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State of Emergency: Ferguson Police Arrest Peaceful Protesters, Armed White Male Militia Group Left Alone

Protesters prepare to march in downtown St. Louis on August 10. RICK WILKING/REUTERS

Protesters prepare to march in downtown St. Louis on August 10. RICK WILKING/REUTERS

One year after the killing of Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, it seems not much has changed in Ferguson, the epicenter of a Black people-led movement for justice.

As the Washington Post reported, St. Louis County declared a state of emergency. This came as police arrested nearly 60 peaceful protesters during a “day of resistance” sit-in which took place in front of the federal courthouse in downtown St. Louis. Among those arrested were prominent #BlackLivesMatter leaders DeRay Mckesson, Johnetta Elzie, Kayla Reed and Professor Cornel West.

“Between the continuous deaths of unarmed teenagers at the hands of police [and] tear gassing on Canfield Drive… we see that not enough has changed in Ferguson,” said Brittany Packnett, who works closely with the arrested activists, according to the Washington Post. “It is August 2014 all over again.”

In addition, on Monday afternoon, 60 people were arrested for blocking all 10 lanes of Interstate 70. That night, over a dozen protesters were taken into custody for blocking traffic on West Florissant Avenue, the Associated Press reported.

Although police forcefully arrested peaceful demonstrators and allegedly manhandled a Huffington Post reporter, they did not confront the heavily armed white men from the Oath Keepers, a right-wing militia group consisting of current and former law enforcement, military and first responders.  The group disobeys orders and laws they believe are unconstitutional, and regards President Obama “an enemy of the state.”

“They just showed up, walking around carrying their assault rifles,” Patricia Bynes, Democratic Committeewoman of Ferguson Township, told NBC News.

Bynes said their presence detracted from the issue of racial inequality, as activists asked why these white men were allowed to openly carry weapons to antiracism protests.

“If there were Black and brown people in this country who showed up in the streets openly carrying assault rifles in paramilitary garb would they still be received the same way?” Bynes asked. “There were two blocks of police. They saw them,” she added. “It’s more about the hypocrisy. Of wow, if anybody out here tried that they’d be met with a different greeting from police.”

Meanwhile, according to NBC News, the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney’s office charged Tyrone Harris, 18, for allegedly exchanging gunfire with police officers Sunday night. Harris, who was shot by police and is in critical condition, was charged with four counts of assault on law enforcement, five counts of armed criminal action and one count of shooting at a motor vehicle. Store owners reportedly experienced damage due to vandalism and looting, and a reporter was attacked.

“The recent acts of violence will not be tolerated in a community that has worked so tirelessly over the last year to rebuild and become stronger,” County Executive Steve Stenger said in a statement regarding the violence that took place during the Sunday night protests.

“We are deeply disappointed with the violence that took place last night,” said Ferguson Mayor James Knowles. “This kind of behavior is counterproductive, and cannot be tolerated if we want to continue bettering the community for all our residents.”

Governor Jay Nixon reiterated the sentiment.

“Those who terrorize communities with gunfire and commit violence against police officers are criminals, and their reprehensible acts must not be allowed to silence the voices of peace and progress,” the governor said.

This most recent chapter in Ferguson and St. Louis demonstrates that while local authorities are always prepared to defend themselves and react with a strong police presence and a show of force, they lack the will to make the necessary changes to improve the daily lives of people in Ferguson.  Efforts at diversifying the police force, the city council or the city administration will mean nothing if a system of white supremacy remains.

One cannot apply a band-aid to a cancer and expect any improvement to the disease.  Black liberation will only come through an end to white supremacy, period.

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