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2014-08-21

"Negro Spring": Ferguson Residents, Friends of Michael Brown Speak Out for Human Rights

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As peaceful protests continued Wednesday in Ferguson, Missouri, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder arrived in the city to meet with residents and FBI agents investigating the police shooting of Michael Brown. Democracy Now! traveled to Ferguson this week and visited the site where the 18-year-old Brown was killed. We spoke to young people who live nearby, including some who knew him personally. "He fell on his knees. Like, ’Don’t shoot.’ [The police officer] shot him anyway in the eye, the head, and four times down here," said one local resident Rico Like. "Hands up, don’t shoot is all I got to say. RIP Mike Brown."

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Peaceful protests continued last night in Ferguson, Missouri, over the fatal police shooting of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown. Police said six arrests were made last night. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder traveled to Ferguson on Wednesday. He told residents "change is coming."

ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: Why would I be anyplace other than right here, right now, you know, to talk to—with the people in this area who are deserving of our attention? We want to help, as best we can. And we also want to listen. That’s the main part of this trip. We want to listen, to hear about the issues that you all are dealing with and seeing. Are there ways in which we can help?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Eric Holder met with high school students in Ferguson and recalled how he had repeatedly been targeted by police officers because of his race. The nation’s first African-American attorney general also penned an editorial in the St. Louis Dispatch, in which he vowed to, quote, "ensure that this tragedy can give rise to new understanding—and robust action—aimed at bridging persistent gaps between law enforcement officials and the communities we serve."

AMY GOODMAN: Also on Wednesday, St. Louis County prosecutors began presenting evidence to a grand jury that will determine whether police officer Darren Wilson is charged with a crime for killing Michael Brown. County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch said the process could last through October. His team has already interviewed Wilson and says he’ll be offered the opportunity to testify. Outside the courthouse, protesters called for McCulloch to be replaced by a special prosecutor. They note McCulloch’s father, a police officer, was killed by an African American while on duty. McCulloch responded to the calls Wednesday during an interview on KTRS radio.

ROBERT McCULLOCH: I have absolutely no intention from walking away from the duties and the responsibilities entrusted in me by the people of this community. I’ve done it for 24 years. I’ve done, if I say so myself, a very good job at that. I’m fair and impartial in every matter that comes before us. So, when others come to me and say, you know, "We want you to go away"—and I understand that. That’s certainly—they have the ability and the right to do that. But I’ve tried to directly say, "Listen, I’m not going to do that. I am not walking away from this. I’ve been entrusted with these responsibilities." But I understand, of course, that having declared a state of emergency, Governor Nixon has the authority right now to say, "McCulloch is out of this case."

AMY GOODMAN: All of this comes as Officer Wilson remains on paid leave.

Meanwhile, a police officer caught on video threatening to kill peaceful protesters in Ferguson has been suspended indefinitely. The video from Tuesday night shows the officer pointing his semi-automatic assault rifle at protesters, saying he’ll kill them and telling them to, quote, "Go F— yourself."

Well, last night I returned from Ferguson, Missouri. While there, we visited the site where Michael Brown was killed, the road just outside the Canfield apartments. I spoke to young people who live nearby, including some of them who knew him. But first we stopped by a protest outside the Ferguson police station.

PROTESTER 1: Lean to the right! Lean to right!

CROWD: No justice, no peace!

PROTESTER 1: Lean to the left! Lean to the left!

CROWD: No justice, no peace!

PROTESTER 1: Lean to the right! Lean to right!

AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell me your name?

CAT DANIELS: Cat Daniels.

AMY GOODMAN: And is this your son?

CAT DANIELS: This is my grandson.

AMY GOODMAN: Your grandson. What’s your name?

DEANDRE SMITH: DeAndre Smith.

AMY GOODMAN: DeAndre, how old are you?

DEANDRE SMITH: Ten.

AMY GOODMAN: And what are you doing out here tonight?

DEANDRE SMITH: Well, I was hanging with my nana.

AMY GOODMAN: So, why are you here?

CAT DANIELS: I’m here because we want to know the truth. I think we deserve to know the truth. I think the Brown family deserves some justice. So, until, you know, we get some—I mean, you’ve got to, like, charge this guy or something. Can’t just kill a kid and think that everything’s going to be all right. It’s not.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell me what your T-shirt says.

CAT DANIELS: My T-shirt say, "Hands up, don’t shoot."

AMY GOODMAN: And your sign?

CAT DANIELS: My sign say, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free."

AMY GOODMAN: Do you know the Brown family?

CAT DANIELS: I don’t know the Brown family, but I don’t have to know them. We all standing behind them.

AMY GOODMAN: Where are we standing right now?

CAT DANIELS: Right now, we’re on Florissant, South Florissant Road, yeah. So, we’re over here by the Ferguson Police Department.

AMY GOODMAN: Why here? Why are you protesting here?

CAT DANIELS: Well, because this is a Ferguson police officer, so we need to come here, and we need to make them understand that we want justice. We’re not going to just stand around and let you just keep on running over people. This young man is 10 years old. I want to see him grow. I want to see him do something. My oldest grandson grew up, and you know what he did? He’s serving his country. So, you know, I think that young man should have had a chance to go to school and realize some dreams.

AMY GOODMAN: Your son, did he go to Iraq or Afghanistan?

CAT DANIELS: No, my daughter—we’re a Navy family, by the way. My husband is retired. My daughter’s still serving in Pearl Harbor, and my grandson’s in San Diego. Other son got out, and he’s in college. But I want these young ones to have their same chance.

AMY GOODMAN: DeAndre, what do you want to be when you grow up?

DEANDRE SMITH: Well, I want to be—I just want to serve our country so I can make a difference in the world.

PROTESTER 2: I’m a mother before I’m anything else. My young people, I know, y’all, we’ve been wronged right now. I know we’ve been wronged. They know they’ve been wrong. But it only changes when we work together as one.

AMY GOODMAN: So tell me your name, and tell me what your sign says. And what do you think?

RONA: My name is Rona. And my sign is "Negro Spring." The same as the Arabs fought for their rights, for their civil rights, to oust their corrupt government, we’re fighting for our civil rights, our human rights. We would like, as an end result to this, one of the end results, for there to be a law. Police officers should not be allowed to hide behind a badge when they commit a crime. When we commit a crime, we have the penalties. They should have penalties. It’s not fair. They should not be treated like extra special humans.

PROTESTER 3: What do we want?

CROWD: Justice!

PROTESTER 3: When do we want it?

CROWD: Now!

AMY GOODMAN: It’s around 10:00 at night, a gathering of several hundred people holding all sorts of signs, from "Negro Spring" to "Hands up, don’t shoot." They seem to be heading on down Florissant. They’re right across from the Ferguson police station, and there’s a line of riot police in front of the station. We’ll go over and talk to them, ask them what are their plans for tonight.

I was wondering what the plans are for the police tonight.

POLICE OFFICER 1: Ma’am, you’ll have to talk to the incident commander.

AMY GOODMAN: Is there any curfew tonight?

POLICE OFFICER 2: No, ma’am.

AMY GOODMAN: Have there been any charges announced or anything like that yet?

POLICE OFFICER 2: Not tonight that we’re aware of.

AMY GOODMAN: OK.

We leave the police station where the protesters have gathered across the street, and we headed to the Canfield apartments, the home of Michael’s grandmother. And there, in the middle of the road, just beyond the barricade, is the memorial for Mike Brown. The residents leave roses, pay their respects, walk around it, drive past. And people want to talk.

Hey, can you tell me your name?

STEVON STATOM: My name is Stevon Statom.

AMY GOODMAN: So you live here in the Canfield apartments?

STEVON STATOM: Yes, I do. I moved here last Friday. And—

AMY GOODMAN: Friday, August 8?

STEVON STATOM: Yes, August 8, yes, last Friday. And when I moved in that day, it was peaceful. Then, like, the next morning—I came, and I stayed right in that house right there. And that next morning, I woke up, and I found the body dead in the middle of the street. They left it out for like a good six to seven hours before they even tried to pick it up off the street.

AMY GOODMAN: This was Mike Brown’s body?

STEVON STATOM: Yes, Mike Brown.

AMY GOODMAN: In the middle of the street here.

STEVON STATOM: Yes, in the middle of the street. His monument is right there, if you want to go walk over there. It’s right in the middle of the street.

AMY GOODMAN: OK. Why don’t we go with you?

STEVON STATOM: We can go over there.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you moved here a day before he was killed. You walked outside on Saturday, August 9th, and you saw his body laying in the road. Was anyone around his body?

STEVON STATOM: Yes, it was a—they had, like—when I came outside, it was all blocked off, like the police blocked it off. But, like, they didn’t really try to pick the body up. They just left it there for like the whole world to see, just like everybody in the neighborhood. Like, I guess they was trying to show a point, like, "Don’t disrespect me, or this is going to happen to you." They just left it there for like a good seven or six hours. You know, they didn’t even try to pick it up.

AMY GOODMAN: Was his body covered when you saw him?

STEVON STATOM: No, no, no, no, no. He was just laying face down and dead in the middle of the street for hours.

AMY GOODMAN: You just laid a rose down?

STEVON STATOM: Yes, I did, to show my respect.

QUENTIN BAKER: That’s what they said they stole from the gas station, the rellos, the cigarillos. They got those laying down here.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell me your name.

QUENTIN BAKER: My name’s Quentin Baker.

AMY GOODMAN: And tell me what you’re wearing on your face. You’ve got the headband.

QUENTIN BAKER: I’ve got the Mike Brown headband, and the "No justice, no peace" over around my mouth.

AMY GOODMAN: And why around your mouth?

QUENTIN BAKER: I don’t know, just to cover up my face, just for the tear gas, you know?

AMY GOODMAN: Have you been tear-gassed yet?

QUENTIN BAKER: Yeah, twice. Two nights in a row.

AMY GOODMAN: And how old are you?

QUENTIN BAKER: I’m 19 years old.

AMY GOODMAN: And where do you live?

QUENTIN BAKER: I live in South County, South St. Louis.

AMY GOODMAN: And what brought you here?

QUENTIN BAKER: Mike Brown, all this. Came to support my city, that’s all.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you shocked by this?

QUENTIN BAKER: Yeah. Yeah, it’s very crazy. It’s wild. This is—I came to show some peace, you know?

AMY GOODMAN: What do you see here in this monument to Mike Brown that’s in the middle of the street—

QUENTIN BAKER: Just candles—

AMY GOODMAN: —where constantly cars are going by either side?

QUENTIN BAKER: Just candles and flowers and a cross, pictures of him, all over. There’s still blood. His blood is still on the street underneath the candle wax that’s been burned.

UNIDENTIFIED: So, this is like our awakening call to cry out for justice, to be heard. And that’s the only way that the youth know how to portray it. And hopefully we learn more and learn better ways to show it. But for now, this is our cry out for it.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you live here at the Canfield apartments?

UNIDENTIFIED: Yes. Yes, I live out here in St. Louis. I live out here in St. Louis on the south side. And I come out here to share my condolences, because I also knew the young fellow.

AMY GOODMAN: You knew Mike Brown?

UNIDENTIFIED: Yeah, and it’s tragedy, because he wasn’t the type of person that the news portray it. So—

AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us about Mike?

UNIDENTIFIED: A humble guy, Michael Brown was actually a good, kind-hearted person and had a good future, had a good head on his shoulders.

AMY GOODMAN: What’s your name?

UNIDENTIFIED: Undisclosed. Thank you.

RICO: I’m Rico, known in the neighborhood as Rico. I’m 22 years old.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you know Mike Brown?

RICO: Yes, I did. Yes, ma’am. He was a good friend of mine. Him and Dorian.

AMY GOODMAN: Dorian Johnson?

RICO: Yes. Yes, ma’am.

AMY GOODMAN: They were together.

RICO: Yes, ma’am.

AMY GOODMAN: Were you around on August 9?

RICO: I came after the shooting, after Mike was already pronounced dead.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell me a little about him? Did he live here?

RICO: Well, he got family that live over here in this building beside us and on up through Northwinds. He was a good friend of mine. He was a school graduate. I mean, a lot of people from black communities—you know, a lot of black people don’t graduate and finish school. They read about other stuff. And, you know, a lot of people in our community have drug addicts parents and stuff, so they have to feed for theirself and stuff and, you know, engage in stuff. And Mike wasn’t one of them. He was one of them guys who went to school, finished school. He had parents that was on him and supported him, you know.

So, this is just uncalled for. That’s how I feel. For real, that’s how I feel. This is really uncalled for, you know. Lost a good friend, you know? It’s just not right, when we live in captivity in this neighborhood, where they want to block us in and make us feel like we’re nothing, you know what I’m saying? Where like our word don’t—we have no say so. And we live here, and we pay rent here, and we’ve been here forever. Forever.

I just want justice served. I want to see Mike’s family happy and proud, knowing that this cop killer is off the streets and knowing that my black people is not being killed by another officer, by Darren Wilson or whoever he is, you know? But he hurt a lot of people. And my pain don’t stop. And I’m out here, and I’m going to continue being out here. I’m not going to stop. I’m not going to stop. Continue being out here supporting all my black brothers and stuff. I want them to know, I’m out here supporting, and I’m out here doing it for y’all. I like to see my young black people come together. And we all have—we all do this for Mike. I don’t want to see nobody out here looting, doing none of that stuff. I just want everybody to be peaceful, calm, when we do this for Mike. We march and everything, do this the right way.

AMY GOODMAN: Is there usually this much air traffic in the sky?

RICO: Yes, this has been going on every night. And there’s been kids getting maced, tear-gassed, rubber bullets. And the thing about it, it’s innocent people who live in this area. So you throw tear gas and all this stuff, and it’s messing up everybody. Everybody who want to step outside and go to their cars, they’re feeling this stuff in the air. It’s coming. Like, I had a struggle to fight just to walk from West Florissant back here to the Northwinds Bridge. I had to struggle and fight and just tell myself, "Keep going, keep going," because the tear gas was so strong, and it was breaking me down. I have asthma.

AMY GOODMAN: And in these apartments, you’re smelling the tear gas?

RICO: And the tear gas. The tear gas is all through here, in the homes, in everything. And they told us no curfew yesterday. By 9:00, 9:30, there was tear gas and everything. And the police officers told us theirself, "No curfew tonight. We’re going to do this the right way." But they lied to us. So, there it goes again. How are we supposed to feel like these officers can be trusted, and we’re supposed to call them for help and stuff, when at the same time we’re being abused and being lied to by you officers and being killed? And being killed, as black people. It hurts, you know? It hurts. It hurts.

AMY GOODMAN: Who made that sign behind you?

RICO: Which one? This cross?

AMY GOODMAN: Right under the cross. What does it say?

RICO: "Beware, killer cop on the loose. Watch out, children. Watch out, children." They say, "Watch out, children," because he killed the child, someone’s child. I have kids of my own. And it just hurts. Like I said, it hurts.

AMY GOODMAN: What’s your name?

JERODNEY MEEKS: My name’s Jerodney Meeks.

AMY GOODMAN: And how old are you?

JERODNEY MEEKS: I’m 26. So, he stopped the man for walking in the streets. Now, how do you get shot in your head two times and four times in your body? And he had his hands up, from the autopsy.

RICO: And if you’re trying to stop someone, and it’s to the point where you need to fire—the officers are trained. The officers are trained to fire at legs, tase, mace, whatever. There’s no reason for—

JERODNEY MEEKS: How did a headshot—

RICO: Yeah, how did that all happen?

AMY GOODMAN: Did you know Mike Brown?

JERODNEY MEEKS: I didn’t know him, but I always be over here in this community, and heard. You know, I’m not saying I’m a perfect man, but I have a past history. And, you know, I did done things in my past that I had to face my time in courts, you know? So, to see that happen to him, and I know I have done wrong, I don’t feel like it’s right, because I know my history. So, to see that innocent person to get killed on that matter—and it had nothing to do with what happened at Ferguson Market. It’s because he was walking in the street and refused to get on the side of the sidewalk. It’s not right. And I didn’t—you know, I’m not going to criminalize myself, but I did done a lot more wrong. And I did my time, you know, and I’m out. I’m a free man. I’m a changed man. You know, I got kids to take care of. But to see that that man didn’t have an opportunity to face his day in court, it all changed—and it didn’t even have nothing to do with Ferguson Market. So, at that moment, he wasn’t being charged with nothing. It’s just that the police seen him walking in the streets, told him to get on the side, he refused to. And whatever happened from that moment, I mean, I can’t really make accusations, because I wan’t here, but from what was told, you still shouldn’t have took that man’s life. Now, he can’t see—no, he can’t have kids, see his kids grow, teach them things about life. You know, he left nothing behind. And his family never—it’s like, all the years they took to shape him and to be this person, to go to school and better theirself—like me, I didn’t go to college, I didn’t graduate from high school. So, to see a man actually do something for himself to try to change, and get his life taken, it ain’t right.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell me your name and where you live?

KOREI MOORE: Korei Moore, and I stay in Northwinds Apartments. This is not only a African-American man, but a child, nonetheless. And another mother is, you know, burying their child or, you know, putting her child to rest. I was very disturbed by it, very upset by it, because I have a 16-year-old myself, and that could have been my child or anyone else’s child out here. So, it’s very disturbing.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you tell your 16-year-old son?

KOREI MOORE: I tell him—I allowed him to walk with us, so I can show him that: "This could have been you. This could have been your cousins. You’re not exempt from this. It only takes seconds, the wrong identity, and I could be burying you." And like I tell him, even just beyond this setting, it’s so many things going on in the world. It’s so much just envy and grief in the world that I just—I don’t want him to be a part of it. So I make sure he’s learning things like to protest and to stand up for your rights, and also to know how to cope with the police and things of that nature, and to stay away from anything that might, you know, deter him from a good thing, because as the mother said, it is hard to get a young black man to graduate. And once you get them to graduate, this is what they succumb to. So, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you see Mike Brown’s mother out on Saturday?

KOREI MOORE: Yes, I did.

AMY GOODMAN: With his body here?

KOREI MOORE: Yes, I did.

AMY GOODMAN: Where was his head?

KOREI MOORE: His head was facing this way, and his body was this way, like—his head was facing towards Florissant.

AMY GOODMAN: And he was on his stomach?

KOREI MOORE: Yes, ma’am.

AMY GOODMAN: He was facing down.

KOREI MOORE: Yes, ma’am, facing down, on his stomach.

RICO LIKE: My name’s Rico Like. I used to see him all the time, walking around—I mean, everywhere. He ain’t did nothing, don’t do nothing. That’s a peaceful guy. And what they did was wrong, man. And they’re saying that the—the police saying they either beat him up, did all this and did all that. Where he at? We want to see your face. We want to see did you got beat up. We want see—we want to see everything. Why is he hiding? Because he didn’t get beat up. I mean, God be the judge. God be the judge. And he didn’t—he an innocent man. He fell on his knees. Like, "Don’t shoot." He shot him anyway in the eye, then in the head and four times down here.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you participating in the protests?

RICO LIKE: Yes. I was up here yesterday, got tear-gassed and everything, couldn’t even breathe. But I made it out, though. Just "Hands up! Don’t shoot!" That’s all I got to say. RIP Mike Brown.

AMY GOODMAN: "RIP Mike Brown." Residents of the area around the Canfield apartments in Ferguson, standing around the makeshift memorial of signs, candles, stuffed animals and flowers, sitting in the middle of the road where Michael Brown took his last breaths after being gunned down by police officer Darren Wilson on August 9th. Brown’s body lay in the road for more than four hours. Near the memorial was a sign that said "Beware, killer cop on the loose. Watch out, children." This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, we’ll be joined by the head of UNICEF in Gaza, Pernille Ironside. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Lauryn Hill performing a sketch of "Black Rage." She posted it online yesterday in response to the Ferguson protests and the death of Michael Brown. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

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