Russell Brand: Ferguson symbolizes 'centuries of racial oppression’
On Monday, a St. Louis County grand jury opted not to indict white police officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, setting off fierce anger in the tense, bereaved community of Ferguson. In announcing the decision, county prosecutor Robert McCulloch said “that as tragic as it is, it was not a crime, not one where charges should be filed."
“The grand jury found that that white man, Darren Wilson - who’s a policeman, coincidentally - didn’t do anything wrong when he killed that young lad, Michael Brown - who’s a black man, coincidentally,” Brand said.
Brand took the opportunity to analyze the situation and examine how many top news organizations have ignored a punishment-free murder to focus on unruly crowds and protests, and also what the grand jury decision says about law and the criminal justice system in the United States.
“It’s this series of coincidences that’s leading to protests. Does that mean we have no power? Does that mean that the laws that have been set up don’t give us any access to power? Are we living in a corrupt world with no possibility for change?” Brand added.
“Let’s find out,” he said, before showing a clip of Fox News, a popular target of Brand’s.
“Interesting that when it’s reported on Fox News, the words that are used are ‘looting’ and ‘violence,’” he said of the clip. “Here’s another way that that Fox report could’ve gone: ‘Every 28 hours, an unarmed black man is killed by law enforcement somewhere in America.’”
He then featured a Fox clip in which the anchors highlighted the injuries Officer Wilson allegedly sustained from the encounter with Brown.
“Injuries he suffered that day? We’re being invited by Fox News to see Officer Wilson as the victim of a situation in which he killed a teenage boy,” he said.
“Can you imagine a situation in which I, an affluent white person, killed a teenage boy and people would go, ‘What injuries did you suffer there, Russ?’”
Brand then pointed out that “since 2004, St. Louis [County] police have killed 14 people without one officer being charged,” as first reported by David Klinger, a criminologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
The comedian then mentioned the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by Cleveland police last weekend. Police believed Rice to be armed and dangerous, but the “firearm” he had in his waistband - which he did not point at police or threaten law enforcement with - was, in fact, a fake pellet gun.
“What kind of police state are the American people living in where a real child with a pretend gun can be killed by a real police officer with a real gun, and will be very unlikely to face real consequences?” Brand asked.
“We have a real responsibility to reframe this information, because it seems that what Ferguson has become is a microcosmic cauldron of centuries of racial oppression. And the attempt to frame it as, ‘this is unruly unrest and looting,’ is absolutely irrelevant whether people are looting or not. What is relevant is that St. Louis police have killed 14 people and that a young boy has been murdered and there are no legal consequences to it.”
Brand then played a Fox News clip in which the anchor read a statement from Officer Wilson's attorney.
“We have maintained and the grand jury agreed that Officer Wilson’s actions on August 9 were in accordance with the laws and regulations that govern the procedures of an officer,” the Fox News anchor read.
“What value then do those ‘laws and procedures’ have then?” Brand asked. “Any law or procedure that can lead to the murder of a teenage boy needs to be scrutinized...According to the law, Officer Wilson did nothing wrong when he killed that teenage boy.”
Brand then mentioned the amount of military weaponry transferred to local police agencies, including in St. Louis County, from the likes of the Pentagon and the US Department of Homeland Security.
“It’s almost like they know that the laws are unjust, and that people have no recourse within the law, so eventually they’ll rise and protest - and [the police] are ready for that, they know that change is coming, they know that people are unifying and they’re not going to yield to it.”
“Power never yields,” Brand continued. "You don’t get any concessions, you don’t get anything without protest. It’s literally the only option. You’ve got these options: Shut up! or protest. Those are your options.”
Brand ended by excoriating America's lax gun laws, and particularly how the gun lobby fights to protect weak standards for background checks.