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Chaos in Ferguson riots

Chaos in Ferguson riots

The vaunted agreement about “rules of engagement” Ferguson’s mayor reached with protesters didn’t amount to much, as the city was promptly sacked after a grand jury declined to indict Officer Darren Wilson on any charges in the death of Michael Brown.  Happily, and somewhat miraculously, no one appears to have been killed.  Fox News surveys the wreckage:

There were more than 80 arrests made in the St. Louis area overnight as protesters fired more than 100 gunshots, burned and looted as many as 25 buildings and vandalized police cars in Ferguson, Mo. after a grand jury did not indict a police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in August, authorities said Tuesday morning.

St. Louis County police released records early Tuesday showing 61 people were arrested in Ferguson on charges including burglary and trespassing. And St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said 21 people were arrested in the city.

Heavily armed police fired pepper spray and smoke canisters to disperse the crowds of protesters. Police seized a .45 mm [presumably they mean .45 caliber – Ed] automatic handgun as well.

“We have no loss of life, but I am disappointed the night turned out this way,” St. Louis Police Department Chief Jon Belmar said.

Belmar said he heard more than 150 shots ring off in the night.

“What I’ve seen tonight is probably worse than the worst night we had in August,” Belmar said.

Gov. Jay Nixon ordered more Missouri National Guardsmen to provide security at the Ferguson Police Department.

Where were all the National Guard units and riot response troops while the city was being burned down?  Firefighters actually fell back from battling the blazes because they were taking fire from looters.  All the hand-wringing about the insensitivity of “militarized police” deprived law-abiding citizens, and especially shop owners, of their protection at a time when it was most needed: a carefully-orchestrated, well-organized, media-fueled crisis everyone knew was coming.  The only people with a legitimate grievance worth protesting about today are the hard-working shop owners who saw their businesses go up in smoke, and the employees who just lost their jobs.  They paid exorbitant taxes to the multiple layers of flabby, useless government tottering over us – from local authorities to Barack Obama’s worse-than-useless federal apparatus – and their reward was getting to watch their property looted and destroyed, with scarcely a thought given to protecting them.

Once again, Obama had absolutely nothing to say to the People Who Work Hard and Play By the Rules.  He gave a little statement that began with praise for the “rule of law” that should have come with a laugh track, given who was speaking, and rather mildly advised the protesters to eschew violence – advice they completely ignored.  His entire brief appeal to the better angels of the rioters’ nature – delivered tepidly so as not to jeopardize his useful political connection with them – rested on the moral authority of Michael Brown’s parents and the self-interest of the rioters, not respect for the law itself:

First and foremost, we are a nation built on the rule of law. And so we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make. There are Americans who agree with it, and there are Americans who are deeply disappointed, even angry. It’s an understandable reaction. But I join Michael’s parents in asking anyone who protests this decision to do so peacefully. Let me repeat Michael’s father’s words:  “Hurting others or destroying property is not the answer. No matter what the grand jury decides, I do not want my son’s death to be in vain. I want it to lead to incredible change, positive change, change that makes the St. Louis region better for everyone.”

Michael Brown’s parents have lost more than anyone. We should be honoring their wishes.

A robust defense of the rule of law requires a lot more than merely saying it’s important and the nation was built on it.  You have to explain what it means right now.  But as his own actions have amply demonstrated, the “rule of law” is an entirely abstract concept to Obama – something to be discussed in a classroom or used as a rhetorical prop during a speech, not something to be embraced and lived.

After spending an equal amount of time admonishing the police to show restraint, Obama delivered a windy homily to the “lessons that we draw from these tragic events,” assuring us “there are good people on all sides of this debate.”  Really?  Including the side that insists on pretending Officer Wilson is a racist killer who murdered Brown for fun, no matter what the forensic evidence and hundreds of hours of testimony say?  The moral equivalence Obama engages in to make it look like he’s down with The Struggle are grotesque and disgusting.  This was a moment when a real leader, a real President, would have stood tall and made it clear that there was nothing to protest, no good reason to keep a bloody myth alive because a wagonload of political issues can be hitched to it.  Such a declaration would have meant a lot at this moment, coming from the First Black President.  Alas, it would have crimped his poll numbers with one of the few groups that still ardently supports him, so instead of emphasizing that the “hands up, don’t shoot” stuff was a fairy tale, he went along with the idea that a long list of simmering grievances give the agitators a license to promote whatever hateful garbage they think is necessary to hold the media spotlight and keep people fired up.

Instead we got this:

But what is also true is that there are still problems, and communities of color aren’t just making these problems up. Separating that from this particular decision, there are issues in which the law too often feels as if it is being applied in discriminatory fashion. I don’t think that’s the norm. I don’t think that’s true for the majority of communities or the vast majority of law enforcement officials. But these are real issues. And we have to lift them up and not deny them or try to tamp them down. What we need to do is to understand them and figure out how do we make more progress.  And that can be done.

That won’t be done by throwing bottles. That won’t be done by smashing car windows. That won’t be done by using this as an excuse to vandalize property.  And it certainly won’t be done by hurting anybody. So, to those in Ferguson, there are ways of channeling your concerns constructively and there are ways of channeling your concerns destructively. Michael Brown’s parents understand what it means to be constructive. The vast majority of peaceful protesters, they understand it as well.

Those of you who are watching tonight understand that there’s never an excuse for violence, particularly when there are a lot of people in goodwill out there who are willing to work on these issues.

On the other hand, those who are only interested in focusing on the violence and just want the problem to go away need to recognize that we do have work to do here, and we shouldn’t try to paper it over. Whenever we do that, the anger may momentarily subside, but over time, it builds up and America isn’t everything that it could be.

“America isn’t everything that it could be?”  Such inspiring leadership!  The lawful, hard-working people of this country feel just great knowing that you’ve got their backs, Mr. Obama.  Notice again that his entire case against violence is premised not in the slightest on the notion that rioting is absolutely wrong and would be met by a justifiably aggressive response from law enforcement and the military, if necessary.  No, the entire weaksauce argument he offered is that rioting is counter-productive to the fine and noble cause of the rioters, and might turn off people otherwise inclined to take their side.  Does anyone remember Obama displaying even a microscopic portion of this sympathy for the issues, causes, and moral authority of the entirely peaceful, neat-as-a-pin Tea Party?

As for the moral authority of Brown’s parents, while it’s true, and helpful, that they called for a non-violent response, they’re also doing nothing to dispel the ugly mythology that drove these protests.  “We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions,” said a statement from the Brown family. “While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.”  That would be the system that “allows” a police officer to defend himself against a violent assailant who tries to gain control of his weapon.  Unless you want to live in a bloody scrum of unending gang violence without the protection of armed law enforcement, I strongly suggest you do not change that particular system.

Monday night in Ferguson offered a little glimpse of what that police-free world might look like.  From local news station KSDK:

Officers reported heavy automatic gunfire in the area of W. Florissant and Canfield, police said. A University City police officer was shot at the intersection of Canton Avenue and Lamb Avenue, according to police.

Asst. Fire Chief Steve Fair with the Ferguson Fire Department said they found structure fires along the corridor of Florissant, West Florissant, and Halls Ferry roads.

“We have been fighting approximately 25 structure fires tonight, along with a car dealership where we lost 10 cars that were burned up,” said Fair.

The department had help from all over St. Louis and St. Charles counties, but said it was difficult to make offensive attacks because they were run out by gunfire.

“Not just a little bit of gunfire, a lot of gunfire,” said Fair. “We do everything that we can, and we’ll continue to do everything we can, but we are limited to what we can do.”

Around 3:30 a.m. Fair said crews were still battling five or six active fires. They were still putting out hot spots and mopping up the scenes at others.

An elderly man was carjacked and run over with his own car in the name of “social justice.”  Social justice was also pursued by burning and looting a variety of stores, including Little Ceasar’s Pizza, Federal Express, Toys R Us, the St. Louis Bread Company restaurant, a pawn shop, and a Metro PCS cell phone store, at which the looters paused to take a few selfies:

Another cell-phone store owner, an Israeli immigrant named Sonny Dayan, stood in the ruins of his looted shop and expressed his disappointment in both rioters and the police to the L.A. Times:

Looters shattered both of his front windows, he said when he got off the phone. “They took everything — phones, cases, everything.”

Bystanders told him police had stood by and watched.

Earlier, he said, “I talked to people on the street and they said not to worry. They said this time the focus will be on  institutions, not businesses.”

Unlike most merchants on West Florissant, Dayan didn’t cover his windows.

“I didn’t want to be another boarded-up store on this strip,” he said, adding that customers had thanked him for staying open as the grand jury worked.

Looters also ransacked a liquor store they also struck in August, during the last round of major vandalism. At least five major fires were burning along the street, including another cellphone store, a public storage business, an auto parts store and a title company.

Dayan said police had promised him there would be more security this time, more protection.

“They told us they would try to root that kind of violence out. I don’t know how much success they had,” he said Monday. “They had promised to eliminate this but it happened right across from them.”

Dayan said he figured that by not boarding up the windows, he would demonstrate his trust in the community and not be targeted. As he drove to the store after being alerted to the looting, he said he realized he had underestimated the criminal element in the area.

“An opportunity like that arises, they’re going to take it,” he said, his voice calm as he mused, “Maybe we’ll learn something from this.

“It’s hard. It’s just a tough kick to your gut – you’re trying to do the right thing, and you know there’s so much good in the area,” he said.

The good in any given area has no chance to flourish without the unapologetic and absolute defense of the law.  Accept no substitutes, especially not vague promises from prospective rioters.

The enduring image of the night for me wasn’t the images of buildings coming down in flames and looters running wild in the streets, but Natalie DuBose, the owner of a cake shop in Ferguson, weeping helplessly as her livelihood was destroyed.

Over the weekend, DuBose – a single mother with two children – begged the mob to spare her little shop: “If I can’t open my doors every morning, I can’t feed my kids in the evening.  Just don’t burn my shop down.  Don’t destroy it.”  She shouldn’t have needed to plead with the thugs who ignored her.  That’s what the “rule of law” means.  That’s what real “justice” means.  The government she spent her working life paying for was supposed to protect her, and Sonny Dayan, and the rest of them.

But the ruling elite was too busy playing footsie with the rioters, feeling them out for useful political connections, playing into their paranoid fantasies in the hopes of goosing them to the ballot box to vote Democrat, preserving the influence of the organizers, and peddling an ideology of helpless victimization that relieves even violent assailants of responsibility for their actions.  There were also violent demonstrations in California, plus a more peaceful march in Times Square that nevertheless violated New York City ordinances, which were of course waived without comment.  What were any of those people “protesting ” for?  The right of people with a certain skin color to assault police officers of a certain skin color, without repercussions?  What they need, more than anything else, is for some people they respect to tell them they’re acting like fools.

We’ll get plenty more of the lawlessness our ruling elite and their sensationalist media indulge (and, as the Ferguson prosecutor pointed out in his statement Monday night, cultivate.)  Things were only hideous on Monday night because of all the indulgence and cultivation given to previous outbursts and false narratives.  This thing was allowed to fester for a long time before it blew up.  Whatever progress we might have made on various issues in America, our political and media class, and their favored constituencies, are still a long way from growing up.  Many of them will spend the days to come showing us just how dangerously infantile they can be.

Update: Fox News interviewed cake-shop owner Natalie DuBose, who professed herself shocked and saddened by the damage to her livelihood, but seems to be dealing with the day after very well.  She compared it to going through the Twilight Zone: “It’s just unbelievable that we’re experiencing something like this.  You only see this in movies.  But to actually be feeling it, and hurting from it, and crying from it… this is what I was praying against.”  She strikes me as the kind of person this town cannot afford to do without.


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