Black leftists don’t like President Obama condemning violent protesters and looters in Ferguson alongside the police. On MSNBC Wednesday afternoon, professor Michael Eric Dyson called this balanced approach a “low moment” in the Obama presidency.
“He's got the bully pulpit. Be a bully in the pulpit but don't bully black people. Yesterday was a low moment in the Obama presidency because he distracted attention away from the facts of the case. A white police officer armed to the teeth with a gun has killed an unarmed black youth. The president turned this into a referendum, if you will, on internal machinations of black criminality and the politics of black respectability as opposed to the facts at hand.” Dyson would really hate a Washington Post story on Wednesday that laid out what some of those violent men had to say.
Emily Wax-Thibodaux and Deneen Brown weren’t criticizing the protesters, but merely let them talk:
Each evening, hundreds gather along West Florissant in what has become the most visible and perilous ritual of this St. Louis suburb’s days of frustration following Brown’s death. Dozens have been arrested, many injured by tear-gas canisters and rubber bullets fired by a police force dressed in riot gear and armed with assault rifles.
But the demonstrators are as diverse as their grievances — and in their methods of addressing them.
Some of the men are from the area — Ferguson or surrounding towns also defined in part by the gulf separating the mostly white law enforcement agencies from a mistrusting African American public. Many others — it is hard to quantify the percentage — have arrived by bus and by car from Chicago, Detroit, Brooklyn and elsewhere.
They will not give their names. But their leaders say they are ready to fight, some with guns in their hands. “This is not the time for no peace,” said one man, a 27-year-old who made the trip here from Chicago.
He spoke after a small group of fellow militants held a meeting behind a looted store, sketching out ambitions for the days ahead.
“We are jobless men, and this is our job now — getting justice,” he said. “If that means violence, that’s okay by me. They’ve been doing this to us for years.”
....Then there are the looters, leaderless men who under cover of nightly political protest target liquor stores, beauty-supply shops and other businesses with inventories easy to sell and in high demand.
Ferguson police officials would not quantify how many looters have been arrested since the Brown shooting but presented a Washington Post reporter with a stack of roughly 50 arrest reports. While some of those arrested for stealing are from Ferguson, a large number have addresses listed in Illinois or in Texas.
“It’s like looting tourism,” an officer commented as he showed the reports. He asked not to be named. “It’s like they are spending their gas money to come down here and steal.”
DeAndre Smith, fresh from looting the QuikTrip on a recent night, told reporters: “I’m proud of us. We deserve this, and this is what’s supposed to happen when there’s injustice in your community. St. Louis — not going to take this anymore.”
Many on the streets share that sentiment and feel, in terms of race relations, this city and its surrounding communities never emerged from the civil rights era. Two-thirds of Ferguson’s 21,000 residents are black, but only three of the police force’s 53 officers are.
....Among those who have arrived are self-described young activists, some of whom participated in the Occupy movement. Many of them are white and have been showing protesters how to assemble homemade gas masks — essentially surgical masks fortified with duct tape. But the peaceful protesters acknowledge they are probably in the minority as the crowd begins to swell on Ferguson’s streets after nightfall.
Dennis Brown, a community activist, described St. Louis and suburbs such as this one as a pot ready to boil over. He said social media has become, in ways similar to its use in recent popular uprisings in the Arab world, an essential organizing tool.
Brown said young people, including many of the “militants,” are organized on social media. “These young people aren’t dumb,” said Brown, 46. “They are organized. They are smart. They are like computer kings.”
He said that not all are from outside communities. Some are from Ferguson and have been informed by media, cinema and real-life events that to many of them resemble their own lives.
“They are not gang leaders. They are normal people. They are people showing their anger,” Brown said. “They see Trayvon Martin. They saw ‘Fruitvale Station.’ And before that, there was Rodney King. And those cops walk.”
“There’s always a time in history when great things happen to strike at the core of people,” he continued. “These young people are saying enough is enough.”