Our correspondent Jeanine Molloff was on the ground in Ferguson, Missouri fighting through tear gas and attempting to get answers. In three parts over the next several days we will reveal what she was able to uncover about: the multi-jurisdictional military police cover up and response, the political and legislative origins of this calamity and those on the ground who were the real peacemakers. But we start today with a timeline of events as they unfolded, the inconsistencies and deception in numerous ‘official’ pronouncements, the questionable and possibly preferential treatment of a major Pentagon supplier located across the street from The National Guard staging area set up to protect “Mom and Pop” businesses in the area and the Arab Spring Mubarak-like treatment of media attempting to cover the story.
by Jeanine Molloff
The slaying of Michael Brown…the murky facts on the ground…
Michael Brown, Jr. was born almost 30 years after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated and yet the issues of human rights, racism, militarism, equality under the law and police brutality remain dire concerns to all African Americans. Like Dr. King, 18-year-old Michael Brown was gunned down, ‘execution-style’ and left to bleed out on the street. While Dr. King cautioned against rioting, he acknowledged the reality of inequality under the law, often claiming…”a riot is the language of the unheard.”
The people of Ferguson, Missouri were determined to be heard, after the execution-style killing of Michael Brown. The 12-days after his death placed the suburban town of Ferguson, Missouri square in the international spotlight.
We know the identity of the police officer who shot Michael Brown, Officer Daren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department. There is no question as to whether Officer Wilson killed Michael Brown. It is on video and documented by Officer Wilson in his report. The controversy surrounds the question of whether this was a ‘righteous’ shooting (as in did the officer face imminent deadly harm), or was this murder of an unarmed teen?
The additional issues in the spotlight go far beyond the slaying of Michael Brown; they speak to a pattern of police/prosecutorial abuse and a clear violation of 1st Amendment rights in a post-9/11 world.
The case remain murky as the Ferguson Police Department, the St. Louis County Police and St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch consistently refuse to release any fact beyond their simplistic assurance of accountability as initially offered by Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson.
On Saturday, August 9th, 2014, Michael Brown was gunned down in the street by Office Wilson. The Ferguson Police Department under Chief Jackson claim this was a ‘righteous’ shooting, arguing that Michael Brown attacked Officer Wilson. Witnesses on the ground though claim otherwise. And since the facts have been withheld from the press and the public, what little trust in the system has eroded to nothing.
The facts according to the police…
Here is the police department’s version of the incident timeline to date. It was created from Police Department documents:
11:48 a.m. — Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson arrives at a residence in response to an unrelated call about a 2-month-old child having difficulty breathing when she coughs.
11:51 a.m. — Ferguson police receive a call of a robbery in progress at the Ferguson Market convenience store.
11:54 a.m. — A different, unidentified officer arrives at the Ferguson Market and gets a physical description from an employee and customer of a suspect who took some cigars.
11:57 a.m. — A police dispatcher broadcasts a detailed description of the robbery suspect, saying that he was wearing a red St. Louis Cardinals ball cap and yellow socks and was walking with another man toward another convenience store called QuikTrip.
12:00 p.m. — Officer Wilson leaves the scene of the call about a sick child.
12:01 p.m. — Officer Wilson encounters Michael Brown walking on a street and the shooting follows. Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said Friday that Wilson did not know about the robbery at the convenience store when he encountered Brown.
12:04 p.m. — Another officer arrives on the scene after the shooting, and an ambulance is contacted to treat Brown’s wounds.
The story on the street…
While the Ferguson Police Department was crafting their report, social media and talk on the street contradicted police accounts. Several witnesses came forward, including a young lady named Tiffany Mitchell (who did not know Brown) and Brown’s friend Dorian Johnson. Johnson was with Brown during the tragic encounter.
Social media was Tweeting and posting on Facebook events which were far more graphic and included photos of Brown’s lifeless body laying face down on the pavement. According to these accounts, Michael Brown was shot twice in the back and five times in front (presumably with his hands up to surrender). Two of the shots went directly through Brown’s head. The police report withheld the number of times Brown was shot.
“Dude was running and the cops just shot him. I saw him die bruh,” @TheePharoah tweeted. “The first two was clear, then it was a bar(r)age of them s—-,” he said of the gunshots.
Almost three hours after Bruh’s Tweet of shots fired, Brown’s body remained in the street, “Homie still on the ground tho” he posted.
While @TheePharoah noted that Michael Brown’s body remained on the street; the official police report claims that Brown was issued paramedics some 15 minutes after the shooting.
Dorian Johnson contradicts police reports…
Brown’s friend Dorian Johnson had much to say which contradicted police reports. Dorian Johnson submitted to a four hour interrogation by the FBI with his attorney, Freeman Bosley, Jr. present.
Johnson, in an interview on MSNBC, said they were walking down the street when a police truck drove up beside them with the officer demanding they get in the truck. Brown ignored the officer and kept walking. Johnson added that the officer (now identified as Officer Wilson), kept yelling at the two young men, while coming very close to running them down. Officer Wilson used the truck door to knock Brown down. Wilson jumped out of the truck and grabbed Brown attempting a chokehold, and Brown got away running. It was at this point (according to Dorian Johnson), that Wilson first shot at Brown. Michael Brown then stopped dead in his tracks and yelled that he didn’t have a gun. Brown’s hands were up in the too familiar ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ position. Wilson kept shooting. Brown then collapsed face down into the street. Johnson’s eyewitness account was Brown was shot while facing Wilson.
Johnson’s story is very different from the St. Louis County Police version of events. Chief Jon Belmar flatly stated that Brown was the aggressor, fighting Wilson and attempting to reach his gun. (This explanation would provide enough legal cover for Wilson to have used lethal force).
The character assassination of Michael Brown…
Chief Jackson released a videotape of a convenience store robbery from earlier that day, before the Ferguson Police were forced to reveal Officer Wilson’s identity. The grainy video shows two young African-American men robbing the store of some $38.00 worth of Cigarillo cigars. The men resembled Michael Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson. (Johnson has since admitted to the robbery).
On Friday the 15th, Chief Jackson released the tape, claiming he was responding to FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests from “assorted unidentified media.” The release of the tape inflamed the community further. The tape was interpreted as character assassination by the police and specifically engineered to ‘try Michael in the media.’ To quote a bystander Andre Anderson, “when you looking at the looters, you forget about the shooter.”
No further incident reports on the shooting were released.
Daily Kos commentator Barbara Morrill interpreted the robbery tape release as a distraction tactic. To quote Morrill,”Well that didn’t take long. Barely two hours after Chief Jackson named the police officer who gunned down Michael Brown, the demonization of, you guessed it, Michael Brown is well underway.” Morrill cited over half a dozen headlines incestuously mixing Officer Wilson with the robbery. Morrill encapsulated the sentiment with a Tweet from @fivefifths: “We officially have more facts about a likely unrelated robbery of a single (pack of) Swisher (cigars) than we do about the execution of Mike Brown.”
11 days of protest–and the police response…
From the day of Michael Brown’s death; protests erupted in the small, inner-ring suburb of Ferguson, Mo. Reports from news agencies worldwide focused on the concerted police abuse of citizens and members of the press in Ferguson. Most reports ‘credited’ police abuse solely to the Ferguson Police Department, but that was not accurate. Ferguson has approximately 55 officers, yet hundreds of officers from a variety of towns were dispatched.
The beige shirted police from St. Louis County…
What Missouri politicians from US Senator Claire McCaskill to Governor Jay Nixon conveniently forgot is that the St. Louis County Police Department reports directly to St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch.
While the Ferguson Police Department has much blame in this case; the criminal police abuse escalated under the auspices of the St. Louis County Police Department and Chief Belmar, who also works under… County Prosecutor McCulloch. Although Ferguson’s Police Department possesses some military equipment; the multiple SWAT teams seen attacking citizens, on videos from CNN to Al Jazeerah America to the Washington Post were SWAT teams from the St. Louis COUNTY Police. The officers seen in beige shirts with brown insignia were from St. Louis County, not Ferguson.
Additional police from several municipalities also present included: Wildwood, St. Ann, St. Louis City, Maryland Heights, Dellwood, Creve Coeur and others. The main link in this police gumbo was the County Police under Chief Belmar… until Governor Nixon stepped in and placed the entire situation under the command of Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
Governor Nixon’s meeting with Clergy Coalition in Florissant…
Governor Jay Nixon received multiple appeals from the St. Louis Clergy Coalition to assist in this case. The citizens of Ferguson crowded in nearby Florissant United Church of Christ (UCC) to voice their outrage at the Ferguson police. They demanded an in-depth investigation and that he look into possible federal charges for civil rights violations. The meeting was held on Tuesday, August 11th, two days after Michael’s death.
The politicos present included: Governor Nixon, St. Louis County Supervisor Charlie Dooley, St. Louis City Mayor Frances Slay, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson, and Ferguson Mayor James Knowles. There were also federal government officials there as well including: Dr. Anastasia Syes (DOJ) and Rita Valenciano, DOJ Community Relations Service (CRS).
While most of the politicos present sat and remained stonily silent, the most interesting revelations came from Ferguson Chief Jackson. As Jackson sat there red faced, attempting to describe the situation, he inadvertently revealed his own ineptitude.
When responding to allegations of racism and police abuse; he claimed that the racial problems in Ferguson were:
“…so under the radar, that we didn’t know they were there.”
The comments from Mayor Knowles were so equally disingenuous, one could only mark him as ‘present.’
Rita Valenciano spoke to the crowd, stating she was here to help, but couldn’t speak about any discovery information, as the information is confidential. She reiterated that any release of such information would result in legal fines and possible jail time for any ‘leaker’ from CRS.
Dr. Anastasia Syes stated that she was there to:
“bridge the gap between the President, the US Senators, elected Representatives and all elected officials all the way to the Supreme Court–and back down to the local officials.” (Dr. Anastasia Syes 08/11/14)
She also stated that her agency was present to:
“help you rewrite the laws which will stop wrongful actions.”
No additional explanation was offered.
Dr. Syes offered one ominous warning, “if the community doesn’t want tanks rolling down the street, they’d better get their people in order.”
The crowd was honored to have Federal guests present and tolerated the locals with meager but polite applause. It is interesting to note that neither Ms. Valenciano or Dr.Syes responded to multiple appeals advocating for both a strong Civilian Review Board, and federal movement to cease increasing police militarization.
Governor Nixon spoke to the crowd briefly adding his prayers, but no dialogue regarding a Civilian Review Board or cessation of police militarization.
Captain Ron Johnson of Mo. Highway Patrol put in charge by Gov. Nixon…
In a move of political desperation, after television coverage of rioting, looting and police abusing protestors and reporters, Governor Nixon removed the St. Louis County Police as the jurisdictional head and placed that authority with the Missouri State Highway Patrol under the command of Captain Ron Johnson. This move led to real jubilation in Ferguson.
On the first night of his tenure, Thursday, August 14th, Captain Johnson appeared to be a strong advocate of ‘community-based’ policing, as opposed to militarized police occupation. His tenure was a welcome change. Instead of riots triggered by police abuse and arbitrary arrests; people marched in peaceful protest and Captain Johnson marched alongside them. He was equal parts Officer ‘Friendly,’ rock star and Captain America, rolled into one congenial and professional police officer.
Then came Friday night…
Friday, August 15th…
Friday brought more change. Looting by a small group of unknown assailants resumed. Officer ‘Friendly’ released Robo-Cop again. The St. Louis Clergy Coalition again pleaded for calm and peace. What the mainstream (corporate) media omitted was the role this combined police force played in inciting the violence. Yet another march was announced for the next day, Saturday.
Saturday, August 16th–the march…
This reporter marched with the crowd through Ferguson and neighboring Jennings. The diverse crowd was filled with black, white, men, women, children, Christians, Jews, Muslims and Atheists. Religious songs were sung along with the spiritual “We Shall Overcome.” Official observers from Amnesty International were present all along the march. The police lining the march route looked confused.
Martial law declared by Gov. Nixon in Ferguson…
The march ended at St. Mark’s Missionary Baptist Church with Governor Nixon giving a volatile news conference. No protestors or citizens beyond a pre-selected few, were allowed inside the church for the press conference. On Saturday, August 16th at 2 pm, Governor Nixon signed an executive order declaring an official ‘state of emergency’ a.k.a. martial law for Ferguson, Missouri. The ‘state of emergency’ created a curfew for all persons from midnight to 5 am. Any ‘violation of state curfew’ would result in the ‘threat of imminent arrest.’ Governor Nixon was shouted down inside the church but casually went about his business.
There was no violence during the daylight hours, but that night things erupted in the worst night of violence seen to date. SWAT teams flung teargas, used rubber bullets, tanks and a ‘sonic bomb’ known as an LRAD or Long-Range Acoustic Device. The LRAD was used routinely in Iraq and other war zones. More arrests were made, including journalists. The Intercept’s Ryan Devereaux was arrested on more than one occasion.
Governor Nixon brings in The National Guard…
On Monday, August 18th, Governor Nixon authorized the MO National Guard to come in with tanks. It didn’t take long for Guardsmen snipers to position themselves on rooftops with guns aimed on the civilian population below.
Was this, 44 years after the Kent State University in Ohio killing of four unarmed students, about to become Missouri’s Kent State? The Guard arrived Monday night in full military regalia. Many were wearing insignia indicating they were MP’s (military police), and their Humvees were everywhere. Add in rooftop snipers and area more resembled Fallujah or Gaza than St. Louis.
A peaceful protest was organized by some 100 clergy members and Malik Shabazz of the new Black Panthers. Although authorities claimed there was no curfew Monday night; protestors, media and neighborhood residents were told to ‘keep moving.’ If they stopped for even a moment, they risked arrest for ‘failure to disperse.’ Roadblocks were also in place, demanding one produce identification and state their reason for being in the area.
All was calm until 9:55 pm CDT, when various police groups put on gas masks, aimed assault rifles at the crowd, and began a military march in a single column towards the public. Again, accompanying the police was the LRAD mounted on what can only be called a tank, attempting to deafen protestors. Police used stun grenades and teargas. Freelance journalist/cameraman Leo York, was hit by the teargas and received help from CNN’s Jake Tapper who was also on the scene.
As CNN anchor Don Lemon explained on air what happened to the cameraman, the police loudspeaker ordered everyone to disperse from the Ferguson Market except for ‘credentialed’ media.
“Anyone who is not credentialed media needs to disperse or you will be subject to arrest.”
Their crime was ‘failure to disperse.’ Though the official police line was a claim that a Molotov cocktail had been hurled at them; CNN’s Jake Tapper explained that he hadn’t seen any that night. A few plastic water bottles had been thrown.
At 11:55 pm, police dispersed the crowd, making several arrests. A group of young men refused to leave and stood in the street with their hands in the air, waiting to be arrested. It was classic, peaceful civil disobedience by the protestors and was met with brute force violence by the police. ‘Credentialed media’ were told to remain in their ‘designated area.’
Local CBS affiliate KMOV reported that although police were ordering everyone but credentialed media to leave the scene and go home, most of the side streets were blocked, so neighborhood residents couldn’t leave. Apparently, County Police and the Highway Patrol saw sport in ‘shooting fish in a barrel.’
Also around midnight, CNN’s Steve Kastenbaum reported that police were dealing with two shootings on a nearby side street. It is unclear if that is the reason for the police order to disperse.
Media access restricted to military ’embed’ status…
Late Sunday night and into Monday morning, the State of Emergency not only kept citizens off the streets, it also restricted media access. The few reporters remaining on scene more resembled journalistic ‘stenographers’ embedded with the military.
When I spoke via phone to CBS affiliate KMOV, the appearance of media access denial to the riot scene was confirmed. All film, audio and information on the scene were supplied by the police and at their selective discretion. Unidentified personnel at NBC affiliate KSD confirmed media reporters were restricted by police upon threat of imminent arrest.
Media arrested, abused by police…
During this ordeal, the combined police forces of Ferguson, St. Louis County, St. Louis County SWAT, and the Mo. State Highway Patrol consistently limited or denied access to press unless the source was approved by the police. Furthermore, several journalists and camermen were beaten, abused and arrested by police forces in Ferguson.
Assaults and arrests of journalists and cameramen from several news outlets was consistent throughout the ordeal. Newsgatherers from: Al Jazeerah, CNN, The Intercept, The Washington Post and Huffington Post were harassed, denied access, got severely limited access, were assaulted and eventually arrested. The events are numerous and justify an in-depth investigation on their own merits. The assault and arrest of reporters from the Huffington Post and the Washington Post were the most dramatic.
On Wednesday, SWAT Team members assaulted and arrested two reporters from the Huffington Post and Washington Post writing at a nearby McDonald’s. SWAT is a direct arm of the County Police, not Ferguson. (Source :
The Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery recalls the events of 08/13/14:
“A McDonald’s a few blocks from where Brown’s shooting took place has been a frequent resting place for journalists who are covering what’s going on in Ferguson and need a place with outlets and Internet access to file their stories. On Wednesday evening, police officers came into the McDonald’s and told everyone to leave. Lowery, who was filming what the officers were doing, was (illegally) instructed to stop doing so.
According to Lowery, when he didn’t leave quickly enough, multiple officers grabbed him.
“As they took me into custody, the officers slammed me into a soda machine, at one point setting off the Coke dispenser. They put plastic cuffs on me, then they led me out the door,” he wrote.
Lowery was released Wednesday night and not charged with a crime.”
Like Lowery, Ryan Reilly was working at the McDonald’s when officers came in and tried to kick everyone out. Ryan Reilly is a justice correspondent for the Huffington Post. Reilly took issue when the police officers demanded to see his ID and told him to pack up.
“Evidently, I was not moving quickly enough,” Reilly said in a Wednesday night interview with MSNBC. “At that point, I was given a countdown. I was told I had 45 seconds, 30 seconds to pack up all my stuff and leave, at which point the officer in question who I have not — I repeatedly later would ask for his name and was never [told], or his batch number. He has never given it. [He] decided that he was going to help me pack, and he grabbed my things and shoved them into my bag. And, I was then, when I — basically, he arrested me. He handcuffed me. He used his finger to put a pressure point on my neck, and it was just a very difficult experience.”
Reilly said one of the police officers also slammed his head against the glass, on purpose, and then “sarcastically apologized for it.” He was released with Lowery without any charges.”
Below is a list of journalists/media persons arrested so far. They were most frequently charged with ..”failure to disperse,” but their true crime was practising real journalism.
Ryan Devereaux (The Intercept)
Frank Hermann (Die Welt)
Ansgar Graw (Die Welt)
Lukas Hermsmeier (Die Welt)
Scott Olson (Getty Images)
Robert Klemko (Sports Illustrated)
Rob Crilly (The Telegraph)
Neil Munshi (Financial Times)
Ryan J. Reilly (The Huffington Post)
Wesley Lowery (The Washington Post)
Captain Johnson attempts to justify journalist’s arrests…
Captain Johnson, attempted to justify the arrests of journalists and cameramen by saying:
“In the midst of chaos, when officers are running around, we’re not sure who’s a journalist and who’s not,” Johnson said. “And yes, if I see somebody with a $50,000 camera on their shoulder, I’m pretty sure. But some journalists are walking around, and all you have is a cellphone because you’re from a small media outlet. Some of you may just have a camera around your neck. So yes, we are — we may take some of you into custody.”
Apparently the price tag required to be recognized as a ‘credentialed journalist’ is a $50,000 camera hoisted on a shoulder, and an equally pricey (read corporate) media name. Unfortunately, this does not square with the 1st Amendment right to a ‘free press.’ I don’t believe that Thomas Paine or Benjamin Franklin could have passed this litmus test.
State Senator not immune to police abuse–tear gassed for standing with constituents…
August 13th, Missouri State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal relayed how she was tear-gassed by police during a peaceful protest. She confronted Ferguson Chief Jackson during a press conference demanding to know why she was teargassed during a lawful, nonviolent protest.
Chief Jackson claimed ‘people’were throwing rocks at the officers during Monday’s protest. He added that the tear gas and beanbag rounds were intended to stun the offenders. Jackson also claimed that the officers heard gunfire coming from the crowd.
Senator Chappelle-Nadal told it differently;
“We were in that neighborhood and we were tear-gassed.” “I could not breathe, I could not speak, I could not focus, I could not think because I thought that I was going to die because we were shot at and tear gas was constantly thrown at us..”
She added; “I’m the senator for the area, and I felt threatened. Everyone felt threatened.”
Capt. Johnson justifies the role of SWAT and National Guard…
The next day Capt. Johnson gave a news conference explaining why the National Guard was needed. Johnson claimed that SWAT and The National Guard were called in to protect Ferguson businesses. A bit later that statement was amended to claim the protection was for “Mom and Pop businesses” that had been looted.
I was able to speak to the employees or owners of three local ‘Mom and Pop’ businesses that had been looted and vandalized, namely Sam’s Meat Market& Liquor, The Maranatha Physicians office, and the Original RED Barbeque. I asked workers at each business the same question, “how have the police protected your business.”
The answers I received were shocking in their uniformity.
Sam’s Meat Market & Liquor…
The owner of the market was not on the premises, but an employee was willing to go on record. This is the business most frequently shown on news reports (second to the burned out Quik Trip gas station), as the symbol of urban rioting in Ferguson.
Employee Walter Ash answered bluntly…”They (the police) don’t protect nothing.” Mr. Ash added, “when the looting began, they called various police departments and all they got was the ‘runaround.'” When they called the Ferguson Police; they were told to call the County Police. They in turn told them to call the Highway Patrol. At the end of the calls, nothing happened.
I entered through a boarded up door into a clean waiting room. I spoke to Dr. Delu Lipede. This clinic has been in Ferguson for seven years, and the doctor shared some of his time. The same question was asked and Dr. Lipede was equally blunt..”The police were not around to protect.” Dr. Lipede then amended his statement and mischievously said…”they protected me… in absentia.”
Original RED’s Barbeque…
Once again, the owner was not available but employee Sean Wilson clearly stated…”the cops let the place burn.” When I asked why he theorized: “protestors ran in to RED’s to avoid the teargas and we let them. For the most part, the cops just watched it happen.” He added that after authorities officially released Officer Daren Wilson’s name, “the cops didn’t protect nothing. It was like they were saying, act up and this is what happens to you.”
Wilson then hypothesized the…”the cops wanted an excuse to bring in the military.” Wilson added that Michael Brown was a nice kid. “The reason is the boss said…he’s a big kid, he’s a nice kid, give him a couple extra wings.” Wilson also said in conversation that Michael Brown “came in 2-3 times a week and always had a bookbag.”
These were three of the most heavily vandalized ‘Mom and Pop’ businesses, the same type of businesses Capt. Ron Johnson claimed the police, SWAT and the National Guard, were there to protect.
Police ‘staging area’ across street from Fortune 500 company…
Though Capt. Ron Johnson repeatedly spoke about needing the National Guard and SWAT to protect ‘Mom & Pop’ businesses–the police ‘staging area’ was nowhere near those businesses. Instead the staging area was in the large parking lot of a strip mall, right across the street from Fortune 500 corporation, Emerson Electric.
Emerson is a major vendor for the Pentagon, and boasts a client list including Raytheon–the manufacturer of the Active Denial System, aka a microwave pain ray. )
No other media outlets noted this peculiar set of ‘coincidences’ regarding the placement of the police/National Guard ‘staging area.’ While no evidence of wrongdoing has been found on Emerson’s part the appearance of preferred treatment should be investigated. Will the mainstream media do it though?
Just as Occupy discovered Goldman-Sachs paid additional funds for preferred policing. the question of Emerson being the ‘protected entity’ should also be broached. Is the police/ military over-reaction due in part to a desperate desire to protect known Pentagon vendor Emerson Electric?
I contacted the Governor’s public affairs person, Scott Holste, via email with questions. I sent the same questions to St. Louis County Police Public Information Officer Brian Schellman. I particularly wanted an answer to this incongruous situation.
Governor Jay Nixon’s office (via Scott Holste), did not respond. Officer Brian Schellman of the St. Louis County Police did respond with the following:
“I just had the chance to read your email. Unfortunately, all of these questions need to be answered by Captain Johnson or the Missouri State Highway Patrol. They have command of the entire scene here. I represent the St. Louis County Police Department and we are only here to assist at the direction of the MSHP. They make all of the calls that would answer your questions. Unfortunately I cannot answer for them because frankly I just don’t know.”
A call was placed to the Mo. Highway Patrol Public Information Office and a message was left. To date, no response has been received.
Curfew lifted Monday–but protestors had to keep moving or risk arrest…
Governor Nixon lifted the curfew Monday night, but with another sly restriction–no one could stop moving. So, on Tuesday I ventured back into Ferguson. It was true, citizens were being ‘allowed’ to peacably protest, as long as they kept moving. Any slowing or stopping to catch your breath on a hot summer day–risked arrest. The charge would be–‘failure to disperse.’ I was personally threatened by a St. Louis County Police officer, when I stopped to take some notes and collect my thoughts.
Police told this reporter to …”keep walking, and not too slow–or you’ll be going to jail.” (Mind you–I was on the public sidewalk in broad daylight). The police officer next to him stated that this order …’was for our own protection.’
I also witnessed police officers (both St. Louis County and Missouri Highway Patrol officers harass an elderly gentleman using a cane, threatening him with arrest– for walking too slow. The gentleman was barely able to walk, but that was irrelevant to the police on the scene. It wasn’t until some of us spoke up for him that the police showed some compassion. And yes, the gentleman in question walking with a cane was black, and the officers were white. To those who say that the US under President Obama is ‘post-racial’–I say–come to Ferguson Missouri.
Additional police abuse…
A St. Ann police officer was caught on film threatening a man. The protestor in question told the officer that his hands were up–as the officer pointed a semi-automatic weapon directly at him. The officer’s response was…”I will f—ing kill you!” Thes incident was caught on YouTube and televised the same day US Attorney General Eric Holder arrived in St. Louis to speak with law enforcement and the family of Michael Brown. The unnamed officer was reported to Capt. Ron Johnson, who in turn notified St. Ann officials, and the officer is indefinitely suspended without pay.
1st amendment violations remain relatively silent…
Though the corporate media have done a decent job covering the actions in Ferguson, they failed to speak to the clear 1st amendment violations committed by the multiple police departments and the Mo. National Guard.
While much conversation focused on troublemakers ‘provoking the police,’ very little dialogue centered on 1st Amendment rights and the emerging police state in St. Louis County. The 1st Amendment gives any of us the right to be obnoxious or insulting to our elected representatives and yes the police. Insulting the police is not a criminal action, yet that was the direction taken by the authorities.
No one deserved to be attacked with mace, stun grenades, rubber bullets or teargas, for verbally insulting a police officer. Furthermore, the Bill of Rights guarantees any of us (citizen and alien), the right to be left alone by law enforcement. The only legitimate reasons any police officer has to stop anyone is if there is probable cause that a crime was committed, or in the case of public safety. Ironically, in Ferguson–it was the police who were causing danger, not the protestors.
Capt. Johnson is a decent man who clearly does not mean any harm to a community where he was raised. He does, however, have a naive belief in the emerging military police systems which attack the very concept of The Bill of Rights. Capt. Johnson was speaking to CNN’s Jake Tapper and Dan Lemon and explained how the police were ‘allowing’ citizens to protest.
What Capt. Johnson failed to comprehend was the very nature of protest. Our 1st Amendment rights, are not privileges which can be casually revoked when we irritate or provoke those in power. They are our rights. The right to protest peaceably, to report (and yes record) police actions, is not something the government can ‘allow.’ It is our right.
Further, what Capt. Johnson, Prosecutor McCulloch, Gov. Nixon and President Obama, fail to accept is the very nature of protest is to educate and, yes, irritate or incite the public for the purpose of exacting political change. This is especially true when peaceable requests are relegated to the trash can. Stopping short of inciting violent riot or causing direct violence, ALL political irritation in a protest is our right.
The emerging police state would have us reduce our legitimate protests to the level of an impotent bake sale. It is the very denial of protest RIGHTS and a near dictatorial military police presence that triggered the violence. The people of Ferguson understand what is at stake, our right to speak, witness, self-govern and live as a free and respected people.
When Capt. Johnson, responded to the violence in the streets, saying: “This has to stop;” I couldn’t help but shake my head in utter disbelief at the naivete of this well-meaning gentleman.
And regarding the police brutality and militarization I witnessed first hand from multiple policing agencies and the total disregard for the 1st Amendment; I would agree, Capt. Johnson, this has to stop.
Coming in Part Two: The political and legislative mess that created the Ferguson tensions.