His name is Hassan Hamin Assad. But pro wrestling fans know him as Montel Vontavious Porter, otherwise known as MVP. In a sporting spectacle known for its profoundly backward representations of African-Americans, MVP has always chosen to showcase himself as a man of intelligence and confidence that—when playing the villain—could morph into grandiose cockiness. This past week, MVP—“acting as Hassan,” as he said to me, made the decision to travel to Ferguson, Missouri, the site of the police killing of Michael Brown and subsequent clashes with a shockingly militarized police force. I was able to speak with MVP while he was in Ferguson about why he felt compelled to make the journey.
DZ: Why did you, MVP, decide to make this trip to Ferguson?
MVP: Because, I was sitting on the couch, watching the footage coming in.… And, I’ve been saying this over and over, I just got tired of shaking my fist at the TV. My biggest issue was watching the militarized St. Louis County Police come in with a heavy-handed approach, to peaceful protesters. Media blackout, arresting journalists, and I just felt like I had to speak up about our Constitution being trampled on and our constitutional rights being violated.
You’ve now been there a couple of days, what’s your sense of what’s happening on the ground?
I’ve had had the opportunity to speak to a lot of the local residents who were there in the chaos. One guy who was actually, according to him, beaten up by the police in the process. And last night was extremely calm, there were peaceful protests… no violence. But there was no police presence. Earlier in the evening, there were a few black police officers, and I think the local police chief—it was, I think, a minimized police presence. The night, as it got darker and as it got later there were even less police. And, I’m sad to say, that much, much later in the evening—probably around 1 am—a few police responded to minor incident at a McDonald’s. There was nothing going on and they left. They didn’t bother anyone, and as they were leaving, some were throwing rocks and bottles at the police cars as they left. Which is counterproductive to do, but unfortunately you always have that angst.
So what’s your analysis of the approach of the police?
I‘ll paraphrase, because I believe the quote was that the St. Louis County Police Department… they hadn’t even had the opportunity to drill for that type of situation. So, what I think you have is a bunch of overanxious individuals with improper training responding to a situation not knowing how to do so. And as seen in some of the video that’s still shot as well as the accounts of some of the people who were there, you had officers on hand who were—instead of de-escalating the violence were intentionally escalating it. Mocking the citizens, there’s a still photo that I saw of some of the officers with their hands up… The major chant [of the protest] has been “Hands up, don’t shoot.” And there’ve been people walking up and down the street with their hands up and T-shirts that say “Hands up, don’t shoot.” Because allegedly, according to eyewitness accounts, Mike Brown had his hands up in a surrender position when he was shot. And there’s actually a still photo floating around that I saw, and a number of individuals related that they saw firsthand of officers raising their hands up, mocking the protesters and the “Hands up, don’t shoot” pose. That’s not professional, that’s not an attempt to de-escalate violence. There was talk of officers calling them animals. From what I understand it was just a complete lack of professionalism and leadership. Before this, where were the local community leaders? Where was the governor? Where was the mayor? Where was the city council? Where were the people who should have stepped in and called for peace? Where were the people who should have stepped in and said, “Wait a minute, this is not how we handle these sort of situations.”