That sentence was the beginning of a tweet Washington Post journalist, Wesley Lowery sent out in the early morning hours. The tweet was the harrowing conclusion of a story Lowery told about his experiences on the ground in Ferguson, MO. It is a story of fear and desperation. It is a story about the people of Ferguson under siege from both law enforcement and outside agitators. It is a story about attacks on the media. It is a story of how all our voices can be silenced. Here it is.
As I think back about tonight, one specific scene/contrast stuck in my head— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 19, 2014
As the second round of tear gas canisters hit Canfield - unbearable and thick - those preparing to fight cops ran forward— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 19, 2014
As they did, the yelled at photogs who were there. Did not threaten, but made clear they were unwelcome to document attempts to burn store— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 19, 2014
For safety, I moved backward. As I did, a girl in her late teens/early 20s grabbed my arm...— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 19, 2014
"Are you leaving? Please don't leave. PLEASE! What if they shoot us? You have to be here to tell people" she told me & a photog— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 19, 2014
On several nights that's been expressed to me: the desperate desire from residents who assume police will kill them for media to document— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 19, 2014
The fear and desperation in their voices is something I can't shake. Keeps me up, pacing, at night. Replaying in my head— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 19, 2014
By all accounts the subdivision of Canton, the site of Michael Brown's death, was a war zone last night. Law enforcement had put down concrete barricades across the roads trapping residents, media, peaceful protestors, and those who were not. Law enforcement made no distinctions and covered the neighborhood in teargas.
Back at my car. With police barricades in place I don't think I can get out of here— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 19, 2014
We held up media credentials. They drove into parking lot of private apartment complex and shot tear gas in circle, 10ft from us. #Ferguson— Jacqueline Lee (@BNDJLee) August 19, 2014
Police just shot at least three tear gas canisters at me. One hit my leg, one my backpack. #Ferguson— Jacqueline Lee (@BNDJLee) August 19, 2014
Listen, when #Ferguson PD threaten to shoot the press on live TV, imagine what they're doing OFF camera.
Think about that real hard.— Jim Wright (@Stonekettle) August 18, 2014
We are gassed on our lawns, strangers in our native land. We are shot in our streets, trespassers on our own property. #Ferguson— Broderick (@BroderickGreer) August 19, 2014
There is a reason why law enforcement is attacking journalists and photographers. It is a desperate attempt to control the narrative, one that would paint the killing of yet another young black man as justified. It is a narrative that wants to "Thugarize" an entire community in order to validate law enforcement's over reaction and indiscriminate use of force.
Shutting down the media is crucial to that enterprise. Shutting down the media would prevent an in depth, nuanced, examination of the events in Ferguson and what has led up to them. Shutting down the media would leave the people of Ferguson voiceless and prevent pieces like Wesley Lowery's Ferguson protesters: The peaceful, the elders, the looters, and the ‘militants’ from being written.
Resident Recalls Police Harassment In Ferguson http://t.co/...— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) August 19, 2014
For people who saw the Zimmerman verdict, it's a very hard sell that the legal system is capable of delivering justice in #Ferguson— jelani cobb (@jelani9) August 19, 2014
Last night's clash was especially disturbing for me because protesters urged police to arrest agitators. They didn't listen. #Ferguson— St. Louis American (@StLouisAmerican) August 19, 2014
Shutting down the media leaves the good people of Ferguson alone, in fear, and silenced.
If it's not safe for people with cameras, how safe is it for the people without cameras???— Lucas Neff (@RealLucasNeff) August 19, 2014
Two ministers who got separated last night re-connect:— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 19, 2014
"What happened? I lost you in the gas"
"I ran! I've got kids, I've got to live!"
This morning, the good people of Ferguson were out cleaning up their streets again and passing out roses.
Without on the ground media we'd never know. Instead the thugarization of a community would continue, unexamined and unchallenged. Instead, the centuries long looting of the dreams and worth of POC will go on. Instead, the Constitutional rights that we take for granted will continue to be subverted.
The hardest truth about Ferguson and the arc of history behind it is not what it reveals about Black America. It is the mirror it holds up to the majority of White Americans. It is the reflection of far too many white American's privileged indifference, selfishness, cowardice, and their costs.
That is the root of what we have been seeing in Ferguson. That is the root at the heart of everything.
What are we leaving for the next generation? Will all the children of this nation be granted the inalienable right to be all that they are? When will all our children be free to grow and thrive, knowing they are valued, that they have worth?
When do we truly begin to love our neighbors as we would want to be loved?
"Love your neighbor as you would love yourself" pic.twitter.com/MWUvVtg6Yo— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) August 19, 2014
1:02 PM PT: The family of Michael Brown will be burying their child on Monday.
We need to do everything possible for as long as it takes to stop this centuries long river of tears.