So I watched the Livestream from Ferguson last night. Holy. Shit.
Now hear me out. It was a mostly peaceable assembly, some of the chants could have been construed as otherwise, such as the “this is a war cry” chant, but what I saw was an unarmed crowd and unarmed journalists exercising their right to Peaceably Assemble and the right for free media.
What I saw was noise machines, stun grenades, tear gas, and rubber bullets. What I saw was a desperate attempt to silence the media, ordering them to shut off their cameras and stop broadcasting. Here’s what I saw in order.
Police order the crowd to leave, they order the journalists to stop recording. The issues two ‘final’ warnings.
Police line advances.
Crowd puts up their hands. Some sit down. No advancing towards the cops.
Police use the noise machine; the one that hurts your ears and is designed to run off crowds. You see protestors holding their ears and refusing to back down, lining up. Some still manage to keep their hands above their heads despite the sound. Journalists start putting on gas masks. One puts on a helmet.
When the noise machine fails they start with the tear gas. Some protesters turn and flee. Most stay put, hands above their hands. The police line steadily advances.
Police start using stun grenades and rubber bullets with no care as to where they shoot; journalists’ equipment is damaged. The line retreats.
The cops advance and start herding the protesters back into a residential neighborhood and start cutting off retreat routs.
They fire more gas and more grenades and more bullets.
At this point the crowd are cut off from their vehicles; if they advance to go around the police it could be construed as them attacking so the crowd falls back again.
Police use more gas and more grenades in a residential neighborhood. Several private properties have fires from the grenades.
More grenades and more gas. The crowd falls back behind where the fires are, some take refuge in or behind cars.
The chopper is circling overhead repeatedly. In the distance you can hear even more gas canisters being shot.
People start slipping away and try to return to their cars.
Some of the journalists are still stranded, working on backup cameras because their primary ones are damaged ($$$$$$$$). Crowd starts to disperse. No sirens can be heard in the distance (no firetrucks to come put out the fires on private properties).
That is what I saw. No more, no less.
This is why I’m terrified of the police. This is why I don’t agree with militarization of our police force. The right to assemble is a constitutional right that was violated last night. Free media was a constitutional right that was violated last night. I saw reckless use of force by the police who could care less for the property they’re damaging.
This could happen anywhere. It could happen here in Boston, or in NYC, or Dallas, or Denver. What frightens me the most is the restriction on media. The Ferguson PD are blocking journalists from entering, arresting the ones that are already in place. Peaceable assembly and free media and free speech have been the basis of our government and both are being undermined. It says it right in the constitution that these are guaranteed rights. The Ferguson PD apparently believe they’re above the constitution.
This should terrify you. I don’t know what to say if it doesn’t.