By Tara Thompson, Hands Up United Director
As a Black woman in Ferguson, in St. Louis, and in America, I live in a very constant state of emergency. I was born into a burning house, as were my elders, but you’d never know this by listening to the political leaders whose job it is to extinguish the inferno in my community.
The current St. Louis County State of Emergency declaration comes after Tyrone Harris Jr. was critically injured from shots fired by 4 plainclothes police on Monday, August 10th on West Florissant Avenue just a few blocks away from where Mike Brown was killed. Issued by St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, this is another blinding illustration of how removed politicians in St. Louis are from the daily suffering of Black folks in this city.
A 20 sec video clip of Monday night’s incident was released the next day showing people milling around until shots are fired, people scrambling to take cover, and a person that has been identified as Tyrone Harris Jr holding a gun and running away. The footage shows Harris being shot at first, which contradicts the police account that Harris fired on police before they returned gunfire. The video does not show the chase that ensued and the subsequent shots fired by plainclothes police that led to Harris’ critical condition.
Harris almost became the 1,084th person killed by police since Mike Brown one year ago, a catastrophe that is one element of the genocidal attack upon Black bodies in this country. #whichemergency
Therefore, within this context of a war on Black America in an open carry state, where law enforcement agents have turned our streets into an occupied battlefield, the idea that a young black man is equipped to protect himself sounds perfectly reasonable. In an open carry state, brandishing a weapon should not translate to Harris ending up in critical condition where witnesses say he lay for 20 minutes before any medics arrived. #whichemergency
It seems as if the right to protection, the right to bear arms, the right to preserve life are rights reserved only for white people. As the OathKeepers walked freely down W. Florissant Ave Monday night heavily armed with assault rifles, I watched as St. Louis Country Police and Missouri State Troopers retreated back into parking lots. Not one of them approached to ask these white men for their carry permits, not one of them gave any directive for them to drop their weapons, not one of them fired any shots at these white men exercising their 2nd amendment right. #whichemergency
I submit that there is a state of emergency that will not end this Wednesday or the next.
It is a state in which over 10% of the St. Louis County population lives in poverty.
It is a state in which there is a constant unemployment rate for Blacks that is 2 to 3 times higher than that of whites.
It is a state in which St. Louis is the 19th most dangerous city in the WORLD.
It is a state in which Black kids are forced into school districts Normandy and Riverview Gardens (also St. Louis Public) that are in unaccredited range while Ferguson-Florissant, University City, and Jennings are all in a provisional range.
It is a state in which chemical agents are released in communities that force little girls to wet towels and place them in windows and below doors so they can breathe in their homes.
It is a state in which $11.7 million dollars was spent by the state of Missouri to deploy the national guard and highway patrol between August and December 2014. This number does not include Ferguson or St. Louis County police expenditures.
It is a state in which Black life is threatened by politicians and police as opposed to protected.
Unfortunately, Stenger will have to do more than sign on the dotted line to end the State of Emergency. There will need to be some actual work and effort. So Stenger, our question is what are we working on this week?