Friday, November 21, 2014

The ongoing Ferguson drama

Attorney General Eric Holder has issued a statement on new guidelines he expects St. Louis and Missouri police to follow toward citizen protests over the Daryl Wilson grand jury decision and other issues, Maintaining Public Safety while Safeguarding Constitutional Rights Justice Department 11/21/2014:

Missouri's Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon foolishly and irresponsibly created a preemptive state of emergency even before the grand jury hands down its decision of the Wilson indictment. The effect of that action is to encourage the public and trigger-happy police of Ferguson and St. Louis to regard any demonstrations by African-Americans protesting Wilson's killing of Michael Brown as a potentially violent danger that could threaten their personal safety.

He's asking for trouble, in other words.

Charlie Pierce in Jay Nixon's the One Leading the Coming Storm in Ferguson Esquire Politics Blog 11/19/2014 quotes a Washington Post report by Wesley Lowery, Mo. governor declares state of emergency in expectation of more Ferguson unrest 11/17/2014:

The National Guard will be deployed to between 35 and 40 locations where the unified command has determined that, based on past protests and property destruction, it would be wise to have a “presence,” according to St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson.

“The National Guard is not coming to militarize the response,” Dotson said. “It’s a multiplier. It helps us protect our community.”
Pierce's response to this:

Tell you what, Chief. Why don't you and a few friends sit yourself around a table, hold hands, dim the lights, and have yourself a seance whereby you chat with the Ghost of Ross Barnett about how the presence of the National Guard doesn't "militarize" a response. Or the Ghosts of Bill Schroeder, Allison Krause, Sandy Scheuer, and Jeff Miller. Or the Ghosts of 43 People in Detroit. The Guard is a military organization, as many Guardsmen who served under the unsteady command of C-Plus Augustus in Iraq can tell you. Their weaponry and their training are all military. In some cases, such as a response to a natural disaster, this plain fact is evinced simply by the Guard's military efficiency. In this case, however, it will be evinced by bayonets and tanks. And the examples cited occurred when the Guard was called in to face a situation that already had begun. In this case, Nixon has called in the Guard before anything has happened. So, Chief, the response is already "militarized." Multiply that.

If Wilson gets no-billed, there will be a reaction, and all of it will not occur in Missouri. I don't think I'm out of line when I wonder whether or not said reaction will be used as a test case for how much official violence the general public will tolerate to be kept safe from Unruly Others in the street. I do not think I want to know the answer to that.
Chuck Raasch reports on Holder's new guidelines in With Ferguson decision looming, Holder issues new police guidance St. Louis Post-Dispatch 11/21/2014:

Allegations that police in St. Louis County and Ferguson overreacted to demonstrators, looters and others after the Aug. 9 shooting prompted congressional hearings on whether police around the country were becoming "militarized." President Barack Obama has ordered a review of a Department of Defense program that sends surplus military equipment to local police.

Holder's Bureau of Justice Assistance issued the "Resource Guide for Enhancing Community Relationships and Protecting Privacy and Constitutional Rights." It pulls together brochures, guides and other instruction material on topics like "The Role of State and Local Law Enforcement at First Amendment Events."

Post-grand jury decision gatherings are planned for at least 100 cities around the country, according to a Web clearinghouse called the Ferguson National Response Network. According to the site, gatherings are being planned in cities from Tampa, Fla., to Batesville, Ark., to Seattle. The site includes postings on planned demonstrations in Columbia, Mo., and Carbondale, Ill.
Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson, leader of the heavily white racist police force in that city, has not surprisingly been pushing back hard against pressure from the Justice Department to clean up his department's act so that it can function as a law enforcement agency instead of a shakedown operation in uniforms. (Stephen Deere, Ferguson police chief fires back at reports his department is disbanding St. Louis Post-Dispatch 10/30/2014)

One thing I've learned from following from the Ferguson situation is that defenders of white cops who murder young black men under even the most questionable circumstances will try to blur two related but distinct matters: the need for police to clearly explain killing somebody, and the individual legal culpability of the cop doing the killing.

Defenders of Michael Brown's killer Daryl Wilson, including Thomas Jackson's rogue police department that is trying to build a one-sided public case supporting Wilson at the expense of doing its duty to enforce the law and explain its actions to the public it allegedly serves, try to concentrate solely on the individual criminal case against the killer cop. As in cop-wanna-be George Zimmerman's murder of Trayvon Martin, the Michael Brown's killer eliminated the one other main witness to the actual killing by acting as judge, jury and executioner all at once.

So the Ferguson police department and their many white defenders and supporters in Brown's killing have concentrated on nitpicking every incriminating bit of evidence before and after the fact to create "reasonable doubt," the standard the prosecution has to exceed in order to secure a conviction under the presumption of innocence that is a key part of American law.

But a police department's duty to explain a killing should not be considered to benefit from any presumption of innocence on the police's party. When a cop like Daryl Wilson kills a citizen like Michael Brown, whether or not the person killed is a young black man as Brown was, the police have an obligation to the public to explain clearly to the public why their cop killed somebody. Their duty is to enforce the law, not to act as defense counsel for rogue cops. If Wilson had good reason to pump bullets into Michael Brown and kill him, the police should be able to give a straightforward explanation of the killing. If they can't give an honest and convincing explanation of the killing, they should investigate the shooter like they would any other criminal suspect.

The fact that virtually no one expects police departments to do so these days is grim sign of the level of distrust that people have of the police who are supposed to be public servants, not a mob in uniform.

Shaun King in A lie in the Darren Wilson defense in the shooting death of Mike Brown that just won't go away Daily Kos 11/19/2014 points to a problem in official explanation, such as it is so far, of Brown's killing:

Mike Brown was not killed 35 feet away from Darren Wilson's SUV.

His final fall was at least 108 feet away from Darren Wilson's SUV. This 300 percent difference is actually a very big deal and is a significant part of Darren Wilson's defense. The St. Louis-area police have continued to advance this lie for over 103 days since Mike Brown was killed on Canfield Drive on the afternoon of August 9 in Ferguson, Missouri. ...

On August 10, 2014, St. Louis County Police Chief John Belmar held his first press conference on the shooting of Mike Brown by Officer Darren Wilson of the nearby Ferguson Police Department. His force had been called in to take over the investigation for the much smaller local department. The shooting had occurred less than 24 hours earlier, and the tensions on the ground in Ferguson were already red hot and boiling over. ...

When Chief Belmar sat down the next day to brief the press on his summary of the facts, he stated at 1:13 (and then even more emphatically at 6:01) in the video below, "The entire scene, from approximately the car door (of Officer Wilson) to the shooting, is, uh, about 35 feet." ...

At that time, when the chief said the "entire scene" was just 35 feet in distance from the "car door to the shooting," every observer accepted it as a negligible fact and thought little about it, instead zeroing in on why Darren Wilson stopped Mike Brown in the first place and why a police officer would shoot a young man who was surrendering with his hands up.

It turns, out, though, that the distance Mike Brown fled was not 35 feet, as was stated in the press conference and cited in hundreds of articles since. Nor was it 45 feet, or 75 feet, or even 95 feet, but approximately 108 feet away from Darren Wilson’s SUV. Below, you will find photos from the day of the murder, maps, infographics, and more to confirm for you that the distance was nearly 300 percent farther away than originally claimed by Chief Belmar and subsequently quoted as fact in almost every narrative of the case.

While the initial reporting of this distance from the chief could have been an error, albeit an egregious one, it seems clear now, after over 100 days of requests for the police to clarify this discrepancy have only produced silence, that it wasn’t an oversight, but a deliberate misrepresentation of the facts.

What reason would the chief have for so seriously understating the distance by more than 70 feet? Well, how far Mike Brown fled matters greatly, and the St. Louis County Police Department could have many reasons for purposely understating it. One doubts, though, that they expected to be caught telling this lie. When it was first told, while matters were tense in St. Louis and spreading on social media, nobody had any idea that this case would grip the nation and the world. [emphasis in original]
King goes on to explain in some detail his analysis of the problem here.

Chauncey DeVega has a couple of interviews on Ferguson posted. One is with the Washington Spectator's Lou Dubose, Chauncey DeVega Show: On the Ground in Ferguson With Journalist Lou Dubose 11/13/2014:

And, The Chauncey DeVega Show: On the Ground In Ferguson With Reverend Renita Lamkin 11/20/2014:

Lou Dubose has been writing on the Ferguson situation in the Washington Spectator he edits, such as The Ultimate Question: It explains everything about Ferguson 10/01/2014.

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