Violence Erupts In Wake Of Decision To Forego Indictment In Shooting Of Michael Brown
Not surprisingly, last night's announcement that there would be no state court indictment in the Michael Brown shooting led to violence and confrontations with police. That's not going to solve any of the real problems that face Ferguson, or any other community in the United States.
Immediately in the wake of the announcement last night that Officer Darren Wilson will not face state criminal charges in connection with the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, the crowds that had gathered in the area quickly became violent in a night of protesting that seems to have left the situation on the ground there far worse than it was at any point after the protests in August in the wake of the shooting itself:
As the night went on, the situation grew more intense and chaotic in several locations around the region. Bottles and rocks were thrown at officers, and windows of businesses were smashed. Several police cars were burned; buildings, including a Walgreens, a meat market and a storage facility, were on fire, and looting was reported in several businesses. Gunshots could be heard along the streets of Ferguson, and law enforcement authorities deployed smoke and gas to control the crowds. In St. Louis, protesters swarmed Interstate 44 and blocked all traffic near the neighborhood where another man was shot by police this fall.
Before midnight, St. Louis County police officers reported heavy automatic gunfire in the area where some of the largest protests were taking place. Flights to Lambert-St. Louis International Airport were not permitted to land late Monday as a safety precaution, officials said.
Mayor James Knowles III of Ferguson, reached on his cellphone late Monday, said he was there and wanted to see National Guard troops, some of whom were stationed at a police command center, move to protect his city. “They’re here in the area,” he said. “I don’t know why they’re not deploying.”
Just after 1 a.m., Gov. Jay Nixon called up additional members of the National Guard to Ferguson, where they will provide security for the police headquarters.
At a news conference around 1:30 a.m., Jon Belmar, the St. Louis County police chief, said at least a dozen buildings had been set on fire.
“As soon as Mr. McCulloch announced the verdict, the officers started taking rocks and batteries,” said Chief Belmar, who said he personally heard about 150 shots fired. He said the police did not fire a shot.
But outside the police station, Lesley McSpadden, Mr. Brown’s mother, voiced frustration with the decision. “They wrong!” she yelled, pointing toward the police officers standing outside of the station. “Y’all know y’all wrong!”‘
He added that 29 people were arrested.
“I didn’t foresee an evening like this,” Chief Belmar said. The night’s damage had been far worse than any of the nights of unrest that had followed the shooting in August, he said.m
Mr. Brown’s family issued a statement expressing sadness, but calling for peaceful protest and a campaign to require body cameras on police officers nationwide. “We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions,” the statement said. “While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.”
Protests, often well organized and orderly, also occurred in cities across the country, including Los Angeles, Seattle, Philadelphia and Chicago, where about 200 mostly young and mostly white protesters gathered at police headquarters, despite frigid temperatures and light snow.
At the start, it goes without saying that the violence that erupted in the immediate aftermath of the announcement of the decision last night is both inexcusable and counterproductive. Based on the reporting on the ground from CNN reporters such as Jake Tapper and Don Lemon, it is clear that this violence and rioting erupting essentially sua sponte as a reaction to the announcement rather than in response to some provocation by police officers on the scene. Within less than an hour after the announcement, for example, there were police cars on fire, local businesses being looted, and other local businesses on fire. The police, of course, responded the only way they could to try to restore order, by using smoke devices and other means, possibly including tear gas but that has yet to be verified even at this point in the morning. This contrasted with protests in other parts of the country which apparently remained largely peaceful, and which authorities allowed to continue until well into the early morning hours of Wednesday. In Ferguson, though, things had gotten out of control so quickly, that there didn’t seem to be any semblance of a peaceful protest at all even before the hour after District Attorney McCulloch’s announcement was up. There may be, indeed one could argue that there are, reasons why a violent reaction might at least be understandable, but that doesn’t mean that its acceptable.
Before shutting things down last night, I got into a somewhat extended discussion about this with several people on Twitter about this, and I think the central point is that, while one can agree that there may be legitimate complaints that the people of Ferguson, and other minority communities across the country, may have with the way they are treated by police, reacting in this manner is not likely to do much of anything to help to bring these issues to the attention of the rest of America. The average American who woke up this morning to images of burning police cars is not likely to react positively to the idea that there might be some legitimate issue behind the rage that they see on their television screens. This is especially true given the fact that it’s likely that many of the people who erupted in violence last night weren’t there because they cared about Michael Brown, his parents, or the issues of police treatment of minorities. They were there to cause trouble. We know this to be true in no small part because, in the days leading up to last night’s protests there were arrests made of people trying to sneak guns and explosives into Ferguson as well as other reports in the media by reporters who had been privy to what they called “planning meetings” for violence in the wake of the announcement of the Grand Jury’s decision regardless of what they decision ended up being. The people behind those acts don’t care about “social justice,” they just, in the words of one movie character, want to watch the world burn.
Whoever was responsible for the violence, though, it’s clear that even people who were there to protest peacefully got caught up with it, and that they didn’t accomplish anything. Hopefully, people in Ferguson will take a step back as they wake up this morning and realize that reacting violently is exactly what those who think that the police who treat minorities harshly expect them to do, and what they see as justification for that harsh treatment. Nothing they did last night helped their cause, nothing at all.
Photo via The Washington Post
So, how long until some FIOS request turns up meeting notes about doing the news release at night to ensure an immediate outbreak of violence? Hoover must be turning over in his grave having never thought of that.
Of course it accomplished nothing positive. Seriously…what would you have these people do? St. Louis has suffered under generations of racist laws and practices…and you cannot look at the statistics of Grand Juries returning indictments and think anything else is at play here. Boiling kettles have to let off steam…it’s a pretty basic law of nature.
As a news photographer in S. Florida I’ve lived this stuff. I’ve been to KKK cross-burnings…and I’ve been in packed auditoriums where I was the one white person. I’ve been in the middle of two race-riots in Miami…felt the weight of a flack jacket and the sting of tear gas in my eyes. For me this is not just some abstract occurrence on my TV screen.
There is a serious problem in places like St. Louis. And the only way that problem ever gets any attention is when the oppressed have finally had enough and they rise up. So rise up, St. Louis. Maybe it’ll accomplish nothing. Or maybe…just maybe….it will bring about some change.
Here’s a graphic that shows how rare not returning an indictment is.
Doug, while I agree with you that the violence is counterproductive, I think you should consider the possibility (very real to me) that the police and the prosecutor set the stage for violence to break out, both in the timing of the release of the announcement and the tactics used toward the demonstrators. Using tear gas against civilian demonstrators (supposedly forbidden under the Geneva conventions) is one way to provoke violent crowd reaction.
I think you are too quick to excuse the authorities here, who after all, should be held to a higher standard than civilian demonstrators.
Also too, the point is that most of the demonstrators were peaceful-that’s a point that often gets lost here. If a thousand demonstrators march peacefully, TV barely covers that. But let ten protestors set fire to a building or a police car, and it’s on permanent loop on CNN. I would say it’s very hard if not impossible for demonstrations to be entirely non-violent in cases like this, no matter what. That needs to be understood also.
As to feelings, how would you feel Doug, if Lithuanian Americans were repeatedly killed in suspicious circumstances by police, who were subsequently almost always exonerated? Suppose one of them killed was a brother , son, or father? I have a feeling you would not be quite so calm and disapproving of an angry response in such a case.
Or, alternatively and much more reasonably, they did the appropriate, responsible thing by predicting (correctly) that there was likely to be violence and holding off long enough to make sure that children were safely home from school and that most people commuting home from work to the area could be safely indoors should they choose to be.
But yeah, your version, where the chosen hour was part of a conspiracy to make people who riot, loot and burn local businesses as some sort of twisted perversion of “protesting” actually look bad…that must be it.
Thankfully, the large protests in other cities remained pretty much violence-free.
@Andrei Vfeked: With other words, you agree that the news was delayed in order to provoke riots, but for “noble purpose”, for the children?
Sounds a lot like the Nazis only protecting the people from “unworthy life”.
Thumbs up for FIOS request :0
“With other words, you agree that the news was delayed in order to provoke riots”
I don’t believe I did any such thing.
As for “Nazi/unworthy life”, seeing as these children and adults who chose not to riot are largely of the same neighborhood and racial makeup as those that did, I don’t see how this comment is intellectually honest either.
Thanks for playing, though.
Either the timing was intentional or stupid. Why make it an event? Why at night rather than in the morning at 0800? Why not on Sunday morning? Just watching the news leading up to this, you could feel the tension and the anticipation. I sure there are a lot of people rejoicing that rioting broke out.
As I said on the previous post, that simply reflects the selection process of cases presented to the grand jury. Before the grand jury sees most cases, the prosecutor has not only determined there is sufficient evidence to show probable cause that the person committed the crime, but also made a determination on the prosecution’s chances of being able to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. All the grand jury looks at is whether the evidence presented to them supports sufficient probable cause to subject the individual to a state prosecution where they will have to defend their actions/behavior. They take no notice as to the likelihood that the prosecution can successfully make their case at trial.
So, it is not surprising that most cases presented to a grand jury end in indictments.
Two things are clear based on your comment:
1). You don’t really understand the Grand Jury process. A Grand Jury is not a court; it is not Due Process.. If anything it serves as oversight of the SA office. For this matter, essentially a he-said she-said case, not to be subjected to Due Process is a gross miscarriage.
2). You don’t understand the implication of the 11:162,300 ratio.
This was a completely expected verdict, even in consideration of a basic outline of what happened – Multiple shots fired at an unarmed young man, one of which kills the young man. We’re expected to believe that one officer (Wilson), or Wilson plus the back-up assistance that he called for, could not apprehend and control this young man without killing him?
The justice system continues to deliver the same result in high profile racially-charged police shooting incidents, and quite often the people respond with frustration and violence. Regrettable? Perhaps, But no one, not a single person, should be surprised.
The even more appropriate, responsible thing would be for the prosecutor to, you know, prosecute, using standard grand jury procedure, rather than to conduct a show proceeding aimed at exonerating the police officer. Frankly, there are a lot of appropriate, responsible things the St. Louis authorities should have done before this.
I don’t think there is any good argument for a night time announcement here. Stevie Wonder could see that daytime would have been better for such an event, given the circumstances.
“The even more appropriate, responsible thing would be for the prosecutor to, you know, prosecute, using standard grand jury procedure, rather than to conduct a show proceeding aimed at exonerating the police officer.”
Neither you, nor I, nor anyone else here knows for sure what happened on the day Brown was shot and killed. Likewise, neither you, nor I, nor anyone else here witnessed the Grand Jury proceedings. I somehow doubt very seriously you have bothered to read the Grand Jury transcripts that were released since last night either.
The difference between you and me is that I don’t pretend to know what I cannot know.
“I don’t think there is any good argument for a night time announcement here.”
I already made one. You’re just too pre-lathered in indignation to acknowledge it. If you believe that rioting and violence are the likely result of some sort of event and you can control when that event occurs, how does it not make sense to schedule that event when the number of innocent people likely to be in the area of the rioting and violence is at a reasonable minimum?
Answer me that one, Mr. Wonder.
No lynchmob – No peace
White folks aren’t understanding how powerless blacks feel in the face of outright discrimination by law enforcement and smug indifference by the white public. But yes, it doesn’t help their cause but just reinforces the “justifications” so many whites feel for why blacks are treated like they are. King was really on to something with the non-violence. Let the cops look like the bad guys.
But from a legal conclusion, it really frustrates me that, what was probably a fair grand jury proceeding, is completely disregarded by the protesters – they have so little faith in the system, and are so dead set on their narrative, that they ignore the apparently strong evidence that Brown was not surrendering/holding his hands up/shot in the back, but likely got in a scuffle with a police officer. And this grand jury blather. Why do people keep quoting federal grand jury numbers. This is a state grand jury. and from what we know, state grand juries RARELY indict a cop.
So, the right legal conclusion seems to have been reached. If you want justice you have to act justly. Honestly, Trayvon Martin was a better poster boy for this movement than Brown, who apparently was aggressor.
The timing of the announcement really was highly questionable. At the end of the day though, we need to realize this whole thing really isn’t about Brown, it’s about the bigger issues at play hear. Fear of young black men. Is it justified? Is it not? How do we stop the high rates of criminality in that community. It’s about black feeling that the system doesn’t work for them, that it STILL doesn’t care about them or value their lives. The police to them are just another vessel for oppression.
We need to have a conversation about these issues. We have a lot of room to go, for sure. Reading social media it strikes me that part of the problem is the complete lack of perspective for both sides. Granted, it’s hard to pretend to be black or white when you’re white or back. But there’s so much history, privilege, and perspective mixed up in all this that we have two groups of equally-American people with very similar cultures (at least here in the South) who see the same series of events and interpret them COMPLETELY differently and use them to justify their own pre-conceived notions.
Note: I’m not going for a false both-sides-do-it equivalency about the bigger issues at play here, but as far as the perspective stuff, well, that’s just the human condition. It’s one of our biggest flaws as a species.
Which is why these things are normally disputed in public legal proceedings called trials. You may have heard of them.
I do know for sure he didn’t follow standard grand jury procedure, for reasons unknown. Those reasons can and should be known. I also know that prosecutors following standard procedure get indictments over 99 per cent of the time.I know that.
Er, no you didn’t. Making the announcement at night was just asking for trouble. A far better time would have been next morning at 8:00 AM, where most people would still be at home (indeed, you could have warned people to stay home and cancelled or delayed school) and it would been daylight out. You’re welcome.
Given that all the other Ferguson protests tended to be peaceful in the day and violent at night (gross oversimplification, but generally accurate), it’s pretty clear that an 8pm announcement was a bad idea.
Whether this is due to staggering incompetence, or a desire for the protesters to be labelled thugs on national TV, we can only guess. I’m guessing it wasn’t staggering incompetence.
All of the daylight footage of the earlier protests was of police acting like the military, and all of the nighttime footage was confusing, tear gas laden streets, people running, some destroying property — the prosecutors knew what images they wanted to dominate the coverage of this announcement.
I would like to hope that the businesses damaged or destroyed last night sue the city. They created an obviously dangerous situation, and they have deep pockets.
I wonder why?
so the penalty for getting involved in a scuffle with an officer is to be shot 12 times?
Maybe not a good thing?
Only Wilson said that, and since he didn’t face cross-examination, I’m not accepting his testimony. Would have been nice to know what Michael Brown would have said about who started it, , but Wilson made very sure we shouldn’t have that option-12 shots sure.
Unfortunately its not just a feeling. They have considerable evidence for their beliefs.
I do appreciate your call for a conversation. A lot of conservatives here see no need for a conversation, because they see nothing wrong-just uppity black people who don’t know what’s good for them and who need the police to just shoot them down once in a while, for no good reason, because that’s how you control them.
A thoughtful response to a complex issue. Nice to see a perspective that is not tinged with bias
There is an inconsistency of thought there….just sayin’
In any case “…after a long train of abuses and usurpation’s…” and a system “…deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity…” the citizens of Ferguson feel “…it is their right, it is their duty…” to rise against the injustice. Meh…It happens.
There are a lot of wing-nuts around here who go on about 2nd Amendment remedies…and for things that fall far, far, short of what happens every single day in and around St. Louis. But the citizens of Ferguson are by and large colored…so they should be subject to lynch mobs.
@Andrei Vfeked: thanks for your potential reasons why the prosecutor might have chosen to release at night. They hadn’t occured to me but sound plausible. akthough given the incredible racism of the police and courts I still can’t rule out the alternative.
With regard to the timing of the release I heard on the radio several days ago that the school board specifically requested that the announcement be made after school hours and after kids had time to get home safely.
The fear of kids getting stuck at school or on the road in the midst of riot wasn’t a made up concern. One of the problems with the rioting after Rodney King beating verdict was that people got trapped in the midst of the rioting who were trying to get home during afternoon rush hour.
As for how the prosecutor chose to handle the case with the grand jury-that’s debatable but Inhonrstly have no issue with him presenting all the evidence he had and letting the grand jury decide whether to indict.
Based on the evidence released that I’ve seen it appears that a conviction wasn’t going to happen. MO law is pretty broad in use of force and the evidence seems to at the least provide reasonable doubt.
Rather than rioting perhaps trying to get the state to change its use of deadly force law would be better.
“But from a legal conclusion, it really frustrates me that, what was probably a fair grand jury proceeding, is completely disregarded by the protesters – they have so little faith in the system, and are so dead set on their narrative, that they ignore the apparently strong evidence that Brown was not surrendering/holding his hands up/shot in the back, but likely got in a scuffle with a police officer. And this grand jury blather. Why do people keep quoting federal grand jury numbers. This is a state grand jury. and from what we know, state grand juries RARELY indict a cop.”
The two phrases I bolded seem to be in contradiction. If state grand juries rarely indict a cop, then it is likely that they are not fair proceedings.
Yeah, they have those when the prosecution can present a prima facie case for the guilt of the accused. Perhaps you have heard of the concept.
Or, alternatively, you could just rush through an indictment and proceed immediately to a trial held for political reasons rather than in the interest of justice and have the accused embarrassingly acquitted (but only after you have forced him to spend thousands of dollars defending himself). When has this happened recently? Oh yeah, George Zimmerman.
See above. My guess is that they only even took this before the Grand Jury because they had no choice but to do otherwise, politically. In lieu of cherry-picking facts to rush through an indictment, it appears that they presented pretty much the entire case and let the Jury decide if a case even existed.
Now, if you would care to peruse the Grand Jury transcripts and itemize key indisputable facts that were not presented, we could have a conversation about those. Otherwise, what possible benefit would there have been to proceed to a trial that could not be won? How are the interests of justice served when the the prosecution proceeds without enough evidence to convict, where substantial fact and eyewitness testimony contradicts the narrative of guilt to the point that an acquittal is assured?
That’s not justice, sir. That’s a government-sponsored and politically-motivated witch hunt.
Why does it not appear that the Justice Department is pursuing a civil rights case against Wilson even when there is Mount Everest-sized pile of political pressure for them to do so? Is it because, again, there is insufficient evidence to establish guilt?
Alas, it took me about 2 minutes on Google to find numerous instances of state Grand Juries indicting police officers for violent acts just within the past year or so. Does it happen as often as it should? No, probably not.
Bullshit. The Rodney King Riots were part of why LAPD got slapped with a consent decree, same reason why Cleveland PD got hit with one after riots there.
You know what doesn’t help bring about that type of change, though? People preaching to them about why their protests are a bad idea.
Hell, the protests and riots are the only reason the case even went before a grand jury in Ferguson, since Ferguson PD did their damnedest to try and prevent that from happening until fears about the popular reaction pushed them into reviewing it.
Thank you for agreeing with me.
Indeed, I’ve heard of the concept. I’ve had even occasion to establish a prima facie case myself. And I know how easy it is to establish. Have you heard that federal prosecutors meet the burden in establishing such a case almost every time they initiate a grand jury (over 99 percent of the time?) It’s done a lot.
Defendants get acquitted for various reasons(sometimes, they are even actually not guilty). As it happened, Zimmerman did get off. But he certainly should have been tried.As Wilson should be tried.
Again, this is not standard grand jury procedure.Most experts agree that it’s wrong grand jury procedure, and was done most likely in order to avoid handing down an indictment.
Holder says the GOP is proceeding with its independent investigation. We will find out soon if they will pursue a case against Wilson. I hope they do.
@stonetools: GOP? DOJ?
The no indictment is not surprising- the fix was in from the get go. No one I know thought Wilson would ever be indicted. I predicted he’d manage to make millions, like Zimmerman. The quickest and most sure-fired way to get rich in this country is to become a right wing martyr or celebrity. See also, Palin, O’Donnell, etc., ad nauseum.
What is surprising is the depth of the malice demonstrated by McCulloch- the sneering, smirking, self congratulatory press conference, the grotesque indifference to the family of Michael Brown, the completely one sided manner in which he conducted the case, the fact that he has never done anything in this manner before, the lack of any aggressive questioning. For christ’s sake, there were no pictures taken of the corpse of Michael Brown because the camera battery was dead and they didn’t take any measurements at the scene because it was “obvious what happened.” The pro-police leaking, the demonization of Brown (literally), the fact that Wilson suffered none of the injuries that were reported and that his story was unbelievable, and so on.
Just the brazenness of it all. That was what was and remains surprising and breathtaking.
OTOH, McCullogh did maintain his perfect, 26 year record of never indicting a police officer for any offense. There is that.
Things were close this time, because the case against Wilson looked solid. But hey, he and the Ferguson Police Department did a masterful job of throwing the case against Wilson.
As have I. Several, in fact.
Yup, and you’ll find comparable numbers at the state level the vast majority of the time. And you would not be the first person to throw this statistic out this morning without giving it proper context.
the number should be that high. Indictments are sought when the prima facie case can be established and, hopefully, when the prosecutor him/herself has reviewed the evidence gathered thoroughly and is convinced of the defendant’s guilt.
We agree, this was an atypical Grand Jury procedure. I’ve already admitted to as much previously. I’ve also speculated (while being pretty sure I have it right) as to why. I’ll even go so far as to agree with you about McCulloch wanting to avoid an indictment. I just don’t agree with you about the reason.
A criminal case against Wilson could not be won, and McCulloch knew it. He was probably also not remotely convinced of his guilt, after reviewing all available evidence. Seeing as they presented all relevant facts before the Grand Jury and couldn’t even retrieve an indictment based on probable cause, what hope could they possibly have for proving his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a trial where the defense would be (as you know) tremendous latitude.
At least we agree that McCullough made sure the grand jury reached the conclusion he wanted them to reach.
Given his backstory, it’s a heckuvalot more likely that McCullough didn’t WANT to prosecute Wilson, whether a case could be won or not. His police officer father was killed by a black man, so he was never going to believe Wilson was guilty of wrongdoing, no matter what.
In his view, if a white police officer shot a black man, he was doing what was right-reversing the injustice that was done to him, McCullough, when a black man “took away” his father. Bottom line, McCullough should have never been the prosecutor in this case.
@stonetools: When youdon’t get your way just create a false reality where your lies are true. All the forensics corroborated the officers account and evidence was presented to the jury. Sorry they didn’t return the verdict based on your whacked out racist feelings. No lynchmob no peace!!
Ah. LIke the photos of his “injuries” that showed he had no injuries?
Do you have any evidence for this, frankly, disgusting character assassination besides kitchen sink psychology?
Have to look at the bright side:
1: Wilson is done as a police officer.
2. Be awhile before any Fergie or StL cop doesn’t think about it before shooting.
3. Probably be a lot of those cops who are now suddenly interested in improving their relationship with “those people”. Been a long time coming, but the look of it.
4. Going to be some insurance money funding some new construction contracts. (OK, that one is a “silver lining” on the turd of the business climate that place will have for some time to come, but it’s still a silver lining).
5. Those folks may consider the importance of running for local offices and even voting for a change. The prosecutor’s seat, it’s safe to say, is very “winnable”!
6. The powers that be didn’t want Wilson tried. Mission Accomplished!