Trayvon Martin déjà vu in FergusonThursday, November 27, 2014
ON Monday, a United States grand jury decided that police officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted on any charge for the fatal August 9, 2014 shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri. Wilson was never arrested, charged or subjected to any disciplinary action.
The grand jury announcement further jangled nerves already frayed by police killing of a 12-year-old black boy holding a toy gun in a playground in Cleveland, Ohio, on Saturday, and the unpunished killing, earlier, of Trayvon Martin who was armed only with candy and a soft drink. The widely expected verdict in this sordid affair reignites the unresolved debate about racism in policing in America.
The announcement came after the St Louis County Grand Jury met in secrecy 25 times and heard from 60 witnesses before deciding. In a CNN poll, 32 per cent of Americans thought Mr Wilson should be charged with murder and another 25 per cent that he should be charged with some kind of crime. It comes as no surprise that in the latest round of HuffPost/YouGov polling, 64 per cent of black Americans said Mr Wilson was at fault, compared with just 22 per cent of whites.
The whole process has been handled badly, starting with the mayor and the governor whose primary concern was to maintain
law and order. Immediately after the Martin and Brown killings, the respective police departments started to supply the media with information suggesting that both youngsters were gang members and were so stupid that they attacked armed officers. Yet no weapons of any kind have been found.
Irrelevant and insensitive comments were made by people, including former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani who said that the shooting was an exception, because 95 per cent of African-Americans are killed by other blacks.
Some 74 per cent of black Americans saw the Brown shooting as part of a larger pattern and not as a freak accident. The number is probably higher in Ferguson, Missouri. The Attorney General's Office, in a report on racial profiling, found that 86 per cent of traffic stops in Ferguson targeted African-Americans in 2013. The US has the highest rate of incarceration in the world with 707 per 100,000 and African-Americans make up 40 per cent of the almost 2.1 million male inmates in prison, although they account for 12 per cent of the American population.
Wilson has expressed no regret, claiming that his life was in danger and that he acted
in accordance with his training. Some eyewitnesses have stated that Brown had his hands up at the time of the fatal shot. If the "no remorse, I have done nothing wrong, I was defending myself" justification seems familiar, it is because neighbourhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman used it to exculpate himself in the killing of Martin.
Racial profiling is not only in the former confederate states. In Oakland, California, it is reported that 37 out of 45 officer-involved shootings between 2004 and 2008 were of blacks. None was white. One-third of the shootings resulted in fatalities. Although weapons were not found in 40 per cent of cases no officers were charged. One report claims that there is an extrajudicial killing of African-Americans by police and security guards every 28 hours in the US.
Something has to be done about the killing of unarmed young African-Americans by white cops, and it must start by holding them accountable.