Assessing the damage — and lessons — of Ferguson

5995966_G-1The good news from the initial protests and rioting in Ferguson was that no one died or was seriously injured Monday night, and that while protests occurred nationwide, violence was confined to the St. Louis area.

However, I don’t think we’re through it yet, and the violence that did occur should not be minimized. Those who engaged in looting and other criminal acts ought to be prosecuted . There’s no excuse for what they did, and the truth is that most of them acted more out of rank opportunism than sincere anger.

It’s also important to draw distinctions: St. Louis County is home to roughly a million people, a quarter of whom are black. And of the small fraction of the county population that showed up to protest the grand jury findings, only a fraction of that small fraction turned to violence, looting and arson. (The crowds also contained a lot of people drawn from all over the country; many had good intentions, others did not.)

Some have already used the actions of that criminal few to characterize an entire community or racial group — as in “look what ‘they’ did” — which perpetuates the lazy way of thinking that contributed to this problem in the first place. And that caution applies to people on every side of the dispute: White people didn’t do X; black people didn’t do Y. Individuals did and do, and individuals should be judged accordingly.

In fact, if you’re so inclined, you can second-guess every figure in this tragedy, from the two principles, Michael Brown and Darren Wilson, through the protesters and law enforcement to the district attorney and media. You can second-guess it from Brown’s decision to steal a pack of cigarillos and the initial 90-second confrontation with Wilson through to the bizarre way the grand jury’s decision was announced Monday night. It is a case defined by its ambiguity, offering enough evidence to support almost any inclination that you bring to it.

You could also second-guess the decision by the St. Louis County prosecutor to present an entire case to the grand jury, with hours of testimony and reams of evidence, rather than push a more bare-bones case that might be more likely to produce an indictment. I think it was a reasonable decision, made for the right reasons, and until we have a chance to go through the mountain of evidence as the grand jury did, the outcome should be accepted as reasonable as well.

However, it’s also true that an indictment followed by a trial would have meant that all the evidence that the grand jury saw in secret, as legally required, would have been presented in public, with the country hearing the testimony and learning along with the jury what happened in those fateful 90 seconds. Such a public process might have produced something closer to a consensus about the case.

But maybe not. What we’re seeing in the Ferguson controversy is yet another expression of a general loss of faith in the public and private institutions of this country, and in each other. That loss of faith takes different forms among different communities, brought to the forefront by different issues, but the essential problem is the same.

Those institutions, from the local police force to Congress, are our creation. If they are inadequate and no longer trustworthy, we have the obligation to remake them. And to do so peacefully.

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1123 comments
Aztec
Aztec

First, Happy Thanksgiving to all.  This is not the first disagreement  nor will it be the last that Whites and Blacks see the justice system through different lenses based on different backgrounds.  All the demonstrations proved is that there has been no progress made on this subject for the last fifty years.  It is a shame  that this disagreement may not  be repairable.  Perhaps the only solution is for black neighborhoods be policed by black policemen,and  perpetrators tried before black judges and juries.   We have a country led by a black president, a black attorney general as well as a city with a black mayer, black police, and black justices all of which, didn't deter rioters shouting for justice.  Go figure.

Starik
Starik

Ferguson is like the Benghazi mess and the IRS persecution of the Tea Party.  Lots of partisan noise but no substance.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@Starik - the three are similar only to the extent Decmocrats are wrong about all three.

But not to worry, I can hardly wait for when the next president, no doubt a Republican, will issue an executive order ending Union contributions to political campaigns.

Then another stopping abortions except in the case of rape, incest or mothers health.

And turning gay marriage decisions back to the states.

Lefties will have blood spewing from their eyes and we will see just how much they like executive orders.

Starik
Starik

@JohnnyReb @Starik We won't see a Republican President unless he takes moderate positions on abortion, gay marriage and unions.  There aren't enough tea partiers and their buddies to elect anybody nationally.  Similarly, there aren't enough Ferguson-demonstrator types to elect an extreme Democrat.


Public financing of political campaigns and non-partisan, independent drawing of House districts would do a world of good.

Starik
Starik

@bu2 @Starik @JohnnyReb He did, but mainly as a backlash to Bush the lesser.  The far left isn't too happy about him either; he hasn't been too far from moderate in most of his policies.

HDB0329
HDB0329

....sometimes, nature starts fires to clear out the forest....this may be one of those times......

The forest of racism needs to be cleaned out......

Tuna Meowt
Tuna Meowt

I'm out.  All be well and enjoy your holiday.  And DRIVE SAFELY.

87GaDawg
87GaDawg

I like seeing people talk about how many shots should be fired.  I hope no one ever gets in that situation, but if so, please don't count as you shoot to make sure you don't go over your limit.  Keep on shooting until the threat is stopped.


As for the training - well, like Mike Tyson basically said - that's all fine and good until the first shot is fired.



Tuna Meowt
Tuna Meowt

@87GaDawg I don't believe I made any comment on how many rounds *should* have been fired, but don't let that get in the way of your criticism.


Once again, since my point sailed over your head without so much as disturbing a hair, I don't believe a credible case can be made that Officer Wilson was thinking rationally when he emptied his weapon at Mr. Brown in an encounter that took less than 90 seconds.  And in the absence of rational thought, I don't believe Officer Brown necessarily made the best possible choice available to him.

Tuna Meowt
Tuna Meowt

For those who are interested, I did some digging through the evidentiary documents in order to find out more about the firearm used in the shooting.  Here's the pertinent document:


http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1370599-crime-lab-firearm-evidence.html


This states that Officer Wilson's sidearm was a SIG Sauer P229, which is a fairly common law enforcement firearm, SIGs being used by about a third of local police departments nationwide.  The document also indicates that the weapon was chambered for 40-caliber Smith & Wesson cartridges, which is also a fairly common law enforcement round.  The 40-cal chambering is one of four standard caliber options on the P229.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SIG_P226#P229


Note that, according to the Wikipedia page, a SIG P229 has a magazine capacity of 12 rounds -- so it is a fact (according to Wilson's testimony and that of eyewitnesses that twelve shots were fired) that Wilson did empty his weapon at Brown.


On a personal note, I find it worrisome that Officer Wilson emptied his weapon at a suspect in such a short period of time (=/< 90 seconds according to testimony); this raises concerns with me that Officer Wilson acted out of desperation and not with a clear head.


td1234
td1234

@Tuna Meowt Add one to the chamber (which is normal for law enforcement) and then you have 13. If I am not mistake there was testimony that the gun had one round left in it. 

Tuna Meowt
Tuna Meowt

@td1234 @Tuna Meowt "Add one to the chamber (which is normal for law enforcement) and then you have 13."


Actually, it's not normal for law enforcement.  Nor is it normal for the military.  A filled magazine plus a round in the chamber is a good way to jam a weapon.


That said, if you can provide a link to the testimony you cite, I'd be very interested in reading what it has to say.


lvg
lvg

@Tuna Meowt -Officer Wilson claims he never shot anyone before which tells me he truly felt this was an exceptional life threatening situation. After he suffered blows to the head  and Brown tried to get his gun, I really do not care how many rounds he had to fire.


What I do want to know is the toxicology report on Brown and prior arrest record; none of which has been disclosed. 

Brown's companion at the time of the store robbery and shooting said Brown was acting psychotic or "out of character". 

Tuna Meowt
Tuna Meowt

@lvg @Tuna Meowt If you can find that in the evidentiary documents, please do post it here.  CNN's hosting a huge amount of those documents if you're interested in looking at them.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Can anyone deny that, if Brown had done as instructed, he would still be alive?  NO ONE curses at, wrestles with, a police officer, and expects to just walk away.  And I think there is agreement on all quarters, that he did that.  To what degree he escalated it past that, there is a difference of reporting on.


Most of us tell our kids:  If a police officer gives you an order, you obey.  You are NOT on the winning end of this.

Tuna Meowt
Tuna Meowt

@Wascatlady Wascatlady, was there evidence presented that the officer directed Brown to do or not do something, and that Brown refused?


I'm not trying to play 'gotcha;' I'm sincerely asking.

CardiganBoy
CardiganBoy

It appears that many in the mainstream media want to make a specific incident about one thing (tragic intersection of cop with criminal) proof of systemic problems with the American criminal justice system and  its unfair and abusive treatment of black men.


Last night, many emotional and unfounded claims made by lawyer and layperson alike went completely  unchallenged by the news heads on CNN.   In the face of evidence that finds Brown the aggressor, Wilson is now painted a racist who perceives African American men as demons and animals.   Surely that's why he fired round after round into the unarmed man.


We've all had over three months to stew about this.  It hits closer to home with some of us than it does others. In the absence of the results of the state's investigation, unsubstantiated eyewitness accounts and our general contempt for law enforcement led many to form our own conclusions.  How could it not?


The bill of no indictment issued on Tuesday night was like a punch in the gut, an affront, an insult, an outrage.


When we know police abuse of black men occurs all over the country all the time, how can Wilson not be guilty of something?


How can the answer be anything but a corrupt and racist system protecting one of their own?


it looks like the answer is that Mike Brown was his own worst enemy that day and that his violent death was the result of choices he made in a span of 90 seconds.  


It will be interesting to see what DOJ concludes.


I hope Brown's family can find peace.  I hope the rest of us can reconcile our feelings with what appear to be the facts of this tragic, sorry situation.







Midvale
Midvale

No probable cause  -  that's the issue  -  and the only issue


Wilson shot in self defense   -  physical evidence supports that

- all else is irrelevant  

That's what happened  

CommonSenseisntCommon
CommonSenseisntCommon

@Midvale 

Not all the physical evidence supports that. 

How was he injured on the right side of the face at the same time Michael Brown was supposedly struggling for the weapon?

Lot of questions still unanswered and probably never will be leaving lots of room for doubt.

 

Tuna Meowt
Tuna Meowt

@Midvale Physical evidence pretty clearly supports the notion that Wilson shot in *desperation,* not necessarily in self-defense.  Desperation would explain why his pistol was empty, yet his shots only struck the suspect 50% of the time.


LeninTime
LeninTime

@midvale

You seem to be the one having trouble moving on, no?

TBS
TBS

@LeninTime


Some are still stuck in their 1950s mentality and are content to be there.  They claim to want frank discussion but that seems to mean they want to express their opinion (in some cases reveal their bigotries) without anyone being "frank" in return and calling it out. 


The looters should be called but it seems there are a good many on this blog who have been quick and consistent with their generalizations of Blacks and the Black community when they know it is small percentage causing problems.  

They will look for any and everything to solidify their bigotries and it seems they have found it this week. 

But this incident will pass and they will continue to seek out other incidents to solidify their thoughts. 

Midvale
Midvale

What part of no probable cause do people not understand.


Wilson shot in self defense.


Get on with you lives.

Tuna Meowt
Tuna Meowt

@Midvale Emptying your pistol at an assailant during an exchange that lasted less than 90 seconds is "self-defense?" Twelve shots, of which only six struck the suspect?  That's pretty poor shooting, especially for an LEO.


I'm sorry, but I have a hard time believing that the officer made a rational decision.  It looks more to me like desperation on his part.  I'm not saying that it *wasn't* self-defense, just that some of these facts and circumstances look very questionable to me.



Midvale
Midvale

Comment from the mother of an Atlanta policeman:

While people seem so busy posting judgments and negative things about police officers with such sweeping generalizations just as others do the same about race , because of the issues in Ferguson, I will be busy posting that I am praying for my own son to not be shot at, attacked or harmed along with his fellow officers as he is on duty tonight trying to protect and serve. I am so sick and tired of the hating toward police and the racism on both sides of this issue. There is enough ignorance to go around. Let there be enough healing to go around. It won't come through violence, that's for sure. God help us.

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Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I am flabbergasted that the DA chose to release the no-bill in the evening.  Let the light of day shine on ALL those participating, literally.

LeninTime
LeninTime

Can you imagine if there had been massive protests in multiple cities across China, or Iran, or Russia last night? 

The Washington Post and the US press would hardly be able to control their orgasmic glee and the Twitter feeds of the US state dept would be full of tweets lecturing the foreign leaders to exercise restraint.

lvg
lvg

What idiot at AJC decided to reprint that racist piece of trash by Carol Anderson with no context to the grand jury evidence and conclusion? And then give it lead prominence on the top of the digital page? And how does showing white students at UGA marching around with a Confederate flag peacefully show uncontrolled white rage? 

Was AJC running that trash article to incite rioting yesterday so  as to create a story? Emory university actually pays someone to write garbage like that?

GB101
GB101

However, it’s also true that an indictment followed by a trial would have meant that all the evidence that the grand jury saw in secret, as legally required, would have been presented in public, with the country hearing the testimony and learning along with the jury what happened in those fateful 90 seconds. Such a public process might have produced something closer to a consensus about the case.


Nonsense.  This would not have created a consensus and would have been a horrible miscarriage of justice.  The grand jury said there is no basis for an indictment.  

Jack_Republican
Jack_Republican

The rioters, building and police car burners will certainly enhance and strengthen race relations. I'm not sure why they didn't think of this before now.  Or maybe they did.  And I'm sure they all voted in the last election.

Peachs
Peachs

For 50 years we have had the same discussions. It is habit pure and simple. You eat eggs and bacon every morning, don’t even look at the menu, and don’t want anything different you like your life. This is the heart of conservative thinking, the only money spent is for weapons and fortification, even your church is a fort of rightwing thinking.

What has changed is the conservative will spend money on him or herself unlike 50 years ago.I knew millionaires 50 years ago who wouldn’t be caught dead with a Rolex or a foreign sports car now it is standard. You elect leaders who parade around trophy wives, leaving family for the good life, but keep the ham and eggs for breakfast.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

Emory prof:  Ferguson is about white rage

------------------

It seems there's a contest underway to see who can be the biggest f*cktard around.

Nobody_Knows
Nobody_Knows

Something larger than just the Brown incident taking place.  Problem is that it isn't difficult to see that many want to chalk it up just that.  They can't see or they don't care what is really going on.   Brown case was just the catalyst.

As we can read on the blogs all the people in the streets are being lumped in by many as looters and rioters but most are not.  Or the running theme is "those people" or the "Black community".   In reality the issue is larger than that and not just "those people".  

It is going to be an interesting Turkey Day weekend. 

gotalife
gotalife

Burning trash in Oakland.


There is a message.



gotalife
gotalife

@LeninTime 2 more years but the left should be against him. He governed as a moderate like President Clinton. Libs hated him too.


You can count on the dems to stab their President in the back to try to save their jobs.

gotalife
gotalife

The American people have spoken.

They are sick of it.

When those crowds rise to millions then all hell really breaks loose.