Why the Outrage After Michael Brown's Death Was Different From the Outrage After Eric Garner's Death

Danny Wicentowski, Riverfront Times
Delmar Boulevard runs east-west across St. Louis. Most people who live south of Delmar are white and almost everybody who lives north of Delmar is black. There are no Republicans on the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, so the political divide, and the fight for resources, is racial. Votes often split north/south, black/white.

This divide cuts across America, but in St. Louis there are no pretenses.

See Also: For more on Michael Brown's death and the unrest in Ferguson, follow the coverage at our sister paper in St. Louis, the Riverfront Times.

The divide is there for all to see. The tension is not deep and underlying but simmering, slowly and always heating to an unknown boiling point.

See also: 'I Was Choked by the NYPD': New York's Chokehold Problem Isn't Going Away

During a town hall meeting on the north side in 2011, a then-state representative named Jamilah Nasheed said to St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay: "We have a major issue in the city of St. Louis with race relations, and I would like for you to touch on that. What can we do, as elected officials, community organizations as a whole, to try to bridge that racial gap here in the city?"

And the mayor answered, "One of the things I found in the city of St. Louis, you know, one of the things about the city of St. Louis is it is one of the most--on a block-by-block basis--one of the most integrated cities in America."

Many in the crowd, which was nearly all black, laughed. Even when a racial divide is as clear and objective as the votes on a bill, there are people who deny its existence. That makes the tension worse.

The tension has radiated outward over the years. People moved to the suburbs. First white people, then, more recently, black people. Which explains why a place like Ferguson, Missouri, once majority white, is now two-thirds black, yet has three black officers out of 53 and one black city council member out of six and one black school board member out of seven.

And that is where St. Louis County stood when Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown on Saturday, August 9.

The world has seen on live television what followed. The protests began within hours. Police showed up in riot gear. The looting began on Sunday night. Then came the tanks, the sniper rifles aimed at civilians, the tear gas, the flash-bang grenades, the rubber bullets, and the rows of cops marching with guns drawn. The protests got louder and the police cracked down even more. The scene has been outrageous and chaotic and the authorities appear to have no longterm plan other than a continued showing of pure force.

St. Louis County officials, it is now clear, were unprepared to handle the outrage. Perhaps they believed such outrage was a relic of a past America. They may have believed this because three weeks before a Ferguson police officer killed Brown, New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo killed Eric Garner in Staten Island. The world saw the whole thing on video: Panteleo wrapping his arm around Garner's neck and Garner repeating "I can't breathe" before falling unconscious. The public's reaction was mild.

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Now lets take a look at the  Ferguson Mo. incident from another angle.When Officer Wilson stopped Michael Brown for the petty offense of jaywalking the very most that would have happened would be the issuance of a summons for the violation.But he was unaware that Mr. Brown had just committed a strong arm robbery,but Mr. Brown was well aware of it and that what is most important.Because he knew damn well that he was getting locked up had the officer knew.His mindset was obviously in fight & flight mode which precipitated the ensuing physical confrontation culminating in the officers use of deadly physical force in order to defend himself.  In both the Ferguson & Staten Island incidents the Police Officers involved were up against individuals who were much larger than both of them. Had they not been involved in criminal activity neither event would have occurred.


I don't know which NYC this writer is living in, but in the NYC I live in, the NYCLU joining with Sharpton on August 23 to protest Garner's death.


Its very unlikely he even stole the cigars.  The video does not have a middle portion.  The store never reported a robbery.  The person who was with Brown during both incidents was not arrested for the robbery, let alone even interviewed.  Then didn't view the video for 5 full days after.  THE CLERK LAID HANDS ON BROWN FIRST! If this video showed a robbery, it would have been seen on the 5pm news the night of the shooting.  If STL County or Ferguson said that St Louis is in the state of Missouri at this point, I wouldnt believe them.  The County and city of Ferguson response since Saturday has been absolutely appalling.  They both seem to be willfully trying to stir the shit, especially since they got stripped of command after acting like complete jackasses.  Now we have cops blatantly pointing guns at cameramen and threatening to "fucking kill" them. Then we learn that his name is "Go Fuck Yourself".  This entire situation is getting frighteningly farcical.  The only important thing to remember is that Ferguson and STL County absolutely shit the bed on this one.  Also the MO Hwy Patrol, while initially succeeding, has really started to show its ass.  God help us all.

Charlie-St Louis, MO

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