By Richard Mellor Afscme Local 444, retired
Watching the George Stephanopoulos interview of Darren Wilson (below) the cop that killed the unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri, it is clearly a carefully crafted 45 minutes designed to portray Wilson as the victim. Conservatives, right-wingers and outright racists will praise it of course. The idea is to show that Wilson had no choice; he was defending his life, and who in America doesn’t think someone has a right to kill to defend one’s life?
But working class people of all backgrounds, those who are troubled by this, should not be fooled by this attempt to show that Wilson, who describes himself in the video as a “simple guy” had no choice but to kill Brown.
Stephanopoulos asks the right questions, makes sure we are told early of Wilson’s recent marriage and his new baby and how on the very day he confronted two black youth for walking in the street, he went to help a little baby that was having some problem. Wilson just loves where he works. Ferguson is a “great community” he tells his interviewer. Not “great” enough for him to want to move there mind you. It would make sense if one loves a community so much and works in it to protect its occupants one would want to live among them; in fact, they would want you there. Wilson is very hurt by the burning and looting in this community he loves so much.
Stephanopoulos’ intention in his interview as a media representative of the 1%, is to show beyond a reasonable doubt that Wilson had no choice that day but to kill Michael Brown and he gives Wilson numerous opportunities to emphasize the point. The police have to be defended. But Wilson had the opportunity to diffuse the situation from the beginning. He took the time to stop and reproach two youth for walking in the street in what really is their community. Take a look at the street in the interview with Dorian Johnson, in the video above. It’s not a freeway; it’s like any residential area street. Why would Wilson bother? Two young people were skateboarding down my street yesterday, it happens all the time. Contrast the Wilson interview with Dorian Johnson’s. The liberal newscasters NBC interview with Johnson just happened to point out when Johnson said Brown’s hands were not inside the car contradicting Wilson’s account, that “Some forensic evidence suggests that they were in there.” Very subtle, you see, Johnson can’t be believed can he?
Dorian Johnson told Wilson that they were almost at their destination but that didn’t satisfy Wilson either. In the Stephanopoulos interview Wilson claims he was very polite. Johnson agrees that he asked them to move to the sidewalk but it was not in the manner Wilson claims, rather a “Get the fuck on the sidewalk”. Just look at the way Stephanopoulos responds when Wilson says the two youth were “walking in the middle of the street”. He responds, “Middle of the street!!” He is surprised--he emphasizes the point. He does this not because he doesn’t get it, he does it because he wants the viewer to have an image in our head that this is a major artery, that cars are whizzing by, traffic is everywhere and lives are in danger. Wilson is making sure the members of his “great” community are safe.
Wilson admits he never had his car in park; it was in drive. So when his suggestion, no matter how it was delivered, was not received well and things started to escalate, why didn’t he just press the gas pedal and leave? There was no crime committed but jaywalking.
And here is why working class people should not be fooled by the Wilson interview, not be conned or distracted by the image we get of Wilson and that of Brown or his partner Johnson. How can we believe Johnson, look at him, he has dreads and tattoos on his neck. He is a black male that lives in the hood; he’s guilty right away, can’t be trusted. We must not concentrate on the details of this interaction because that is not what’s at stake here. But even if we do, Wilson could have easily prevented it, even as a cop. There was no reason to approach them in the first place and he could have easily driven off. He had no reason to suspect them he admits it. Only after the confrontation got nasty, did he see the stolen cigarillos. It could have all been avoided had Brown “complied” Wilson says. I know through experience that black youth in these communities put up with harassment and disrespect from cops every single day.
Stephanopoulos talks of the fabric of Ferguson being torn apart. What does he care about Ferguson? This man is a major political figure from one of the main Wall Street Parties. He is a dominant representative of the ruling class in this country as is Elizabeth Warren and Robert Reich and others who are whining about inequality in response to the growing anger they see in society and the potential for social unrest. They are part of the forces that are waging a war against American workers and youth and a violent one against workers abroad. Stephanopoulos was a leading figure in a government that kicked working class women off welfare. And remember Nafta?
I used to live in a community not unlike Ferguson. “I help people, that’s my job” Wilson, the “simple” guy, tells his boss, because that’s really what Stephanopoulos is, Wilson’s boss. “I help people, that’s my job.”. Wilson tells him, and we know which people he helps and its not workers or the folks in Ferguson.
If the police were there to “help” people in these extremely depressed communities or society as a whole, they wouldn’t evict families from their homes at the behest of the bankers and moneylenders. They wouldn’t ensure scabs can get through picket lines when workers are on strike to maintain our standard of living or improve it. They are not in Ferguson to protect people; they are there to suppress revolt. This does not mean we never call the police. But the issue of public safety, how we can self organize and provide it in our communities and how we can make that transition is a matter for further discussion.
Stephanopoulos never talked of the terrible conditions among the poor in places like Ferguson and throughout the US, not just blacks in the inner cities, but places like West Virginia which is like a third world country. He never asked Wilson if he felt any sympathy for the young people with no jobs, no future, poor housing, poor amenities. Wilson chose to be a cop, he chose to be a policeman for the 1%, for the bankers and the billionaires and other thugs who run the country. He is not a “normal” guy. He has a “sector” to patrol and it doesn’t include Wall Street or the Hamptons.
Wilson told Stephanopoulos the area he stopped Brown and Johnson is an “anti-police” neighborhood. There’s crime, drugs, robberies etc. To be a policeman in this situation you have chosen to ensure that one of the most victimized and oppressed sections of the working class remains in that condition and in particular don’t organize to change it. If Brown and Johnson organized mass occupations of vacant commercial property or the property of absentee landlords, while calling for decent houses and jobs, in other words, if they took action politically, Wilson’s job would be to arrest them for that. When you choose to be a cop that’s what you are agreeing to do.
This killing occurred because Wilson chose that route. He chose to be a cop. He chose to stop two youth doing nothing but walking down the street in their own neighborhood that Wilson wouldn’t live in if you paid him to. When he says it’s a great community he’s a liar. He really believes the people in it are shit. The Israeli soldiers that patrol the occupied territories say they treat Palestinians like they are non-persons, like they don’t exist as people. It’s very similar with the police occupation of the inner cities.*
I feel compelled to write this commentary because watching the Stephanopoulos interview drove home to me that we must not get sidetracked around a debate about an individual cop and events that took place, the actual specific details we know very little about. This is about the role of the police in society, as a social force. It is about the mass media in society and whose interests it serves.
The retired police captain Ray Lewis, who has come out in support of the protesters has attacked the system as corrupt, has stated that the police are there to oppress “not only the black community but also the whites”. He is correct about that. We have stated many times on this blog that the US ruling class is forced by the system to place the US workers and middle class on rations. Globalization has intensified this war at home. What the black and poor communities face on a regular basis will be seen more often in white working class communities and in labor management disputes as people are forced to fight back against the capitalist offensive, against the 1%’s attempts to drive us back to conditions that existed prior to the two great uprisings that shook US society to its foundations; the Civil Rights Movement and the factory occupations and rise of industrial unionism and the CIO in the thirties.
It should come as no surprise that Wilson is a free man. It’s not about how he felt at the time.The state cannot undermine its own immediate defense forces. Who would become a cop? How reliable would they be? Since the Occupy Movement, the state has beefed up its internal police forces. The 1% has not militarized the police, taken steps to militarize the schools and stocked up on all sorts of military weaponry and vehicles to let them sit idle. They are preparing for the battles that are ahead as the US working class is forced to confront this capitalist offensive. Apart from such brutality as slavery, read some labor history, it will remind you of the violence that has been committed against workers, throughout this country’s history. Working class people fought ferociously and frequently paid with their lives providing us with the rights and social advantages we have today.
The elephant in the room here is the right wing bureaucracy that sits atop organized Labor. Where are they? Why is any movement of this type led by the Sharpton's and co, or at least why do they have the influence they do in it? The bureaucracy and its huge army of staff that acts to suppress any militant movement from below that threatens the relationship they have built based on labor peace are silent on all these major issues. One Ferguson worker last time said that he approached his union and they said it was, "not their fight." If they were worth anything at all, the entire executive board of the AFL-CIO would leave their comfortable offices in Washington and lead the protests in Ferguson. The unchecked anger that leads to damage and destruction would find another outlet were there a clear alternative and the potential power of organized labor could provide it. I know it’s a no brainer as they won’t even defend the members that pay their salaries and that is why we have to build a united direct action movement that can lead an offensive of our own.
Obama has already made the governments position very clear, there’s “no excuse” for rioting----what hypocrisy. He has said that the US is a country of laws. He wouldn't have been able to eat in restaurants in the South if people hadn't broken laws. The 1% and their media cares nothing about these communities until the anger boils over and then they condemn them for it. So I stress that the real power, the state and its representatives are off the hook if we only focus on individuals, that’s what Stephanopoulos’ interview is all about. But if we do choose to make a decision on this issue based on a comment here or a there or a difference of opinion about what actually took place between Wilson and Brown, or if we want to believe that Johnson is a liar and Wilson isn’t. We might consider what Wilson said when his buddy George Stephanopoulos asked him about racism:
“You can’t perform the duties of a police officer and have racism in you.”, Wilson replied.
If you believe that I have a good deal on a bridge for sale.
* You can find out more about the Israeli's who are speaking out about the abuses in the Occupied Territories at their Breaking the Silence Facebook Page
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