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Monday, August 10, 2015

Ferguson: One Year Later.

It has been a year since the death of Michael Brown and the world has changed. The events in Ferguson have caused the development of the Black Lives Matter movement. The date of August 9, 2014 was when Michael Brown was shot to death by the ex-Officer Darren Wilson. Michael Brown was only 18 year old. He had his whole life ahead of him, but he is gone physically, but his spirit is eternal. His body was in the streets for hours without any assistance by the authorities to retrieve it.   People were legitimately angry at the structural racism and economic oppression going on in Ferguson, Missouri including in other places of America. The events of Ferguson exposed the myth of post-racial fantasies once and for all in our generation. Ferguson was not only a new era in American history, but it was a new era of the black freedom struggle as it gave birth to the Black Lives Matter Movement. On the day of Michael Brown’s death, residents created a makeshift memorial of flowers and candles in the spot where Brown died. Police vehicles later crushed the memorial, which shows the disrespect that many officers have for the dignity of black human lives. People were angry and rightfully so. Black anger against injustice is righteous as revolutionary spirit is a necessity in any struggle for liberation. On August 10, 2014, there was a day of memorials. It was peaceful in the beginning. There was an evening candlelight vigil. Local police stations assembled in ca. 150 officers in riot gear. Then, the rebellion happened. Businesses were looted, vehicles were vandalized, and people confronted police officers. Reactionaries exploited these events to promote the lie that black people were violent collectively and other false stereotypes (like any protester was a rioter, which is a slanderous lie). There was the QuikTrip convenience store and gas station being set on fire. Over 30 people were arrested. The police also assaulted protesters too. In August 11, the police used tear gas and rubber bullets on people. Many cops used tear gas on innocent protesters, journalists, men, women, and even children. State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal was also hit with tear gas. In August 12 and 13, police officers continued to use tear gas. Mya Aaten-White was shot with a bullet by the police. She criticized the police for not investigating her case in a timely manner. The rebellion continued when some threw Molotov cocktails. In August 13, the police were clearing a McDonald's restaurant, the reporter Wesley Lowery and The Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilley were arrested without just cause. "Officers slammed me into a fountain soda machine because I was confused about which door they were asking me to walk out of," Lowery said. Martin Baron, executive editor of The Washington Post, issued a statement, saying "there was absolutely no justification for Wesley Lowery's arrest," and that the police behavior "was wholly unwarranted and an assault on the freedom of the press to cover the news" al Jazeera America journalists including correspondent Ash-har Quraishi covered the protests in Ferguson on Wednesday night were also tear gassed and shot at with rubber bullets by a police SWAT team. Tom Jackson later was the Ferguson chief. Even the President Barack Obama said that the police should not use excessive force against peaceful protests or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights.

Even St. Louis alderman Antonio French was arrested when he was dragged out of his car. On August 14, Governor Jay Nixon announced that the Missouri Highway Patrol led by Captain Ron Johnson will take over security in Ferguson. A night of demonstrations is nonviolent for the first time in days. The next day, there were nearly 200 people being arrested. Governor Jay Nixon on August 16, 2014, declares a state of emergency and a curfew in Ferguson came about. Nixon on August 18, ordered the National Guard to be deployed to Ferguson (or a suburb of St. Louis). President Barack Obama sent Attorney General Eric Holder will be dispatched to Ferguson to monitor the situation. Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ronald S. Johnson was asked to take over law enforcement jurisdiction at Ferguson (for a period of time). A grand jury begins investigating the actions of Darren Wilson on August 20. The funeral of Michael Brown came about in August 25, 2014. It has family, friends, strangers, and celebrities to the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptists Church in St. Louis. In the eulogy, the pro-Democratic capitalist and ex-FBI informant Al Sharpton made the disrespectful comment that we should stop making "ghetto pity parties" when opposing injustice has nothing to do with having a pity party. Protests continue from August 25 to September 26, 2014. In August, the St. Ann police officer Ray Alberns threatened to kill peaceful protests with aiming his rifle at peaceful protesters. He resigned on August 28. A dozen people are arrested in Ferguson on October 14 in the midst of new protests. In late October, leaks on the autopsy report come about. Again, the Democratic Governor Nixon on November 17 declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard in anticipation of the grand jury decision on whether to indict Wilson. We know that the DOJ was also investigating the death around this time too.

On November 24, 2014 St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch announced that a grand jury decided not to indict police officer Wilson for any crimes related to the fatal shooting of Brown. People are angry and afterwards, Michael Brown's stepfather Louis Head yelled to the crowd of protesters in front of the police department: "Burn this b__ down!” There were peaceful protests and rebellions. On November 25, people protest in over 170 U.S. cities from Boston to Los Angeles, and that National Guard forces were reinforced at Ferguson to prevent the situation from escalating. People protest in Canada and London. Missouri State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal accurately said that systematic racism is a reason why Ferguson suffered problems.  Jamilah Nasheed has spoken out on the injustices in society too. Senator Claire McCaskill has talked about Ferguson. On November 27, Governor Nixon reportedly rejected calls for a new grand jury to decide whether to charge Wilson over Brown's killing. So, they decided to not try a murderer. Police chief Thomas Jackson resigned on March 11, 2015. His resignation followed City Manager John Shaw who resigned March 10, and Municipal Judge Ronald Brockmeyer who resigned March 9.  Also, in March of 2015, the Department of Justice released their 102 page report which accurately documented the systemic racism found in the police department of Ferguson. Crooked cops harassed and abused the rights of black Americans in Ferguson for the purposes of intimidation, economic exploitation, and other evils. Today, some areas have been rebuilt in Ferguson.  Cops have body cameras. Also, more voters have registered. The April 2015 election in Ferguson caused 2 black candidates to be in the Ferguson City Council. Ella Jones is serving Ward 1 and Wesley Bell is serving Ward 3. The mayor is Brian Fletcher. On August 8-9, 2015, there are large peaceful protesters to commemorate the death of Michael Brown. At the night time of August 9, 2015, 2 factions of people (not protesters) exchanged gun fire in Ferguson at west Florissant avenue. Then, they fire weapons on the bullet on the police. One person was arrested (who was shot. He's a suspect according to the police. The police said that they found a 9mm stolen handgun on him. It is important to note that the officers chasing Tyrone Harris Jr. were plain clothes officers. It is uncertain if those officers identified themselves as the police to Tyrone) and was sent into the hospital. The shot person is Tyrone Harris Jr. He laid there on the ground bleeding. Tony Rice (who is an activist) was there and told the police to do something. Then, the police arrested Tony Rice unjustly and he was later released. SWAT Team units came and people are scared and fearing for their lives. One reporter was robbed. Some objects were thrown at the police like bricks and bottles. Despite the shooting, police and protesters continued to confront each other into the wee hours on Monday morning on August 10. During the morning, the cops said that 2 teens shot at them and they shot back (both teens were shot. They are 17 and 19 years old respectively). When demonstrators refused to disperse in early Monday morning, law enforcement reverted to tactics from last year’s unrest. The cops used tear gas against peaceful protesters. Some people couldn't go home since the police blocked streets. These actions by the officers were excessive and unwarranted. No innocent human life should be assaulted and the civil liberties of the people must be respected. These tragic events will not deter us. The protesters will continue to protest and use civil disobedience too. Like usual, reactionaries like Jeff Roorda (the executive director and a business manager of the St. Louis Police Officers Association) has lied and said that peaceful protesters are involved in the tragic events of August 9th. The Attorney General condemned the Ferguson violent incident. It is important to note that people the vast majority of the people there were peaceful and wanted real solutions. On August 10, 2015, protesters continue to make their voice heard in Ferguson and St. Louis, Missouri. on that day, the police have arrested dozens of protesters (who are using civil disobedience. These protesters are part of the Moral Monday movement, who are fighting for voting rights and justice in general). About 200 demonstrators marched from Christchurch Cathedral to the Thomas Eagleton Federal Courthouse in St. Louis as a part of the the Moral Monday protests. They are marking the one year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown. Many are carrying signs, chanting and praying to make the point that #BlackLivesMatter. DeRay, Natta, and a rabbi named Susan Talve were arrested in St. Louis. Cornell West is at the protest too and he was arrested. I want to mention people like Patricia Bynes who have done great work in helping the citizens of Ferguson. Ferguson has shown the world about the problems of racism, economic inequality, the militarization of the local police, civil liberty violations, housing rights disparities, health care problems, and other important issues that we have to deal with. We want justice.

Chicago in the 21st century has made many changes and there is still a long way to. The city increased its population density and its air quality has improved. There is the park district. The park district is the biodiversity recovery plan is set to restore damaged natural areas of the city as well as creating new ones. There is the existence of many green roofs that were created to reduce heat gain, aid in air quality, and provide insulation. Millennium Park on the lake demonstrates man of the new concepts. Political changes have taken place too. Mayor Richard Daley was mayor from the later 1980's until the early part of the 21st century. Richard M. Daley was focused on business development, he developed tourism, and he saw the construction of Millennium Park. Daley did many good things. His problems were his over emphasis on privatization programs and many of his family members would disproportionately benefit from city contracting. Also, when Mayor Daley took office, there was a budget surplus. He left the city as Mayor with Chicago having massive structural deficits. His budgets ran up the largest deficits in Chicago history. He sold many public lands to private corporations, which many progressives didn’t like. Mayor Daley didn't radically improve the conditions of its poor citizens in Chicago either. In 2003, Meigs Field was closed with the Chicago Film Archives founded. In 2005, the Chicago White Sox win their first World Series in 88 years. Back in May 1, 2006, U.S. immigration reform protests in Chicago draw over 400,000 people. "There were some positive benefits into the neighborhoods, there was some spreading of housing and economic development into particularly minority areas, which had not been seen for decades," said Dick Simpson, head of the political science department at the University of Illinois at Chicago who served two terms as alderman of the 44th Ward during the 1970s. "But it's not been enough to compensate for the other two problems: the recession and the collapse of affordable housing." Overall, Simpson said he considered Daley's impact on the city's impoverished areas would be viewed as "mixed". "Some of the neighborhoods, like Woodlawn and others, have begun to get more private housing development in them and some economic development," Simpson said. "But overall, poverty and unemployment have remained at unacceptably high levels and the Daley administration was not able to resolve that." Many lower income neighborhoods suffered massive poverty. Census data showed that while the citywide unemployment rate decreased from 11.3 percent in 1990 to 10.5 percent in 2009. In fact, no ethnic group saw bigger changes over the course of the Daley era than the city's African Americans, which lost 12.5 percent of its total population between 1990 and 2009. He left behind a budget deficit estimated at more than $500 million, and famously sold off public assets such as the Chicago Skyway and the city's parking meters for one-time cash infusions whose proceeds are very nearly exhausted. During the Daley era, predominantly black communities witnessed the highest unemployment and the highest increase in unemployment from 18.4 percent in 1990 to 19.6 percent in 2009. So, his legacy was mixed with good and bad policies. The Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 2010. After Daley, Rahm Emanuel was sworn in as Mayor of Chicago in May 16, 2011. The May 2012 NATO Summit took place in Chicago and massive protests has existed in the city as well. Rahm Emanuel is a neoliberal through and through. He closed tons of Chicago public schools. He promoted wage cuts. He is very unpopular among many people in Chicago. He was reelected in massive unpopularity. Kari Lydersen’s book entitled, “Mayor 1%: Rahm Emanuel and the Rise of Chicago’s 99%” talks about Emanuel’s neoliberalism a great deal. Emanuel was once the White House Chief of Staff for the Obama administration from 2009 to 2010. He is known for his temper and his usage of vulgar language. The crime rate in Chicago has declined since the 1990’s, but gun violence is still a serious issue as hundreds of people have died in Chicago every year. That is totally unacceptable. It is also unacceptable for innocent unarmed black people to be murdered by the police. Any death of any innocent person in any location of America is unacceptable, so this is a national problem. That is why activists (then and now) among many backgrounds are constantly fighting in programs, community groups, and other real organizations to combat fun violence and any crime in Chicago.

It has been 10 years since the Katrina catastrophe in the Gulf State region (Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005). We have seen the disaster of the storm in New Orleans, the rest of Louisiana, Alabama, and other states in America. After 10 years, we have seen how much New Orleans have changed. A decade later, about 100,000 people (mostly black people) have not returned still to New Orleans.  White people in New Orleans have gotten a lot richer while poverty still is a problem in many Black neighborhoods of New Orleans. We have seen New Orleans schools chartered, rents skyrocketing, and other realities in the name of “renewal” and “privatization.”  The population of New Orleans a decade later is smaller. There has been billions of dollars poured into Louisiana, but the impact on the poor and working class people in New Orleans has been minimal. Not everything is bad news in New Orleans, so we have to be fair and progressive with the facts. We know that rent in New Orleans is up 33 percent for one bedroom apartments and 41 percent for two bedroom apartments since Katrina hit. 55 percent of the residents rent. The national average is 35 percent.  In 2005, one bedroom was $578 and two was $676.  In 2015, it is $767 for one and $950 for two.    In 2005, 38 percent of the children in New Orleans lived in poverty, 17 percentage points higher than the US as a whole.   The most recent numbers show 39 percent of the children in New Orleans live in poverty, still 17 percentage points higher than the national average. Only 32 percent of African Americans believe that the new nearly all charter school system is better than the public school system before the storm (as over 7,500 mostly African American public school teachers and paraprofessionals have been fired after Katrina when Louisiana took over the New Orleans public school system. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear their appeal in May of 2015) versus 44 percent of whites. New Orleans now has 44 school Boards and before Katrina nearly all public schools in New Orleans were overseen by one Orleans Parish School Board. New Orleans is now 59 percent African American, which is down from 66.7 percent in 2000. The city is 31 percent white, up from 26 percent in 2000; and 5.5 percent Hispanic, up from 3 percent in 2000. Before Katrina, New Orleans incarcerated more of its citizens than any city in America or five times the national average. There have been ongoing efforts of community members and local officials, the number of people held in jail have been reduced by 67 percent. 73 percent of New Orleans students who start high school graduate on time. There are now 3221 fewer low income public housing apartments in New Orleans than when Katrina hit.  In 2005, New Orleans had a population of 455,000 and in 2014 its population was 384,000. So, we have a long way to go, but New Orleans is a strong city with great people and great culture. In the future, New Orleans will be better and justice will be made real.

By Timothy

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