Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Dispatch from Ferguson: “They’re going to burn the city down”

The unrest is beginning again in Ferguson, Missouri - not that it ever really ended. Following up the shooting of a police officer on Saturday night there were eight people arrested Monday for allegedly throwing rocks and bottles at cops in a protest outside the police station. Despite what should have been a cooling off period after last month's protests/riots over the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, the tension remains and could explode into violence at any time. It is being predicted that the entire thing could blow if the grand jury investigating the shooting exonerates Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Brown. In an interesting development it was reported that Wilson is now the subject of a second grand jury investigation for alleged brutality during a 2013 drug arrest.

According to a story from the website of the Los Angeles Times entitled "A tense Ferguson fears the worst is yet to come" I excerpt the following:

A tense Ferguson fears the worst is yet to come

Beauty Town has an elaborate video surveillance system that displays 16 angles of the store, but the cameras are better at capturing crime than at preventing it.

The beauty shop has been looted multiple times since a white Ferguson police officer shot an unarmed black man Aug. 9. Last week, during another round of unrest on West Florissant Avenue, a group of young men broke the front windows and raided the shelves and cash register.

Owner Shawn Kim thinks 99% of the people who live around his shop are good people.
For the rest, he’s bought a gun. Just in case.

If the grand jury fails to indict the officer who killed Michael Brown, almost everyone here thinks things will get worse.

“They’re not going to be looting next time,” said Kevin Seltzer, 30, who lives at an apartment complex near where Brown, 18, was shot. “They’re going to burn the city down.”


Tensions rose further Saturday night, when officials said a Ferguson police officer on routine patrol was shot in the arm during a foot chase behind the community center. The unidentified officer was treated and released; the shooter escaped.

A few hours later, not far outside Ferguson’s city limits, an off-duty St. Louis police officer was ambushed on the freeway by one or more gunmen, who shot his car multiple times and escaped, officials said. The officer was injured by broken glass. He was not in uniform and was in his own vehicle; it was unclear whether he was targeted or the victim of a random assault.

Ferguson fears the worst is yet to come, especially if the grand jury does not indict Officer Darren Wilson. A decision is expected in November.

It has been speculated that the grand jury is unlikely to charge Wilson and the objectivity of the group has already been called into question by some.  This sets the table for a conflagration of mayhem and violence of which the August turbulence after Brown's shooting was only a preview. Such a blowup will ultimately be futile, serving only to destroy the property of locals and bring about violence and death as well as to feed the enduring racial resentment in America. There is the question of whether a brutal response by the militarized police will be brought to bear after much criticism over their previous heavy-handed crackdown. This would be a lose-lose situation for all involved and in this writer's personal opinion is unlikely. Some names that come to mind are Rick Perry, Al Sharpton and Ted Cruz. 

There will probably be no choice other than to call out the National Guard to restore order but there is the timing of when the grand jury findings will be announced. The first week in November is when the mid-term elections will be held and with the Democrats fighting pitched battle to hold onto the Senate any ugliness in Ferguson will become yet another political football. Obama will do what he usually does which will be nothing and the resulting vacuum of leadership will rapidly be filled by demagogues and race-baiters of the worst type.

Then there is the outside chance that a failure to charge Wilson will spread beyond the St. Louis area into an ugly explosion of pent up anger nationally. We could very soon have a situation similar to the late 1960's and early 1970's where race riots plagued the country. Mix in the growing discontent with a system gone rotten and it could be the perfect storm.

Strange days indeed.