Trymaine Lee’s interview with the closest eyewitness to the shooting of Michael Brown at MSNBC is worth reading in its entirety:
“I could see the muscles in his forearm,” Johnson said. “Mike was trying to get away from being choked.”
“They’re not wrestling so much as his arm went from his throat to now clenched on his shirt,” Johnson explained of the scene between Brown and the officer. “It’s like tug of war. He’s trying to pull him in. He’s pulling away, that’s when I heard, ‘I’m gonna shoot you.’”
At that moment, Johnson says he fixed his gaze on the officer to see if he was pulling a stun gun or a real gun. That’s when he saw the muzzle of the officer’s gun.
“I seen the barrel of the gun pointed at my friend,” he said. “He had it pointed at him and said ‘I’ll shoot,’ one more time.”
A second later Johnson said he heard the first shot go off.
“I seen the fire come out of the barrel,” he said. “I could see so vividly what was going on because I was so close.”
Johnson says he was within arm’s reach of both Brown and the officer. He looked over at Brown and saw blood pooling through his shirt on the right side of the body.
“The whole time [the officer] was holding my friend until the gun went off,” Johnson noted.
The violence started because the Johnson and Brown didn’t jump onto the sidewalk quickly enough at the officer’s insistence:
About 20 minutes before the shooting, Johnson said he saw Brown walking down the street and decided to catch up with him. The two walked and talked. That’s when Johnson says they saw the police car rolling up to them.
The officer demanded that the two “get the f—k on the sidewalk,” Johnson says. “His exact words were get the f—k on the sidewalk.”
After telling the officer that they were almost at their destination, Johnson’s house, the two continued walking. But as they did, Johnson says the officer slammed his brakes and threw his truck in reverse, nearly hitting them.
Mychal Denzel Smith has, as he so often does, written a stirring, thoughtful, anguished piece that he should not have to keep writing over and over again at the Nation.
The details are always in dispute, but the result is always the same: a young black person is dead. More parents are in mourning. Another community is enraged.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board wrote, “Michael Brown didn’t get due process.” It’s worse than that. Michael Brown was robbed of his humanity. His future was stolen. His parent’s pride was crushed. His friends’ hearts were broken. His nation’s contempt for black youth has been exposed. A whole generation of young black people are once again confronted with the reality that they are not safe. Black America is left searching for that ever-elusive sense of justice. But what is justice?
Justice for Renisha would have looked like Michael Brown being able to attend college. Justice for Trayvon would have looked like Renisha McBride getting the help she needed the night of her accident. Justice for Oscar Grant would have looked like Trayvon Martin making it home to finish watching the NBA All-Star game, Skittles and iced tea in tow. And so on, and so on. Justice should be the affirmation of our existence.
In the absence of such justice, we take to the streets. We protest, we hold vigils, and yes, we riot. What options are left? Rioting/looting (what some would call rebellion) may not provide answers or justice. But what to do with the anger in the meantime? We are told to stay calm, but calm has not delivered justice either. Do we wait for the FBI to investigate? I guess, but what to do in the meantime, as the images coming from Ferguson echo Watts in 1965? We’re told not to tear up our own communities, when time and time again we’re reminded that they don’t belong to us. Deaths like Michael Brown’s tell us we don’t belong here. What, then?
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.