Ferguson on fire

My latest for Politico:

Darren Wilson will never be on trial. Black St. Louis always was.

For 108 days, there were protests in St. Louis. The vast majority of the protests were non-violent. Looting and arson, limited to the initial August days, became media memes that bore little resemblance to life on the ground. St. Louis is an insular city, and its agony was internal, felt rather than seen. Comparatively few participated in the protests, but everyone shared the dread of the impending decision. Residents woke every day to new emergency procedures, to strategic leaks, to media rumors and lies. When asked why it was taking over 100 days to deliberate over events that allegedly took 90 seconds, officials replied that the road to justice was long. They gave St. Louis a waiting game and let the protesters pretend they were players.

In November, when rumors circulated that a grand jury decision was nearing, the protesters began to prepare. They were fighting the same fight that had brought them out in the early August day: the killing of unarmed black men by law enforcement, and the sanctioning of those killings by the justice system. The preparation meetings were mostly about how to not get killed while pointing this out. Medics, legal advocates, and peace activists gave tips on how to handle tear gas and go limp when arrested. As the media talked riots, protesters talked survival—not only survival of the people they were fighting for, but theirs.

Read the whole thing, Ferguson’s Trial, at Politico.

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