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Ferguson: hope for peace?



A Nashville Sheriff's Police Bearcat. Sign of militarized police and maybe overweaning government.

Riots and looting broke out in Ferguson, Missouri, again last night. But then a dozen people did something that offers hope. When the police dared not interfere, they protected the stores that had come under attack. That shows the people in the community want peace, not the race war someone is trying to provoke.

The latest from Ferguson

Ferguson, Missouri, almost flashed into flame. The near-disaster began with a young man, eighteen years old, who walked into a convenience store and took merchandise without paying. We now have video clearly showing him taking a box of cigarillos. When a manager tries to collect payment, he picks up the manager by his shirt collar and shoves him aside. Then he leaves, then comes back and towers over the other man. We do not know what they said. (Surveillance cameras don’t come with microphones.) But we can guess:

MANAGER: I call police!

BROWN: You do and I’ll kill you.

Or words to that effect, and, like as not, vulgar and obscene.

Brown and another young man (Dorian Johnson) then walk out onto a busy street and walk in the middle of the road. An officer stops them and tells them to get to the sidewalk. We now, at last, have a version of events from someone close to that officer. Gateway Pundit has a transcript that shows:

  • Officer Darren Wilson didn’t just stop two men who were blocking traffic. (Why Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said that was the only reason for the stop, no one can or will say.)
  • He heard about the strong-arm shoplift on the radio. He had a description of the suspect. Michael Brown matched that description. That’s why Wilson stopped him.
  • Brown had an instant problem. He was caught. So he rushed at the officer, not once but twice.
  • The first shot comes after Brown lunges at Wilson the first time, punches him in the face, and tries to get his gun. The gun goes off. That shot goes wild.
  • Then Brown gets thirty-five feet away. Officer Wilson yells, “Freeze!”
  • When a police officer tells you to freeze, you freeze! Instead, Brown lunges at Wilson a second time.
  • That’s when Wilson opens fire.

This explains the shot fired from inside Wilson’s cruiser, and Brown taking bullets from thirty-five feet away. It does not explain Tom Jackson denying that Wilson knew Brown had robbed the store. Wilson needs to get a lawyer, and now. His own chief just broke the first rule of a commanding officer: stand by your men.

The St. Louis County PD, one of three different agencies now on the scene in Ferguson, Mo.

Shoulder patch of the St. Louis County (Mo.) Police Department. Photo courtesy Dave Conner (, CC BY 2.0 Generic License.

What happened next looks, as CNAV has said before, like the back story of a TV project about a dictatorship in America. (Or a movie project about a corrupt government looking for a good excuse.) Riots, with outsiders taking part, break out. The more aggressive rioters loot stores. Now the Ferguson and St. Louis County Police Departments answer with military hardware. One of the St. Louis County cops throws calls the protesters “animals.” Not only that, he tells them what unprintable kind of animals he thinks they are.

Eventually the State governor puts a new man in charge: Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol. But he sets no clear chain of command. So the competing police agencies hold three press conferences in all. In the last one, they say something about Officer Wilson’s mind-set that is simply not true. Then they decide they will effectively not patrol the streets of Ferguson at all that night.

And the streets erupt in violence again. Not at once; the violence starts at about midnight after things had been peaceful for two hours or so. Among other bad outcomes, looters clean out the same store Michael Brown stole the cigarillos from. But this time is different. According to the New York Post, several other protesters yelled at the looters to stop it. Then about a dozen of them cordoned off the store to protect it from further damage.

Nor was that the only store the crowd protected this way. Fox News Channel interviewed one local resident who saw it. According to her, regular residents knew they had outsiders in their midst, cried “Boo!”, and stopped them. This witness also confirmed: New Black Panther people, dressed in their militia uniforms, tried to mix in. The witness clearly had no use for them, either.

At least one other store owner told Fox news of the crowd protecting his store. After the worst was over, regular residents, including members of Brown’s family, came in to help clean up. That store owner vows to rebuild.

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That store owner also showed the worst flaw in police plans: no organization. The Ferguson police told him to call St. Louis County, who told him to call the Highway Patrol. Because they had no chain of command. But soon the police couldn’t ignore what was happening. They chased the violent ones away with tear gas, “flash-bangs,” and other such weapons.

What this means for Ferguson going forward

The best things the residents of Ferguson did last night, were to stop the violence once it started (or at least protect the targets as best they could), and condemn the outsiders who started it. The weight of the evidence supports this narrative: outsiders have started all the violence and sought to keep it going. They either wanted loot (like those who did the looting) or war (like the New Black Panther Party). Witnesses said most of the outsiders came from St. Louis the city. (That doesn’t include the “commandant” of the New Black Panther Party. He showed up dressed up like a four-star general! How can we know whether to laugh at his costume, or cry about the tragedy he eggs on?)

The best thing those who live in Ferguson can do, is wait for a grand jury to finish looking into what Officer Wilson did and why. The State will not release his incident report, nor the first autopsy findings on Brown. When a grand jury investigates, authorities “close,” or seal, such records.

But the Ferguson and St. Louis County Police Departments should do one more thing. They should send back that Army surplus military hardware they got in. That makes them look like something out of Star Wars, according to two of the “Five” hosts.

Rumor has it that most black men who live in Ferguson don’t apply to join the police force. They must think the police are “The Man.” Maybe Captain Johnson, who is “a brother” himself, can get them to think differently.

But they also should understand this: outsiders came in, hurt people, and could have got a lot more people hurt. And maybe someone tried to dress-rehearse martial law. They even tempted a United States Congressman to call for that. And that military hardware doesn’t help. It makes residents think an army is occupying them. And it makes the police think like an occupying army. Neither way of thinking is helpful, or respectful of liberty.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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