Michael Brown was visiting his grandmother at the Canfield Green apartment complex when the tragedy occurred. Details are sketchy but most eye-witnesses tell the same sad story: When accosted by the Ferguson police, Mike raised his hands to show that he was unarmed. Shots ranged out. He raised his hands again to show “compliance” and police fired again, killing him.
This cold-blooded murder of a black youth created instant rage. The word went out through social media and crowds began to gather demanding justice. Multiple police departments were deployed in response, armed with M16s as armored trucks rumbled down neighborhood streets. Community organizers from the Organization for Black Struggle and other groups rushed to the scene to support the family and residents, prepared to give leadership if necessary.
The scenario of young, black men being gunned down in America is nothing new. Not long ago, Carey Ball had a similar encounter with the St. Louis Police Department; he was shot 25 times with his arms up. It’s part of a strategy of racist repression in the urban centers where the sight of black people in general (remember Renisha McBride) and black men in particular, signal fear and danger.
There are a series of protests and vigils planned in response to the police murder but communities are weary of appealing to the entities that are responsible for or which uphold state violence—police departments, the FBI, the Justice Department, etc. It’s time to craft a more sophisticated approach to police violence that is proactive and impactful.