Before I get to my own experiences, I have a few words for the media, especially CNN. I'm working second shift and I have been catching their late night coverage from my Home2 @ the Hilton:
What you don't seem to get is that it isn't particularly about what Michael Brown did or whether Officer Darren Wilson was justified in killing him. Its about a culture in this country that pre-dates the United States that says a white law enforcement officer is always justified in gunning down a black man and the lack of evidence, with each new "Michael Brown," that that has changed or ever will change. Honestly, I don't know whether Darren Brown is guilty of murder, but I know they can't all be innocent and I know they all get off. I was in Los Angeles when the verdict came down in the Rodney King case. The video tape made no difference. When's the last time a white cop went to jail for killing a black person? Hence the rage.
Now to your coverage. I haven't blogged about Ferguson this week but I have done a few things. Last night I sent this tweet to CNN's Don Lemon:
RT! CNN: Friend of Darren Wilson says Michael Johnson..blah, blah.." only Josie wasn't there was she? Pls explain propaganda @CNNDonLemon
— Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) August 23, 2014
Now to your courage. I sent this email To CNN's Steve Kastenbaum as the police were forcing the media to leave while they were making arrests:
Subject: Tell the police you'll take your chancesThat was Wednesday, Aug 20, 2014 at 12:43 AM and as if to put the explanation point on my comment, an hour later they announced that James Foley had been beheaded by ISIS.
The next time the police tell you that you and other members of the media to move for your own safety, will you please thank them kindly for their concerns and then tell them that you are very aware of the danger but it has never been the role of the media to shirk your responsibility to report the news because of danger. Tell them that CNN has had reporters on the ground in Syria, in Iraq, Gaza, Ukraine and Nigeria, so you should certainly be free to take your chances in Ferguson, Missouri.
In facing the danger and going to Syria to report on the conflict because hundreds of thousands were dying in it, Jim Foley represented the courage of the media in its best light. Now all media has crocodile tears for him but they had little use for his coverage when he was risking his life in Syria and spent little time decrying Assad and ISIS atrocities as long as it was Syrians being butchered. In their coverage of Syria we have seen the "courage" of the media in its worst light. If there is one thing they can do to honor the memory of James Foley, it is to reform their coverage of Syria. If there is one thing we all can do to honor his memory, it is to redouble our efforts to see the Syrian conflict to a peaceful resolution.
Now back to St. Louis where a county sheriff once bragged to me in all confidence how they murdered this guy in his car. They just surrounded him and blasted him. He said they all used shotguns so they would leave no traceable ballistics. This was more than 40 years ago, as are my other experiences with St. Louis law. I lived there between 1966-1975 when I was still a young black man.
Another time, this was ~ 1973, a well known "Starsky & Hutch" type St. Louis undercover rolled up next to me at a traffic light on N. Grand in North St. Louis, pointed his gun out the window at me and threaten to blow my head off in I didn't quit it. This was in broad daylight. At the time I was active in the protests against another St. Louis police killing. In this case a ten year old boy.
Then there was the time the St. Louis police discovered they had fucked with the wrong nigger. I used that term because the cop did to my face. I had just left the home of a fellow activist in North St. Louis, Mike, and was walking down the side walk. This was about 11pm on a Sunday night. Just as I was about to cross an alley, a speeding car came through, barely missing me. I had yelled "What the hell?" even before I saw it was a police cruiser. Upon hearing me, the cop apparently forgot all about whatever he was speeding to, slammed on his brakes and put it in reverse. "What did you say to me nigger?" It was just me and him on this empty St. Louis street approaching mid-night. Then it was up against the car, you know the drill, "I think I saw you trying to break into that store across the street."
The next thing I knew, I was in handcuffs in the Penrose station, demanding my phone call while they prepared to given me the usual treatment, which generally involved a beating in the basement. I kept demanding my one phone call until finally they threw a phone in front of me. I quickly called Mike, who also happened to be an attorney. When I left him, he was in a t-shirt and shorts. Ten minutes after my call, he was in the Penrose station and looking very much like my lawyer. I was soon released with all apologies and left the St. Louis police wondering just who was this nigger that could whistle up an attorney in minutes near midnight on a Sunday.
Another time two St. Louis County sheriffs perjured themselves on the witness stand in an effort frame me in an anti-Vietnam war protest. Take these stories for what they are worth. I've already passed the criminal background check at my new job and have no reason to make this stuff up. All of these events happened more than 40 years ago but judging form what I've seen out of St. Louis on this week's media coverage, not much has changed.