On the ground in Ferguson with Jasiri X

IN FERGUSON—This picture posted Aug. 24 shows Jasiri X with rapper David Banner and Oscar Grant’s Uncle Bobby in Ferguson, Mo. (Facebook Photo)

In the weeks since Michael Brown was fatally shot by officer Darren Wilson, reports from Ferguson, Mo., have been filled with rumor, speculation and innuendo, much of which has fueled tensions that remain even after Brown’s funeral.
At the request of Harry Belafonte, Pittsburgh musician and co-founder of One Hood Jasiri X traveled to Ferguson on Aug. 23, and met with residents, protesters and authorities, and issuing updates on his JasiriXtra Facebook page.
One of the first things he noted was that media reports painting Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ronald Johnson as a savior and Black bridge builder between authorities and still active protesters were totally inaccurate.
“I learned last night when the cameras are off, Captain Johnson is just as abusive and oppressive as the Ferguson Police Department,” he posted on Aug. 24. “We were talking to a group of young brothers on West Florissant in Ferguson, then all of a sudden, police came and arrested two of them for no reason. When I asked Captain Johnson why the men were arrested, he said he wouldn’t talk to me cause I’m not from here.”
He said things would be totally peaceful until the police showed up. The difference was literally like night and day.
“Once the sun went down that Saturday, me and a hip-hop artist and actor David Banner were talking to folks who all had bandanas in case of tear gas, and all of a sudden 30 officers move in,” he said. “They were moving with purpose. They won’t let you stand; they want you to keep moving. It was like they were hunting.”
Jasiri X recounted several incidents of people being arrested for apparently nothing more than exercising their right to peaceable assembly.
“Oh, that was gone,” he said. “One guy who was stuck there because he damaged his car trying to get around the barriers they put up to keep people from moving in and out. He was trying to get medicine to his grandmother–they arrested him for just talking to us. I asked Capt. Johnson why, he said for ‘inciting a riot.’”
Jasiri X stayed for Brown’s Aug. 25 funeral and said thankfully it wasn’t co-opted as some thought it might be by outsiders. The day before Brown’s father Michael Brown Sr. pleaded for calm at a Sunday rally in St. Louis.
Jasiri X said his wishes were respected, but he was disappointed in one respect.
“There were all these calls for no rioting and no looting, but not one call for the arrest of officer Wilson—we filled that church because of officer Wilson’s action,” he said. “We wouldn’t have been there if not for Dan Wilson.”
Jasiri X said he was glad to see how the Ferguson incident translated to Pittsburgh.
One of the best events about Ferguson was led by Leon Ford. He was shot five times—and he’s on trial not these cops,” he said. “We’re not just going to let you come into our community and kill us. That’s the lesson of Ferguson.”
Jasiri X was scheduled to go to Washington for an Aug. 27 summit on Ferguson in hopes of galvanizing a national movement. He said people should go to www.handsupunited.org for updates because, “there are Fergusons everywhere.”
(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)
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