Washington Post: ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’ Did Not Happen in Ferguson

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Michelle Ye Hee Lee reports: This phrase became a rallying cry for Ferguson residents, who took to the streets to protest the fatal shooting of a black 18-year-old by a white police officer, Darren Wilson. Witness accounts spread after the shooting that Brown had his hands raised in surrender, mouthing the words “Don’t shoot” as his last words before being shot execution-style. The gesture of raised hands became a symbol of outrage over mistreatment of unarmed black youth by police.

That narrative was called into question when a St. Louis County grand jury could not confirm those testimonies. And a recently released Department of Justice investigative report concluded the same.

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Yet the gesture continues to be used today. So we wanted to set the record straight on the DOJ’s findings, especially after The Washington Post’s opinion writer Jonathan Capehart wrote that it was “built on a lie.” From time to time, we retroactively check statements as new information becomes available. In this case, the Justice Department has concluded that Wilson acted out of self-defense, and was justified in killing Brown.

Does “Hands up, don’t shoot” capture the facts of Brown’s shooting? What has it come to symbolize now?

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The Facts

“Hands up, don’t shoot” links directly to Brown’s death, and it went viral. After the shooting, St. Louis Rams players raised their hands as a symbolic gesture entering the field before a football game. Protesters chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot” during rallies after a grand jury in the state’s case against Wilson decided not to indict Wilson in Brown’s killing. The phrase and gesture were on signs, T-shirts, hashtags, memes and magazine covers. It even has its own Wikipedia page.

In November 2014, a grand jury decided not to indict Wilson after finding that witness reports did not match up with evidence. Other witnesses recanted their original accounts or changed them, calling their veracity into question. In particular, the grand jury could not confirm the “Hands up, don’t shoot” narrative the way it was told after the shooting. By then, however, the phrase had taken on a message of its own.

On Dec. 1, 2014, four members of the Congressional Black Caucus repeated the gesture while delivering speeches on the House Floor titled, “Black in America: What Ferguson Says About Where We Are and Where We Need to Go.” Each of the members held up their hands, and the image spread widely online.

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Yet the Department of Justice’s March 4, 2015, investigative report on the shooting of Michael Brown found federal investigators could not confirm witness accounts that Brown signaled surrender before being killed execution-style. The department’s descriptions of about 40 witness testimonies show the original claims that Brown had his hands up were not accurate.

Some witnesses who claimed they saw Brown’s hands raised had testimonies that were inconsistent with physical and forensic evidence. Some admitted to federal investigators they felt pressured to retell the narrative that was being spread after Brown’s shooting. Read the rest of this entry »


Self-Serving Lawmakers and Unions Get a Boost From Aggravating Racial Tensions

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Politicians benefit from American Tribal Warfare

Glen Reynolds writes: “What if I told you,” asks a Matrix-themed photo-meme that has been circulating on Facebook, “that you can be against cops murdering citizens and citizens murdering cops at the same time?”

“Tribalism is the default state of humanity: The tendency to defend our own tribe even when we think it’s wrong, and to attack other tribes even when they’re right, just because they’re other.”

Judging by the past few weeks, this really is a Matrix-level revelation, obvious as it may seem. We have Americans protesting because of police shootings, and we have police turning their backs on New York City’s Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio over lack of support after two police were assassinated by Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley, a gunman from Baltimore who said he was seeking revenge for the choking death of cigarette-tax evader Eric Garner.

“In a healthy civil society, people can deal with others without worrying about tribalism, confident that disputes will be settled by neutral and reasonably fair procedures overseen by neutral and fair people.”

And, as blogger Eric Raymond notes, the response has been divided: “Because humans are excessively tribal, it’s difficult now to call for justice against Eric Garner’s murderers without being lumped in with the ‘wrong side.’ Nor will Garner’s partisans, on the whole, have any truck with people who aren’t interested in poisonously racializing the circumstances of his death.”

“In a tribalized society, what matters is what tribe you belong to, and who is on top at the moment.”

This is a tragedy, but not a surprise. Tribalism is the default state of humanity: The tendency to defend our own tribe even when we think it’s wrong, and to attack other tribes even when they’re right, just because they’re other. 

[Glenn Reynolds‘ book “The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself is available at Amazon]

Societies that give in to the temptations of tribalism — which are always present — wind up spending a lot of their energy on internal strife, and are prone to disintegrate into spectacular factionalism and infighting, often to the point of self-destruction. Read the rest of this entry »


UPDATE: Cop Execution ‘Revenge’ for Garner

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Two uniformed NYPD officers were shot dead Saturday afternoon as they sat in their marked police car on a Brooklyn street corner — in what investigators believe was a crazed gunman’s ­assassination-style mission to avenge Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

“We’re all in this together.”

Mayor De Blasio, to grieving cops

“No we’re not.”

One of the grieving cops

“It’s an execution,” one law-enforcement source said of the 3 p.m. shooting of police officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.

The tragic heroes were working overtime as part of an anti-terrorism drill in Bedford-Stuyvesant when they were shot point-blank in the head by the lone gunman, identified by sources as Ismaaiyl Brinsley, 28, who had addresses in Georgia and Brooklyn.

Moments after killing the two officers, he too was dead, having turned the gun on himself on a nearby subway platform as cops closed in.

“I’m Putting Wings on Pigs Today,” a person believed to be the gunman wrote on Instagram in a message posted just three hours before the officers were shot.

“They Take 1 Of Ours…Let’s Take 2 of Theirs,” the post continued, signing off with, “This May Be My Final Post.”

The Instagram page included an image of a silver automatic handgun with a wooden handle. Another image showed the same camouflage pants and distinctive blue sneakers worn by the gunman as his body was carried from the scene on a stretcher.

He used the hashtag #ShootThePolice, along with two other hashtags referencing Garner and Brown.

Brinsley walked up to the cops’ patrol car at the corner of Myrtle and Tompkins avenues, approaching from the sidewalk. Read the rest of this entry »