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Tuesday, 21 October 2014 07:28

In Ferguson, the Grand Jury Is Out and the Fix Is in

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aaaHandsUp(Photo: Jamelle Bouie)Over the weekend, while a white riot occurred in New Hampshire over something to do with pumpkins, grand jury deliberations continued in Ferguson, Missouri, in the case of the killing of Michael Brown. A parallel federal civil rights investigation into the shooting continues. Darren Wilson, the officer who killed Brown, has offered his version of the story to both – and his testimony has now been leaked to the press. Unsurprisingly, it contradicts the eyewitness accounts that have thus far emerged in the case, and continues to paint Brown as the an aggressor who had to be killed in the incident.

Wilson claims that it was Brown who lunged through the window of Wilson’s vehicle. That it was Brown who left Wilson with multiple facial injuries. That it was Brown who went for Wilson’s gun. That it was Brown who so terrified Wilson, that the six-year police veteran shot him, leaving blood splattered on the inside of the police car. That it was Brown who, in running away and attempting to surrender, was such a significant threat that Wilson was compelled to shoot him at least five more times as Brown fled.

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Wilson’s testimony is consistent with the narrative that the Ferguson police department has been attempting to sell since the day of the incident: Wilson was threatened; Wilson was attacked. Wilson feared for his life; Wilson defended himself with lethal gunfire against a man who stood at least 35 feet away. Parts of that narrative have already been shown to be false. Brown was closer to 100 feet away when Wilson fired the killing shots, far outside the distance at which he could have posed an imminent threat. The facial wounds that Wilson suffered at Brown’s hands? They were so minor that Wilson never even bothered to consult with medics who were on the scene. Piece by piece, the threads of the police narrative are becoming unwoven.

This is, of course, the rankest nonsense, but the fact that it has been leaked to the press suggests that this nonsense might be taken seriously, that the grand jury might actually find it credible that Wilson feared for his life, both in the initial confrontation, and in the seconds that followed. If that is indeed the direction they are leaning, they will ignore Wilson’s accountability for Brown's murder.

It was Wilson who initiated the incident. It was Wilson who set the aggressive tone of the confrontation. It was Wilson who shot a man who first was running away, and then attempting to surrender. It was Wilson who was the man with the gun. But that man, it seems, is more credible, because his gun comes attached to a badge and no one with a badge would ever lie, right?

Nope. Never...or maybe always when at fault.

And so it seems this case may very well follow a similar path to so many other instances of police violence. In this case, there will probably be no trial. The federal civil rights investigation will continue, though it is unlikely to result in much; proving that Darren Wilson explicitly intended to violate Michael Brown’s civil rights is not an easy task. There will be lawsuits and, perhaps, a settlement. And, in the end, Michael Brown is in the ground while Darren Wilson is free and alive – and very possibly will return to policing.

In the initial days following the killing of Brown, Ferguson was wracked with protests and police overreaction. A second wave of protests began in mid-October, leading to multiple arrests. Should the grand jury do what it is hinting at, more waves of outrage are guaranteed. Given the level of restraint shown by Ferguson police in the past months, there may be tear gas, more arrests, and likely viral videos officers with carte blanche to beat up people and arrest them.

And that will probably be that. There is a horrible feeling of inevitability to this story. Despite all the action and protest, despite the nationwide publicity and debate, despite it all, it is far too familiar for us to have any hope that it will have a different ending than most police brutality cases in the United States.

Activism and a demand for justice, however, can make a difference. Just look at the Civil Rights movement. But that social and legislative change came after a long hard struggle. In the United States, history has shown that progressive movements only succeed when they dig in for the long haul.

Yes, in the case of Michael Brown, the fix may be in. Resignation, nonetheless, is not an alternative.

In the words of Frederick Douglass, “Power concedes nothing without a demand.”

We must keep vigorously and fearlessly demanding civil police behavior and accountability.


Akira Watts failed to graduate with a B.A. in philosophy from Amherst College and now does an assortment of IT related things. He has been writing a literary choose-your-own-adventure work about the rise and fall of an avant-garde artistic collective for the past five years. He lives in Santa Fe, NM with an elderly chow-chow. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..