The Absurd Double Standard in Ferguson's Protest Policing

August 11th 2015

Nicole Charky

A state of emergency was enacted on Monday night in Ferguson, Missouri, after the the second day of protests and arrests. And in what the Guardian describes as "a surreal twist," four white, heavily armed men in bulletproof vests and camouflage gear from a militia group that calls itself the "Oath Keepers" arrived at the location as crowds began to disperse.

This group describes itself as an association of current and former U.S. soldiers and police who aim to protect the U.S. Constitution, Reuters reported. Nonprofit civil rights organization the Southern Poverty Law Center describes the "Oath Keepers" as a "fiercely anti-government, militaristic group." St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar condemned their appearance in Ferguson and said he would work with county prosecutors to confirm if the men had broken any laws by carrying sidearms in addition to combat-style rifles.

"Their presence was both unnecessary and inflammatory," Belmar said.

But many have argued that the police's tolerance of the heavily armed, white oathkeepers highlights a double standard:

The Oathkeepers claimed that they had come to guard a journalist from the conservative website Infowars.com when asked why they carried those weapons, according to NBC. 

What else happened last night in Ferguson?

Police in riot gear arrested 23 people allegedly involved in throwing glass bottles, frozen water bottles, and rocks at police officers along West Florissant Avenue from 9:30 p.m. Monday to 12:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Sunday was the one-year anniversary of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown's death at the hands of a police officer, Darren Wilson. Wilson was exonerated of any wrongdoing after a Justice Department probe and a Missouri grand jury determined that, contrary to several witness reports, Brown did not have his arms raised at the time of the shooting and that the officer acted in self-defense. That conclusion has been contested by many, leading to widespread protests and debates over racial bias in policing.

It's been 1 year since Michael Brown's death in Ferguson, Miss...

It's been 1 year since Michael Brown's death in Ferguson, Missouri. #BlackLivesMatter

Posted by ATTN: on Sunday, August 9, 2015

In response to the anniversary of Brown's death, on Monday, dozens of protesters were arrested in acts of civil disobedience, including leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement DeRay McKesson, Johnetta Elzie and Kayla Reed, according to the Washington Post. Protesters at the scene were calling for the U.S. government to disband the Ferguson Police Department, the St Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Cornel West and the Rev. Osagyefo Sekou were also among those detained at the same protest in front of the Federal Courthouse in Downtown St. Louis, where the Dred Scott case, which strengthened slavery and hastened the start of the Civil War, was heard in 1852 by the Missouri Supreme Court before going to the U.S. Supreme Court.

According to McKesson and Reed, they were arrested by law enforcement, turned over to U.S. Marshals, and placed in a holding cell. By early Tuesday they were released and gave their account of what happened.

In another series of arrests at about 5:30 p.m. Monday, during protests that shut down an area of eastbound and westbound traffic along Highway 70 and Earth City Expressway, law enforcement officers from the St. Louis County Police, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Maryland Heights Police Department, and St. Charles City Police Department arrested 64 demonstrators.

Earlier Monday, at about 10:30 a.m., activists had begun to raise a banner in front of the St. Louis arch.

The move came after a night of violence Sunday and early Monday, when a 17-year-old and 19-year-old man were walking on the sidewalk near the Michael Brown memorial, near the Canfield Apartments at about 2:15 a.m. when an unknown man described by police as a "black male wearing a red hooded sweatshirt" started shooting from the rear passenger side of a vehicle, according to a news release from the Ferguson Police Department. The 17-year-old victim was shot once in the chest and shoulder, and the 19-year-old victim was shot once in the chest, according to police. Both victims were taken to a hospital and suffered non-life threatening injuries.

Late Sunday, an 18-year-old man was shot and critically injured after he allegedly opened fire on four plainclothes police officers near a group of protestors in Ferguson. St. Louis County Police identified the man as Tyrone Harris Jr.

At least one other unidentified man was allegedly involved in the shooting, but his whereabouts are currently unknown, the Associated Press wrote. Harris was spotted by St. Louis County detectives running south on West Florissant Avenue, a street that has been the scene of many demonstrations since the killing of Michael Brown, and when the officers pursued the suspect, he reportedly shot at the unmarked vehicle and continued running.

"The suspect once again stopped, turned, and reengaged the detectives, who returned fire, striking the suspect multiple times," the police wrote in a press release. "The detectives immediately called for an ambulance to respond to the scene."

An unverified video appears to show Harris, bloodied and surrounded by two police officers. The person recording was told not to resist, handcuffed, and then later released.

ATTN: will provide additional information about the situation in Ferguson as it becomes available.