As we had reported earlier today, the Grand Jury chose not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for his role in the shooting death of Michael Brown. The shooting touched off months of protests and violence in Ferguson, MO.
Speculation now remains as to why the announcement was held off for so long. Delaying the announcement, it was not even announced at its scheduled time of 8PM local (9PM Eastern), and in fact the Brown family attorney leaked to USAToday minutes before the presser that no indictment was handed down.
Protestors had blocked several intersections with human chains and crowds began to swell within a few minutes of the scheduled announcement.
Regardless of the decision, many across the political spectrum believe that a serious dialogue is needed regarding police tactics and the use of force, including demands that non-lethal technologies be employed and training be provided. The non-indictment does not change the view of many that there are many non-lethal technologies and methods which are available and which, if employed, would not have resulted in a death.
The rioting continued apace, in fact as President Obama was calling for calm and citing examples of what not to do, such as breaking out the windows of a cop car, a split screen showed exactly those things happening, as if here narrating events. One protestor who was not happy about the looting complained that the police had backed off and left businesses defenseless. But, as we noted earlier, the local authorities are severely constrained by Federal pressure, potentially coming direct from the Justice Department. One official telling us that for them there is “no good choice”, they are being asked to back off and, now that looting is occuring, they are being blamed for not protecting the businesses.
Small crowds of protestors are taunting police, hurling invectives and epithets, as well as bottles, but police are hiding behind shields and vehicles and using tear gas to disperse the crowds, but they are keeping their distance in what appears to be a protocol which matches what we reported on earlier regarding Federal pressure.
In one case, at a beauty shop, protestors prevented looters from entering the store. Later, however, looters returned and set fire to that same shop, which is owned by a local woman who also happens to be black.
In general, and it must be noted, the looters are not part of the protest and are not welcomed by the protestors who have been heard in numerous video and audio scenes trying to stop the looters. One could be heard yelling “stop this, this is not right!” But to no avail. But despite this the police kept their distance from the crowds, even as fires were lit in various locations.
Serious questions will be raised regarding any Federal pressure to stand off and what consequences may have resulted from a stand-off policy. To some, including locals, “the police are just letting this spin out of control.”
The damage to local businesses and, by extension, the local economy, is incalculable. Many will have no job to go because of what has transpired. Multiple businesses were burned as police backed off and multiple shotes erupted in Ferguson.
Non-violent, and smaller, protests took place in other cities, including New York, Chicago, Saint Louis, Oakland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. A highway in St. Louis was shut down.
We will update this story as it emerges.