St. Louis erupted into protest again Sunday evening, as law enforcement arrested at least 80 people — kettling protesters and agitators together with journalists, live-streamers, and legal observers — then proceeded to torture the detainees by targeting them repeatedly, unprovoked, with pepper spray.
While that affront to nearly every facet of the First Amendment amounts to distressingly typical law enforcement modus operandi for protests, officers apparently weren’t content to wield fascistic and brutal power over observers and demonstrators, alike.
In what could only be described as a terrifying portent for the future of our rights in the United States, law enforcement marched pompously down the newly-cleared city street after indiscriminately arresting dozens, video posted to social media reveals, snidely and coldly chanting a familiar refrain of anti-police violence activists and advocates,
“Whose streets? OUR streets!”
Even the casual observer unfamiliar with the fraught subject of brutality and racism inundating American policing would find such a brazen declaration of the naked power over ordinary civilians troubling at best — horrifyingly evocative of Hitler’s regimented minions, at worst.
Before SLMPD claim they didn't chant "Who's streets our streets" here's the raw video that caught it https://t.co/RAvafQ9Acr
— Stlouisx50 (@stlouisx50) September 18, 2017
Demonstrations and protests began as community leaders vowed they would in anticipation of Friday’s acquittal by a federal judge of former officer Jason Stockley in the 2011 killing of unarmed Anthony Lamar Smith — despite department video revealing the officer stating he would “kill” the suspect just minutes before so doing, among other factors in a lengthy list pointing to his guilt.
Worse, DNA lifted from a firearm at the scene was found only to be Stockley’s — not Smith’s — leading to the logical conclusion by the victim’s family and rational people everywhere that the gun had been planted by the malicious cop to justify murder.
Stockley opted not to exercise his right to trial by a jury of his peers — a move the cynical deemed excessive, as police rarely face punishment from juries for killing civilians under any circumstances — instead, leaving his fate in the hands of one quite sympathetic federal judge.
For residents of St. Louis and Ferguson, the cold-blooded slaying of another unarmed black man by yet another trigger-happy, white cop seems uncannily reminiscent of the August 2014 gunning down of unarmed teenager, Mike Brown, by controversial former officer Darren Wilson — also subsequently cleared of wrongdoing for taking human life — and months of bloody rioting, clashes, anger, promises of reform, and oversight by the Department of Justice.
But, for all intents and purposes, nothing of substantial impact has yet been accomplished in the Missouri city’s notoriously inept and violent policing since the fatal shooting of Brown.
Indeed, if anything, the arrogant usurpation of an activist slogan championing the power of the people against oppression as ostensively enshrined in the Constitution, reveals an icily fascistic, ‘Thin Blue Line,’ clan mentality — alive and thriving among the gun-and-badge sector — as if law enforcement took the lessons of the Ferguson protests and review by DOJ as license to enact revenge upon the same marginalized, targeted population and their supporters and advocates, as well as against journalists and legal observers who should never be subject to arrest while documenting public incidents.
To wit, independent journalist and livestreamer, Jon Ziegler, known by his documentarian moniker, Rebelutionary_Z or Rebel Z, found himself lumped in with the large group detained and pepper-sprayed by police, who claimed protesters destroyed property and hurled items at authorities. On video recorded of the incident, Ziegler captured officers threatening the group with canisters of spray, screaming for all to flatten themselves on the asphalt, and carelessly deploying chemical agent against those apparently not moving quickly enough — as well as in the faces of those who did nothing discernibly errant, whatsoever.
Tellingly, officers are overheard calling Ziegler — who gained social media and journalistic prominence streaming video during the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota — a “superstar,” just before pressing his head into the pavement forcefully enough to evoke a scream of agony from the reporter.
While it is common among independent media amid the current push by the State to quash dissent, to use particular vigilance in the presence of law enforcement, officers in St. Louis appear to be actively picking off and taking down livestreamers with large followings — Derk Brown, a streamer well-known for documenting the Ferguson protests three years ago, was also arrested.
Video captured Brown’s suspicious arrest, as he walked away from the calmed protest, a shot rings out just before he yells in pain — which The Daily Haze surmised to be a ‘less-than lethal’ round like a rubber bullet or beanbag — just prior to being roughly tackled to the ground by officers pursuing him without explanation.
Although the Daily Haze contacted police on behalf of Ziegler, an associate, for comment, charges, bail, and other information, a series of transfers to the chief ended in a disconnection of the call — intentional or accidental, unclear — by authorities.
Something isn’t right in St. Louis; nor is it in Charlottesville, North Dakota, Texas, nor a slew of places across the United States, where the blind worship of authority — not the dutifully patriotic criticism of the creep of fascism and government violence against the people — actively assists the evisceration of everyone’s rights and freedoms.
What better evidence of totalitarianism than militarized officers tasked only with enforcing our nefariously extensive laws with brutal and deadly force, marching lockstep down city streets in the near geographic center of the contiguous U.S., chanting thunderously — as if anyone gazing upon this Orwellian scene and the reason protests visited St. Louis yet again could mistake it — that these are, indeed, their streets.
And that’s the point — that American authorities run the streets — killing and intimidating with impunity, shooting dogs, cats, kids, or anything that moves or looks askance, while a ludicrously large proportion of the populace falls over one another to praise the jackboots over the people incidentally fighting for their rights, too.
When a people have been repressed, oppressed, and targeted to the point of exhaustion, reclaiming “the streets” isn’t an act of possession or dominance, it’s a virulent expression of decades of frustration bellowed into deaf ears to no discernible result — the chant is a reminder to the world they do in fact exist and continue to face horrendous misbehavior from police whether or not the corporate press is there to film.
But when police claim the same of those same streets — our streets — it’s more than just the pavement in danger of being taken.