TIME Hong Kong

Hong Kong Trade Unions Call for Strikes as Democracy Protests Swell

Hong Kong Streets The Day After Clashes Between Pro-Democracy Protesters And Police
Office workers walk through closed off streets in front of protesters near the central government offices in the business district of Central in Hong Kong on Sept. 29, 2014 Bloomberg—Getty Images

“Workers and students must unite to force the totalitarian government to hand state power back to the people,” one trades confederation says

The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) has called for a strike Tuesday in support of the city’s snowballing democracy protests.

The call came after the city’s largest teachers’ union, the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKPTU), declared a strike in response to police’s forceful crackdown on demonstrators on Sunday.

“Hong Kong police used ruthless force to expel harmless citizens, inflicting injuries on demonstrators with the use of weapons, acting as enemies of the people,” read a statement released by HKPTU.

On Monday, education officials expressed their “deepest regret over the Professional Teachers’ Union initiation of a class and teaching boycott.”

The union’s decision to strike comes a week after student protest groups walked out of classes in response to Beijing’s decision last month to implement restrictive elections for the position of Chief Executive, the city’s highest office, in 2017.

Earlier on Monday, HKCTU asked workers to strike en masse, using language rarely seen in this mercantile enclave.

“HKCTU calls for all workers in Hong Kong to strike tomorrow, in protest of the ruling of the National People’s Congress, as well as the brutal suppression of peaceful protest by the Hong Kong government,” said the group. “Workers and students must unite to force the totalitarian government to hand state power back to the people.”

The South China Morning Post reported on Monday that about “80 to 100” delivery staff from the local Coca-Cola distributor had also gone on strike in support of democracy. Spontaneous strikes for political causes are extremely rare in Hong Kong. Also unusually, the company told the Post that it had “expressed understanding about the action.”

Analysts say that the further use of heavy-handed force by the police will broaden the support base for the protesters.

“People saw what happened with the protests and the violence used by the people and most of the public are very angry,” Mabel Au, director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, tells TIME. “That’s why the trade unions came out and called for a strike.”

TIME Crime

Why the FBI Report That Mass Shootings Are Up Can Be Misleading

Gun Shooting
A new FBI report shows an increase in "active shooter" incidents, but that doesn't necessarily equate to more mass shootings, say criminologists. Getty Images

While 'active shooter' incidents appear to be on the rise in the U.S., mass shootings do not

Aurora. Virginia Tech. Fort Hood. Sandy Hook. They’re four of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history. And they’ve all occurred in the last seven years.

For many Americans, mass shootings in malls, movie theaters and schools seem commonplace today. They’re fixtures of newscasts and are routinely referenced by gun control advocates in Washington lobbying for more restrictive laws on firearms. But the notion that they’ve been increasing has been mostly anecdotal. For all the discussion of gun violence in the U.S., the federal government has never collected information on mass shootings in one place.

But on Wednesday, the FBI released a report doing just that, including analyses of “active shooter” incidents and annual totals of casualties since 2000, all of which seem to point to one conclusion: The U.S. is experiencing more mass shootings than ever.

The FBI identified 160 “active shooter” incidents and 1,043 casualties between 2000 and 2013, finding that an average of 6.4 incidents occurred in the first seven years, and 16.4 occurring in the following seven.

“I was surprised that we identified that many incidents overall,” says J. Pete Blair, a Texas State University criminal justice professor who co-authored the FBI report. “I think it speaks to the fact that while there is interest in the media, many incidents don’t get covered, especially if they result in few injuries or don’t draw the body count of others.”

Seventy percent of the incidents identified occurred either inside a business or an educational environment, like a public school or a college campus. Sixty percent were over by the time police arrived, all but two involved a single shooter, and in 40% of them, the shooters committed suicide.

But at least two prominent criminologists have taken issue with the FBI report’s findings. James Alan Fox, a Northeastern University criminal justice professor, and Grant Duwe, a director of research for the Minnesota Department of Corrections and author of a book on the history of mass murder in the U.S., are both known for being mass shooting contrarians. And both think the FBI numbers are misleading.

“These events are exceptionally rare and not necessarily on the increase,” Fox says.

One of the problems, they say, lies with the definition of “active shooter” and “mass shooter.” The FBI report analyzed “active shooter” incidents generally, a term defined by the federal government as an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill others in a confined and populated area. (The FBI report modified that definition a bit to include multiple individuals as well as events in locations not considered “confined.”)

The problem in conflating the two terms, Fox argues, is that an active shooter doesn’t necessarily have to kill anyone. And in fact, only 64 incidents involving “active shooters” met the federal government’s definition of a “mass killing,” in which three or more people were murdered in a single incident. In 31 incidents identified by the FBI report, no one was killed.

“A majority of active shooters are not mass shooters,” Fox says. “A majority kill fewer than three.”

If active shooters are removed from the equation, Fox says, mass shootings in fact have not been rising over the last few decades, and both the number of incidents and the number of victims has remained relatively steady since the 1970s.

Fox and Duwe are also critical of the report’s methodology. To collect many of the incidents, the FBI’s researchers often combed through news reports. But the term “active shooter” has only been in use within the last few years, Fox says, which may have skewed the numbers in favor of more recent events, possibly making it look as if shootings are rising.

An additional problem may also be the availability of digital news sources that could make it easier for researchers to find more recent incidents. For example, the FBI report only identifies one active shooter incident in 2000. Duwe’s analysis includes two.

“The point is if you go back to those earlier years, I don’t think they’ve gotten them all,” Fox says. “Recent years are easier to find.”

Blair, the report’s co-author, says he and the FBI has tried to make it clear that there’s a distinct difference between active and mass shooter. He says the agency decided to focus on active shooters generally in part to give law enforcement agents guidance on how those incidents were resolved, which could help them in future cases.

“The two terms have been confounded not just in the media, but by the public in general,” Blair says. “They interpret active shooter to mean a mass murder, a mass shooting. They could turn into that, but not all of them do.”

Blair acknowledges it’s possible the numbers have been skewed due to the availability of more recent news reports, but he disputes the argument that the numbers are biased because the term “active shooter” is more common today. Blair says researchers not only searched for “active shooter” in news articles but also for terms like “mass shooting,” “mall shooting” and “spree shooting.”

“Active shooter is one of the terms we search for, but it’s one of the least productive,” Blair says.

Not all criminologists dispute the FBI’s findings. Adam Lankford, a criminal justice professor at the University of Alabama who studies mass shootings, says he believes the numbers paint an accurate picture of what’s occurring nationwide, and that in fact criminologists like Fox are including cases of drug deals gone wrong and family disputes in their analyses, which he believes skew their own numbers.

“The public wants to know whether more incidents like what happened at UC-Santa Barbara [involving 22-year-old Elliot Rodger, who killed six people] or Sandy Hook are happening more often,” Lankford says. “And I think the evidence says yes.”

Duwe does acknowledge that 2012 on its own was one of the worst years for mass shootings in U.S. history. According to his analysis, there were eight that year—including 12 people killed and 58 wounded in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., and 27 killed and two wounded at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Sixty-six people total were killed in mass shootings that year, Duwe says. (In contrast, the FBI listed 21 “active shooter” incidents and 90 people killed.)

But he says there’s been a “regression to the mean” since then, meaning there have been fewer mass shootings since 2012 and a return to more average levels. According to Duwe’s analysis, there were just three mass shootings in 2013 with 22 killed, and he says similar declines happened after 1991 and 1999, both high years for mass shootings in the U.S.

Duwe believes the perception Americans have that there are more mass shootings than ever can be chalked up in part to a faulty collective memory.

“We may just have historical amnesia,” he says.

TIME Crime

NYPD Confrontation With Pregnant Woman is Latest Police Video to Go Viral

The recording of an NYPD officer shoving a pregnant woman to the ground belly first is part of a shift in the relationship between the public and police

It was another disturbing video of a heated police encounter: As New York Police Department officers attempted to arrest a suspect, a pregnant woman is taken down by one of them, her swollen stomach hitting the pavement. And like an increasing number of police incidents, it was recorded by bystanders and widely shared on social media.

This one began early in the morning on Sept. 20 in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn, when police tried to arrest 17-year-old Jhohan Lemos for carrying a knife. The footage shows his mother, Sandra Amezquita, trying to intervene, then getting shoved to the ground belly first by an NYPD officer and later given a summons for disorderly conduct.

“The first thing I thought was they killed my baby and they’re going to kill my wife,” Ronel Lemos, Amezquita’s husband, told The New York Daily News.

Amezquita filed an excessive force complaint, prompting an investigation by the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau. Her lawyer, Sanford Rubenstein, said in a news conference Wednesday that Amezquita was suffering from vaginal bleeding.

The significance of the footage goes far beyond the borders of this Brooklyn neighborhood. The video from Sunset Park is the latest in a string of recorded confrontations between the police and the public that have fundamentally changed the relationship between the two.

Since a bystander captured Los Angeles Police Department officers assaulting Rodney King on a camcorder in 1991, ever-more-accessible recording devices have added layers of eyes and evidence to encounters with law enforcement that were once unthinkable. The fatal shooting of Oscar Grant by Oakland police in 2009 was documented by commuters at the train station where it happened. The death of Eric Garner during an arrest on Staten Island, N.Y. launched a national debate on the use of force by police after cell phone video of the confrontation went viral. And in the tense aftermath of Michael Brown’s shooting death in Ferguson, Mo., an organization called We Copwatch has provided citizens with cameras to document the actions of local police.

“The police are often the only people at a scene without cameras,” says John DeCarlo, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

That, too, is changing. Dozens of police departments are now testing or considering adopting body-worn cameras for officers. Police in Ferguson are now using cameras and the NYPD is testing two types of officer recording devices. Law enforcement agencies in Miami Beach, Washington, D.C., and Colorado Springs all plan to start wearing cameras by October.

The effect of all this surveillance can make it seem like the police are increasingly heavy-handed, but the numbers say otherwise. “There may be fewer incidents of abuse of force nowadays than there had been during the 1960s and ‘70s and earlier than that, but because we see them more commonly now because of the advent of cameras, people think they’re going up,” says DeCarlo.

Earlier this month, New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton released statistics showing that only 2% of the 400,000 arrests last year involved use of force by officers, a decrease of 8.5% from 20 years ago. The figures have been challenged by city council members who questioned the way the police department defined use of force, but the drop mirrors a similar decline in departments around the nation. In 2008, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 1.4% of people who had contact with police reported that an officer had used force or threatened to do so, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, down from 1.5% in 2002 and 1.6% in 2005.

But there is no doubt that recordings can elevate local incidents into national issues. And for many of the people behind the cameras, that’s just the point. The video of Amezquita was released by El Grito de Sunset Park, a community watch group. Its leader, Dennis Flores, has his own history with the NYPD: After filming police arresting a teenager in the neighborhood in 2002, Flores says the cops destroyed his camera, assaulted and arrested him. He says he later received a six-figure settlement that allowed him to form the group and buy dozens of cameras for neighborhood citizens to record officer incidents. One of those cameras, he says, was used to film Saturday’s altercation.

“We don’t interfere or obstruct,” Flores says. “We’re just trying to help prevent abuse. Citizens now with their cell phones are able to document and upload these videos for all the world to see. They’re balancing power.”

TIME Thailand

What the Murder of Two British Tourists Tells Us About Thailand’s Dark Side

Pictures of killed British tourists David Miller and Hannah Witheridge and a message of support to their friends and families are displayed during special prayers at Koh Tao island
Pictures of killed British tourists David Miller and Hannah Witheridge and a message of support to their friends and families are displayed during special prayers at Koh Tao island on Sept. 18, 2014 Sitthipong Charoenjai—Reuters

Savage killings on Koh Tao lay bare the dichotomy between Thailand’s palm-fringed image and its underbelly of violence and fumbling justice

The brutal murder of British tourists Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, on the Thai resort island of Koh Tao, has reverberated around the world.

Beach cleaners discovered the Britons’ naked bodies 20 m apart by rocks on idyllic Sairee Beach on Sept. 15. A bloodstained garden hoe, commonly used by beachside bars to dig fire pits, was found nearby and has now been confirmed as the principal murder weapon, along with a wooden club.

The existence of two weapons has “made us believe that there are at least two attackers,” the deputy national police chief, Police General Somyot Pumpanmuang, told reporters Monday.

Witheridge died from severe head wounds while Miller died from blows to the head and drowning, according to the Thai forensics department. Although there were signs of sexual activity, investigators have not ascertained whether Witheridge was raped.

Thai police initially blamed Burmese migrant workers (“favorite targets,” in the words of Paul Quaglia, a Bangkok-based risk analyst). “Thais wouldn’t do this” pronounced a leading policeman, and officers started rounding up Burmese laborers for interrogation and DNA tests. Stricter rules for hiring migrant workers across the archipelago were introduced in the wake of the killings with astonishing speed.

But when no evidence emerged to pin the murder on any Burmese, the focus shifted to other outsiders: Western friends of the victims. The spotlight fell on British tourist Christopher Alan Ware, who shared a room with Miller, with police hinting at “a crime of passion.” Ware was arrested at Bangkok’s main airport with his brother James. It turned out that the latter had left Koh Tao the night before the murders and so was above suspicion. DNA tests on a cigarette butt found at the scene have now cleared the former.

Next, suspicion turned to a pair of Thai men that Sean McAnna, a 25-year-old Scottish friend of Miller’s, claims to have witnessed molesting Witheridge on the night before she was killed — an altercation from which she was apparently rescued by Miller. McAnna, a busker well known on Koh Tao as Guitarman, took a photo of the Thais and uploaded it to the Internet, after which he began receiving death threats. He has now apparently fled into hiding in fear for his life.

Police revealed that the two Thais had been interviewed but were released after refusing to provide DNA samples.

“The problem is all the distractions,” Quaglia tells TIME. “The police are getting a lot of not only domestic media coverage but also international, and are under pressure to make statements about progress.”

The case of Witheridge and Miller has, once again, laid bare the dichotomy between Thailand’s palm-fringed islands and dark underbelly — immortalized in Alex Garland’s 1996 dystopian novel The Beach. Drugs, rape and assault are an unfortunate consequence of Thailand’s reputation for hedonism, and the criminal elements it attracts.

Thailand receives over 20 million tourists each year, drawn by the pearl-white beaches, stunning temples and sumptuous food. The vast majority of them have safe and enjoyable holidays, but a few are not so lucky. A quick scan of English-language news portals for the booming resort of Pattaya — one of the country’s most popular destinations — reveals a shocking litany of muggings, phone snatchings, shootings, stabbings, fatal car crashes, drownings, and more, all involving visitors. Sexual assault and rape, much of it unreported, bedevil Koh Phangan’s world famous full-moon parties.

But far from attempting to address the issues of visitor safety, Thai army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the nation’s self-appointed Prime Minister following a May 22 military coup, has stoked outrage by pointing fingers at the victims. “We have to look into the behavior of the other party [Witheridge and Miller] too,” he said.

In a separate address, for which he has since apologized, he said that tourists “think our country is beautiful and is safe so they can do whatever they want, they can wear bikinis and walk everywhere.” The general even suggested that the only tourists who should feel safe in bikinis were those who were “not beautiful.”

He didn’t mention the fact that eight days after the killing of Witheridge and Miller, not a single suspect has been identified or remains in custody. But nobody familiar with Thailand’s feeble justice system is surprised by that.

TIME China

Chinese Firms Are Exporting ‘Torture Devices’ to Africa

China Tools of Torture
In this undated photo released by Amnesty International, Chinese made weighted leg cuffs are displayed at the Chengdu Jin'an Equipment’s booth at an exhibition at an undisclosed location AP

Amnesty International claims at least 130 Chinese firms are involved in the worrying trade

Chinese companies are increasingly getting into the business of selling torture instruments, such as restraint chairs and spiked batons, to police departments in countries with miserable human rights records, Amnesty International claimed in a report on Tuesday.

At least 130 Chinese companies are now selling or manufacturing such equipment, up from just 28 a decade ago, the rights group says.

But as more Chinese companies enter the business, Beijing has not upped protocols to ensure that the exports do not end up in the wrong hands. Instead, most of the equipment is going to African countries where the rule of law is poor and where the potential for abuse is high, according to the respected human-rights watchdog.

Some of the Chinese-made equipment, such as handcuffs and projectile stun guns, is standard police issue that “can have a legitimate use in law enforcement if used correctly and in line with international standards for law enforcement,” says Amnesty.

However, other instruments are described by Amnesty as “inherently abusive” and include weighted cuffs, neck cuffs, electric shock batons and spiked batons, among others.

The report is a collaboration between Amnesty and the Omega Research Foundation, a British group that studies the international use and distribution of law-enforcement equipment. Liberia, Uganda and Madagascar are among the countries that have imported such equipment from China.

The use of torture to extract confessions is ubiquitous in China, although the government has pledged to crack down on the practice. This week, three police officers and four security personnel from the Chinese city of Harbin were convicted of torturing seven suspects to get confessions, according to Xinhua, China’s state news outlet. One of the tortured suspects died of his injuries, Xinhua said.

TIME Civil Rights

Ferguson Citizens Given Wearable Cameras to Film Police

And Ferguson's police chief approves

In the wake of the killing of an unarmed teenager by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., concerned citizens of the St Louis suburb will be donning cameras in a bid to prevent future abuses of power.

A California-based group called “We Copwatch” has raised more than $6,000 to buy video equipment for people in the Canfield Green Apartments, which are near the spot where Michael Brown was killed by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson in August, KDSK reports.

In addition to handing out the cameras, We Copwatch is partnering with community group the Canfield Watchman to teach classes about observers’ civil rights and how to effectively and lawfully monitor the police. Certain Ferguson police officers began wearing body cameras in early September.

“We knew the Ferguson police department was equipping themselves with 50 body cameras,” the organization’s co-founder Jacob Crawford said. “So we thought it best to equip this neighborhood with 110 body cameras.”

The program has already garnered the approval of Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson.

“Just the idea of private citizens filming the police doing their jobs, I don’t see anything wrong with that. As a matter of fact, it happens all the time” Jackson said. “We also have cameras now that we use to film our interactions with the public.”

[KDSK]

TIME Crime

6 Children, 2 Adults Dead in Florida Shooting

Don Spirit
This undated image provided by the Gilchrist County Sheriff's Office on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014 shows Don Spirit. Gilchrist County Sheriff's Office—AP

51-year old shooter killed his daughter and six of his grandchildren before turning the gun on himself

Two adults and six children died in a small town shooting in Florida on Thursday. Police say the victims were the perpetrator’s daughter and six grandchildren, according to local TV station WFTV and the Gainesville Sun.

The shooter was identified as 51-year-old Don Spirit in a press conference addressed by Gilchrist County Sheriff Robert Schultz. Schultz said Spirit called 911 and said he might harm himself and others, and a deputy was dispatched to his home in the north Florida town of Bell. Spirit spoke to the deputy and then killed himself, following which authorities found the other seven bodies inside the home.

The youngest of the children killed was a mere three months old, and the others were aged 4 to 11. Authorities did not specify whether his daughter, 28, was mother to of any of them, or if she was his only daughter. However, the Sun reported that his neighbor Maryann Vincent said Spirit has other children including a son.

According to the police, Spirit is the only suspect and some people were left alive in the home.

Spirit has a criminal history, and spent three years in prison about a decade ago after accidentally killing his eight year-old son Kyle in a 2001 hunting accident, according to the Associated Press.

“Keep this community in your prayers,” Schultz said. “Tomorrow’s going to be a hard day in Gilchrist County.”

Bell, which is just 30 miles outside of Gainsville, has a population of only 350.

TIME Thailand

Thai Police Search for Clues After 2 Brits Slain

The bodies of Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, were discovered on Monday morning in a rocky alcove along the shore close to the hotel where they were staying

(BANGKOK) — Police on a scenic Thai resort island searched hotels and workers’ residences Tuesday looking for clues into the slayings of two British tourists whose nearly naked, battered bodies were found on a beach a day earlier.

More than 70 police officers were deployed to Koh Tao, a popular diving destination in the Gulf of Thailand, as the country’s leaders called for a swift investigation into the brutal killings that were a new blow to Thailand’s tourism industry.

“This should not have happened in Thailand. It will affect our image in the eyes of international countries,” said Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha.

He also urged the media to warn tourists about travel safety in Thailand.

“In their countries, (foreigners) can travel wherever they want, so they thought it is safe, but in our country, there are still problems. There are different types of people, so they have to be careful,” Prayuth told reporters. “Those related must warn them and this incident has to be investigated because Thaipeople won’t tolerate this.”

Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said police were working “to make an arrest as soon as possible.”

The bodies of Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, were discovered Monday morning in a rocky alcove along the shore close to the hotel where they were staying.

Both had deep wounds and gashes to the head and face that police believe were inflicted by a bloodied hoe found near the bodies.

The pair traveled to Koh Tao with friends and met each other on the island while staying in neighboring rooms at Ocean View Bungalows, said police Maj. Gen. Kiattipong Khawsamang.

Police initially released a still image from surveillance cameras showing what they said were the two victims walking hand-in-hand. But they later said the image was not of the British couple.

They also said an Asian-looking man seen on closed-circuit camera footage was a prime suspect, but investigators were pursuing several leads.

“We are focusing on migrant workers because of the surrounding witnesses and evidence, including the video footage,” Kiattipong said. “We are sweeping hotels, bars, businesses and residences of migrant workers on the beach to find the suspect.”

Another police official, Col. Prachum Ruangthong, said investigators were also looking for a group of bar employees and had questioned a group of foreigners as well.

“This morning we surrounded three locations, including the residences of migrant workers, to search and collect DNA,” Prachum said.

On Monday night, about 100 local residents gathered on Sairee Beach for a candlelit vigil and said prayers for the young British couple close to the spot where their bodies were found.

The bodies of Witheridge, from Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, and Williams, from Jersey, Channel Islands, were sent Tuesday to forensic police in Bangkok.

The attack came amid government efforts to revive Thailand’s tourism industry after a military coup in May ended prolonged, sometimes violent political protests. Martial law remains in effect in many parts of Thailand.

Koh Tao, which is about 410 kilometers (250 miles) south of Bangkok, is a quiet, small island a short boat ride from the better-known Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, the latter known for its raucous “full moon” parties that attract young foreigners and Thais.

TIME Race

Ferguson Rapper Tef Poe: Barack Obama Has Forsaken Us, But We Will Not Stop Fighting Injustice

Ferguson Community Continues To Demonstrate Over Police Shooting Death Of Michael Brown
Demonstrators protest the death of Michael Brown on Aug. 22, 2014 in Ferguson, Mo. Scott Olson—Getty Images

Kareem Jackson, whose stage name is Tef Poe, is a rapper and activist.

They cannot kill us all. They can not throw us all in jail. We want justice for Michael Brown and every victim of police brutality.

We’re now a month out from the killing of Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, and a month away from when a grand jury is likely to decide whether or not to indict him. Yet we still have no answers and no respect in the state of Missouri.

In Saint Louis County, the police have a history of racial profiling and abusing the power of the shield. Racial profiling in North County has transformed into a problem of monstrous proportions. Young black men and women have sadly realized that the police are here to do us more harm than good. We don’t drive certain places in our very own community after a certain time of night. We avoid suburban communities as much as possible because we fear being unjustifiably locked up and thrown into jail. In Saint Louis County all of the cards are stacked against young black people.

Mike Brown’s untimely demise was the tipping point in Saint Louis County. We believe he was brutally assassinated. His body lay in the streets of the Canfield Green Apartment Complex for over four hours. It was as if he was publicly lynched by the Ferguson Police Department and his body was left on display as a mechanism of fear.

The community responded to this wrongdoing with much disdain and the police launched a preemptive and massively militarized offensive. We were tear gassed and shot down in the streets by rubber and wooden bullets as if we were dogs. I woke up one morning and there were armored military vehicles stationed around the corner from my mothers house. I saw helicopters and fighter jets flying above my childhood elementary school. Palestinians tweeted advice on how to construct makeshift gas masks in St.Louis. A vast majority of the police officers who fired upon us don’t even live in or near the neighborhoods they are policing.

In the blink of an eye, I felt as if I were living in 1963. A week before all of this madness, I never thought I would see German shepherds and sniper rifles directed toward children and adults alike with my very own eyes.

The day after Mike Brown’s murder, I cried twice. The moment was so overwhelmingly massive, my mind couldn’t process all of the anguish and anger. My grandparents endured this type of treatment so we wouldn’t have to. Now, I suddenly have the same experience and first-hand connection to their struggle; something I doubt any of us ever anticipated. I want to make it clear more than anything else my emotions have grown unstable as a direct result of Mike Brown’s murder and the ensuing presence of militarized police in our neighborhood. My generation had never before had to show up for the fight in the same manner our parents and grandparents did during the civil rights movement. (It’s also important to note that we are in no way attempting to imitate the greatness of the civil rights movement. The Ferguson Police Department has a lengthy history of aggression and discrimination towards African Americans as well as poor whites.)

There’s a saying on the streets: “Mike Brown means we’ve got to fight back.” Darren Wilson shot down Mike Brown and the Ferguson Police Department attempted to vilify the victim. Young people in the city of Saint Louis viewed these reprehensible acts as a declaration of war. There was no meeting of the minds. Mike Brown sparked a universal moment of clarity for young black people. We feel as if no one in a position of power respects us. We feel as if we are not viewed as humans. Police officers blatantly referred to us as monkeys and dogs. A select few have lost their jobs as result of their actions, but a great many remain gainfully employed.

We suddenly found ourselves on the parking lot of McDonald’s surrounded by members of the National Guard with M-16’s trained on our every movement. Our behavior was completely legal and peaceful. The scene was surreal as we noticed members of the media donning gas masks and bulletproof vests, attempting to protect themselves from the highly volatile acts of violence enacted by the police which were soon to follow. There was no distinction between media and civilians. At this moment I realized it was basically all of us together versus the tyrannical order of the police and the National Guard.

This is the moment I asked myself, “Why did I vote for Barack Obama twice? Why are we being treated like this simply for demanding justice for our fallen brother?” I decided it is possible I’ll never vote for another American president for as long as I live. We live in America but we are clearly not included as Americans. Americans don’t unleash a completely militarized force upon other Americans. Americans don’t tear gas other Americans. Americans don’t drive tanks over the front yards of other Americans. By classical definition we are still poor black people who reside in America, but we are not considered equal to fellow American citizens and lawmakers. Our hopes and dreams are not valued or respected. Our worries and concerns often fall upon deaf ears.

During this time I’ve pulled children out of clouds of tear gas. I’ve witnessed white women who are members of the clergy collectively praying in front of tanks and armored vehicles. One of these women was mercilessly shot with a rubber bullet by the police while praying for peace. Our neighborhood was occupied by the police as if they were an invading army laying siege to their enemy and pillaging the remains. Our basic civil rights were stripped away as we were treated like cattle in the name of a sick, sadistic experiment in martial law. We assumed that our beloved, black president would come to our defense and speak about the perils of police brutality, racial profiling, and Mike Brown’s unfortunate demise. Instead we felt as if he co-signed this unfair treatment and endorsed the brutal show of force the police displayed towards us. We are our only allies. No one in the world will stand up with us against such tyranny.

We’re in a highly combustible powder keg that could blow at any moment. The city is overflowing with civil unrest and we simply want answers for the many wrongdoings that have been committed against us. The officers of the Ferguson Police Department continue to stand in solidarity with their brother Darren Wilson. The entire system is corrupt from top to bottom. We will not stop fighting and resisting all forms of police brutality. We are may be the minority in this country, but vocally, we will be the majority. They cannot kill us all. They can not throw us all in jail. We want justice for Michael Brown and every victim of police brutality.

Kareem Jackson, whose stage name is Tef Poe, is a rapper and activist.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser