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Forget the Powerful Images of Black People Protesting, St. Louis Police Try to Remind World Who These Young People Are By Releasing Video and Pictures of Ferguson Looters

Over the last two months, protests against the police killing of Black men have become a global phenomenon—powerful yet peaceful demonstrations of the global community’s outrage over the seeming devaluation of Black life. But the St. Louis County Police Department is trying to fight back with images of its own, releasing another video yesterday showing more than 180 people looting a grocery story in Ferguson after the grand jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson.

It’s a dramatic illustration of law enforcement attempting to subvert the emerging narrative of Black youth energized and engaged, flooding the streets of this country in demonstrative displays of their anger. The multiracial “die-ins” and marches across the country had largely erased from the public’s mind the images of riots and lawlessness that were sparked by the grand jury’s decision on Nov. 24.

But from the St. Louis police we get a reminder: They’re not politicized young people fiercely exercising their first amendment rights; they’re just criminals and thugs stealing stuff.

The video of the looters, in addition to nearly 200 images of their faces, was big news on Fox News and the Sean Hannity Show, where he interviewed the store owner.

Meanwhile, as most observers expected, the U.S. Justice Department will not be bringing civil rights charges against officer Wilson for killing 18-year-old Michael Brown, according to a story in the New York Times quoting anonymous law enforcement officials. Though the recommendations of the Justice Department lawyers who were investigating the shooting still must be accepted by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and his civil rights chief, Vanita Gupta, the lawyers will be reporting to him that there’s not enough evidence to bring civil rights charges against Wilson.

To bring federal civil rights charges would require proving that Wilson willfully intended to violate Brown’s rights when he opened fire—meaning he knew that it was wrong to fire but did so anyway.

The Justice Department is still probing the entire Ferguson Police Department to see if officers are violating the civil rights of Black residents with discriminatory traffic stops and excessive force. That investigation could lead to the kind of large-scale changes the Justice Department is mandating in places like Cleveland and Albuquerque.

There are currently more than 20 such police department civil rights investigations nationwide, according to the Times.

St. Louis County Police have released other surveillance videos in recent weeks but still haven’t made any arrests—though they claim to have positively identified six suspects from video of a gas station and a liquor store being looted.

The video released yesterday shows a huge crowd of people flooding in and out of the Dellwood Market on Chambers Road. The police also released nearly 200 pictures of looters, with arrows helpfully pointed to any faces that are visible.

Shawn McGuire, a spokesman for the St. Louis County Police Department, told USA Today the suspects identified in the video are wanted for questioning and will be taken into custody if they come into contact with police.

So it’s not enough of a priority for the police to go looking for them—they’ll be arrested if police happen to stumble across them—which is further evidence that the videos are serving a larger purpose of propagating the department’s narrative of the criminality of these Black youth.

“We really want to take the time for the public to look at each video each week,” McGuire said. “We are giving every business an opportunity for the public to help them and to help us.”

The police posted the video on Facebook and YouTube.


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