On the ground in Ferguson: “I saw a city that is deeply segregated”

There are few signs of calm in Ferguson. As street clashes and media attention intensify, so do the deep tensions driving a new civil rights moment. Fusion’s Mariana Atencio told Jorge Ramos about her time in the streets there.

“I saw a city that is deeply segregated,” Atencio said. “[African-Americans] are discriminated against, and in particular they are discriminated against by the white police forces that are sent to guard their communities.”

On Tuesday, police reported 31 overnight arrests during clashes with protesters that included gunfire at officers. The conflict has been uninterrupted since white police officer Darren Wilson shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown ten days ago in a residential Ferguson street. The incident crystallized a longstanding disconnect between police and the community – one that Trayvon Martin’s mother also discussed in her open letter to the Brown family.

“Every single young African-American man that I spoke with had been stopped by the police several times just for the way that they look,” Atencio said. She cited the 50-to-3 disparity between white and black police officers on the force in a town that is 67% African-American.

Rather than establishing order, authorities have also been criticized for exacerbating the standoff by imposing a curfew and mobilizing a massive show of force such as tear gas and military-grade equipment.

“Their mothers told me how they would teach them to protect themselves — not against robbers, but against cops,” Atencio said.

The National Guard is now in Ferguson Attorney General Eric Holder is set to arrive there on Wednesday to oversee the federal investigation of Michael Brown’s shooting. But protesters have sought a more vigorous response from the president, who has always been measured in his handling of racial issues. Atencio saw signs in Ferguson asking, “Obama, where are you?”

There are fresh wounds in Ferguson to match the old ones recently torn open. From the president on down, Americans know that they won’t be healed quickly. Right now, it’s a chaotic rush to stop the bleeding.

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