Could Ferguson MO become Newark NJ, 1967?

A little history:

A riot broke out in Newark in 1967, triggered by the police beating a black cab driver, who was falsely reported to have died. Five nights of rioting and looting followed in what the press in those days called the “ghetto”. Republican Governor Richard J. Hughes called up the New Jersey National Guard. When the National Guard arrived, reports began coming in of scores of black snipers roaming the city, and terrorists with dynamite and arms heading towards Newark with supplies for the uprising.

As a result, when the Police or the Guard saw people, or some shadow on far away windows, they began shooting. The results? 26 deaths and 725 wounded.

Were there truly black snipers? Here is some information from the report of The Kerner Commission: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

In the summer of 1967, after the riots in Newark, Detroit, and 125 other cities, President Lyndon Johnson convened an advisory commission to look into what happened and why. The report of the Kerner Commission, which warned of a nation moving toward a “system of apartheid” in its cities, concluded that the so-called snipers in Newark were actually members of the police, Troopers, and Guard, who, lacking any reliable communications and possessed by fear of the specter of armed black men, often ended up shooting at each other.

The most dangerous person in the world is a frightened person. If they are armed to the teeth, and they are frightened, really bad things can happen. It is very interesting to read contemporaneous reporting from the 1967 riot. The rioters are called “terrorists” by the New York Times:

Incensed by the slaying of a white fire captain by Negro snipers, Gov. Richard J. Hughes said he was considering an appeal for Federal help in capturing the terrorists.

What happened next was urban warfare. More from the NYT of July 16, 1967:

After midnight, Springfield Avenue, the main commercial street in the ghetto, was raked by machine gun fire from guardsmen and the police, who ducked behind cars and sprayed the roofs of buildings thought to contain terrorists…The Governor again said that the riots were not caused by a spontaneous uprising against unemployment, squalid housing and a general hopelessness – as negro leaders insist – but were an outbreak by a “vicious criminal element.” Thrusting out his jaw, he promised that the rioters would receive swift and retributive justice.

Ferguson hasn’t gotten to that point yet. But it has similar elements, all waiting for a spark.

The Kerner Commission Report concluded that the trigger for the Newark riots and those in 125 other US cities, were confrontations between the local police and members of local African-American communities. It also concluded that the residents’ held a perception (often justified) of the largely white police as an occupying force which was in the community to serve and protect the interests of the privileged white communities rather than to serve and protect the legitimate interests of the local minority residents, and that the police inherently harbored racist attitudes toward residents of minority communities that they were also charged to serve.

Compare that conclusion of 47 years ago to Ferguson MO today.

Newsweek reports that 22% of Ferguson residents live below the poverty line, and 21.7% receive food stamps. The unemployment rate in the town is 14.3%, or more than double that of St. Louis County and Missouri as a whole: (emphasis by the Wrongologist)

…in 2013, the Ferguson Municipal Court issued 24,532 arrest warrants and 12,018 cases, or about 3 warrants and 1.5 cases per household.

In the media commentary on Ferguson, there is little mention of the economic and social conditions that underlie both the current growth of police repression and the eruption of popular anger in response to it. We don’t hear that one out of four residents of St. Louis lives in poverty. Or that the wholesale closure of auto plants, breweries and other manufacturing facilities has led to the loss of two-thirds of St. Louis’s population since 1950.

Or, that 47% of the metropolitan area’s African American men between ages 16 and 24 are unemployed.

What we are seeing in Ferguson is a disturbing trend in US policing: Violence against inanimate property equals violence against “the people”. And it is not just in miniority neighborhoods. Think about the excessive force used by police all across America to break up the Occupy movement’s civil disobedience.

This is why police departments across the US are being prepared and equipped to deal with mass unrest. That is what The Powers That Be are expecting.

Along with everybody else who has seen the writing on the wall.

Thoreau, from Civil Disobedience:

…Thus the state never intentionally confronts a man’s sense, intellectual or moral, but only his body, his senses. It is not armed with superior wit or honesty, but with superior physical strength. I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest…

Terry Mckenna

Even if the young man was at fault, the bottom line for towns and police is that the people don’t accept what they are told. And since most of the police/people altercations have been at least problematical, who can blame them.

So.. if in this case, the cop was in the right, it is no different from the boy who cried wolf.


@ Terry: If the police are concerned about their image in the community, if they are concerned about “crying wolf”, they need to follow this rule: “If you have the authority and the power, then you also have the responsibility for using BOTH properly. It’s not the responsibility of the person you pull over, the person you want to question, or the person who is standing nearby, it’s YOUR responsibility.”

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