Warnings Of Violence In Ferguson Could Become Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

All the warnings of violence in the wake of an expected imminent announcement from the Grand Jury in the Michael brown case could become self-fulfilling prophecy.

Ferguson Protests Police Riot Gear

As we await a decision from the Grand Jury investigating the Michael Brown shooting, we now have the Federal Bureau of Investigation warning that the decision could lead to violence against law enforcement both in Ferguson and elsewhere around the nations:

As the nation waits to hear whether a Missouri police officer will face charges for killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., the FBI is warning law enforcement agencies across the country that the decision “will likely” lead some extremist protesters to threaten and even attack police officers or federal agents.

Peaceful protesters could be caught in the middle, and electrical facilities or water treatment plants could also become targets. In addition, so-called “hacktivists” like the group “Anonymous” could try to launch cyber-attacks against authorities.

“The announcement of the grand jury’s decision … will likely be exploited by some individuals to justify threats and attacks against law enforcement and critical infrastructure,” the FBI says in an intelligence bulletin issued in recent days. “This also poses a threat to those civilians engaged in lawful or otherwise constitutionally protected activities.”

The FBI bulletin expresses concern only over those who would exploit peaceful protests, not the masses of demonstrators who will want to legitimately, lawfully and collectively express their views on the grand jury’s decision.

The bulletin “stresses the importance of remaining aware of the protections afforded to all U.S. persons exercising their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.”

Within hours of the FBI issuing its bulletin, some police departments across the country issued their own internal memos urging officers to review procedures and protocols for responding to mass demonstrations.

Still, the bulletin’s conclusions were blunt: “The FBI assesses those infiltrating and exploiting otherwise legitimate public demonstrations with the intent to incite and engage in violence could be armed with bladed weapons or firearms, equipped with tactical gear/gas masks, or bulletproof vests to mitigate law enforcement measures.”

The bulletin cites a series of recent messages threatening law enforcement, including a message posted online last week by a black separatist group that offered “a $5,000 bounty for the location” of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who fired the shots that killed Brown on Aug. 9.

In interviews with ABC News, police officials said their departments have identified a number of agitators who routinely appear at mass demonstrations.

“How many of those sympathizers are actually sympathizers?” Rick Hite, the chief of the Indianapolis Metropolitan police department, wondered. Many of them see the protests as a way to “chime in with their own personal agenda,” he said.

In its new intelligence bulletin, obtained by ABC News, the FBI says “exploitation” of mass demonstrations “could occur both in the Ferguson area and nationwide.”

Overall, though, law enforcement officials contacted by ABC News – stretching from Los Angeles to the Atlanta area – remained confident that any protests in their cities would not be tainted by violence.

“We are not expecting any issues in our city,” said Billy Grogan, the chief of police in Dunwoody, Ga., outside Atlanta. “However, we are preparing just in case. I believe most departments are watching the situation closely and are prepared to respond if needed.”

A law enforcement official in Pennsylvania agreed, saying that while authorities there are not enacting any significant new measures they are “monitoring” developments out of Ferguson.

This news comes amid other reports about authorities who appear to be preparing for both a decision from the Grand Jury to no charge Officer Darren Wilson at all, or to return a charge on some minimal charge that would likely do little to satisfy people who are convinced that Wilson killed Brown in cold blood, and the prospect that such a result would both set off a new round of protests and lead to outsiders using those protests to mask a more nefarious agenda, which appears to be what happened in August. Yesterday, for example, the Governor of Missouri put a State of Emergency in place even though it remains unclear when a Grand Jury decision might be announced, or what that announcement might be. Additionally, both law enforcement and civic groups in the Ferguson area appear to be preparing for protests, clashes, and likely confrontations between protesters and the police in the wake of the expected announcement.

As Jazz Shaw notes, on some level pronouncements and preparations such as do carry with them a measure of common sense. Since the expectation at this point seems to be nearly universal that the Grand Jury’s decision will be something less than what the people who have been protesting in Ferguson, and the community as a whole would like to see, and could very well result in Officer Wilson returning to active duty in the event there are no charges brought, then it’s likely that there will be protests even at this time of the year when the weather is colder. It’s also prudent to assume that some of those protests could turn violent, either because outsiders will use them as excuses to loot and pillage as they did in August, or because the police will once against over-react in the same hyper-militarized manner that will cause the same reactions we saw in August.

At the same time, though, I can’t hope but think that we’re looking at something of a self-fulfilling prophecy here. While its prudent to prepare for worst case scenarios, the fact that we’ve been through at least a week, if not longer, of predictions that people won’t be able to control themselves in the wake of the announcement of the Grand Jury decision seems to me to be making that very possibility more likely. On the side of the police, it creates the expectation that whomever they encounter in protests in the wake of the decision is a potential threat rather than someone exercising their First Amendment rights, thus making a police overreaction all the more likely. Among the protesters it seems only likely to reinforce the fear that the police are out to target them, and to cause them to react accordingly. And, of course, there will be the opportunists who will act without any real concern for the issues in the Michael Brown shooting, but only to stir up trouble and engage in violence for the sake of violence. One would like to think that community leaders and law enforcement will find a way to handle all of this appropriately, but the events in August make it seem unlikely that there’s much trust between the two sides in Ferguson at this point. Which means that the reaction to what is expected is going to be problematic indeed, unfortunately.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, Race and Politics, US Politics, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Moosebreath says:

    “On the side of the police, it creates the expectation that whomever they encounter in protests in the wake of the decision is a potential threat rather than someone exercising their First Amendment rights, thus making a police overreaction all the more likely. Among the protesters it seems only likely to reinforce the fear that the police are out to target them, and to cause them to react accordingly.”

    I think the horse left the barn on both these counts long before these warnings.

  2. stonetools says:

    Well, Doug, how do you think police departments are going to gin up reasons for more military hardware without instigating a few riots? Too cynical? I don’t think so.
    Meanwhile, Gun Manufacturers and the NRA thank the authorities for fanning hysteria. Guns are flying off the shelves.
    And if things get out of hand, the KKK are ready to join their brothers in law enforcement to help “restore order”.
    Maybe if they have just chosen a prosecutor who wanted to actually charge the police officer if evidence warranted, like here and had a police department who actually investigated the case in a fair and even handed manner, we wouldn’t have to be here. Oh well.

  3. JKB says:

    Well, given the protesters are inplace, have issued target lists that include private businesses and corporations in and around St. Louis and won’t rule out riot or violence, then the warnings, states of emergency and preparations are warranted.

    Several black separatist groups have promised violence and one has but a bounty on the head of Officer Wilson and his family/friends.

    You are only reporting the official acts by law enforcement if you want the whole story then you need to go back and see the preparations and warnings issued by the protest organizers as well as groups seeking to exploit the protests for their own aims.

    http://noindictment.org

    http://fergusonresponse.tumblr.com

  4. Tony W says:

    Fox News loves this story. Black people acting “crazy” – looking only at the outward symptoms, no need to complicate the discussion with root cause information.

  5. Neil Hudelson says:

    @JKB:

    You realize we can actually click and see what’s in those links, right? You posted two links to planned demonstrations. Demonstrations aren’t illegal, nor inherently violent. Nor do either links call for violence, mention violence, or seem at all as if they have nefarious means.

    So…you want Doug to report on the fact that you found two websites listing demonstrations, so we can see the “whole story?”

    Really?

  6. Tyrell says:

    The best way to prevent the arson, firebombing, looting, and destruction that occurred before is to keep outsiders out.

  7. al-Ameda says:

    @Tyrell:

    The best way to prevent the arson, firebombing, looting, and destruction that occurred before is to keep outsiders out.

    So how do you separate those who are there to protest and those who are there (in your opinion) to commit mayhem? (by the way, I presume the arsonists are NOT ‘open-carrying’ their firebombs and Molotov cocktails.)

  8. KM says:

    @Tyrell:

    keep outsiders out

    If I lived there and saw the display of police/military force, my first thought isn’t going to be “Thank god those outsiders are being kept away!” It would be something along the lines of “Shit, they are going to start something. They’re not here to keep the peace; they’re here to bust some heads.”

    Remember, unless they live physically there, the National Guard is made up of outsiders too.

  9. michael reynolds says:

    @JKB:

    You know, it’s that kind of dishonest crap that ends up diminishing you. Why don’t you see if you can debate issues on the facts for once? Is that you know reality is not your friend? And if you know reality is not your friend, does that not make you a conscious, deliberate liar as opposed to merely someone with a differing opinion?

  10. anjin-san says:

    @JKB:

    Yea, those calls for peaceful protests and candlelight vigils are pretty sinister. You should probably hide under the bed.

  11. JKB says:

    @Neil Hudelson: @michael reynolds: @anjin-san:

    Those links were to show that the protests are in place and ready to go. They already had a die-in on Monday. Everything essentially peaceful.

    However, if you check out The Gateway Pundit’s website for the last month you’ll see where black supremest groups have put a bounty out on Wilson. Others are pushing violence. The architect of the violent protests in Seattle is deeply involved in the preparations. Anonymous has promised hack attacks on police and infrastructure.

    All of those are good reasons for the authorities to take the precautions of issuing warning bulletins and calling out the national guard. If the rabble rousers don’t get violence going, then all is well and we’ll see some peaceful protests, but if not, the police need the means to separate out the non-violent protestors then contain and arrest those who choose violence.

  12. JKB says:

    Not to mention, when two or three dozen of individuals from the projects congregate where they are suppose to in my town, someone usually ends up getting shot in a private quarrel. So maybe the cold weather will quell some of that but otherwise, violent protest or not, I expect a fair number of shootings.

  13. humanoid.panda says:

    @JKB:

    However, if you check out The Gateway Pundit’s website for the last month you’ll see where black supremest groups have put a bounty out on Wilson

    The same Gateway Pundit who published stock photos from a presentation of an orbital fracture from the University of Iowa, arguing they are x-rays of Wilson’s injuries?

    Unimpeachable source, that is!

  14. michael reynolds says:

    @JKB:

    Why don’t you LINK to these alleged threats? Don’t just point us to some hysterical web site, show us the evidence. Because when I tried to find it, all I found was KKK and Aryan Nations threats.

  15. JKB says:
  16. michael reynolds says:

    @JKB:

    You really are pathetic. You point me to an idiot right-wing moron site that cites as its evidence an unverified Twitter account?

    Jesus F’ing Christ. Your brain is a piece of Swiss cheese.

  17. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    So…you want Doug to report on the fact that you found two websites listing demonstrations, so we can see the “whole story?

    Well sure Neil, the “whole story” so he doesn’t have to bother actually reading what he links to. Besides, Red State and FOX News already told him what to think.

  18. michael reynolds says:

    Gosh, I wonder how hard it would be for me to set up a Twitter account claiming to be a White Supremacist Marxist ISIS group threatening mass murder? That could take as much as five minutes. Although it would take a good, oh, week, to get up to 1400 followers, half of whom are racist morons driven there by panicky race-baiting websites, and the rest probably bots.

  19. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @michael reynolds: I demand an apology, Michael!That is an insult to Swiss Cheese.

  20. PD Shaw says:

    Patricia Bynes, a longtime presence on protest scenes from Ferguson to Clayton, said the group Lost Voices threatened her after she told the news media that members of the group recently beat up a man at a meeting.

    The recent developments have led Bynes, the Ferguson Township Democratic committeewoman, to question whether the protest movement could get co-opted by violent elements.

    “I got threatened because I told the truth,” Bynes, 35, said last week.

    Police are wary of the intentions of another local group called the RbG Black Rebels.

    Its recent Twitter messages have included a video on making a bomb from household components, stated plans to “make a few fires to stay warm” — but without the need for firewood — and a recommendation that protesters pack “side arms.”

    And the group has offered a $5,000 reward for information on Wilson’s location and $1,000 for that of a “close family” member.

    The Black Rebels leader, Zulu Gaddafi, said the reward offers are serious.

    “We don’t make any public threats,” Gaddafi said in an emailed statement. “We believe that the public has the right to know when there’s a killer cop staying next door to them.”

    A St. Louis County police spokesman characterized the tweets as “threats we are taking seriously.”

    Gaddafi said his organization numbers 50 local members.

    Asked how they will react if Wilson is not charged with a crime, Gaddafi stated: “I’ll leave that to your imagination.”

    St. Louis Post Dispatch

  21. JKB says:

    @michael reynolds:

    So you are saying the FBI doesn’t have better information that justifies their bulletin to police departments about the potential for riots?

    But even it we just use logic, we come to the prudence of preparing for violence. The protests in August descended into riot with lots of proper burned and looted. And that was without 3 months of agitators training and promoting violence.

  22. michael reynolds says:

    @PD Shaw:

    Oh, good, now the local paper is reporting on Tweets. Are there any reporters left in this country?

    Tweets and emails. Later I’ll set up a Twitter account, call myself Great Cthulhu, and put a billion dollar price on the head of, oh, I don’t know, let’s say Putin, because why not?

  23. michael reynolds says:

    @JKB:

    Of course there’s potential for violence, duh. I’m saying this likely made-up Twitter account is not evidence. It’s not anything. Neither is the supposed involvement of “Anonymous,” because there is no Anonymous, there’s just every prankster teenager who can cut and past a logo. I can announce that I’m Anonymous.

    You cannot go around simply accepting everything you hear that happens to play into your personal biases. The KKK is also making threats, and at least their probably made-up Twitter feed has a respectable number of followers.

    So why would you cite the alleged black threat and not the alleged white threat, JKB? At least we know the KKK is a real organization with actual (semi)human members.

  24. anjin-san says:

    @JKB:

    black supremest groups

    Are you kidding?

    Well, I guess not. After all, conservatives are still freaked out because a couple of black guys with leather jackets and berets hung out near a polling place in 2008.

  25. michael reynolds says:

    @anjin-san:

    They’re still freaked out because of two ebola deaths. JKB is apparently in a constant state of panic.

  26. JKB says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Well, I was kind of hoping the Democratic Party would keep their paramilitary arm, the KKK, under control. But the DemProgs have been itching for a race war. Although it would be more like a race skirmish since after the rabble rouser on each side fight, no one will care much in regular America.

  27. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @PD Shaw: PD, most St Louisans refer to the Post as the “Post Disgrace.” The handful of reporters they have left are barely able to transcribe the talking points they are given.

  28. Guarneri says:

    @stonetools:

    Pssst. Dick Cheney actually dynamited the Twin Towers. Pass it on.

  29. anjin-san says:

    Psssst…. JKB

    The Mandingo Warriors announced they will be out in force. Are you prepared? Do you have extra bottles of water in the basement?

  30. anjin-san says:

    @JKB:

    So you are saying the FBI doesn’t have better information that justifies their bulletin

    Ah, so you trust the government and recognize their authority? Good to know.

  31. C. Clavin says:

    @Guarneri:
    The guy that shot his friend in the face while pretending to hunt took down the towers? Doubtful.

  32. humanoid.panda says:

    @JKB:

    Well, I was kind of hoping the Democratic Party would keep their paramilitary arm, the KKK, under control

    +1 one for anachronism.
    +5 for hallucinations
    -10 for failing to call it the DEMOCRAT Party.

    Grade: RINO

  33. humanoid.panda says:

    @JKB: And here’s a pro-tip. Claiming that the Democrats are the real racists because nothing changed since 1964 is a venerable genre.
    Arguing that liberals are manipulating “individuals from the projects” to start a race war by is also a venerable genre.

    Employing both in the same frigging comment really gives up the game, no?

  34. Guarneri says:

    Here’s a bipartisan proposal. Al Sharpton has to keep his discredited tax avoiding ass out of the situation until he comes clean and pays his back taxes, fines and penalties. You know, fair share.

  35. bill says:

    you’d think that our leader would be able to step in and mediate, he is black/white after all and has the facts already. guess he wants more violence in the streets to show us something…what i don’t know.
    but after his “trayvon” speech i just don’t think he has it in him anymore- if he ever did.

  36. Tyrell says:

    @al-Ameda: That is a good question. With the F.B.I . Involved it could be a system of knowing who the protestors are and where they are from. Any sort of bags would have to be searched, obviously. Check everyone’s id and run background checks on people who aren’t from around there.

  37. Cassie Quinlan says:

    @JKB:

    Nothing wrong with preparing for riots, but they could do that in the background,as a backup, while e also doing many other explicit preparation, shown on media, to support the demonstration and the protests, plan for exit routes for people so they don’t get mushed into one place by police control efforts – , bring in the African American official who was effective before at speaking with the crowds, understanding their reasons for anger and protest, at the same time as urging them to wait, or move somewhere. Or impose a curfew while also planning to record people’s resentment statements. There are ways to prevent violence..

    Parading one’s weapons and riot gear around with the media picking up on what they love to film (a fight of any kind) is making an important conversation seem like a war.