Night in Ferguson, 2 Shot, 31 Arrested

Ferguson- Thirty one protestors were arrested and several police officers were injured as another day of protests in Ferguson, Missouri turned into a violent night. According to police, among the protestors arrested were people from as far away as New York and California.

Two people were shot within the protest site, Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said.

One group of protesters made a barricade with portable toilets and orange cones.

For almost two hours, police in riot gear formed a barricade and stood watch as hundreds of peaceful protesters marched in a single-file line that stretched so long that different parts chanted different slogans.

“Hands up, don’t shoot,” some repeated. “No justice, no peace,” others said. Still others were singing church hymns.

At about 9:40 p.m., a small group of about 200 “loud but not aggressive protesters” faced off against a line of police officers on the corner of Ferguson and West Florissant avenues. Since the National Guard was protecting the command center, their presence wasn’t obvious..

“Police did not react,” Johnson said. “That’s when bottles were thrown from the middle and the edge” of the crowd. These criminal acts came from a tiny minority of troublemakers.”

The midnight curfew that had been in place over the weekend had been lifted.

Johnson said his troopers were pressed into action only after being prompted by gunfire and Molotov cocktails.

“Our officers came under heavy gunfire,” Johnson said, adding that no police officers fired any bullets Monday night.

Police again shot tear gas and smoke canisters into the crowds to disperse them. A photographer from New Mexico was hit with a tear gas canister, which then exploded at his feet. At one point, all journalists at the designated media area were forced back to the police command area, because their safety could not be guaranteed, a police spokesman said.

On Monday, with President Obama calling for peace in Ferguson, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder made plans to fly into town on Wednesday, establishing a federal presence here.

Breaking New Video: Tear gas rains down on Ferguson protestors

FERGUSON, Missouri, August 18, 2014– Last night, tear gas rained down on demonstrators in Ferguson, Mo. just as a curfew was to be imposed for the second night and protests turned violent.

Protestors threw rocks and kicked tear gas canisters back at police while chanting “don’t shoot.” The demonstrations stem from the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Earlier Sunday, an autopsy on Brown’s body was ordered by Attorney General Holder due to the alleged “extraordinary circumstances” surrounding his death.

In the video report, the AP states that protesters had fired back with gunshots.

Follow Michael Lotfi on Facebook & Twitter.

The Rise of the Warrior Cop just became real for Americans this Week

In the wake of 18-year-old Michael Brown’s death, the spotlight is on Ferguson, Missouri and local police as they become increasingly more military-like.

Benswann.com and other voices in the liberty movement warned Americans of the rise of the “warrior cop” and warned of the dangers of the militarization of local police forces. In fact, Ben was interviewed on Adam vs the Man four months ago and at the time called the militarization of police “the biggest story in the nation the media isn’t covering.”

See here, here, and here.

As previously reported by Barry Donegan, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul penned an editorial for Time magazine, stating the need for the demilitarization of police.

“The outrage in Ferguson is understandable—though there is never an excuse for rioting or looting. There is a legitimate role for the police to keep the peace, but there should be a difference between a police response and a military response.

“The images and scenes we continue to see in Ferguson resemble war more than traditional police action,” wrote Paul.

Paul wrote that the rise of the militarization of local police has a lot to do with big government.

“Washington has incentive the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies—where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement,” he wrote.

The Department of Homeland Security provided grants for local police forces to expand SWAT and other military-style operations.

“When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury—national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture—we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands,” he wrote.

Paul received accolades from the black community and civil rights leaders.

In an interview with the Washington Post Dem Rep. John Conyers Jr. — the dean of the Congressional Black Caucus said, “I never thought of him in that light before,” Conyers said of Paul. “It certainly is heartening. I’m encouraged by that kind of observation.”

Many on the left and libertarians believe Paul can change the GOP and move it in a positive direction.

 

Watch Reason.com’s Nick Gillespie give his thoughts on Sen. Rand Paul:

 

In the midst of riots and protests, Michael Brown named as robbery suspect

The events preceding the shooting death of Michael Brown have been unclear since they occurred, but new security footage from a convenience store in Ferguson, Mo., allegedly shows Brown and his accomplice Dorian Johnson, stealing a box of cigars valued at just under $50.

A police report released by the Ferguson Police Department details the events leading up to the shooting, beginning with a call around noon to a police officer concerning a robbery in progress at a Ferguson Quiktrip convenience store.  The report goes on saying how the investigating officer obtained a brief description of the two suspects and the direction they had run off in.

Upon not being able to locate the suspect, the investigating officer returned to the Quiktrip and observed security footage showing two suspects, reportedly Brown and Johnson, enter the store, and grab a box of Swisher Sweet cigars before a confrontation with the store staff begins.  As Brown and Johnson attempted to leave the store, an employee tried to block their exit and Brown grabs the employee before pushing him into a nearby rack.  Johnson exits without further incident, but Brown stands over the employee and, as the report claims, “intimidates” the employee, before leaving.

It was after this incident Brown and Johnson were located by Officer Darren Wilson, who was not the investigating officer, outside of an apartment complex, and Brown was fatally shot after a struggle with Wilson.

In the days after the death of Brown, Johnson has been in multiple interviews stating Brown was unnarmed at the time of the shooting, but he failed to mention his and Brown’s previous involvement in what could be robbery and assault.

Brown’s family have reacted strongly to the new accusations of their son being involved in a robbery before his death, and Ferguson residents have called the new evidence a “cover up.”

Benjamin Crump, the lawyer for the Brown family, said, according to the BBC, “The devious way the police chief has chosen to disseminate piecemeal information in a manner intended to assassinate the character of their son, following such a brutal assassination of his person in broad daylight.”

Details of the shooting are still cryptic as the police are saying, according to FOX News, Brown and Johnson assaulted Officer Wilson before the shooting, while Johnson claims he and Brown were running from Wilson as he fired shots at them.

Hero Cop Capt. Johnson Ends Military Tactics, Brings Peace to Ferguson

After the controversial officer-involved shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown, angry protests erupted in Ferguson, MO, a suburb of St. Louis. The Ferguson Police Department responded to the protests with a belligerent approach, putting to use an arsenal of surplus military hardware donated by the Department of Defense in an effort to intimidate protesters. What followed was a shocking crackdown on citizens that escalated the already-tense environment into a full-blown riot. Businesses were vandalized and looted, and officers began deploying teargas, pointing rifles at peaceful protesters, and detaining journalists and elected officials. US Senator Rand Paul said in a Time magazine op-ed that the situation in Ferguson resembled “war more than traditional police action.”

Consequently, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon stepped in on Wednesday, ordering the Ferguson Police Department to discontinue its coverage of the protests, and then sent in the Missouri State Highway Patrol on Thursday, led by Ferguson native Captain Ronald S. Johnson. Nixon promised a change in tone in an effort to respect the rights of protesters. While some might argue that Ferguson police demonstrated how not to deal with protesters, Captain Johnson, on the other hand, has since been putting on a clinic on how to keep a tense situation peaceful. Even today, as Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson announced the name of the officer who shot Brown, the protests have remained comparatively tranquil, in no small part due to Johnson’s management of the relationship between police and the community. As an example, when Chief Jackson alleged during the announcement that Michael Brown had committed a robbery on the same day in which he was shot, Captain Johnson, recognizing the community outrage that would follow, referred to the two incidents as separate issues and indicated that he wished he had been consulted prior to the press conference.

According to CBS News, Captain Ron Johnson, an African American native of Ferguson, said, “it means a lot to me personally that we break this cycle of violence.” His leadership dramatically transformed the once-chaotic community, bringing an environment of calm. He approached the protest, not with armored vehicles, riot gear, blockades, and rifles, but instead assisted protesters with planning their route, provided a media staging center for journalists, and even joined the protesters on their march, walking right along with thousands who wanted to express their frustration with the tactics of the Ferguson Police Department. When night fell on Thursday, rather than ramping up the police presence, Johnson took a hands-off approach, resulting in a calmer atmosphere than previous nights, which had been climactically out of control.

Captain Johnson’s mission was to heal the relationship between the community and police. Said Johnson according to The Washington Post, “When I see a young lady cry because of fear of this uniform, that’s a problem. We’ve got to solve that.” He apologized on behalf of police to a man whose niece had been teargassed. He met with representatives of the NAACP and assured the media that there would be a dramatic shift in tone towards peace and cooperation.

Johnson’s approach was met with hugs and tears of joy. A protest leader announced over a megaphone, “[The police] respect us, so let’s respect them. They’ve given us the sidewalk so lets stay out of their street.” Jerroll Sanders, an organizer of the protest, told The Washington Post, “This is what our community was like before a child was killed in our streets. But what we’ve seen is a change in the policing approach. The aggression was never brought on by us.”

Under Captain Johnson’s leadership, riot gear and battle lines were replaced by officers in traditional police uniforms, walking right along with protesters, assuring that matters would remain peaceful. On Wednesday, during a time when Ferguson police were still assigned to cover the protests, St. Louis County police spokesperson Brian Schellman told CBS News, “In talking to [the protesters], it is scary.” By contrast, Captain Johnson said, “I’m not afraid to be in this crowd.” He described his new style for dealing with the protests, saying, “We are going to have a different approach. We’re going to have the approach that we’re in this together.”

So far, it appears that Captain Johnson’s tactics have been vindicated, because, after he took over on Thursday, the war-like mayhem that had scorched Ferguson since last Saturday has effectively ceased. Fox News likened the new mood of the protest to a block party. Protester Cleo Willis told Fox News, “You can feel [the change]. You can see it. Now it’s up to us to ride that feeling.”

Rand Paul Calls for Police Demilitarization in Op-Ed on Ferguson

Yesterday, Paul Waldman asked “Why aren’t libertarians talking about Ferguson?” in an article for The Washington Post. For those unaware, the recent controversial shooting by police of unarmed teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO led to widespread protests and civil disorder. The subsequent police response shocked the nation, as officers were seen in heavy military gear firing tear gas on and arresting reporters, detaining elected officials, and pointing sniper rifles at peaceful protesters. Waldman pointed out, “Like many police forces around the country, the one in Ferguson is bristling with military equipment, which they brought out to confront protesters. Though we’re talking about a town with 21,000 residents and a police force with 53 officers, they apparently have acquired the means to repel an invasion by any commando teams that decide to invade Ferguson.”

The progressive Waldman also argued that libertarians have been silent on the issue, despite the fact that a wide range of libertarian-leaning publications such as Reason have been covering the crisis extensively, mainly because, as he said in his op-ed, “Senator Rand Paul, right now America’s most prominent libertarian (yes, I know, some don’t consider him a real libertarian), hasn’t said anything about the case — no public comments, no news releases, nothing on Twitter, nothing on Facebook.”

Apparently, Rand Paul’s silence on the issue must have stemmed from the fact that he was busy writing an op-ed on Ferguson for Time, which was published today. In it, the Senator from Kentucky called for the demilitarization of police nationwide.

Paul opened his piece for Time with a highlighted snippet from later in the article,Anyone who thinks that race does not skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention. And the root of the problem is big government.” He further hammered home his point on criminal justice inequality with additional comments, “Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them.”

He described how surplus weapons programs are transforming local police departments into miniature militaries, “Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies—where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement.” He denounced the bad apples who responded to the event with violence, but also cautioned that the police response should not be taken from the playbook of an occupying army, “The outrage in Ferguson is understandable—though there is never an excuse for rioting or looting. There is a legitimate role for the police to keep the peace, but there should be a difference between a police response and a military response.”

Paul also commented specifically on the Michael Brown shooting, saying, “If I had been told to get out of the street as a teenager, there would have been a distinct possibility that I might have smarted off. But, I wouldn’t have expected to be shot.” Eyewitnesses allege that the confrontation between Brown and a Ferguson, MO police officer stemmed from the fact that Brown was walking in the street rather than on the sidewalk.

“The images and scenes we continue to see in Ferguson resemble war more than traditional police action,” said Paul. Towards the end of his op-ed, he reaffirmed his stance on civil liberties, “Americans must never sacrifice their liberty for an illusive and dangerous, or false, security. This has been a cause I have championed for years, and one that is at a near-crisis point in our country.”

Read Rand Paul’s op-ed for Time at this link.

Raw Video: Ferguson Police Gas News Crew

Ferguson, MO – Ferguson police fired tear gas near AL JAZEERA AMERICA TV news crew’s vehicles Wednesday night.   The news crew was forced to flee the scene, leaving their equipment behind.

Police ignored the screams of

“We’re the press!”

Moments later, an armored vehicle packed with police officers pulled up and started taking down the video equipment until they noticed another news crew was across the street filming their actions.

A man behind the camera can be heard saying “I’ll get behind something, I don’t want [bleeped].”

Then police ordered them to leave the area.

Earlier that evening, photojournalist Elizabeth Matthews was reporting on the school closing when riot police flushed the protesters in their direction. Another photojournalist then walked over to film the police who had a suspect on the ground. That is when the police officers turned on the photojournalist. The police shined bright lights in their direction then opened fire with a bean bag gun. The bean bag hit the camera equipment.

Civil Unrest Breaks out in MO After Cop Kills Unarmed Teen

According to Fox News, 18-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot in broad daylight by police last Saturday in St. Louis while walking to his grandmother’s house. Eyewitness reports allege that the teenager was unarmed, fleeing, and had his hands held high when an unidentified officer from the St. Louis-area Ferguson Police Department opened fire multiple times, killing him.

St. Louis Police Chief Jon Belmar claimed in a statement that the teen had pushed the officer into his squad car and attempted to grab a gun prior to the shooting, but eyewitness accounts painted a completely different picture. Dorin Johnson, a friend of Michael Brown’s who was walking with him at the time of the incident, claimed that the officer pulled up, ordered the teens to get out of the street and then reached out of his squad car, without exiting the vehicle, and grabbed Brown around the neck. The Los Angeles Times quoted bystander Piaget Crenshaw, who said, “I witnessed the police chase after the guy, full force. He ran for his life. They shot him and he fell. He put his arms up to let them know that he was compliant and he was unarmed, and they shot him twice more and he fell to the ground and died.”

The victim’s stepfather characterized the shooting as an execution. Michael Brown’s grandmother had just passed him in her car as he was walking to her house, only to find him lying dead moments later. Brown had just graduated from Normandy High School and was set to start at Vatterott College on Monday.

Brown’s body was left in the street for hours by police, and an angry crowd of residents gathered around the scene of the incident. Police formed a blockade around the location, leading to an an hours-long and heated confrontation between officers and hundreds of local citizens. Allegedly, the anger reached a fever pitch when the crowd began chanting, “kill the police.”

Since that time, chaos and unrest has broken out in St. Louis. A vigil, attended by thousands, formed in memory of Michael Brown. Protesters surrounded the Ferguson Police Department and still remain there as of Monday. Riots erupted, and, amid the chaos, at least 12 businesses were either vandalized or looted. A QuikTrip convenience store was set on fire. Anonymous-related hacktivists allegedly took down the City of Ferguson’s website. Two police officers were injured during the riots, and 32 rioters were arrested for a variety of crimes ranging from assault to burglary.

Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson asked the St. Louis County Police Department to investigate the shooting. Subsequently, county police announced on Facebook on Sunday, “The FBI will be contacted today and notified of the incident. If they choose, they may conduct a separate use-of-force investigation on this incident directly with the Ferguson Police Department.” Eric Holder also announced that the Department of Justice would look into the use of deadly force against Brown.

Said John Gaskin of the St. Louis County NAACP, “With the recent events of a young man killed by the police in New York City and with Trayvon Martin and with all the other African-American young men that have been killed by police officers… this is a dire concern to the NAACP, especially our local organization.” He has called for the FBI to conduct an independent investigation of the shooting. The FBI has since announced that it will launch a probe into the circumstances surrounding the use of deadly force against Brown.

Reverend Al Sharpton released a statement on the incident, “I just spoke with Leslie McSpadden, the grandfather of Michael Brown. He has asked me to come to St. Louis in light of the police killing of his grandson to assist the family in achieving a fair investigation and justice. I assured him that National Action Network will stand with the family, as we have done for families around the country and assist in any way that we can. I am dispatching Rev. De-Ves Toon of our National Action Network field department to St. Louis immediately to prepare for my visit, and to work with groups in the area as we pursue justice in the tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Brown’s grandmother described him as a good kid, “My grandson never even got into a fight. He was just looking forward to getting on with his life. He was on his way.” The unidentified officer who shot him, who has been on the force for six years, was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. The community and victim’s family are calling for him to be fired and charged with murder.

In response to the riots, Michael Brown’s family and Ferguson Mayor James Knowles urged rioters and protesters to stop the violence.

Death of a black teenager sparks riots in Missouri

The shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police over the weekend prompted riots in Ferguson, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis, on Sunday.

Brown was shot by police Saturday after what many sources are saying was a struggle between an unnamed officer and Brown.

St. Louis police chief, Jon Belmar, spoke at a news conference Sunday, saying Brown, another unnamed civilian, and the officer in question had met on the street outside of an apartment complex in Ferguson.  Brown then reportedly had pushed the officer back into his patrol car, according to a CBS News report from Sunday.

The officer and Brown fought inside the patrol car, and according to the New York Times, the office’s firearm came into play around this time as the two began to fight for possession of it.  Chief Belmar continued, saying at least one shot was fired inside the patrol car before the fight spilled into the street where more shots were fired, resulting in Brown’s death.

The number of shots fired has not yet been released by the police, but this same report says all shots were fired from the officer’s gun and “it was more than just a couple” shots, according to Chief Belmar.

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson said Brown was unnarmed throughout the entire confrontation.

The second civilian who accompanied Brown has not been charged or arrested as of right now.

After the shooting Saturday, people from the surrounding area confronted police who had arrived on the scene, shouting “kill the police,” according to the AP.

On Sunday, mourners came to the site where Brown was killed and held vigils for the slain and protested what they viewed as an unjust use of force.  As the protests went on, officers showed up in riot gear in anticipation of potential violence, and people became angered at this and began to riot.

Thirty-two people were arrested over night, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, all charged with either assault, theft, burglary, or a combination of the three.

Cleanup of the incident has started this morning, but some don’t believe the rioting is over just yet.

According to the BBC, Deandre Smith, 30, of Ferguson, has said, “I don’t think it’s over honestly… I just think they got a taste of what fighting back means.”

The St. Louis Police have given all investigative information of the shooting over to the FBI, who are now in charge of determining what happened Saturday night.

The officer involved is now on paid administrative leave.