Black Agenda Report’s Glen Ford examines the role law enforcement, grassroots movements and the Democratic Party will play in the aftermath of the grand jury decision on whether to indict officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown
JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore. And welcome to this latest edition of the Ford report.
All eyes are on Ferguson, Missouri ahead of the anticipated grand jury decision whether to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the killing of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown.
Now joining us to discuss this is Glen Ford. He’s the editor of Black Agenda Report.
Thank you so much for joining us again, Glen.
GLEN FORD, EXEC. EDITOR, BLACK AGENDA REPORT: Thank you for the opportunity.
NOOR: So, Glen, I think a lot of people are sort of preparing for the worst, or in their view the worst, which would be officer Darren Wilson not being charged for the killing of Michael Brown, which has kind of been–it’s been confirmed through the various leaks through the media that the authorities in Ferguson have carried out for the last several weeks and months. What’s the mood right now? And talk about what’s going to happen next.
FORD: Well, the worst that people might expect is actually the most likely, and organizers have spoken of going ahead with protests, with demonstrations, even in the unlikely event that there is an indictment against Darren Wilson. After all, the community has been aggrieved, the community has lost one of its own, the community has been assaulted by the police, the community has been put under great strain, and its dignity has been assaulted as well, so that even if the officer is indicted, there is, of course, real reason for protest.
Both sides, the people in power and the people who are challenging power, are undergoing tests that certainly will begin whenever the grand jury comes down with its decision. Those of us who are hoping for a new and rejuvenated youth movement, there are tests to be passed here in terms of the capabilities of this nascent movement.
But the police are under a challenge as well. So let’s get to them first. Their challenge is rather simple. They have to show that they can exert authority without maiming or killing black protesters and without showing the entire world–and the world is watching–without showing the world the image of a U.S. that is policed by brutal occupation armies. So in that kind of sense, this is shaping up as a test of the United States on an international scale.
I think it’s very similar to the test that was presented to President Eisenhower back in 1957 in Little Rock Arkansas. Back then–and we have to note that President Eisenhower was himself a segregationist–back then, vicious mobs of racist white people were cursing and screaming and threatening to kill young black schoolchildren who were involved in integrating the schools. And Eisenhower, in order to protect the image of the United States, was forced to activate federal troops to contain people, those white racists, with whom he historically had had a sympathy. But he had to make a choice, and he chose to defend the image of the United States. And that was, I believe, a very, very important moment in U.S. history and in the history of the black movement.
Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri, who’s declared a state of emergency [crosstalk]
NOOR: And I think it’s important to note that he’s a Democrat here.
FORD: That’s right. He’s Democrat. But I think in those environs you can’t tell the difference. In fact, you can’t tell the difference in most parts of the country anymore between Republicans and Democrats. Certainly he’s been hostile to the movement. He certainly treats the movement as much more than just an irritant, and he postures for his racist electorate. So his challenge is not to embarrass the United States, and by extension, that’s the challenge for President Obama as well.
But the challenge that we really care about is the challenge that is presented to this nascent movement. And by that we mean not just the activists who are based in Ferguson, but also a national movement recognizing that there are national elements and have been national elements embedded in Ferguson for months now.
I think that the first part of this challenge has already been met, in that the black servants of power–and by that we mean, most notably, Reverend Al Sharpton, but also all those other luminaries that go under the category that we use at Black Agenda Report of the blackness leadership class–those servants of power [have] been able to contain the activists in Ferguson or around the country. Young people especially seem to reject that kind of leadership. And that is a victory in itself, and that will have real ramifications in the months and the years ahead in terms of what is going to be the character of this new black leadership. We know that many of these misleaders met with President Obama back on November 5. If they told him that they had it under control, then they were lying.
I think it’s also really significant that there are so many different voices and different kinds of voices represented in Ferguson, that this is a raucous and contentious and noisy movement. And that is how it should be, because there is nothing that is more worthy of argument than the liberation of a people. So it ought to be raucous and contentious.
But at the same time, we’re seeing lots of discipline, so that just as the police are training all the time and assembling all of their gear, their riot gear and such, the people are also training for occupations and traffic blocking and assembling medical gear.
Finally, I think one of the most heartening elements that’s shaping up is that already this young movement in Ferguson is engaged in the battle over community control of police. I think that in an objective way, that battle has already been joined, because they’re making demands in terms of rules of engagement, how the police should conduct themselves. These are people without power making demands on how police should conduct themselves. They’re talking about police respecting [inaud.] police are expected to stay away.
And this is [the way] that community control, an effort to establish the power that then leads to community control, should be gone about–not by lawyers in suits who take all the energy of the movement, and certainly not by a bunch of accommodationist preachers whose job is to contain the movement.
And finally, there’s a challenge in Ferguson to those organizations around the country who’ve already pledged in–the “next day pledge”, they call it–to bring out crowds of people into the streets in their cities as soon as the grand jury comes down with the decision. Now, naturally, most of these organizations will not be satisfied with their own mobilizations on those next-day demonstrations, but the mere commitment to put their own organizations to the test is a commitment to the longevity of this struggle, to a recognition that something new may be in the offing.
NOOR: Now, Glen, I wanted to ask you about that, because he mentioned the national movements that went to Ferguson, that are in Ferguson, that are trying to subdue the protests. But would you agree that at least part of the outcome of the protests in Ferguson will be shaped by the solidarity and other support they get from around the U.S. and around the country? So I wanted to ask you, what role can that be for everyone that can’t make it to Ferguson? What can they be doing? ‘Cause we saw after the first few weeks in what happened in Ferguson, there were solidarity marches and protests and vigils in many cities rather country and the world.
FORD: That’s right, and there’s been a pledge from a lot more people to have a lot more of that, to turn out the troops and to see what these various local organizations around the country are capable of in kind of a gearing-up for a larger struggle that people are expecting or at least hoping to be involved in. After so many decades of this movement being not just moribund, but in some ways nonexistent, people are flexing to see if the muscles still work, if all the extremities are connected, and if people have forgotten lessons learned a long time ago and have the capability to take on power, which in the 21st century operates with an efficiency and viciousness that really, really is outsized in terms of the ’60s movement.
NOOR: And you touched upon the underlying racism and discrimination that residents of Ferguson and Missouri face every day. And when we were in Ferguson back in August, we heard of a report done by the local public defender’s office, which found that the second-highest source of revenue for the city of Ferguson is actually giving out tickets to mostly black residents who are mostly poor. And that’s the second-highest municipal revenue for this town. So it’s going to–.
FORD: Yes, I’m told that in Ferguson there are on average three warrants per household. So you would have a mother, a father, and one of the children all having outstanding warrants, almost all of these related to traffic. That’s crazy. I’ve never heard of a situation with that kind of density of warrants. It’s as if everybody is warranted, there’s papers on everyone, and that the police could, based on those statistics, just snatch anyone off the street and with a good bet that that person has a warrant.
NOOR: So we’re certainly going to keep following developments in Ferguson, and we’re going to keep following developments as far as the fight for criminal economic justice in that town as well. So thank you so much for joining us, Glen Ford.
FORD: Thank you.
NOOR: And thank you for joining us at The Real News Network.
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