Update: In a rather long and very thorough statement, St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced that the grand jury would bring no indictment against Officer Darren Wilson. McCulloch castigated agitators and sensationalist media for cultivating the atmosphere of paranoia in Ferguson, noting that all of the “hands up, don’t shoot” garbage dissolved the instant “witnesses” to the shooting were placed under oath and shown the physical evidence surrounding Michael Brown’s death. He noted that many of those “witnesses” admitted they did not actually see the conflict between Wilson and Brown themselves, and were merely repeating what they heard others say.
Another notable detail divulged by McCulloch on Monday night: all of the witnesses who did see the encounter, and testified that Brown was charging at Wilson when he was shot, were black.
Update: President Obama’s 10PM statement – delivered characteristically late – included language about the “rule of law” that rings painfully hollow coming from him, and entirely too much sympathy for the protesters. He did ask them to respect the Brown family’s call for non-violence, but the bulk of his statement involved essentially agreeing with them about everything except the pesky little details of Brown’s death. He even made a lame comment about how “America isn’t all that it could be,” which is just what law-abiding citizens want to hear at a moment like this. The correct presidential attitude would be to remind the protesters that they don’t actually have anything to protest, since they, the media, and the professional agitators were wrong about this case from Minute One of Day One, but that’s apparently too much to ask. Obama is so eager to maintain his connection to the protesters and their useful political energy that he’s incapable of talking tough to them, even when they need to hear it most.
Update: By 10:30 PM there was tear gas on the streets of Ferguson, fires were burning, and there were reports of shots being fired. The tear gas deployment made for a very uncomfortable split screen with Obama’s statement.
Update: Statement from Darren Wilson’s lawyers, relayed by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
“Today, a St. Louis County grand jury released its decision that no charges would be filed in the case involving Officer Darren Wilson. From the onset, we have maintained and the grand jury agreed that Officer Wilson???s actions on August 9 were in accordance with the laws and regulations that govern the procedures of an officer.
“In a case of this magnitude, a team of prosecutors rightfully presented evidence to this St. Louis County grand jury. This group of citizens, drawn at random from the community, listened to witnesses and heard all the evidence in the case. Based on the evidence and witness testimony, the grand jury collectively determined there was no basis for criminal charges against Officer Wilson.
“Law enforcement personnel must frequently make split-second and difficult decisions. Officer Wilson followed his training and followed the law. We recognize that many people will want to second-guess the grand jury???s decision. We would encourage anyone who wants to express an opinion do so in a respectful and peaceful manner.
“On a side note, Officer Wilson would like to thank those who have stood by his side throughout the process. This continued support is greatly appreciated by Officer Wilson and his family. Moving forward, any commentary on this matter will be done in the appropriate venue and not through the media.
His attorney, Neil Bruntrager, characterized the past few days as “tense” for Wilson.
“For him, none of this ends,” Bruntrager said. “People have made threats against his life, he will continue to be concerned about his family’s security and his own. (Not being indicted) is a brief respite, but certainly not the end of things for him.”
It looks like today will be the big day in Ferguson, Missouri, as the grand jury has reportedly reached a decision about indicting police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting of Michael Brown. Riots have already been pre-scheduled with the efficiency of a cruise ship director putting together the list of activities for a five-day sojourn in the Caribbean, so there ought to be some activity even in the event Wilson does get indicted for something. Evidently some thought was given to rioting because it was taking too long for the grand jury to provide an excuse for riots. As CBS News reported this morning:
Protesting on Sunday night, Reggie Cunningham said he doubted Wilson will be indicted and it seemed authorities were delaying an announcement ???to spin this in the most positive way possible.???
???The more that they drag this out, the angrier people are going to be,??? said Cunningham, 30, of St. Louis.
Pastor Traci Blackmon of Christ the King Church told CBS News that the anxiety level in the area is at an all-time high.
???The anxiety level in the community as a whole is off the charts, and it has not benefited from being in a state of emergency when there is no emergency,??? Blackmon told CBS News.
Well, whose fault is that? The mob is angry because they had to keep themselves at Defcon One for so long. It’s hard for organizers to keep people riled up for months, and they resent the rule of law for making them do it. Brown family attorney Benjamin Crump told CNN his clients were “upset” and “distraught” because “no one from the prosecutor’s office has reached out to them” with an early leak of the grand jury decision. Doubtless they could have been trusted to keep the advance info under their hats, especially if there is no indictment.
The media has been falling all over itself to declare the Ferguson protests “mostly peaceful,” even though they have included chants calling for Officer Wilson’s death, traffic blockades, and the vandalism of a century-old memorial to three civil-rights heroes whose skin happened to be the wrong color. Reporting on the mob’s taunts to black police officers, the Daily Beast offered a curious assessment of the partisan polarity of these protests:
???You out here ???cause you think you doing the right thing!??? one man screamed.
???But you ain???t doing the right thing! You out here supporting a killer!
???They takin??? your sons!???
One African American officer smirked, possibly an attempt to laugh off the disturbing comments being launched in his direction. It was an unsettling and uncomfortable environment, one that is sure to have right-wing Darren Wilson supporters saying ???I told you so??? about protesters who are sometimes seen as nothing more than advantageous troublemakers.
For the left, whose far side was represented last night by at least one member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, the situation might be one worth dismissing as the mad rants of a few unruly members of the community.
Although one black photojournalist, a young man from the area who has been covering events here since the day Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, was at a loss.
???I just don???t get it,??? he said, shaking his head. ???I don???t understand what the point of this is.???
So “right-wing Darren Wilson supporters” are the people who think the mob consists of advantageous troublemakers? Methinks the number of “right-wingers” across the land is about to increase dramatically. Of course, that’s one of the unremarked meanings of the midterm-election Republican wave: the growing sense among law-abiding, hard-working people of every background that the Left has nothing further to offer them.
At least some of the protesters are fairly honest that the rule of law and individual rights have become obstacles to their ideological crusades. A few quotes from a Yahoo News report:
Holding placards saying “Black Lives Matter,” men and women of all ages and ethnic backgrounds went on a nearly two-hour march, weaving through the traffic and holding up intersections but dispersing without incident.
Police were criticized for a heavy-handed response to the demonstrations in August.
“I would like to see an indictment because I think it actually helps the community for this person to go to trial,” said theology PhD student Alex Giltner, 31.
“You’ve got social prejudice that is deeply ingrained in the people,” he said. “What needs specifically to reform? Simply everything.”
Teacher Angela Kelly marched alongside her son.
“It’s a good showing. We’re 107 days in now, and, no matter what happens, this is about more than Michael Brown. It’s about police brutality, it’s about racism that is still everywhere in our society,” she said.
“I hope that there is an indictment. I think that this movement is going to non-violently continue, no matter what happens.”
One young woman, a youth worker, came from Atlanta, Georgia to take part in the protests.
“I feel like this is a pivotal moment in American history, and we’re going to look back and wonder who was on the right side of justice and who wasn’t,” said the woman who gave her name only as Megan.
“It’s been a lot calmer than I expected. I think a lot of the protesters really want an indictment, and they really want justice, and they don’t want violence.”
To the young photojournalist quoted by the Daily Beast who wondered what the point of all this was: there’s your answer, sir. The point is to make people more comfortable with the re-definition of “justice” as giving loud, well-organized groups what they want, no matter what the law says. This urge can be rationalized in many ways: doing what’s “good for the community,” striking a blow against an unjust system, putting down a marker for a “pivotal moment in American history.” As long as no one is terribly hung up on the actual details of what transpired between the individual people named Darren Wilson and Michael Brown, the tides of narrative can roll onward. Brown can become a collective avatar for many, rather than a single person responsible for the consequences of his own bad decisions.
CNN provides some background on the grand jury:
The 12-member grand jury is deciding whether Wilson should be charged with any of several possible crimes, including: first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter, said Ed Magee, a spokesman for the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
The grand jury can issue an indictment on any of those four charges. It also can add a charge of armed criminal action, authorities said.
But the grand jury, which received the Missouri statutes for self-defense and the police use of deadly force, may also choose not to indict Wilson.
The jury, which began meeting in August on the Brown case, meets in secrecy.
While the jury members are not identified, authorities have released some information about them. The group includes nine white people (six men and three women) and three black people (two women and one man), court officials said.
No information was given about the ages or occupation of the grand jury members, who were randomly selected from an approved pool.
Unlike a jury in a criminal case, which convicts someone if jurors are convinced of guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” a grand jury decides whether there is “probable cause” to charge someone with a crime, based on testimony and evidence presented.
In Missouri, they don’t have to be unanimous to indict, as long as nine of the 12 agree on a charge.
We’ll probably be hearing a lot more about the racial composition of the grand jury if it doesn’t hand down any indictments. A horde of media operatives has moved into position, so anyone inclined to engage in Mostly Peaceful Protest can rest assured there will be cameras pointed in his direction. Everyone who wants the situation tense has made it as tense as it could possibly be. The rule of law is under assault in America as never before, with outcomes held far more important than the methods used to reach them. It’s just about showtime.