October 23, 2014

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Governor vows change in Ferguson police response

A protester takes shelter from smoke billowing around him. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, David Carson)

A protester takes shelter from smoke billowing around him. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, David Carson)

FLORISSANT, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said Thursday that unspecified “operational shifts” are ahead for law enforcement in the St. Louis suburb that has been the scene of violent protests since a police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager.

Speaking at a meeting of clergy and community members, the governor told the audience that “you all will see a different tone” in law enforcement’s response to the demonstrations in the town of Ferguson.

Nixon did not elaborate on the changes ahead, but they are likely to be explained at a news conference planned for later in the day.

In his first in-person remarks about the tense standoff, President Barack Obama appealed for “peace and calm” on the streets.

“I know emotions are raw right now in Ferguson, and there are certainly passionate differences about what has happened,” Obama said. “But let’s remember that we’re all part of one American family. We are united in common values and that includes the belief in equality under the law, respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protests.”

Obama, speaking from the Massachusetts island where he’s on a two-week vacation, said there was no excuse for excessive force by police in the aftermath of Saturday’s shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown. He said he had asked the Justice Department and FBI to investigate the incident.

Police on Thursday defended the use of tear gas and smoke bombs to repel demonstrators after another night of chaos over the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

St. Louis County police spokesman Brian Schellman said officers on Wednesday night tossed tear gas to disperse a large crowd of protesters after some threw Molotov cocktails and rocks at officers. More than 10 people were arrested in Ferguson.

“In talking to these guys, it is scary,” Schellman said of officers on the front lines of the protest. “They hear gunshots going off, and they don’t know where they’re coming from.”

But the police response has drawn heavy criticism from many circles. Civil rights activist Al Sharpton called Thursday for the Justice Department to monitor Ferguson and the way police are handling the crisis.

“Even if we disagree, this climate is not good for anyone and is dangerous for everyone,” Sharpton said in a statement.

At the community meeting, Sierra Smith, who lives in the neighborhood where Brown was shot, told the governor “the police have no respect at all for the community.”

Nixon responded that the Bill of Rights gives the people “the right speak truth to power” and “we will work to live out those rights.”

Nixon has faced increasing criticism over suggestions he has not done enough to calm tensions.

State Sen. Maria Chapelle-Nadal had been particularly critical of the governor, accusing him of being missing in action during the crisis. In an interview on MSNBC, she called the governor a “coward.”

The police chiefs of Ferguson and St. Louis County said Wednesday that race relations were the top priority in the town. A meeting was scheduled for Thursday between civil rights leaders and police.

Officers from multiple departments in riot gear and in military equipment have clashed nightly with protesters, who chant, “Hands up, don’t shoot.” Protesters faced heavily armed police who at times trained weapons on them from armored trucks.

Two reporters said they were detained by police for not clearing out quickly enough from a McDonald’s where they were working, near the protests but away from the more volatile areas. The two, who work for The Washington Post and The Huffington Post, were released without any charges. Both say they were assaulted but not seriously hurt.

Among those arrested was St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, who has been chronicling the protests on social media.

“I think the heavy-handed approach by police is escalating the situation and more people are going to get hurt if this keeps up,” French told KMOX Radio.

Residents in Ferguson have complained about the police response that began soon after Brown’s shooting with the use of dogs for crowd control — a tactic that for some invoked the civil rights protests from a half-century ago. The county police force took over, leading both the investigation of Brown’s shooting and the subsequent attempts to keep the peace at the smaller city’s request.

County Police Chief Jon Belmar said his officers have responded with “an incredible amount of restraint” as they’ve had rocks and bottles thrown at them, been shot at and had two dozen patrol vehicles destroyed.

The city and county are also under criticism for refusing to release the name of the officer who shot Brown, citing threats against that officer and others. The hacker group Anonymous on Thursday released a name purported to be that of the officer, but the Ferguson police chief said later that the name was incorrect.

St. Louis County police and the FBI are investigating the shooting. County prosecutor Bob McCulloch said Wednesday that it could be several weeks before the investigation wraps up and authorities decide whether to charge the officer.

Police have said Brown was shot after an officer encountered him and another man on the street. They say one of the men pushed the officer into his squad car, then physically assaulted him in the vehicle and struggled with the officer over the officer’s weapon. At least one shot was fired inside the car. The struggle then spilled onto the street, where Brown was shot multiple times.

Jackson said Wednesday that the officer involved sustained swelling facial injuries.

Dorian Johnson, who says he was with Brown when the shooting happened, has told a much different story. He has told media outlets that the officer ordered them out of the street, then grabbed his friend’s neck and tried to pull him into the car before brandishing his weapon and firing. He says Brown started to run and the officer pursued him, firing multiple times.

Johnson and another witness both say Brown was on the street with his hands raised when the officer fired at him repeatedly.


  • Seeker

    America is looking more and more like some countries in the middle east, I wonder how far the up-rising will go. soon we will see how militarized our police really are .

  • Bob

    Just leave them alone. Let them tear up their own town. Then they wont have anyone to blame for the fact that they have no place to live anymore. Bunch of morons.

    • Seeker

      Cut off there welfare and EBT cards .If they have enough energy to riot then they have enough energy to get a job.

  • SniperFire

    Wall it off and let them burn down their hood.

  • HankKwah

    Maybe some black leader will ask the citizens to calm the heck down? Police are doing their jobs. “There’s also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests….” I suppose when the protests ARE peaceful that the police won’t have to worry about much. But since they haven’t seen any yet….

  • Matthew Baldauf

    These comments are very telling. This is exactly why the government will continue to have us under foot. They keep us fighting amongst ourselves over non related political issues rather than unifying against a Heavily militirazed AWOL police department. Good job.

    • Bob

      Don’t you think that the reason the police are going so military is because of situation like what is happening in Ferguson and Florissant, Mo??

      • Matthew Baldauf

        I’m not interested in their excuses for one. Our founding fathers were very clear that having a standing army in the US was a threat to liberty and that is exactly what police departments across the country are becoming. Second, Ferguson wouldn’t be happening if police officers didn’t continuously kill unarmed citizens and then recieve no penalty. If your actions get so out of hand that the citizens you work for start protesting at this level, the answer isn’t to increase force, the answer is to fix what you’re doing wrong.

        • SniperFire

          ”Im not interested in their excuses for one. ‘

          He didn’t say it was an excuse, he said it was a reason.

          ‘Our founding fathers were very clear that having a standing army in the US was a threat to liberty ‘

          They did, but the Army, Navy Airforce and Marines are the corollary, not local police forces. And few look at our military and see the warning of the Founders ringing true.

          ‘Second, Ferguson wouldn’t be happening if police officers didn’t continuously kill unarmed citizens and then recieve no penalty.’

          False argument. Police kill unarmed citizens in other places without Molotov cocktail attacks.

          ‘ the answer isn’t to increase force, the answer is to fix what you’re doing wrong.’

          Sounds good, anyways. Generic non-answer. Do you think blacks are going to fix their culture anytime soon?

          • Matthew Baldauf

            He didn’t have to call it an excuse, that’s just what it is. A “reason” used to EXCUSE them for doing something they are not supposed to be allowed to do.

            How is it a false argument? The civil unrest is clearly due to what the people see as an unjustified shooting, and based on all of the unjustified killings police have been doing lately, and then getting slaps on the wrist or no punishment at all, they aren’t going to sit around and quitly wait to be spoon fed bullshit by the police.

            Why do you need to bring race into this? What does black culture have to do with trigger happy police responding with violence to a situation created by their own violence? My argument stands. They wouldn’t be dealing with this situation if they hadn’t done something their citizens see as wrong, and would be over with if they corrected the issue. But instead they are trying to beat the populace into submission like this is some random uprising

          • SniperFire

            ‘How is it a false argument? The civil unrest is clearly due to what the people see as an unjustified shooting’

            I don’t believe that. Then again, I am not a fool. There are unjustified shootings in those neighborhoods perhaps every night.

          • Matthew Baldauf

            Really? Please enlighten me. What about this makes it seem like a justified shooting?

          • SniperFire

            ‘ What about this makes it seem like a justified shooting?’

            Strawman argument. You said the unrest was due to unjustified shooting. I laughed at you because there were unjustified shootings in the hood perhaps every night.

            The problem really isn’t unjustified shooting, is it?

          • Matthew Baldauf

            It’s not a strawman argument if i simply misunderstood what part of my statement you were refuting and I couldn’t see how anyone would argure that the shooting didnt start this mess, so what then oh wise man is the real cause for the uprising?

          • SniperFire

            ‘It’s not a strawman argument’

            Sure it is. Your false narrative has been debunked in toto. That said, I don’t support the continued militarization of local police forces, which really isn’t the issue here.

            The punk was offed with a standard service revolver, I believe.

          • Matthew Baldauf

            Throwing out random logical fallacy claims without defending them effectively and backing your position mostly with racist assumptions about everything from the original victim to the entire town is an interesting way to debate someone but in the end it just makes you look like brain dead hick. Clearly talking to a brick wall here. Good day.

          • SniperFire

            ‘Throwing out random logical fallacy claims without defending them effectively ‘

            You said unjust shooting caused the uprising.
            I said that was not true, as there are unjust shootings every night.

            You pretended I argued the shooting was justified. I did not. You trotted out a weak strawman. Do better next time.

          • SniperFire

            ‘Why do you need to bring race into this? ‘

            Well, you have disqualified yourself from being taken seriously.

            ‘ trigger happy police’

            There isn’t a policeman or military person on the planet not taught to kill someone who is attempting to take their weapon from them to do same. You are being a drama queen.

          • boldwolf89

            He excels at that my friend. I know him personally, unfortunately. These articles, along with television, are as close as this pansy will ever get to seeing any real action or is big boy Matt still playing security guard?

            I bet criminals get real scared when you pull out that light saber.

            “Drama queen.” LOL! I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

    • TrollMajesty

      Your point about the government keeping us pitted against each other is accurate. They do so in order to keep the attention off of what they’re really doing. Your last point makes no sense however. Quantify “heavily militarized.” In my experience, a heavily militarized entity doesn’t engage in stand off, it goes in and eliminates all resistance. The term is emotional hyperbole. I’m not sure you know what AWOL means either.

      The quality of your police department is equal to the time and effort you and your neighbors put into your community. If you prioritize family, foster a sense of community pride and hold your elected officials accountable, your police department will reflect that. If you let your neighborhood get run down, let your children run wild and vote for whomever might put some more free dollars in your pocket your police department (and your government) will also reflect that.

      • Matthew Baldauf

        Since when does militirization require specific action? We still have an army when we are at peace, it doesn’t stop being militirized. I say heavily militirized because the police department there and in many cities across the country are using uniforms, weapons, vehicles and equipment previously only seen in war zones. An Afganistan vet was quoted as saying that he rolled “lighter than that” in combat zones, after seeing what the Ferguson police were unleashing on their citizens. So yes, they are heavily militirized. Thats not emotional hyperbole, that’s a fact.

        And I use the term AWOL because while the military is a tool of a state, police departments are the direct employees of the citizens of that municipality. Clearly a large vocal portion of their citizens are upset with their conduct, and thats just the ones who are brave enough (and to be fair are capable of) getting out in the streets and going face to face with the police. But rather than address the concerns of the people they work for, they are on the verge of going to war with them, suspending their constitutional rights, attacking and arresting journalists and more. So I think AWOL would be an appropriate term. Rebelling would be a an acceptable term too.

        • TrollMajesty

          You’re using the same argument that gun control advocates use: if it looks or sounds “military” then it should be banned from anyone who’s not. It’s the action of the individual behind the equipment that matters.

          Your “Afghanistan” vet must have never left the F.O.B. True combat soldiers don’t fire rubber bullets and tear gas. The specialized military units that do have police functions. True combat involves destruction of the enemy, not making their eyes burn for a few hours or giving them a welt.

          “Militarization” is absolutely an emotional hyperbole. It’s designed to elicit an emotional response and gives rise to a fallacious opinion. The actions resulting from tactics and techniques are what matter, not costumes and equipment. Police departments used to adapt armored bank trucks for tactical use. What would you call that? If the police wore UPS uniforms, wore a six-shooter but started adapting the rules of engagement that I had in Iraq I think that would be closer to “militarization.”

          “AWOL” means Absent With Out Leave. It’s when a military member is absent from his or her reporting station without authorization (leave). I fail to see how that relates in the slightest. The police in this situation are attempting to get a handle on the violence. Their method of doing that may be in question, but that’s another issue and one I am glad I’m not in responsible for.

          Look, I know it’s difficult to grasp exactly what’s going on, but try not to depend on the media’s myopic, agenda driven viewpoint (Fox’s and MSNBC are obvious- CNN’s is slightly more subtle) . The police are low-hanging fruit when it comes to blame for greater societal issues- they always have been. It’s much easier to blame them then try to actually address the underlying socioeconomic issues.

          When you graduate high school and go to college one of the first classes you should take is called Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking, or something similar. It will help keep you from some of the logical fallacies you are making.

          P.S. You should open your basement window and let all the smoke from the straw men you’ve burnt on this thread air out. Just funnin’ bro.

  • 2Cents

    It’s not the color, it’s the culture!

    In St. Louis: African-Americans are responsible for 92 percent of homicide, 78 percent of rape, 93 percent of robbery, 87 percent of aggravated assault, and 82 percent of burglary.

    These stats are from 2011 but I am sure things arn’t much better now. When this country gets the guts to talks about the REAL problem, maybe we’ll see some change for the good of all the people.

    • The Chief

      Don’t hold your breath

    • SniperFire

      This is the real problem. People will pretend it isn’t. And you can dig deeper and ask why all the crime?

      Mostly, it is a function of children being born out of wedlock and single mothers dumped onto the welfare system into a hopeless life of poverty. This is encouraged and subsidized by Liberals in an attempt to keep the black vote down on the plantation. Sadly, it works.

      But there will be NO National discussion – no introspection – on how this immoral behavior in the black culture – breeding like dogs and the men not raising their children – is the actual cause of the systemic failure of black culture worldwide.

      Family is the #1 economic unit. Without it, few stand a chance.

    • Sis Delish

      Sadly, 92 percent, et al is a passing grade with honors, but in the wrong subjects…

  • SniperFire

    The 6′ 3” and 300 lb. ‘Bloods’ gang member, AKA ‘innocent teen child who was turning his life around’, flashing his gang sign:

    http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/crips-michael-brown-2.jpg

    The media gleefully participates in this false narrative, which will probably get more people killed.