Go Watch This: Black Lives Matter — Requiem for Mike Brown

by Cleopatra Parnell

Organized protestors delayed the St. Louis Symphony on Oct. 4 when 50 stood up and began singing “Justice for Mike Brown.” The audience had just returned from intermission. The orchestra had not resumed playing, but most of the audience was in their seats.

It’s an intelligent and respectful demonstration that reminds us the movement in Ferguson continues. In many ways, protestors of a democracy turning further toward oligarchy, military-industrialism, and prison-industrialism have been disorganized the last two decades. The Occupy movement was a bright spot, but was short-lived and disorganized. Tea Party protests on the right failed to attract great numbers or develop any consistency to their message.

This year, with a climate march in New York measuring 400,000 people, and ongoing demonstrations in Ferguson, St. Louis, and beyond entering their third month, we have found the face of a movement.

That face is not Michael Brown’s. Most people would not recognize him. All the news has shown are blurred video images. That face is not Trayvon Martin’s. We know his hoodie, but we don’t know him. That face is not John Crawford’s, who we only know slumping to the ground dead on grainy footage.

No, that face is the face of a police officer, unremarkable, wearing sunglasses or perhaps riot gear. That face is indistinguishable, because that officer is holding a gun. You don’t look at the face. You look at the gun. That face is the use of force against the disadvantaged, both foreign and domestic. Whether shot in a Walmart or struck by a missile because you live in the same apartment building as a wanted man, we are now a country for whom trials and the justice system are vestigial organs.

The face of America’s protest movement no longer belongs to the latest man shot dead in the streets. The face of that movement belongs to the barrel of a state-issued gun. If you thought demonstrators were angry and organized over men who were shot, imagine how effective we’ll be now that the gun is so clearly pointed at all of us.

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