Monday, 24 November 2014

Ferguson: Waiting on Justice

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Rumors that the St. Louis grand jury had arrived at a verdict in the shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson policy officer Darren Wilson and would announce it over the weekend were quashed. An anonymous tip received by USA Today from an official acquainted with the matter said that the jury met for five hours on Friday and would convene again on Monday.

Efforts by radicals continued to roil the unhappy city of 20,000, with protesters taking to the streets on Saturday night chanting “No justice, no peace!” Police in riot gear arrived to disperse the crowd and made two arrests for unlawful assembly.

This followed the arrests on Thursday by the FBI of two New Black Panthers “accused of purchasing explosives they apparently planned to use during protests in Ferguson,” according to CBS News. It was reported that they planned to build pipe bombs to use during the upcoming protests following the grand jury decision.

The FBI has been active in the Ferguson area, with more than 100 agents attempting to infiltrate various radical groups to defuse potential bombings and other violence that protesters have been planning for several weeks. Nearly 50 radical groups have descended on Ferguson since the August 9 shooting of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson, which have engaged in numerous “training” sessions in advance of the announcement of the grand jury’s verdict.

Preparations on both sides are ongoing. Police have set up a temporary command center in a nearby shopping center, and on Saturday authorities erected barricades around the building where the grand jury has been meeting. Police have met at least five times with various leaders of those groups most likely to attempt to stir up trouble, resulting in them agreeing to 11 “rules of engagement," including the police refraining from using “excessive force” even if the expected riots begin to get out of hand.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency last week and made clear his plans to call up the National Guard, if necessary, stating, "There is the possibility of expanded unrest [following the verdict’s announcement] and … the State of Missouri will be prepared to respond appropriately to any reaction."

At least one school district has decided to extend the Thanksgiving Day break to include Monday and Tuesday, to avoid having students in school during those demonstrations.

President Obama couldn’t resist the temptation to involve himself and Attorney General Eric Holder in the matter, despite claiming back in August that he wanted to avoid looking “like I’m putting my thumb on the scales one way or the other.” Instead he attempted to sound like the voice of reason in giving advice to protesters reported by ABC News on Friday:

First and foremost, keep [those expected] protests peaceful.

This is a country that allows everybody to express their views, allows them to peacefully assemble, to protest actions that they think are unjust.

But using any event as an excuse for violence is contrary to the rule of law and contrary to who we are.

This statement is contrary to meetings the president had at the White House on November 5 with black radicals and the “Reverend” Al Sharpton, as reported by the New York Times. According to Sharpton, the president “was concerned about Ferguson staying on course in terms of pursuing what it was that he knew we were advocating." (Emphasis added.)

Obama let his attorney general do most of the talking, however. In a video released Friday morning, Eric Holder said nothing about letting justice take its course but instead gave credence to those wanting to “elevate” the conversation because of the “gravity of the subject matter”:

I ask all those who seek to lend their voice to important causes and discussions, and who seek to elevate these vital conversations, to do so in a way that respects the gravity of their subject matter.

Rather than urging protesters to follow the rule of law, the president instead castigated the police, demanding that they follow various federal “training programs” designed to “engage” the radicals and improve “relations” with them.

Holder encouraged those protesters with this from his video:

I recognize that progress will not come easily, and long-simmering tensions will not be cooled overnight. These struggles go to the heart of who we are, and who we aspire to be, both as a nation and as a people….

It is clear that we have a great deal of important work to do.

Polls show that most people expect the grand jury to vindicate Wilson in the shooting death of Brown. If the jury pronounces Wilson innocent by reason of self-defense, it will inform the police and other public safety agencies 48 hours before releasing its verdict to the public. In that case, the very earliest a verdict would be rendered to the public would be Tuesday evening, November 25, or Wednesday, November 26, just in time for Thanksgiving.

Photo of Ferguson riot: Loavesofbread

A graduate of an Ivy League school and a former investment advisor, Bob is a regular contributor to The New American magazine and blogs frequently at, primarily on economics and politics.

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