Last night John Oliver of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” gave his own epic summary of the events in Ferguson. Not surprisingly, Oliver had serious issues with the Ferguson Police Department and what he saw as the over militarization of police forces in America. Below is a summary of Oliver’s segment along with some quotes. The video can be seen above.
1. The convenience store video is irrelevant
Oliver condemned the release of surveillance video from a convenience store which was released by the Ferguson Police Department at the same time they released the name of the police officer who shot Michael Brown. The video shows a man robbing cigars, and the police say that Michael Brown was the primary suspect in that robbery.
As Oliver explains, the police “conveniently packaged” the video with the release of the officer’s name, even though the video has absolutely nothing to do with the shooting since the officer who shot brown admitted that he was not even aware of the robbery at the time of the shooting. Oliver says that the police might as well have released a copy of Ghostbusters with the officer’s name since it is just as relevant.
2. “Those in charge in Ferguson don’t have the best sense of how their community feels”
Oliver quotes the Mayor of Ferguson, James W. Knowles, who claimed that the community has never had any racial tension. Oliver then shows a video of an African-American Ferguson who testifies to the constant harassment he receives in Ferguson. Oliver also quotes statistics showing that an overwhelming percentage of arrests in Ferguson are of African-Americans.
3. “ As a general rule no one should ever be allowed to say that there is no history of racial tension here.”
As Oliver puts it, that comment has never been true anywhere on earth, especially not St. Louis where a St. Louis County police lieutenant was fired for ordering patrol officer to arrests people for shopping in predominantly white part of St. Louis.
4. No city in America has a practical need for the kind of military equipment being used in Ferguson
Oliver cites a military expert on CNN who states that the kind of armored vehicles being used in Ferguson are actually discouraged from use on military bases. Armored vehicles are not supposed to be used on streets because they tend to tear up the roads and rollover on sharp turns.
In addition, Oliver questions why police are pointing their weapons at individuals who do not currently pose any threat to them, as has been documented numerous times in Ferguson.
But the problem, according to Oliver, is bigger than Ferguson. The spread of military equipment to police forces has coincided with a dramatic increase in SWAT team raids and the violence that goes along with these raids.
5. The root of the problem in Ferguson has to do with the unjust stereotype of blacks as criminals
To illustrate his point here, Oliver quotes a police officer in Ferguson who calls the protesters “fu**ing animals.” Nothing more illustrates how the police have tended to view the entire population, not just the troublemakers, as something less than human.
After violence erupted in Ferguson Governor Jay Nixon (D-MO) subsequently declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew on the residents, furthering the pattern of treating all the people of Ferguson as criminals.
Oliver ends dramatically, proposing that if we are going to punish a whole group of people for the crimes of a few then the military equipment for all the police should be taken away until they go a whole month without killing an unarmed black teenager, “Then, and only then, can they have their fu**ing toys back.”