Saturday, December 6, 2014

Beyond Police Brutality And Media Accounts of "Riots"--Why The Ferguson Protestors Are Doing The Police’s Job Better Than The Police

“If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”—Malcolm X

The system isn’t broken. It’s fixed. Darren Wilson, an armed policeman, looses his cool and murders an unarmed 18 year old, leaving his body on the street for 4 hours. In his testimony before the grand jury, Wilson says he was scared of the “Hulk Hogan” like Michael Brown (who he refers to as “It”), and with the help of a biased prosecutor, he gets off. Soon, ABC pays him $500, 000 to appear on TV, as if a reward for killing Brown. People applaud, see him as a victim and feel justice was done. And this is only the tip of the iceberg of the injustice. Some police, like the man who killed Tamir Rice, are much more cold blooded, as if killing’s a video game, or Predator Drone attack. Such killings by police, or white vigilantes like Zimmerman, have reached epidemic proportions. Every 28 hours another black man falls victim.

No wonder so many are using the G word (GENOCIDE) and pointing out the similarities with the “ethnic cleansing” that happened after Katrina. Enough is enough! Fuck the police! And fuck the state sanctioned “race leaders” like President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder. We will not be appeased by body cameras, or more “racial sensitivity training.” We need radical overhaul of the system. People take to the street to get a message across that otherwise would be swept under the rug. People take to twitter and facebook. Meanwhile, teachers dig up writings from 50 years ago like Martin Luther King’s Letter From Birmingham Jail to encourage students to express their anger, and channel it into rational analysis and critical thinking, all in the cause of racial and economic justice.

At Laney College in Oakland, students engage in vigorous debate expressing a wide range of opinions and analysis of the national epidemic.  Some, like Bryan Valadez, passionately defend what he calls the "violent protests" as the only way to thrust this issue into the media, yet it must be said that the vast majority of the mass protests, even after the non-indictments of Wilson and Pantaleo (the officer who choked Eric Garner), have been peaceful. Definitions become an issue as the media tends to call even the peaceful protestors violent, but is throwing a water bottle at a cop who has just attacked you with rubber bullets and teargas truly “violent?” Somehow the media has been able to persuade many it is, through lies, innuendo, selective inclusion (censorship) and muddled definitions.

By contrast, Carinna Johnson begins to analyze the situation by defining the terms more deeply than what one gets on Fox and other Corporate Media “The cops are blaming the protestors, protestors are blaming the cops. This makes the situation worse than ever because the cops are not making a distinction between the protestors and the looters.”

The conflation of protestors with looters by the cops, and the major media outlets, is not simply lazy journalism, but willful obfuscation of the human complexity of what is happening in Ferguson and elsewhere in this country. The looting may end, but the protests promise to be ongoing, and are clearly being used as a negotiating tool. Because of this, the peaceful, yet angry, protestors are more of a threat to the police and the (in)justice system, as well as the biased media, than the looters are. By hyping the violence and attempting to sweep the peaceful protestors under the rug, the corporate media coverage breeds a conceptual, and definitional, confusion, especially since this media monopolizes the mass culture market on truth for a majority of Americans (unless they can go out of the way for other perspectives). Just as the eyewitness testimony of most witnesses was not used by those who were supposed to be prosecuting Darren Wilson before the grand jury, so is the “grand jury” of public opinion not being given evidence that shows that the vast majority of protestors are not looters but true patriots, just as the Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and the Black Panthers were not looters.

Perhaps the best way to more clearly define and categorize the difference between the police, protestors and looters in Ferguson is to focus on one of the many stories that have cropped up in the aftermath of the non-indictment of Darren Wilson. Take, for example, the case of Natalie Dubose’s shop (Natalie’s Cakes N More), which fell victim to looting after the Grand Jury’s non-indictment. Clearly Ms. Dubose is a sympathetic victim, but she’s been used to support a biased pro-cop agenda in the media whose commentators exhibit the most superficial analysis of the situation as a sly, cynical ploy to turn people against the protestors.

Soraya Nadia McDonald wrote in The Washington Post that “What happened to DuBose’s shop, and the subsequent action to help her rebuild, sits at a crossroads when it comes to interpreting the actions of Ferguson rioters.” Although McDonald purports to be objective and give voice to various sides of these warring interpretations, the fact that she uses the word “Rioters” is itself a distortion brought forth from bias. Some are clearly police riots--riots started by the cops in "riot gear."Beyond that, it’s not just the protestors actions that are being interpreted in opposing ways, it’s the interpreters actions.

While it is understandable that some would see the looting of the cake shop as stupid and/or savage, the assumption that the looting was being committed primarily by the protestors (“rioters”) is not investigated or questioned. But, why would a protestor who knows #BlackLivesMatter choose to target a black owned cake shop? This is the last thing the protestors I’ve heard and read hoped would happen. They’re not taking back the streets for a one-night-stand of cake. Yet, the corporate media doesn’t give credence or airtime to this viewpoint, or any of the other possible culprits in the lootings and arsons. The looting may well have been caused by the KKK (which has been found to have overlapping membership with the police), or the same folks who burnt the church the Brown family had attended. It’s certainly within the realm of plausibility that these “looters” or “rioters” may have been paid employees set on by outsiders (or undercover infiltrators like the cops recently exposed by We Cop Watch in Oakland) precisely to discredit the organizers and mobilizers in Ferguson. 

It’s also possible that they (more broadly, people like them in other municipalities) are acing out of a spontaneous outburst of powerful emotion like Bryan Valadez, and thus my have overlapping membership with the protestors. This is of course the dominant assumption the corporate media pushes as it establishes the terms of the discussion in an attempt to put the protestors on the defense (in the same spirit of “guilty until proven innocent” that took the life of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner and too many others). For example, as in the tweets by “Senior Intelligence Analyst” and white supremacist David Swingle, who exploits this tragedy for racist ideological ends, as his Twitter page amply shows:

“Congrats Ferguson! You proved to the world you’re the RACIST ghetto trash we knew you were!” “HEY, FERGUSON! The entire country is sick of your s—. Sick of the lawlessness, sick of the riots, sick of the threats and demands. The only thing you’ve managed to accomplish in all of this is to live up to the ghetto stereotypes. Congratulations.”

Aside from his misunderstanding of what the word “RACIST” means, Swingle is representative of many voices who can only read what’s happening in terms of these racial stereotypes. Rush Limbaugh, for instance, has championed the cause of Dubose’s cake shop, encouraging his many listeners to donate money to her in the name of the Tea Party. This seemingly generous act is used primarily to score political points by thrusting the incident of looting into the public eye to imply that it was an action of black on black crime. And black on black crime, according to Rudy Giuliani, is an epidemic that can only be solved by increased policing by a largely white police force. Such policing, as Marsha Coleman-Adebayo points out, has never shaken off the legacy of the Antebellum Slave Patrols, and can be interpreted as an armed occupation of a colonized territory with more in common with Israel’s occupation of Gaza than at first appears.

In the process, Dubose, through no fault of her own, becomes a “token,” one of “the good ones,” just like they used to think of Aunt Jemima. Limbaugh’s interpretation also is used to "justify" a white supremacist paternalism (the white man’s burden) by implying that black folks don’t care about black lives, and that white people care about black lives more---or at least the Tea Party does, understanding the essence of Black Capitalism better than those Democrats (much less socialists) do with their entitlements and handouts.

Meanwhile, Fox News argues that the protestors should pay for the looting damages, implying it's certainly not the government’s responsibility. Any rebuilding should be privatized, but certainly there isn’t quite enough Christian Charity on the part of the generous Tea Party folks to repair all the damage to black businesses and churches done by the looting. All these stories encourage pejorative racial stereotypes to further their agenda of dividing the people’s movement for racial and economic justice.

But on closer analysis the groundswell happening in Ferguson and across the country is far more complex than a mere looting spree. Certainly, there are cooler heads that have been trying to prevail over the gangs that, as Ashley Yates points out, still fight for control of the streets in the greater St. Louis hood. These cooler heads overwhelmingly are to be found in the ranks of the protestors (whose 19 Rules Of Engagement are a very rational attempt at community policing) than in anything coming out of the police department and the feds.

In fact, quite a few protestors have been successful in approaching the gangs and vandals (whether white or black) and preventing them from burning and looting properties, just as they are trying to present the cops from continued violence. This, too, is under-represented in the mainstream media….in part because muckraking reporters have been attacked by the police, so that the police may control the feed of (mis)information—not that the corporate media needs much convincing by the police, since they were already predisposed to this bias, whether intentionally or not. It contributes to the definitional confusion about the protestors of which Carinna Johnson wrote. But let’s take a step back from all this propaganda for a second and consider the human dimension. In this light, the protestors are the true heroes here, in trying to cool down the violence (though not the anger) they did not start.

In the first place, they are doing the police’s job better than the police. It should be the police’s function to protect and to serve the life of citizens as well as the property of small business owners like Natalie Dubose. BLACK LIVES MATTER. BLACK PROPERTY MATTERS. BLACK VOICES MATTER (and don’t treat black folks like THEY’RE property). The police clearly failed in this function. More than a few have acknowledged that the Fire Department wasn’t even sent in to stop the burning of the many small businesses until it was too late. This reveals a pattern of gross neglect, as it is analogous to the fact that Michael Brown’s body laid in the street for 4 hours after he was shot.

Now one may call this an oversight on the part of the police, or negligence on the part of an over-taxed police force whose resources were spread thin, but the more one looks at it the more it seems like a refusal on the part of the police to protect and serve the majority black community of Ferguson (even if we grant that not every cop is conscious of who or what he is truly serving). They did choose to protect and serve the property and lives in the richer, whiter, side of town. Such an unequal allocation of resources during an especially racially polarized time clearly is intended to exacerbate the situation, and implies a systemic double standard.

Since the armed police are clearly well-funded (by the tax dollars of the very people they don’t represent), they could have certainly protected and served Dubose’s Cake shop. It is their legal responsibility to do so. Once we consider the police’s refusal of their sworn duty to protect the property, why would we place the burden of this duty on the peaceful protestors (especially if Limbaugh does not come through)? Why blame them for not being able to successfully prevent every incident of burning and looting? It is not their responsibility, and they (we) certainly don’t have the resources the police and fire department does. If anything, we should celebrate the success the protestors did have in furthering the peace. Between the police, on one hand, and the looters on the other, the protestors stand as the voice of reason.

Perhaps one of the most urgent rational demands to come out of the this movement is the demand for the police to pay for the damages done in looting since this damage is due to the police’s negligence. That being said, I am well aware that if I tweet, or attend in die in with a sign that reads, BLACK PROPERTY MATTERS, it could be interpreted by potential fellow travellers as 1) trivializing the issue, and not understanding that BLACK LIVES MATTER more than Property and/or 2) implicitly blaming the victim, assuming (as Swingle does) that the looters were black (or even “well-intentioned” anarchist whites, as in Oakland) rather than as I intend, which is to direct my anger toward the white power structure.

It could be seen trivializing the injustice or blaming the victim because of the misunderstandings that TWEET Soundbite culture encourages, but I hope to make it clear that saying BLACK PROPERTY MATTERS should be almost as much of a rallying cry against the police as BLACK LIVES MATTER (especially in a country where the only way not to be seen as another man’s property is to own property---this of course is the real meaning of “freedom” that was never really granted to African Americans as a people in this country). I am not trying to dilute the message as the white protestors with their ALL LIVES MATTER placards and hashtags (though feel free to argue with me, if it may help bring more clarity into the discussion). When I say BLACK PROPERTY MATTERS, I am speaking directly to the police state and, beyond, to globalized white supremacist capitalism that has systematically waged war on black people, in various guises, since chattel slavery ended.

I also believe that today’s looter (whether cop, white anarchist outside agitator, gangbanger, hot headed emotionalist, or folks who just want to take advantage of chaos to get free stuff) could become tomorrow’s organizer, or fellow-traveller. This is why some protestors are less likely to blame the looters than others are.

For instance, Jelani Cobb writes: “I think the riots happened because people feel they’ve exhausted all other mechanisms for being heard. For someone who has no reason to doubt that the legal system is capable of producing a just outcome for them, then the behavior does appear to be irrational. But the honest truth of the matter is that this country is rooted in riots. The American revolution was born out of what began as disparate riots responding to British policy. This is not as though these people are completely out of their minds, they have no sense. What they believe is that the system here does not represent them. … There is a context for this.”

Cobb’s point recalls how The Black Panther 10 Point Platform invoked The Declaration of Independence. Cobb makes a very valid point, yet this doesn’t mean there isn’t a distinction to be made between “looters” and “protestors” as Carinna Johnson points out, at least here in Oakland California. Oakland City Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney also made a strong point during the protests after the non-indictment:

“This is peaceful, non-violent direct action. I appreciate the diversity of this group as well as the focus remaining on the lives of those lost. This is a stark contrast to those who are vandalizing Oakland, who appear to be more concerned about their own right to protest than the subject of their protestation. When the coverage is about the protest and not the injustice, the protest has lost its soul.

Despite these differences, there is an implicit call for unity which is becoming more and more explicit, and this has always been threatening to the white power structure...much more threatening than a looting spree. These voices of unity, if allowed to be heard, stand against the police and the racist system of white supremacy. This is why the organizers stress political education, and study the history of past movements. As we’ve seen in Ferguson, the looters, or those Oba T’Shaka calls brothers from the block, will listen to the activists (from the Hands Up Coalition, Millennial Activists United, Lost Voices, We Cop Watch, and others) more than they will listen to the agitating cops who are not acting like peacekeepers. These activists, as humble servants to the cause of racial and economic justice, have a moral authority that commands respect. And if the looters are not arrested or become victims of the prison industrial complex, they may, under the tutelage of these peaceful protestors like Ashley Yates, Marsha Coleman Adebayo, Nyles Fort or many others, help forge a longer term movement to bring forth the justice that the legal system has refused (the system ain’t broke; it’s fixed), and rebuild the looted shops, or even create a new Black Wall Street.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Three Sonnets

He was hit by a car in 2004
Bedridden, mind messed up on Vicadin
He’s told he’d get back on the bike again
Run & boogaloo like he did before.
Meanwhile, in the real world far away
The Bush Economy and internet
Are destroying jobs and raising the rent
And the doctor screwed up the surgery.
And I think of the warmth spun by the word
Around its center the dream called ourselves
Divine language and songs of mice and elves
Sweeter than the sounds which Keats never heard
Possibility more sweet than this prose
Trying to redeem the thorn with the rose


I am charmed by her jumpy unclear prose
Because she reminds us we’re important
That life’s a gift that shouldn’t be shortened
If we have any say. Her essay shows
How hearts are hungry for food that won’t come
But if we don’t go chasing waterfalls
And forgive ourselves for seeming so small
Then we could make a feast from all these crumbs
Despite the cops and injustice system—
The corporate media that fuels white fear
Pushing it with lies that turn a deaf ear
To Justice and to the constitution
As the rallying cry “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot”
Becomes the racist taunt: “Pants up, don’t loot.”

I grew up in a segregated land
But it seemed radio was different than
The reality. Whites and blacks listened
And mingled on airwaves like that song “Stand”
By Sly & The Family Stone. It’s not post
Racial but points to what America—
Despite the white lies of academia—
Could be, a culture that’s no idle boast.
Then radio turned as segregated
As college when six big corporations
Tightened playlists coz they owned more stations
While their CEOs played in their gated
Communities & ethnically cleansed down
Towns afraid of the spirit going 'round

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What Media Bias in Coverage of Ferguson Can Tell Us About Racism In America

"We see the need of nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men to rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood."---Martin Luther King, Letter From Birmingham Jail

As we await the Grand Jury’s decision on whether to indict Officer Darren Wilson for his murder of an unarmed man he apprehended for jaywalking in Ferguson, MO, we are assaulted daily by the lies, and half-truths, and clear media distortions I read, and see in the major media “news” about what’s happening there.

Some of these distortions are rather subtle in focus or emphasis. For instance, consider the story on CNN, “Gun Sales Spike As Ferguson area braces for Grand Jury Decision” ( Even though this article uses the journalistic tone of seeming objectivity (avoiding opinion, just stating facts and stories about what’s happening in Ferguson in a detached, impartial way), the story directs you to look at the events in Ferguson through white eyes. There’s nothing wrong with that in itself did it not immediately present the black folks protesting in Ferguson (to say nothing of the deceased Michael Brown, the victim of police brutality who was the catalyst for these protests) as other, as even not quite fully human.

The article strategically begins by interviewing a white man who has decided to buy a gun because he’s afraid of what might happen if the cop who shot Michael Brown is not indicted by a grand jury. The fact that the media chooses to emphasize, or cherry pick, this perspective without showing the differing perspectives of the protestors, or others who criticize this man, has the effect of presenting him as a somewhat rational, and sympathetic, creature, a potential victim: what would you, dear reader, do if you were the only white in this situation? He can answer somewhat casually:

"So maybe I get trapped here or something and have to have a John Wayne shootout," (Dan) McMullen says before interrupting himself, smiling. "That's the silly part about it: Is that going to happen? Not a chance. But I guess, could it? I'm the only white person here."

Yet, this article denies voice to, and dehumanizes, the peaceful demonstrators who come together in a show of solidarity, unity, and collective strength. It gives little credence to their fears about justice not being done in this case and in ongoing instances of police brutality that have occurred since the shooting of Michael Brown (whether in the form of individual killings that have an uncanny resemblance to the lynchings of a century ago, or in the form of collective state-sponsored martial law designed to keep Ferguson under the segregated jurisdiction of the white power structure).[1]

The portrait of the poor, outnumbered, threatened white insurance salesman looms large. This story portrays the possibility of such vigilante justice sympathetically: white shop owners, or insurance salesmen, arm themselves out of fear of getting shot. This helps justify the “pre-emptive” (in scare quotes) proliferation of the paramilitary police force. According to Dan McMillan, "People who aren't afraid are stupid because fear keeps your mind alert and keeps yourself protected." But such a definition of fear is dangerous, especially when it’s pushed like a drug. And, like a drug, it tends to make the condition one was suffering from worse, and escalate the tensions. Certainly the increased presence of armed policemen represents this same fear, writ large.

CNN is certainly not alone in using fear as a drug that pushes reason out of the room. TV knows that fear sells. As Mumia Abu-Jamal recently put it, “American TV is awash in a cold splash of fear. Indeed, virtually every channel is tuned to Fear TV.” This fear informs and feeds our politics, as politicians use the fuel of fear to “build more prisons, write more laws, increase drug sentences, imprison more children (and the U.S. constitution itself) - all for lies spurred by fear.”

Many have pointed out how the mainstream corporate media has demonized and dehumanized the young black male to help propagate a culture and politics of fear. Today, in Ferguson, it is the demonstrators, who most pointedly take a stand against fear—not just their fear, but also the fear of their enemies. A large group of demonstrators is overcoming systematic obstacles to stand united, not succumbing to debilitating fears in the face of tremendous threats by the corporate-run state and its media propagandists.

Part of the point of these protests—let it never be forgot—is to show how we don’t have to let our fears of the injustice of those in power defeat us. Yes, the Ferguson protests, however “uncouth” some of their language is (if judged by the standards of Martin Luther King 50 years ago), are ultimately an appeal to reason, to passionate reason. And like Martin Luther King, many of the protestors have been called “outside agitators” by Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson as well as many others in the corporate media. Dr. King affirmed that “injustice anywhere is a threat to injustice everywhere.” Similarly, today, Nyle Fort, a youth pastor based in Newark New Jersey, who has joined the protests in Ferguson writes:

We must reconsider what it means to be named an “outside agitator” in a system whereby the very idea of blackness “agitates” – or disturbs – the “American dream”. Within the gaze of white supremacy, all black people are potential “outside agitators” But through the eyes of black folk, from Ferguson to Flatbush, the real “outsider agitators” are the police officers who don’t live here but come in to “agitate” black people. The real “outside agitators” are the political leaders who work against our right freedom and justice.”

In addition, I’d argue that the corporate media (CNN, MSNBC, FOX, etc) are also outside agitators, playing on the culture of fear to stir national sentiment against the demonstrators, as well as to portray Michael Brown himself as a gangbanger and thug in order to convince the grand jury, as well as the court of (white) public opinion, that Darren Wilson should not be indicted. Yet the media is doing far more than that. As Isabel Wilkerson points out:

Images and stereotypes built into American culture have fed prevailing assumptions of black inferiority and wantonness since before the time of Jim Crow. Many of those stereotypes persist to this day and have mutated with the times. Last century’s beast and savage have become this century’s gangbanger and thug, embedding a pre-written script for subconscious bias that primes many to accept what they were programmed to believe about black Americans, whether they are aware of it or not.

I’ve seen first hand how this subliminal programming (whether through schools or rock and roll documentaries) has created this subconscious bias among whites. The more one becomes aware of it, the more one sees how it infects every aspect of our culture. Media bias and racial bias go hand in hand, and, as Fort adds, “The bullets that ended Michael Brown’s life emerged from the same system of anti-black violence that ends the futures of millions of black girls and boys across the US – be it through our failing school system, the growing prison industrial complex or any of the other structures of racial hierarchy that continually and systemically oppress black America.” 

I applaud Talib Kweli for giving CNN the benefit of the doubt, in claiming that their bias in the coverage of events in Ferguson may very well be unintentional rather than simple outright racial hatred of the KKK, [2] but that is what makes it so dangerous; as Martin Luther King wrote 50 years ago ”Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.”

Another recent story shows how such a shallow understanding exists among the white citizens of Ferguson, including the former mayor Brian Fletcher, who formed the “I Love Ferguson” group because they’re embarrassed by the negative reputation Ferguson is receiving as a racist town. This attempt at public relations is another preemptive act of aggression. Like Dan McMillan, the white leaders of this group present themselves as the victims: “I’ve been in tears several times because it’s my home town and it’s not being portrayed as it is. The bigots, the racists left years ago. The whites who live here want to,” said Fletcher. Yet, as Angelique Kidd points out, “People like Brian Fletcher…care more about their image and property values.”[3] Fear, indeed, is at the root of this; fear that somehow an empowered black population will lower their property values!

Fletcher may not be a blatant bigot like the KKK who has recently threatened to march on Ferguson, but he does exhibit that “shallow understanding” which Martin Luther King so eloquently wrote about over 50 years ago. King wrote that the:

great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is….the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, “I agree with you in the goals you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time; and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”

What Martin Luther King wrote 51 years ago is deeply relevant to what’s happening in Ferguson in 2014, and because he’s so eloquent and such an icon of peace, I must quote the net paragraph:

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

Some of the most articulate and eloquent speakers on the ground in Ferguson have formed an organization called Millennial Activists United (MAU). MAU is but one of the many black-led organizations (with overlapping membership) that have taken a stand in Ferguson. They clearly articulate their place in the perennial struggle of blacks for a self-determination that has been systematically thwarted since the beginning of Chattel Slavery 400 years ago, as Ashley Yates points out in this paragraph:

Ashley Yates: We are the generation that was ignited by Trayvon Martin’s murder and placed our faith in a justice system that failed us in a very public and intentional manner. Most of us were raised by parents that inherited the fruits of labor from the Civil Rights movement. They were placated, in a sense, by the stories of a reality that no longer seemed an issue for them. So as we navigate a society where those realities of segregation and oppression are supposed to be far behind us, yet are more present than ever before in our lives, we say no more. We are the descendants of those who already fought for these freedoms and we will not let their sacrifices, blood, sweat and tears be swept away. We will cash in on the heavy price they already paid.”

While Yates understands that the labor of Civil Rights activists from 50 years ago bore fruit, this movement was also smashed and accommodated by the power structure in the years following the assassination of Martin Luther King. The media did a very good job of convincing many that the realities of segregation and systematic oppression were, indeed, a thing of the past, and in the process swept that tension back under the rug from which it had emerged during MLK’s time.

Like Martin Luther King, Yates defines her group as reformers rather than radicals or revolutionaries. She expresses a hope to work within the system, and to change it from within, by exercising her constitutional rights to free speech and peaceful assembly. Of course, the media portrays MAU and others as law-breakers, who are not willing to negotiate and work within the system, while the politicians declare a state of emergency that allows them to suspend the constitution their police clearly violate.

Yet, these protestors remain undaunted in their fight for justice, not merely in Ferguson, but in Oakland or in any city with police brutality. Nor do they confine their fight to the justice system, but to the structural racism that infects every aspect of this nation's culture.

MAU is dedicated to lifting up the community of Ferguson first and foremost. We are committed to complete and utter reform of the systems in place that are clearly designed against us. Political education, community policing, grassroots organizing and on the ground actions are the methods we believe are instrumental in achieving a radical reform that will make the world our children inherit better than the one we came into. People wanting to get involved with us can contact us via twitter @MillennialAU or email us at