(Originally published at http://politicalmoll.com/defeated-press/)
It started with the death of 18 year-old Michael Brown, who was unarmed when he was shot by Police Officer, Darren Wilson, in Ferguson, Missouri on Saturday, August 9th. Depending on which story you follow, Brown and his friend were approached by a police officer who harassed them and then grabbed Brown attempting to pull him into the car when the officer fired his gun. The officer shot Brown several times before leaving his body to lie in the street for several hours.
The officer’s version of the story is that Brown pushed the officer back into his car as the officer attempted to get out. Then Brown and the officer wrestled over the officer’s gun until the officer shot Brown. He proceeded to shoot Brown
several more times. Witnesses say that Brown had his hands up in the air. The officer left Brown’s body in the road as he went to write up the report on the incident.
Ferguson has a history of racial tension and as the citizens saw the body of an unarmed black teenager lying dead in the street, they protested. Since the death of Brown, the city has come to the streets protesting against the continued trend of racial profiling and violence of the predominately white Ferguson police force against the black community.
As the protests continued into the fifth day, the police turned into a military force clearing out restaurants, blocking the streets, and shooting tear gas and stun grenades into people’s backyards. Dressed up in full SWAT gear and having access to the military artillery leftover from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – that the US government contracted with Missouri police force – all hell was unleashed. What’s made this conflict worse than previous protest breakups is the complete disregard for journalist rights to report.
In a Ferguson McDonald’s reporters for the Huffington Post and Washington Post were working on their stories and were kicked out of the restaurant and then arrested. The Huffington Post reporter was ordered to show his press pass as he was taking pictures of the police entering McDonald’s. The Washington Post reporter was slammed against a soda machine by one of the officers before being detained.
Al Jazeera reporters were purposely tear gassed by the police as they were trying to report on the event. The reporters had to leave their equipment, which the police later confiscated. In most cases where reporters were arrested, the Ferguson Police Chief said they were “probably arrested by someone who didn’t know better.” A CNN reporter who was defending the police suggested that the police might have arrested the reporters in order to protect them.
The situation in Ferguson only got worse during the night leading up to ten arrests. This speaks profoundly on the issues of racism that run rampant throughout our police state, but it also exposes the true loss of freedom of the press our country has seen. After multiple reporters had to flee the scene because they were purposely getting tear gassed, most news that was received were from the reporters who could shelter themselves from the growing military presence, or the Twitter and video feeds of random citizens trying to document the rule of martial law showing up in their backyard.
Aside from the obvious suppression of journalist and media coverage that we’ve seen occurring in Ferguson, our media has failed to properly document the events as they happen. As with most cases where an innocent minority is killed
by an officer, our media fails to connect the dots of what led to such an event happening. The news projects stereotypes using photos to persuade viewers of the continuous dangers of being black.
One of the biggest reasons the protests exploded as they did is because the Chief of Police refused to name the officer responsible for shooting because they feared for his safety. A taste of what most minorities may feel anytime they come across police officers in their own community. The Chief of Police eventually released the name of the officer following outrage over the events of the police tear gassing its citizens.
This isn’t the first time an unarmed black man, teen, or boy was shot. It has happened four times in the last month. The media tends to ignore the event until it reaches the level of calamity it has with Ferguson. When the media does show up, they use talking heads who provide their own commentary without having been on scene witnessing the events, or speaking with witnesses or cops. Or you have Fox news, where they cuddle up close with the shooter, as was the case with Sean Hannity and George Zimmerman.
Our media has been, on many occasions, complacent in allowing events to bubble and became a racial argument based on stereotypes, while they ignore the real struggles of the communities involved. While some alternative media dig deep into the racial and economic tensions that have plagued certain areas, it doesn’t reach the mainstream surface.
When the media does finally acknowledge the root of an issue, it’s often too late and the event becomes overshadowed with another shooting, a new war, or some political sensation that leaves the public more cynical and hopeless than before. Our media has failed us again and again throughout the last two decades. So here we are, witnessing what happens when journalists do attempt to try and get the real story: they’re shut out. So, what do we do? How are we supposed to react?
As the things have begun to settle and Missouri Governor Nixon announced the next day that state troops will
replace the Ferguson police force in handling the protests, citizens have managed to make their way back into the streets peacefully. As the next night rolled around, thousands of people in New York took to the streets in unity with Ferguson. Love it or hate it, the use of social media has helped expose this event beyond what the headlines of mainstream media could do and it’s brought people together. And although I’m one to be reluctant to stand with social media as a reliable news replacement (the Boston Bombing reporting catastrophe being an example of the failure of social media) I do feel it further reveals the flaws in our media, and also, that people are ready for the truth.