Thursday, October 23, 2014

Not another …, by Eric E. Vickers, courtesy of St. Louis American

Eric E. Vickers
"As information continues to come out about the shooting of another black youth – 18-year-old Vonderrit Myers Jr. – by a white St. Louis police officer, the police and establishment continue their claim that the murder was justified because the officer was allegedly fired upon by Myers, while the African-American community continues its skepticism and rejection of the police version of events.  

What brought us to this situation is the intersection of the mindset of Myers and the police at approximately 7:30 p.m. October 8. I imagine that at the time Myers was acutely aware of the shooting of Michael Brown.
With all the media attention the past two months about that shooting, Myers surely had imbedded in his subconscious the vivid imagery that has emerged of Michael Brown's death: unarmed, not committing any crime other than walking in the middle of the street, being almost a half a block away from a cop after being shot and shot at, and then turning around to face the cop with hands up, only to be shot six times, including twice in the head. I imagine that frightening image would put some apprehension and doubt in a teen's mind about whether he ca trust that a white cop will deal with him fairly. 
I also imagine that young Myers saw – as the whole world did – the video of Kajieme Powell being gunned down from a distance by two white St. Louis police officers, while not committing any crime other than demonstrating that he was obviously mentally ill, and while not having a firearm or any object that visibly posed an immediate threat to the officers. 
I would imagine that a teen seeing this video run repeatedly on social media might develop a mindset that has a fear and loathing of white police, because the youthful mind sees gun toting cops taking black life with little hesitation and with impunity. 
Myers probably, like most of us, also saw the nationally televised video of the black man repeatedly shot by a white cop simply because he was reaching into his vehicle to get the identification papers the officer asked him to produce. 
And Myers may have had a chance to see before he was gunned down the recent national news story and video of white cops smashing out the window of a vehicle in order to drag an unarmed black man from the car. I imagine a youth seeing all this could have his psyche impacted in a manner that would cause him to feel that if he was confronted by a white cop, then his life might be in jeopardy.
Probably all of this was a part of Myers’ thinking around 7:30 p.m., when a white off-duty cop in uniform rolled up on him and his black friends. Perhaps Myers thought that it didn't or wouldn't matter to the cop that they were not engaged in any criminal activity or doing anything wrong, just hanging out like youth is prone to do.  Perhaps Myers thought that because he was not doing anything wrong, was not wanted for any crime, and was not being placed under arrest, that he had the right and freedom to either walk away – or run away – from the scene.
Perhaps he wondered why he was being chased by a white cop when he had done nothing wrong and had not been ordered by the cop to do anything. Perhaps as he was running, Myers thought about how Trayvon Martin was chased down by a security guard like the off-duty cop now chasing him.  
Although we will never know, perhaps what was running through Myers' mind as he was being chased that night was that he did not want to be another Trayvon Martin, or Michael Brown, or Kajieme Powell.   
Vickers is chief of staff for state Senator Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis) and a veteran protest organizer." Courtesy of St. Louis American.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Cardinals playoff game could be target for Mike Brown shooting protesters, courtesy of KPLR 11, St. Louis

"ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)- The thousands of people heading to Busch Stadium for tonight`s game could be met with demonstrators protesting the Michael Brown case. (click the link to watch the video).

The potential for protests over the Michael Brown shooting is certainly an issue that concerns many from the St. Louis City Police Department to Major League Baseball officials.

A letter written by local attorney and activist Eric Vickers was sent to Major League Commissioner, Bud Selig in September. In the letter, Vickers says there is the potential for protest at post-season Cardinals games.

In the letter Vickers says that all is not joy in Cardinals Nation because of the Michael Brown case. He makes it clear that the MLB playoff games in St. Louis have been identified as protest targets.

Letter to Commissioner Selig: 
Mr. Bud Selig
Major League Baseball
Dear Commissioner Selig:
Let me first congratulate you and Major League Baseball (“MLB”) for providing another stellar year of sports entertainment, and also to commend you for your many years of invaluable service to the game as you now plan to move on.  I wish I could communicate to you an upbeat message of fun and joy as many parts of the St. Louis community now rightfully feel with our beloved Red Birds headed back into the playoffs and undoubtedly the Series.  However, all is not joy in Cardinal Nation, as you most certainly must be aware, because of the shooting of Michael Brown, and the deep seeded feeling of enough is enough in the black community it has unearthed.
Thus, if you have not been informed, there have been since Michael Brown’s death ongoing protest activities taking place in and around the St. Louis metropolitan area.
Consequently, given this backdrop, you should be aware and understand why the MLB playoff games scheduled to begin in St. Louis next week have necessarily been identified as protest targets.  I think you should also be aware that the protest activities have ranged from mass assemblages of persons protesting, to civil disobedience arrests, to blocking public means of transportation.   And you should be aware that the aim of these protests is to cause discomfort and inconvenience and disruption in order that the voices of those protesting will be heard.  Voices I can attest are as determined to be paid as much attention to as is paid to sports.
Unavoidably, MLB has a role to play in this situation.  To the chagrin of many – and frankly, at the peril of this town -the business and the civic community in St. Louis have been silent on the issue the black community has deemed of vital and non-negotiable importance: the appointment of a special prosecutor for the Michael Brown case.  The two black State Senators from the area, Sen. Maria Chapelle-Nadal and Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, have made this demand, with Senator Nasheed having collected over 150,000 on line signatures calling for a special prosecutor.  The black ministers have made this demand.  The black community leaders have made this demand.  And if you have watched the news, the whole world is making this demand.  Yet, Commissioner, though the black community has thrown nothing but strikes at this issue, the prosecutor remains like stone in the batter’s box.  Breaking all the game’s rules of basic prosecutorial fairness.  And with those sponsoring the game, the business community, closing their eyes to the damage being done to the sport – to harmonious race relations here and nationally.
We ask that you use the powers of your office to address this by providing needed national leadership to the local business and civic leaders.  We are hopeful your stature and influence and experience will help avert the embarrassment already suffered by our town from worsening.
Thank you.
Eric E. Vickers
Vickers was among the organizers of the protest last month where several people were arrested for blocking Hanley at I-70 in North County.

The plan there was originally for protesters to block I-70 but that was mostly stopped by police.

Vickers says past protest activities have ranged from large groups assembling to protest, to civil disobedience arrests that included blocking public means of transportation.He is demanding that a special prosecutor be appointed in the Michael Brown case.

This potential threat comes after roughly 50 demonstrators delayed part of a St. Louis Symphony Orchestra performance on Saturday night at Powell Symphony Hall.

Moments before the symphony and chorus was to begin performing, the group stood up and started singing a song related to the Brown case. Banners were also displayed from the balcony.
That protest lasted a few minutes and the demonstrators left peacefully."

Thursday, October 2, 2014

This divine time, courtesy of St. Louis American.

Eric E. Vickers
"A generation from now, when America crosses the demographic divide of its minority citizens becoming its majority population, and Ferguson is looked back upon as a pivotal point in race relations, undoubtedly, the coverage of that time by The St. Louis American newspaper will be researched by historians to find the elements then at work in the black community, which helped shape the new America.

Although they may find it curious, the historians will learn that for African Americans, Ferguson marked a divine time, for they will see in The American this penetrating color photo of an older black woman protester in mystical prayer, and also see front page reporting of a prophetic vision about Ferguson from a young black woman hundreds of miles away. 

Looking further into the archives of The American to get a picture of the dynamics that shaped the millennium, historians will see a protest persistence having developed after the spark of the shooting, with an explosion of outrage possible at any point upon almost any provocation. They will see that even the positioning of an African American then by the white powers to command down the black protesters proved fruitless, as they took aim at him.

Instead of seeing an AfricanAmerican commander quelling the dissent, historians will see that continuing and escalating acts of protest were occurring, as they will read about an interstate shutdown effort met by a militarized police force, and learn of the Weekend of Resistance.

At this same period of time, though, historians will observe from reading The American the black community becoming introspective in seeking change and solutions. The historians will see blacks in America then faced with the duality of dealing with violence from police officers and violence within the black community.

The role of the black church during the Ferguson period will certainly be examined by historians to see any similarities with the vanguard role played by the black church during the Civil Rights Movement, and they will note from reading The American that a nationally prominent minister delivered Michael Brown’s eulogy and called for justice.

As they saw during the Civil Rights Movement of the sixties, historians will, through the eyes of The American, see during the Ferguson period whites involved in and identifying with the cause of blacks. They will see through the columns and letters white lawyers having stepped forward to demand changes in the criminal justice system

Yet, despite the good intentions of some whites and corporate benevolence, the historians will have to record that, during the Ferguson period, the racial divide on the issue of criminal justice was vast and deep. They will learn from their research that because of the dealings of white politicians, for black elected officials, Ferguson marked the beginning of a new political era and ideology.

Eric E. Vickers is an attorney, organizer and chief of staff for state Senator Jamilah Nasheed."  Courtesy of St. Louis American.