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Aug 10, 15

Conflicting Realities: The Ferguson Police Do It Again and Sometimes We Shoot Back

From Bay Area Intifada

If you weren’t already aware, yesterday evening, August 9th during a prolonged demonstration/vigil for Mike Brown, 19-year-old Tyrone Harris, Jr. a close high school friend of the late Brown, was shot by four Ferguson Police Detectives and critically injured. There story has made international news, and Harris is currently recovering at the hospital in police custody, in critical condition following surgery for gun shot wounds.

Typical of what we know of police procedure in Ferguson, the critically injured Harris, was handcuffed after being shot, and left to bleed in the street while the police figured out how to lock down the scene, lie about their overtime, and concoct their fantasy version of events. According to Tyrone Harris, Sr. the victim’s father, “We think there’s a lot more to this than what’s being said,” what is being said by the police, is that this is of course, the fault of  criminals intent on disturbing the peace and the victim himself of course. But it goes beyond that.

Ferguson Police Chief Jon Belmar claimed that plain clothes officers opened fire on Tyrone Harris, Jr. after they pulled up on him in their unmarked SUV, and he began shooting at them, they only returned fire. He explained there was a melee between two groups of people, devolving into a prolonged state of exchanged gunfire lasting 40 to 50 seconds, and that it was this that the officers were responding to. He stated, there is a “small group of people out there that are intent on making sure we don’t have peace that prevails. … We can’t sustain this as a community,” that the people doing the shooting “were criminals, … they were not protesters. … Protesters are the people out there talking about a way to effect change. We can’t afford to have this kind of violence, not only on a night like this but any point in time if we’re going to move forward in the right direction.”

Belmar was not exaggerating, there was an extensive exchange of gunfire, so much so it sent protesters, journalists and spectators alike fleeing for cover in the chaotic scene. What is unclear however, is whom was firing at whom, and why. A chaos made all the more confusing now that we know four different police officers were contributing to the gunfire. The cliche question in the air waiting to be answered seems to be, who shot first? None of the detectives of course were wearing body cameras, but the peoples’ eye seemed to have captured a lot.

What is being left out of course, is what happened earlier. According to various on the ground reports, consistent with previous experiences with repression in Ferguson since the protests began last year, the Ferguson Police claim that “while trying to disperse a crowd” that was “blocking traffic” at West Florissant Avenue, just north of Ferguson Avenue, that they were tracking a man (black male of course) and his crew (other black males of course) who they believed were armed. Before the shooting began. Tension’s were heated as the confrontation between the police and demonstrators progressed, as an hour prior to the shooting of Harris, Jr. two teenagers ages 17 and 19 were wounded in supposed “drive by” near the Mike Brown Memorial at the Canfield Apartments. Where the conflict begins isn’t in the ever present possibility of urban violence, but in how the two sides in it perceive things.

According to the Ferguson Action Council, a coalition that includes the Don’t Shoot Coalition, Hands Up United, Organization for Black Struggle and others:

“After a year of protest and conversation around police accountability, having plain clothes officers without body cameras and proper identification in the protest setting leaves us with only the officer’s account of the incident, which is clearly problematic.”


The coalition and Harris, Sr. seem to be in accordance, as it appears even prior to any violence police uniformed and not from a multiple agencies had descended into the streets to “police” the protest. Among them were the Ferguson Police Department, Missouri Highway Patrol, and officers from St. Louis County.

In the lead up to the shootings, there had been a day in stark contrast to the violence yet to come. The evening had been proceeded by a silent march of a thousand people through Ferguson in commemoration of the Mike Brown, stopping at the site of his shooting, giving way  to prolonged moments of silence, prayer, comments, church services and the release of doves. Various speakers commemorated Brown, and his significance in the furtherance of black struggle against police brutality and murder, including: Mike Brown, Sr., Yonasda Lonewolf, the granddaughter of Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, the daughter of Eric Garner, and Brittany “Bree” Newsome who captured the national imagination and sparked a new phase of struggle, when she scaled a flagpole in South Carolina capitol to remove the Confederate flag.


By that evening the police in full riot gear had moved in on the remaining hundred or so protesters (who were actually outnumbered by the media and observers), assaulting their line following an order to disperse. The protesters with locked arms confronted the police cordon, some of whom, according to reports were throwing water bottles and shouting, “We are ready for war!” Threatening to use “chemical munitions” against the protesters if they didn’t disperse by 2 am, smoke bombs had begun to be fired by the police.

It appears in the over two hour on again off again roving clash between demonstrators and the police, that gun fire erupted. In the aftermath of Tyrone Harris, Jr. shooting the police investigators supposedly discovered/recovered a 9 mm Sig Sauer that had been reported stolen stolen in Cape Girardeau. Though its not impossible that a stolen weapon was in the possession of Harris, Jr. its no less likely that Sig was a throw away piece, planted in the aftermath. Regardless, its clear that some people did shoot back. Or we can only hope.

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