There can never be a ‘right’ time to watch such a stark and powerful documentary about the horrifying brutality of what went down in Ferguson, Missouri two years ago. It’s the story of what happened after Michael Brown an unarmed African/American who was slain in cold blood by Darren Wilson a white policeman who fired 12 shots in a pernicious unprecedented act of blatant racism. Now with the riots caused by the Far Right in Charlottesville fresh in everyone’s mind and endorsed by a President who is an unavowed fan of the burgeoning White Supremacy Movement and the Ne0-Nazis, ‘Whose Streets’ seems depressingly like a scenario that will be repeated time and time again in this country.
Directed and produced by two newbie filmmakers Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis, the documentary doesn’t seek to give a detailed recap of the fateful night that 18 year old Brown was killed, instead it focuses on the raw anger of the incensed local African/American community who were determined to make their feelings known. Using some extensive archival footage, much of which probably never made our TV screens, which shows unarmed impassioned protesters being met with police officers in full riot gear with K9 units, tanks, tear gas, machine guns, rubber bullets etc. Even with such force available to him, the Governor still felt the need to call in the National Guard to back them up.
This was never intended to be a reasonable attempt to quell the protesting crowds, but an invitation for an all-out war with a community who had no means whatsoever of protecting themselves from this show of force which the Authorities let loose on them without a moment’s hesitation. When the rioters looted a nearby store and set it on the fire , this was the image that was on all the nightly newscasts, and not that of the row of tanks lined up against the protestors.
One very aggravated woman clutching nothing more than a poster screamed ‘This is not Iraq!’ time and time again and after watching this documentary you know exactly why, she and rest of the community who have been subject to such unprecedented violence, feel so very angry and helpless. It’s not just force that the City used unrelenting to try to beat this community into the ground, it was also the deeply disturbing pettiness like in removing the makeshift memorial to Michael Brown for no other reason than the fact that it was another way of imposing their prejudices, and even hoping this will incense the locals even more.
What prevails most through this compelling film is the sheer extent of the ingrained bigotry and racism with the local Police and Court authorities recklessly handing out penalty tickets and heavy fines for the most menial misdemeanors that resulted in jail time for the vast majority of African/Americans who simply could not afford to pay. It was one of the many issues that the Department of Justice’s Investigation revealed when the Attorney General Eric Holder insisted on forming an Official Investigation when it was obvious that the City of Fergusson was not going to reprimand itself.
It was no shock to anyone that Darren Wilson was never charged by a local Grand Jury with a single crime despite all the over-whelming evidence, but at least the Chief of Police and the City Manager lost their jobs over it all.
The point of the documentary was to purely focus on the facts, so we are in fact left to decide if the appointment of the City’s first ever African-American Police Chief could start to turn back the tide of the century’s old ingrained prejudice or not. Either way he has a long uphill battle.
Horrifying or not, this excellent documentary is a must-see for everyone and especially in you live in a community where you think this never could happen. As in Trump will never be President.