Last Saturday, an unarmed Black Man was shot and killed by a Police Officer, in Ferguson. To date, as far as is publicly known, the Policeman was not arrested, but, is on paid administrative leave. People have been forming in the streets each night since.
It might be important to note that Ferguson is a suburb of St. Louis and has a population of just over 21,000. Approximately 65% of the Citizenry is Black; however, there are no Blacks in the Town Council, none in any of the key Town Leadership Positions and there are just three Black Officers on a Police Force of 53. That lack of representation is undoubtedly a reason for the considerable frustration.
Although the Governor of Missouri, and both the Mayor and Police Chief of Ferguson, spoke at a Church Service (which was probably more of a call for calm than a Memorial Service), none of them have been visible since. And apparently, no members of the Town Council have taken any action or made their presence known either.
The Police Department has asked for all public Religious or Protest demonstrations to disband by Sundown. The point here is that the Police Department does not have the authority to declare a curfew; however, the Town Council and the Governor do. So far, none of the elected State or Local Officials have taken any executive action whatsoever.
Tonight, on the fifth day after the killing of the unarmed Man, there had been, perhaps, 250 People who were just peacefully assembled in the area; however, they do not appear to be blocking traffic, taunting the Police or causing any damage. There was some destruction by rioters one evening recently; however, there hasn’t apparently been any more since. Today and tonight, the people in the area have been quite peaceful.
This evening (at 10:30 CDT), the Police Department has constantly been over-reacting–decked-out in SWAT gear, wearing full body armor and firing rubber bullets and tear gas canisters at People who are just standing on the sidewalk–at some distance from the Police. In some cases, people are just out on their own lawns. Oh, by the way, rubber bullets can kill and wound; so, don’t think that they are not real weaponry.
A retired Federal DEA Agent (and hostage negotiator) had stated several times that you don’t fire gas and rubber bullets, or patrol in tanks and full body armor, during a peaceful demonstration. No doubt, some of the people who are just milling around came out of their nearby homes since the tear gas seeped inside. The former DEA Agent pointed-out that several of the Police Officers had pointed their rifles at peaceful people in the crowd–something you just do not do, unless you intend to use it. To me, that is outright intimidation.
Alarmingly, the police had also arrested people inside a McDonald’s, including two journalists with press credentials. One, who was an Iraq War Veteran, said that the Police wore more body armor than he ever had in combat. Additionally, some Police Officers asked the media to stop filming the action. What did they wish to hide?
It is important to note that the Police do not make the Laws: they are there to “serve and protect”. The Police Chief is hired by the Town Council to enforce the Laws that it makes. The fact that there has not been a visible civilian leadership presence, making Laws and managing the situation, has enabled the frustration of the Black Population in Ferguson to move to a much higher level than needed. Hopefully, a violent confrontation will not follow?
NOTE: SWAT gear is even more intimidating that mere riot gear. It is generally something that Police wear when there is definitely the potential for confronting an armed and violent person.