The police killing of Michael Brown has sparked outrage across the county, and protests in North St.Louis. An understanding of the context of the police dynamics, community, and the political realities of the area can give a fuller picture to the images America is seeing on social media and on their television screens. De-Bug was in North St. Louis just weeks before the shooting of Michael Brown to do a social biography video for a capital case, and captured photos that tell a story of police power, political corruption, and a community left to fend for themselves.
In a neighboring town to Ferguson, called Pine Lawn, police are perceived by many as an armed force of a corrupt mayor. In order to ensure his presence is felt, the mayor puts his name on all police vehicles. On the frontside of the van it also reads, “This is a zero tolerance community.”
This is the only park available to families in Pine Lawn, in North St. Louis. As the image shows, it is overgrown with weeds, has broken down play equipment, and is utterly neglected.
An image we saw often was community members being forced to sit on a curb by police. When we took this shot, just half a block down, another group of black teenagers were being detained by police on a curb as well.
This is one of the most astonishing displays of political gamesmanship we’ve seen by an elected official. In order to attack community organizers who are calling for accountability, and to send a message, the Mayor arrests community leaders on false charges, then puts out a pretend “newspaper” with their mugshots.
Some would say North St. Louis was a police state well before the killing of Michael Brown. There were frequent visual messaging about maintaining a certain order, and the consequence of not following the changing rules.
In this town next to Ferguson, houses are run down, and many are vacated. This is due to a host of new permits the Mayor has imposed for any resident to maintain the well-being of the home. To paint a home a permit is needed, to clean out the raingutters a permit is needed. People can’t afford the permits, so the homes are left to waste. Here, a local organizer shows a typical “porch.”