February 8, 1968, South Carolina State University at Orangeburg, 3 killed and 23 wounded by police while protesting racial segregation.
Mary Ann Vecchio at Kent State May 4, 1970
May 4, 1970, 4 killed, 9 wounded by Ohio National Guard at Kent State University during Vietnam War protest.
May 8, 1970, 11 students and journalists bayoneted at University of New Mexico by New Mexico National Guard during Vietnam War Protest.
May 12, 1970, 2 killed, 12 wounded at Vietnam War protest at Jackson State University.
August 29, 1970, journalist Ruben Salazar and two members of the Brown Berets killed by Los Angeles Sheriffs at then-Laguna Park (now Salazar Park) when law enforcement attacked a peaceful anti-war/Chicano Power demonstration of 30,000 people in East Los Angeles.
May 1, 2007, LAPD attacks immigrant rights demonstrators and journalists in MacArthur Park.
August 13, 2014 IN ST. LOUIS/FERGUSON: Demonstrator shot and two reporters (Washington Post and Huffington Post) arrested; media ordered by police to turn off their cameras before they attacked both demonstrators and journalists. An Al Jazeera news crew was attacked by police with tear gas, rubber bullets and bean bags.
Sound like a pattern?
Why am I not surprised?
I happen to love St. Louis and Missouri. I was there in 1972 and 1975 for the People’s Party (Peace & Freedom Party’s national affiliate) national conventions where we nominated Dr. Benjamin Spock and Black Panther Education Minister Margaret Wright for President in those years. Missouri geology reminds me in a strange way of California; because of major geological faulting and earthquakes, the strata is usually on a 25% slant, similar to the way that strata along California roadways is never lying straight and very unlike most of the rest of mid-America.
Years later I returned to St. Louis to work some cases there as a private investigator (before Missouri had its own licensing law). What I learned about Missouri politics, law enforcement and sociology makes me as jaded about that State as I am about government corruption and law enforcement misconduct in Los Angeles, California and for that matter, about most of the world.
Several things you have to understand about St. Louis is that St. Louis City is NOT part of St. Louis County. Usually in America all cities are part of counties and some, like San Francisco are a combined City and County, St. Louis City is one of only two cities in the United States that aren’t part of a county. The other city with this status is Baltimore, Maryland.
The City of St. Louis is a Democratic Party controlled town. No Republican has represented any significant portion of the City since 1953 in the House of Representatives, as just one example. While in 1940 only 13% of the population was African American, as of 2010 the census showed it to be just under 50% black, 3 ½% Hispanic, and just under 3% Asian.
From Wikipedia: German revolutionary, American statesman and reformer, U.S. Minister to Spain, Union Army General in the American Civil War, U. S. Senator, and Secretary of the Interior. He was also an accomplished journalist, newspaper editor and orator, who in 1869 became the first German-born American elected to the United States Senate.
St. Louis County on the other hand is around 70% white and about ¼ of the population is African American. It was a bastion of Confederate support in the civil war, as opposed to St. Louis City which even then had significant abolitionist sentiment amongst the German American immigrant population. Inspired by Karl Marx’s call to support the Union cause, three brigades of German Americans enlisted, one known as the Karl Marx Brigade and another named the Carl Schurz Brigade after their German American abolitionist U.S. Senator.
If you live in one of the old Confederate strongholds in Missouri you pronounce the state’s name “Missoura” and you’ll grow up officially taught that Jesse James was not an outlaw but a Confederate guerrilla that never surrendered and as such, a hero of the State of Missouri.
United States vs John Gipson
I could give you the long story or the short story, but frankly, the long story is best told orally by me over drinks as some of the ways that I investigated for the defense of John Gipson and his attorney, Roger Rosen, were pretty dramatic. This however will be the short narrative….cutting to the chase so to speak.
John Gipson was set up by the St. Louis Metropolitan (City) police. They got a snitch to convince this black heroin dealer called “Process” that John Gipson was setting him up for the police. Process called Gipson about the rumors he’d been hearing so John agreed to come over and clear things up.
The police got a search warrant, ostensibly to raid Process’s apartment and then sat on it while staking out Process’s pad. When I read that in the police report that stuck out like a sore thumb because the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist once described search warrants as becoming “stale” if you don’t promptly serve them. The police waited to serve the warrant until conveniently, about a week after it was issued, John Gipson just happened to show up.
Just as John Gipson got into the apartment, a call comes in on Process’s answering machine yelling “John Gipson just set you up, John Gipson just set you up.” Then the police are breaking down the door. Process runs to a window and sets out on the window sill a pill container with capsules of heroin in it, trying to hide it, but it falls off the window sill (I had this on tape from surreptitiously recording a conversation with Process using a back-electret microphone concealed under my sweater).
The police then slap Gipson around (confirmed along with the fact that the heroin wasn’t his–it belonged to Process, by a polygraph by a retired St. Louis police officer), arrest both him and Process and then, with 11 (eleven) police alleged eyewitnesses to the events, here’s what you’d have to believe after listening to all the testimony in court. One key point: the police had to have an explanation for why they didn’t attempt to get fingerprints off the plastic pill container since that would have conclusively shown whether Process had tossed the evidence or Gipson. I found the only honest fingerprint expert in Missouri who was willing to testify for the defense or for the prosecution, truthfully, Sgt. Jan Vassal of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. Her testimony about how it should have been standard procedure to test for prints on a plastic container really put the Metropolitan cops between a rock and a hard place.
Taking all the police testimony and piecing it together, the United States Attorney (the local City prosecutors wouldn’t try to get a City jury to convict on this evidence because too many black people would have been on the jury) wanted the 11-1 white jury (with 70% of the jurors having police friends, relatives, and/or neighbors; the one black juror had a sheriff for a brother and two cousins on the Metropolitan Police Force) to believe was that:
1. Sgt Doumakes of St. Louis’ finest is right handed;
2. Sgt. Doumakes was holding his gun in his right hand pointed at the second-story apartment window where Process lived above a bail bond agency;
3. Within five seconds Sgt. Doumakes observed and did the following:
(a) Supposedly observed a black male open window up a few inches and put his hand out and toss or drop the plastic container with the heroin capsules in it;
(b) Supposedly observed Gipson open the window up far enough for him to put his head out, since it would have been problematic to identify one black male over another just from seeing a hand;
(c) While observing all this within the same five second period Sgt. Doumakes miraculously caught the plastic container with his left hand while continuing to hold his gun with his right hand aimed at the second story window!
Not even St. Louis Cardinal great Ozzie Smith could have made that catch….
As we later argued to the jury, not even Ozzie Smith of the St. Louis Cardinals could have made that catch.
In the meantime in between time, what do you think happened to the tape recording on Process’s answering machine that the police promptly seized during the raid. Supposedly, it was missing about fifteen minutes of recording and was supposedly blank where Gipson claimed he heard the guy calling and accusing him of setting up Process.
St. Louis Police Dept was too dumb to even tamper with evidence and not make it obvious that they had done so.
We never actually used this fact in the trial, but it was obvious as to why the tape was supposedly blank at that point. Instead of actually erasing the tape, the idiot cops turned the volume down completely and recorded over it, but all that did was re-record the background noise in what they thought was a quiet room. We brought it to a sound lab at a local radio station and boosted up the background noise to the point where we could clearly hear the police dispatcher taking and making dispatch calls.
The jury deliberated three days and came back with “NOT GUILTY” on all counts.
Now if the United States Department of Justice in St. Louis had been honest and committed to the Constitution of the United States of America, they’d have prosecuted the St. Louis Metropolitan police for Conspiracy to Violate Civil Rights, tampering with evidence, and perjury amongst other things. They might also have looked into the pattern of civil rights lawsuits I found against the officers in charge of the operation who been repeatedly sued for breaking into homes, shooting people, and all sorts of cash seemed to conveniently get reported as missing after the raids. It also seemed that the officers took turns each year vacationing in Hong Kong….Speculation: were they taking turns as bag men depositing stolen cash into numbered and secret Far Eastern accounts? Hmmmmmm!
None of these officers were ever called to account for their obvious frame up or any of their other civil rights violations.
So ask me if I’m surprised that Michael Brown was shot and everybody from a Ferguson State Senator to journalists have been tear gassed and/or man-handled and arrested by Missouri law enforcement…..I’m not surprised in the least.