August 16, 2014
Today marks the two-year anniversary when a “police action” led to 34 miners being shot to death at a strike in Marikana, South Africa and the end of a week or more of “police action” that left a Missouri teenager dead and press freedom trampled in Ferguson, outside St. Louis.
The video from then here and from now back home are inextricably linked in my mind, reflecting the problem of extreme use of force against people often as a means of protecting property.
I sit here in South Africa wondering how America has strayed so far. And I wonder here if South Africa can move forward after Marikana when I doubt whether the US has moved forward — and we supposedly have been at this much longer.
The Marikana anniversary comes amid a national inquiry into the decisions and events that led to police firing on strikers, many of whom were armed with machetes, clubs and other weapons. Before the shooting, some 10 people were killed in the labor unrest including two police officers.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who testified this past week about his role in the events at Marikana, referred to “dastardly criminal” actions by the strikers. And he mentioned the miners’ deaths were a collective responsibility of all in South Africa. But testimony about point-blank police shooting of strikers and of emails about whether Ramaphosa considered the strike a labor dispute or a criminal uprising laid bare a debate about whether police power carries out the call of those with economic and political power, i.e. carrying out Ramaphosa’s agenda.
And so I turn to Missouri where the stealing of a pack of cigarillos unleashed a police power that first reared up in the shooting of Michael Brown. Then that outrage chart-buster was followed by the video of the hassling/cuffing of Wesley Lowrey of the Washington Post and of the tear gassing of an Al Jazeera America TV crew shooting a live shot and wonder anew about power and the police and what exactly they are protecting. Whose agenda is this? You need to handcuff and rough up a reporter with a laptop and a cellphone? You need three guys with automatic rifles in riot gear to get a TV crew’s camera turned off? Why? What the …? These are not “dastardly criminals.” What the heck is going on back home?
Marikana and Missouri. This must stop.