How Does Ferguson End?

by Dish Staff

Jonathan Cohn tries to imagine a resolution to the crisis:

First, and most obviously, the investigation of Brown’s death must produce some kind of concrete result. And it will probably have to be the investigation that officials from the Justice Department are conducting. The people of Ferguson have absolutely no faith in the Ferguson police and, really, who can blame them?

Josh Marshall looks on as the police flail around:

For all the pyrotechnics, literal and figurative, and all the various outrages, large and small, what I see more than anything else is no one in control. And that’s been the dominant theme for days. … There are ways, even heavy-handed ways to quell protests and riots. But this seems like a repeated use of the same heavy-handed tactics that have proven counter-productive night after night.

Jelani Cobb observes that Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, who temporarily calmed tensions last week, isn’t calling the shots:

In the span of twenty-four hours, Johnson had gone, in the community’s eyes, from empowered native son to black token. One of the local activists I’d met in Feguson sent me a text message after the curfew announcement saying, “Johnson has good intentions but no power. This is beyond him.” On Sunday, Johnson stepped into the pulpit at Greater Grace Church, the site of a rally, and apologized to Brown’s family, saying, “I wear this uniform and I feel like that needs to be said.” With that, he implicitly condemned the Ferguson Police Department for their failure to do so. Johnson had promised not to use tear gas in the streets of Ferguson but, during a skirmish with looters on Saturday night, police tear-gassed the crowd. Johnson’s address at the church carried the message that his allegiances were, nonetheless, with the people of Ferguson. James Baldwin remarked that black leaders chronically find themselves in a position of asking white people to hurry up while pleading with black people to wait. Johnson finds himself asking black people to remain calm while imploring white police officers not to shoot. The problem here is that few people in Ferguson believe that the former is any guarantee of the latter.

Along those lines, Emily Badger sees the calling in of the National Guard as somewhat superfluous at this point:

As early as last Monday, two days after the shooting, the streets in Ferguson were full of officers dressed in camouflage and armored vehicles with gun turrets on top. The city responded immediately to the first rounds of protest and looting after Michael Brown’s death with what some critics have likened to the municipal equivalent of shock and awe. That tactic left little room for a ramped-up force in the face of further unrest. … Now it’s unclear what kind of calming effect the Guard can have — Nixon said he was sending in the soldiers to help restore order — when tensions between law enforcement and local residents have already been so inflamed. It’s possible the community at this points needs to subtract officers, not add them. The circumstances that could still restore order may also have little to do with the presence and tenor of law enforcement on Ferguson’s streets, but with the community’s confidence in an investigation that’s still unfolding.

Morrissey agrees that the National Guard is no panacea:

The difference is the authority level more than the heightened capabilities. The National Guard’s thunder may have been partially stolen by the previous arrival of the Missouri Highway Patrol, which also operates under the authority of the governor. The issue in both cases was to assert a higher authority than the city and county levels, which had lost the confidence of local residents. There is still plenty of value in that escalation, but only insofar as local residents have confidence in the governor to restore order and justice in all directions.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be the case so far, perhaps in no small part because it may not be locals who are causing the problems. Until they can end the magnet that’s attracting agitators from around the country to exploit the situation and perpetuate it for their own ends, the actual people of Ferguson will be in for a long nightmare, and the longer it goes the less confidence they will have in law enforcement at any level.