Ferguson Files: Memento Mori

It was a small gathering this past Monday night.  Consisting of mostly neighbors and the family that has sprung from the hearts of the protest.  There to stand vigil and remember.  Michael Browns’ grandmother was also there.  Yes, the one whos’ house he was visiting that fateful day.  She couldn’t speak, overcome by emotion still.  We waited a bit as traffic was thick and then, a few words, a few songs, a prayer as we shivered in the February chill.

It felt small, somehow incomplete as a commemoration of the last 6 months we’ve all gone through.  Many decided we’d meet in a bit across from thb

The Ferguson Police Dept., sort of for old times sake.  I and my photographer got there, said “hi” to Ms. Sully at Subway and wandered off tb

To find Chinese food.  Twenty minutes later, we’re back with our food and there are about 15 people there.  Some started across the street to the PD parking lot.  My partner and I rolled our eyes at each other, thinking, “here we go!”.  But we’d been wrong.  No police.  It seemed like the kids were drawing on the sidewalk and asphalt from where we were. (we found out later they were using washable chalk)  One thing is for sure, there weren’t any police running out of the building onto them.

A Lincoln Navigator sized SUV pulled up from the back of the PD lot.  He seemed to be riding right behind the chalker group and tailing the livestreamer Heather De Maia who is wheelchair bound due to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and totally unable to chalk.  The SUV stopped about 20 feet from where the driveway to the street begins.  An order was given for all to disperse, so the chalkers, livestreamers, photographers and protesters all complied and crossed the street to a private lot we’ve permission to be on.  By this time, another overly large SUV had joined the first one.  They just sat there until the last person reached the other side of a 5 lane street.  The last person was Heather, in her wheelchair.

Suddenly, the SUV’s screeched across the street so fast they could barely brake in time to avoid jumping the sidewalk.  I was certain someone was going to be run over, and that person would be Heather!  Her chair was just in between the bumper of a car IN the lot and the bumper of the PD SUV.  Behind the SUV came about 20 uniformed police, most with tazers already deployed.  The mob of police overwhelmed the small crowd.  An out of state photographer was smashed to the ground, along with his very expensive equipment. (Later returned to him broken).  Two people who were filming with their phones were roughly arrested as well.  (Their phones came back damaged) And then there was Heather, she was unceremoniously dumped from her chair, and while her chair was being searched, she was hit in the face, by an officer, resulting in her glasses flying over 10ft. into the roadway.  In amidst all this, there were shouts of, “Move and I’ll taze you Mother Fucker”, “Get your hands where I can see them or I’ll shoot.” “Don’t run or I’ll shoot!”  Remember, we are talking maybe 15 people in and out of cars, not hundreds.

They chased a minor 1/2 block and into a store in order to arrest “that little Fing n**** that ran off” (spoken by a black officer). These particular officers were assisted by 2 non-uniform men who came out of the Fire Dept.  When I, my photographer and another Legal Observer, started to move across the street to assist Heather and others, we were also threatened with arrest if we moved one more step.  Personally, I was trying to get to Heather’s Mom who was in her van watching them cart her daughter off and crying.  I was not allowed to do so, but I caught her eye and motioned for her to back up and come to the sidewalk we were on.

One aside: Heather does what she does because she feels she must.  She’s really good at it too.  Her mother, despite the fact she worries about her, supports her in her activism and livestreaming.  Her mother and I have become friends and her mother has come to understand that I will keep a special eye out for Heather during actions.  So, sometimes, she leaves Heather “with me”, though Heather is not in my charge or any such thing. Heather, is very much her own person.

Once the police had thrown Heather and six others into the backs of the SUV’s, and I do mean thrown, they retreated to the back of the PD across the street.  Heather’s mother and I immediately went to start demanding Heather have a medical evaluation immediately.  Her condition can kill her in minutes once an internal bleed starts.

After 4 calls and 45 minutes, Heather’s mother was able to go see her and eventually get her out.  She was charged with disorderly conduct and defacing public property.  Yep, 2 things she literally, physically can not do.

The others were detained and charged without being read their rights. They were charged with everything from “manner of walking” (covered in an earlier File), to destruction of police property and resisting arrest.  Pictures were taken, but not for the mug shot record.  They were taken for the “Known Agitators” Bulletin Board the PD put in downstairs.  Not a single pale face on it!

The interesting take away by all there was that this particular police action was severely, overly aggressive as if they now believe, in light of no charges or lawsuits etc. being brought against Officer Wilson or the Ferguson PD, they have a warped sort of permission to be as brutal as they want to be especially if they outnumber us, let alone out gun us…we are peaceful protesters after all.

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