Tuesday, September 26, 2017

St. Louis, The Protests, and What Should Alarm People regardless of Politics (The Story So Far)

By now, many of you have been exposed somewhat to the footage of protests that have emerged in St. Louis over the past few days following the acquittal of former police officer Jason Stockley in a bench trial last Friday.  If all you know is from the mainstream media, it appears the focus is on damage to property and the emphasis on things turning violent.  However, like many things with the mainstream media, things aren't that simple.

For the purposes of keeping things direct and to the point, we'll focus on things about the past few days.  For those wanting background on what Stockley was on trial for, this blog post gives some insight regarding why some people may be upset .  In addition, this analysis of the court ruling may also provide some insight.

While the media has been focusing on broken windows and vandalism, what I have been hearing from friends in St. Louis is that while there have been some incidents of the violence and damage, the majority of the protests have actually been non violent, if not actually peaceful (I assume that peaceful is being used as a synonym for polite in this instance but I can't be certain).  Other reports I've heard give the appearance that a heavily armed  (militarized) police presence added unnecessary tension to the situation. There are also reports that claims of chemical agents being found on protestors may be apple cider vinegar, which can be used to counteract the effects of tear gas, In the midst of this also comes  reports on social media of street medics being tear gassed (one of the reasons why the ACLU is reportedly filing a lawsuit over police tactics.)

 Then there's reports of undercover cops among the protestors and whether any of them may be stirring things up (conjecture at this point but history shows this has happened in the past so it's possible) to whether or not a cop broke a window of a restaurant in St. Louis (some report it was already broken but video shows there was a breaking sound so things are in the air on this one).  As with any evolving story, there are things that are subject to change so that needs to be taken into account.

Which leaves us to the thing that should piss everyone off, regardless of politics.  I'm talking about the arrest of between 80 to over 100 people around Sunday night/very early Monday morning.  Media reports claim over 80 but I've also heard numbers up to 120 so there's some variance there.  Here the police reportedly used a tactic of telling protesters to disperse but blocking them off so they couldn't disperse (more often referred to as kettling).  While questions actually remain about whether the protestors were actually told to disperse, the technique did arrest a lot of people.  However, whom they picked up once things got settled didn't help matters. 

While there were some protestors that were arrested, there were also a number of people swept up in the arrest kettle who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.  These were people who lived on the block, heard the commotion and went to see what was up, some people merely walking to their cars after dinner, a reported tourist or two, a stagehand in town for the cancelled U-2 concert who left a bar not knowing about the lockdown, and...an undercover cop. 

Yes,. an undercover cop who's job was the infiltrate the protests ended up getting handcuffed and, by some reports, bloodied by the police in these raids.  This leads to an interesting conundrum - don't the police have some sort of signal so they know who the undercover cops are?  You see mentions of that on occasion on crime procedural shows so you'd think a city like St. Louis would have that.  Instead, this brought to light an issue of undercover cops infiltrating protests.  To paraphrase what one friend on facebook who lives in the St Louis area posted after this became news, "If the St. Louis police can't tell undercover cops from protestors, how can the rest of us."

The revelation of an undercover cop being arrested (a fact that was revealed to the SWAT team the next day) also puts into question whether other acts of violence that went down during the protests may have been the work of undercover cops.  One friend of mine in St. Louis noted that the protesters were diverted down a street that led to the home of the city's new mayor (who's home had some damage in the aftermath) when the original intention was to disrupt the Forest Park balloon glow event.  While it remains conjecture to say the cops may be causing the property damage, anyone who knows the history of social justice movements knows of law enforcement infiltration and how, in a number of instances, said infiltrators were the ones pushed for more extreme acts, if not outright violence.  The fact that this question is now open to ask about and debate means a can of worms has been opened that may not have been intended by the powers that be in St. Louis.

Meanwhile protests continue in the St. Louis area and the police continue to act on cue by either overreacting (as in the case of the arrests of protestors at the St. Louis Galleria) opr try to shut down areas now even before protests start (as in Belleville, IL where an activist  bringing up the possibility of a protest fro Black Lives Matter in the town square found the city shutting down the town square beforehand (which, ironically, led the local activists to be able to reportedly protest throughout the city as the police qwere awaiting the worst at the town square).  News of reporters being arrested an assaulted by police have made the police reactions open to criticism in regards to freedom of the press to exercise their First Amendment Rights while city officials are slowly having to criticize how the people they hire to protect and serve have acted towards protestors (ost of whom have, in face, been non violent). 

And that's the story so far.  It may be a smaller story in light of Puerto Rico or the possibility of nuclear war but it still continues and likely won't be going away any time soon.

In light of the controversial nature of the topic we have decided to tentatively allow comments.  However, we reserve the right to moderate and remove extremely hateful and problematic ones and may decide to not allow comments on this post in the future.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

As Maria Crosses The Water

The Trouble With Normal is keeping the victims of Hurricane Maria in our thoughts as they recover from the current damage (Dominica).  We're also thinking of the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico who may be facing the brunt of Maria very shortly.  All I can say now is I hope people manage to make it out of this okay.  Adding to the damage caused by Hurricane Irma, what will be evident is there's still a lot of things that will need to be done.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Thoughts for Those Affected by Irma and Harvey

Our thoughts go out to the victims of Hurricane Irma in Florida and the Caribbean as well as those recovering from Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana, especially those who weren't able to get away when the storms hit. 

There's a lot of work ahead for people in both regions as they struggle to recover from what they lost in the storms aftermath.  While what's ahead will have various twists and turns, one thing is clear for those who dealt with either storm - this is far from over.