Dissonance

dissonance

“We’ve got to go.  They’re rioting in Ferguson,” my friend Rick said
quickly as I walked into the police station on the evening of August 10th,
2014.  I grabbed a set of keys from the wall and seconds later, we were in
a car together heading toward Ferguson, Missouri, a municipality in North
St. Louis County.  We didn’t work for Ferguson PD but we knew if they were
calling for our help, things weren’t going well.  “Officer-in-need-of-aid”
calls came through every so often and we would respond when they were
close.  However, from the start we knew this time was different.

Two of our evening shift officers were already at the makeshift Incident
Command Center located near a shopping center that was actively being
looted by approximately two thousand people according to the radio.  This
rallying point was located in neighboring Jennings, not Ferguson.
Unfortunately, that distinction did nothing to keep our officers safer as a
Molotov cocktail passed overhead and looters ransacked nearby businesses
regardless of city limits.  Merchandise walked down the street as everyone
staging at the command center waited for instruction.

August 9th had changed things regardless of the what actually happened.
We knew generally about the shooting and the resulting controversy.
However, while many people in the community, social media, and the news
raged about the behavior of a single police officer, indicating that we
were all mutually culpable for his decision, most of us had just as little
information about the shooting as everyone else.  It’s hard to say an
incident is justified or unjustified when the particulars are all unknown.
Most of us working in North County municipalities knew Ferguson officers,
but none of us knew who the shooter was, at least at that point.  Police
admittedly have a tendency to back other police but it’s impossible to do
that when you don’t really know what happened or who was involved.

What made matters more complicated was the fact that Ferguson PD and St.
Louis County PD had declined to comment on the incident leaving every
witness account to go completely unchallenged.  While both Ferguson and St.
Louis County naturally wanted to avoid a rush to judgment until all facts
were verified, the first stories were the only stories.

These initial accounts were also inconsistent.  Between various versions
of the events in the media, other officers, and members of the community I
probably heard eights variations of a story purporting to tell what really
happened to a now deceased Ferguson resident whose name had become a
rallying call for action, Mike Brown.

A press conference was finally held the morning of August 10th by Ferguson
Police and St. Louis County purporting to tell an initial investigative
finding of events.  The results were sterile and noncommittal though
unsurprising for information that was less than twenty-four hours old.
Unfortunately, even the initial account had apparently not been accepted by
local residents and the mourning family of the deceased.

Irony was prevalent in the subsequent rush toward violence on the streets
of Ferguson, Jennings, Dellwood, and Florissant.  While the community
seemed to believe that the initial findings released in the press
conference exonerated the officer, it seemed to me and other officers that
the findings really indicated that, if true, the officer may have been
unjustified, particularly in his final gunshots, leaving open the potential
for criminal and civil prosecution.  There was no nuanced thoughtful
discussion of what these findings really meant.  There was no wait to see
what the investigation revealed.  The community decided how this would all
turn out and now North St. Louis County burned.

We waited for further instruction from the Midnight supervisor who arrived
at the station shortly after the us.  Unfortunately, we were left to wait
on the side of the road by the interstate watching police cars continue to
push into neighborhoods while we listened to their plight on the radio.
Cars screamed down the interstate running code, lights and siren, red and
blue radiating against a sky caked in a worsening smoky haze.

I didn’t envy our supervisor who was tasked with weighing the
repercussions of sending us to help while considering the possibility that
these riots might reach our venue that bordered Ferguson.  If we were tied
up there, it would be difficult to break away and return to town if things
escalated.  Furthermore, our supervisor also had to weigh the ramifications
of what would happen if our vehicle was damaged or heaven forbid, one or
both of us was injured.  Given the radio traffic thus far, everything was a
possibility.

A county dispatcher continued to request more and more cars to respond to
a conflict that was already far beyond any measure of control.  At one
point between reports of burglary, looting, and shots fired, a dispatcher
stated, “First precinct has five priority one calls stacked and no one to
respond to them.”

Elsewhere, officers who were scattered throughout the area called for
assistance each saying some variation of the same thing, “All available
units please respond.”  There were frantic calls of officers being
surrounded and other calls of officers being pinned down by gunfire.  After
a while, the continual reports of looters, fires, explosions, violent
crowds, and gunshots became almost commonplace.

My first inclination was to give the crowds the benefit of the doubt and
consider myself from the perspective of these “protesters.”  In fact,
headlines in the days that followed would repeatedly reference “protests”
that turned violent.  However, as the reports of burglary and looting
continued to grow it became clear that what was happening had nothing to do
with any protest.  Protests about police action don’t only occur around
businesses.  Walmart, Walgreens, Target, T-Mobile, Quiktrip, Schnucks, Taco
Bell, Boost Mobile, Sams, P&C Bank, Hibbett Sports, Party City, Family
Dollar, various auto-part, beauty supply, shoe stores, and gas stations
don’t have any control over use of force policy or human resources
decisions in the city of Ferguson.

So we sat in the car and waited for clearance from our supervisor.
Interestingly, it seemed like there was far more civilian traffic going
into the Ferguson area than departing from it.  After a time, a tall skinny
black man with short facial hair in his thirties approached us on the
sidewalk..  He wasn’t the first man to walk past us, but he was the first
to approach us in eighty degree weather wearing a full sized jacket.  He
was also the first to not stay to the left-hand side of the sidewalk, the
side furthest from traffic.  He approached the center of our vehicle and
didn’t go unnoticed by the two officers in the car.

“Is he coming at us?” Rick asked and I responded, “It certainly looks that
way.”

I went ahead and drew my gun, keeping it low in my lap.  Rick did the
same.  As the man got within about fifteen yards of our car, still walking
in line with the front end, he brushed his coat away from his hip with his
right hand and started to fiddle with something in his waist band.  Was he
going for a gun?  We didn’t know and didn’t have time to find out.  I
inhaled abruptly and started to open the car door with my free hand.  As if
in response to my action, the coat fell back across the waist band and the
man proceeded past the driver side window, the side facing into traffic.

It was interesting that the deceased eighteen year-old, Mike Brown, had
supposedly been walking in traffic when a Ferguson Officer tried to stop
him on August 9th.  Was this person trying to instigate a similar
situation?

“What’s up?” I asked as the man passed.

“Not much.  How you doing, officer?” he responded gruffly.

I wondered if the man had intended us harm but hadn’t seen that there was
more than one officer in the car until he was close.  Considering the
environment a few blocks away, anything was possible.  We wouldn’t have
been the first officers shot at that night and if it had happened, we
wouldn’t have been the last.

We remained tense in the car until we watched the man round a corner down
the road and out of sight..  A lot of officers would have jumped out of the
car on the man, patted him down for weapons, and questioned him about what
he was doing.  We were a little preoccupied and what was more, given what
was going on at current, it seemed like a losing proposition politically to
stop and frisk a black male even if we more than met the legal prerequisite
to do so per Terry v. Ohio.  Looking back it’s hard to admit that we
briefly sacrificed our safety in the interest of political correctness and
not wanting to be involved in further controversy.

It wasn’t five minutes later that a white minivan screeched in behind us.
This time we didn’t wait and both of us jumped from the car pulling our
guns.  The driver jumped out of the car and started yelling, “Don’t shoot!
Don’t shoot!  I’m one of you!”

The man was wearing a duty belt and a badge around his neck but plain
clothes.  My first thought was that a real officer would know better than
to drive up behind us in a personal vehicle while we were parked on the
side of the road, given what was happening just a few miles away.  It
turned out my reaction was justified because the man wasn’t an officer at
all.  He was a bail-bondsman wanting to know if we could help him arrest
someone in another neighboring venue.  Besides being outside of our city
limits, we told him that everyone was preoccupied and sent the bounty
hunter on his way.

As Rick and I got back into the car, I said, “Let’s… go stage someplace
else.”

The radio traffic continued to degrade as more fires were set and more
shots were fired.  Burglary alarms kept getting called in as businesses on
entire stretches of road had glass broken out.  Reports of looting were
widespread particularly in the larger chain stores like Walmart and Sams.
Alert tones were being triggered by officers and at least one was injured
so far.

The phrase, “Any available units” continued to be a disheartening refrain.
I also heard the phrase, “fully engulfed” but didn’t catch where.
Finally, we heard that a small group of officers trying to protect a
Walgreens were in the process of being surrounded and needed help.  It was
the last straw and we started heading in that direction.

Now, we were running lights and siren toward the smoke on the horizon and
what was looking to be a very long night.  While en route, a few police
cars sped past us.  A few others jumped behind us assuming that we knew
something they didn’t.  I was fixated on the road and driving fast but not
too fast.  I didn’t know the area well enough and I had no idea when we
were going to come face-to-face with a crowd or a traffic jam or one of a
hundred different but all together possible road hazards.  The radio had
advised repeatedly to any units still arriving that West Florissant was
impassable for miles so we were approaching from the South.

Finally, we arrived at Walgreens which sat at the corner of the
intersection of West Florissant and Lucas & Hunt.  About forty civilian
cars were stopped along the adjoining roads and corresponding intersection.
Six officers from various departments stood stoically blocking the
entrance to the pharmacy.  The store had long since shut down.  Even as a
twenty-four hour shop, the manager had opted to pull down the antitheft
gates and turn out the lights for fear of looters.  The fear was indeed
justified as around fifty angry people gathered along the sidewalk and
others were still actively walking up to the crowd or driving up in other
cars.

Rick and I pulled into the parking lot and immediately jumped out of the
car.  We joined the line, but no one really said much to us.  Everyone was
focused on the crowd understanding that given what was happening to
businesses throughout the area, these people wanted to get into the store.
It was too early to tell if the crowd was willing to go through us to get
inside.  However, all of us knew that on some level they were considering
it, otherwise they would have been elsewhere, anywhere other than a
pharmacy in a different city than the one that they felt slighted them.

Unfortunately, as we stood around, the crowd continued to grow along the
intersection.  The rhetoric became more and more inflammatory.  Small
groups of people started breaking off from the larger crowd and would
approach us screaming obscenities and other accusations directed at the
Ferguson Police Department, of which none of us was a member.  Some would
fall back to the large group only to be replaced with other angry people.

The phrase, “No Justice, No Peace” had become the rally cry for the
protests by the family.  This phrase was echoed by the crowd at Walgreens
though it was used just as frequently as the phrase, “Kill the police!”  I
read some comments online later that the last chant never happened and that
the first chant was merely being misquoted.  I can confirm that both
phrases were yelled repeatedly and frequently.

I also found the notion that somehow “No Justice, No Peace” was a slogan
for peaceful protest to be oddly humorous and almost ironically
threatening.  “No peace” implies violence, implies war, implies duress.
Peaceful change, peaceful protest comes from discussion and compromise, not
intimidation.  I maintain that the riots on Sunday, the 10th, were not an
escalation of legitimate protests, but I concede that if a protest was
going to turn violent, a chant that threatened aggression was not exactly
far removed.

To be fair, there were initially a lot of comments about the shooting.
One of the more common rhetorical questions yelled at us by the crowd was,
“What if it was your son?”  No one answered, as we didn’t engage the crowd
in reference to any question, but I think every officer was pretty much of
the opinion that even if we hadn’t raised our kids as well as we hoped, at
least they wouldn’t be allowed to loot and riot, let alone on a Sunday
night as school was getting ready to start.  As a result, the chances of
them having a tragic interaction with the police were much less by my
estimate and not because of their skin color.

There were other chants as well, though much less frequent.  The phrase
“Fuck the poh-lice” was yelled a number of times.  However, it was uttered
far fewer times than a line of dialogue I really hadn’t expected to hear.
The crowd was absolutely fixated on the color of our skin.  Some of the
comments were about the fact that we were white officers.  Most of the
comments were geared toward the fact they perceived us to be part of a
wider white society that they blamed for far more than the death of one
person.

However, the comments about our skin color didn’t stop with us as
officers.  Several people said repeatedly that they intended to kill all
white people.  To be fair, they did repeatedly state their intention to
kill us specifically as well.  Others said that they intended to bring the
riots to more stereotypically white municipalities in West County like
“Chesterfield” which they named directly.  For the record, “riots” and
“looting” were terms they used.  The crowd also said they planned on
looting white businesses, which I took as an interesting admission of a
perceived justification felt widely throughout the crowd.  Along these same
lines, someone called into local AM radio KMOX in the days that followed
and justified the damage with the phrase, “They got insurance, don’t they?”

One particularly classy rioter informed us that he planned to anally rape
our wives and then force them to perform oral sex afterward.  This claim
was picked up by several other men in the crowd who hooted and hollered and
affirmed that they too were going to do the same.  In time, the comments
from the growing crowd seemed about as far removed as possible from the
death of Mike Brown that supposedly brought them here.

Speaking of verbal comments, the black officers there with us that night
defending the pharmacy suffered the worst comments that the crowd had to
offer.  While we received general threats geared at our race and our
occupation, the black officers were singled out and targeted directly with
personalized attacks..  When the crowd wasn’t commenting on their physical
appearance, the officers were called “Uncle Toms,” “House N***ers,” and
“Traitors.”  One of the black officers with us was standing back holding an
AR-15 rifle.  A few women called him out directly saying, “All these other
pigs got sticks and you’re the only one that’s got a gun out.  You’re the
only one they got ready to kill folks.”  For whatever it’s worth, I was
glad someone had a rifle in case we were fired upon by a similar weapon
which is not uncommon to this area.

Interestingly, in the days that followed, the lack of diversity within the
various local area police departments was cited as part of the problem
perceived by the community.  Having watched the verbal barrage these
officers had borne the brunt of, I didn’t know how any qualified black
person could want to be an officer.  It didn’t matter to the crowd if these
black officers were good people or even good officers.  The crowd decided
that they were subhuman simply because of their group affiliation.  It’s
pathetic for a community to complain about a lack of black officers when
that same community hypocritically treats them so terribly.

The group was also torn on whether or not they thought that we were all
part of the rich white establishment that they felt was responsible for
their suffering or if we should be made fun of for not making as much money
as they supposedly did.  More than once they laughed as a group about the
fact that “What?  You make like thirty thousand a year?  I make more in one
month than you make in a year!”  While this comment was nothing more than
hollow boasting, it was particularly ironic when these same people started
looting the stores across the street from us in the hours that followed.

I turned to Rick at one point and said, “I’m really trying hard not to
laugh at some of these comments.”  It was about that time that the first
beer bottled whizzed near my head and shattered on the ground a short
distance away from my feet.  Rick was on my left and the bottle had flown
from my right when I turned briefly to make my comment.  We were also two
of the only people present without a helmet.  When anyone tries to ask the
question of why officers were decked out in riot gear that night, this was
why.  The crowd actively targeted those who weren’t.

Everything was a bit more serious to me after the first bottle shattered.
More bottles flew from the crowd as it continued to swell from fifty to
somewhere between a hundred and fifty, to two hundred.  A chorus of
officers yelling, “Head’s up!  Bottle!” warned us as new threats
materialized.

I kept my body and vision fixated on the area where the bottles had flown
from, though I had no way of knowing who had thrown them.  Cars were
beginning to pull into the lot from the East and small groups of men were
trying to move closer and closer around the back of our line on our right
flank along the side of the building.

Rick pointed out a group of three overweight black men in their late
thirties standing behind a pickup truck.  They weren’t joining in the
yelling but having a close conversation between each other by whispering
into each others ears and motioning with hand gestures.  There was no way
to determine what they were saying but it was impossible not to consider
that they were coming up with a plan for rushing us.  I pulled out my baton
and extended it in my left hand with the flick of a wrist.

I think it was at that moment, when the group was near its largest and we
were the most outgunned, that I really started to get scared.  The periodic
gunshots, though not directed at us, didn’t help.  I had faith in my
training and my own abilities but that mattered less and less as the group
swelled, bottles flew toward our heads, and our attention was drawn in
fifty million places at once.  As the standoff continued on, I found myself
hopeful that if something bad was going to happen, it would just happen
already so that we could do something, anything other than to simply wait
for the worst.  If we were going to have to fight our way out of this
crowd, I wanted to get on with it already whether we came through
unscathed, whether we survived or not.

Fortunately, as the crowd grew, we were eventually reinforced by a number
of other agencies with the largest number coming from St. Louis County.  As
our line of defense increased in manpower to around twenty to twenty-five,
we were still exponentially outnumbered.  The size of the crowd was also
directly correlated with their diminishing fear and willingness to close
distance on us.  Officers are typically taught to keep a six to eight foot
“reactionary gap” when dealing with members of the public so that we have
room to respond if someone intends us harm.  This crowd was actively
pushing the limits of what we could safely tolerate.

St. Louis County had several K9 units arrive as well and they held up the
left flank of our line.  The crowd immediately set to work antagonizing the
dogs and several people who lunged at the dogs almost got bit repeatedly.
The handlers were doing their best to keep the dogs calm but in time they
had to fall back because it was clear that many members of the group were
trying to taunt the dogs since they had failed to instigate us officers to
violence.  If we reacted first or if the dogs had bit anyone in the crowd,
that group would likely have felt justified in attacking us.  At least, the
worst members of the crowd seemed to think there was some validity in that
theory.  I can’t imagine any other reason for purposefully trying to get
bit by a police dog.

About an hour later, the crowd suddenly and explosively dispersed across
the street toward the Buzz Westfall Plaza and began breaking into every
store within view including but not limited to P&C Bank and T-Mobile.  I
looked to Rick considering pursuing the crowd but held back when no one
else from the line moved.  We needed to stop the looting but it wasn’t
going to do anyone any good if we went unilaterally into the center of the
spread-out crowd and got hurt because no one else had received further
orders to move.  Everyone waited for orders that never came.  Fortunately
the crowd moved too close to the Incident Command Center on the other side
and was pushed back.

The crowd from before started back toward us but continued East on the
opposite side of the street down West Florissant.  As the group kicked in
the side door on yet another beauty supply store, officers finally started
running to engage the looters.  I charged forward with the other officers
toward the open door and the scores of people who were running in and out
of the business.  As we quickly approached, far more people were running
out than in.  Humorously, after all the bravado about killing cops and
killing white people, the crowd broke apart with a fair chunk heading
further east along W. Florissant while the main group proceeded back in the
direction they had come toward the intersection by Walgreens.

A St. Louis County Officer, I say officer because I’m pretty sure he
didn’t have any stripes, started ordering people to form a line with him.
Rick and I joined his line of about five and we started making our way
toward the intersection routing members of the crowd and yelling, “Get
back!”  More officers joined our line and we isolated a much smaller group
to the corner of the road.

Once again, we found ourselves in a stand off.  Once again, bricks and
bottles flew from the other side of the Auto-parts store we were standing
next to.  Once again, we received death threats.  Interestingly, these were
all based on our skin color and I don’t believe we heard one comment at
this point directed at the fact that we were officers.

Of course, in the midst of the crowd, a new person emerged to draw our
attention.  A short fat black man in a tattered and dirty white mask that
could only be adequately described as a ninja hood, was moving through the
crowd with a long duffle-bag slung across his back..  He was taking time to
move behind people and peer out periodically serving no purpose other than
to make us uncomfortable and wonder what was in the bag.  To grab him meant
leaving the line and enter the crowd but to leave him be was to risk our
lives for whatever he was carrying with him.

Rick called over a St. Louis County Lieutenant who was hanging back behind
the line and pointed the guy out.  The Lieutenant asked Rick, “Do you think
we should grab him?”  The question bothered me and Rick stared for a
moment, I think unsure that he had heard the supervisor correctly.  Then he
followed up with a nod and said, “Yeah.”  The Lieutenant started to point
as though he was going to order someone to grab the man as the short fat
man started to move across the street toward the Walgreens from before.
However, as he got about halfway across the street, the LT seemingly forgot
what he was doing and the man continued on without being accosted.

A little while later, the same man returned without his mask and without
the duffle-bag.  Fortunately, the man also returned without any long guns
that could have been hidden within the bag.  There were also no explosions
to my knowledge close enough that his bag could have been responsible.  You
might be wondering how I know this was the same man.  Well, after a little
while in the middle of the crowd, he pulled the same tattered dirty ninja
hood out and put it back on, apparently unsure how concepts like anonymity
are suppose to work.

The group moved back and around the corner behind some brush so St. Louis
County had their helicopter move in and spotlight the area.  We hadn’t seen
much of the helicopter tonight because it was having to move around pretty
steadily in order to avoid taking fire.  Multiple shots had been fired at
the helicopter one of several times it had been stationary further shedding
doubt on the notion of “peaceful” protest.

The crowd didn’t like the overhead spotlight and started dispersing up the
road heading North on Lucas & Hunt.  As the group headed north, a car with
completely blackened windows pulled into view from a gravel road that ran
parallel to Lucas & Hunt.  The car was going approximately five miles an
hour and slowly turned to face us.  Assuming the worst, every officer on my
part of the line started to free their guns from their holsters while still
holding back from drawing down on the vehicle.  I assume seeing the
reaction of seven or eight cops collectively going for their guns, the
vehicle thought better of approaching the line and did a quick three point
turn heading back the direction it had come from.

Even more officers showed up in the hour that followed, but the crowds had
largely dispersed from our area and now we had to contend with reports of
even more widespread looting and what I believe were probably false reports
of other riotous crowds to draw our attention away from the outlying
businesses that were still being looted.  For the record, we were only one
of like ten major ongoing conflicts taking place at the same time.  The
next largest problem area seemed to be W. Florissant and Chambers road
which was a few miles west of us.  There were reports of large crowds and
it seemed far more pressing than the empty streets we had now been guarding
for almost an hour while new reports of looting continued to come in.

Rick and I returned to our car and moved through several roadblocks until
we came to the underside of an overpass that was almost completely choked
with police cars.  I moved up and talked to an officer in SWAT gear.  He
informed us that Chambers was a long way on foot but that we could make it
through all the cars in our own if we were careful.  I thanked him and we
started to walk away when another SWAT guy spoke up asking, “Hey, you guys
don’t happen to have any Tums do you?”

I responded, “No.  Sorry.  Wish I did.”

“Oh… that’s okay.  Did they make it into the Walgreens at Lucas & Hunt?
Bet there’s some Tums there,” he said and everyone chuckled.

While his sarcasm lightened the mood, the fact that his group just a few
blocks from where we had been was unaware that the Walgreens had been
saved, was just indicative of how widespread and large this series of riots
had actually been.
The gravity of the situation was still not entirely clear to me as we
slowly made our way through a sea of cars, broken glass, and debris
resulting in a scene that would have felt just as at home on the set of the
Walking Dead.  Driving down West Florissant we finally got an idea of just
how bad everything had been.  Everything between our Walgreens and Chambers
Road had been completely ransacked.

The worst of it was when we came to the still smoking ruins of a Quiktrip
gas station about halfway between the Walgreens and our destination on
Chambers.  The front interior of the building was completely burnt out with
the roof starting to collapse inward.  Still, smoke emanated across the
street as fire crews attempted to keep what was left of the flames from
affecting the gas pumps.  There was also numerous graffiti sprayed across
the building.  On one side read, “Snitches get stitches.”  On the front of
the building was the words, “187 County Police.”  Someone had even climbed
up onto the streetlight level sign listing gas prices and spray-painted
over the premium price, “SNITCH.”

We didn’t know at the time but apparently there was a widely spread and
evidently widely believed story that one of the employees at this location
had called 911 after the deceased eighteen year-old, Mike Brown, had
shoplifted something petty.  In other words, they burned down the Quiktrip
because they held the business responsible for Brown’s death.  This story
was interesting for a variety of reasons.  However the most notable reason
was that the story turned out to be completely untrue which made the
violence even more senseless.  The fact that the employees barely escaped
with their lives is another factor that is not brought up enough.  Mike
Brown never went into the Quiktrip but I contend that the riots had long
since stopped being about Mike Brown.

We continued weaving our way down the street dodging debris and soaking in
the devastation.  A restaurant was filled with smoke that created a strobe
effect from the outside as a smoke detector went off and a light blinked at
equal intervals against a hazy gray backdrop behind broken windows.  Glass
shelters at bus stops were destroyed because if there was one way to hurt
rich white America, it was to take out your frustration on people that ride
the bus.  As we approached Chambers Road, we noticed an Auto-parts store
that had been ransacked, glass broken out and tire displays noticeably
disturbed and shortened.

The fortunate part of Chambers road was that the area was saturated with
law enforcement and the crowds that remained in the area were relatively
small at least at least by that night’s standards.  Unfortunately, as we
started to try and figure out who was in charge, reports started coming in
that there was a small group armed with shotguns rallying by a church north
on Chambers.

One of the SWAT teams, I think St. Charles City, radioed as we headed in
that direction that they had eyes on the subjects in question but didn’t
see the weapons being alleged.  Nothing materialized from this group so it
was likely a false report to consolidate our people and allow for more
looting elsewhere..  We were finally asked by a County Sergeant to help
lead a pair of Laclede Gas workers in plain clothes and a personal vehicle
to the ruins of the Quiktrip if it was safe to do so.  We had just come
from there so it was no problem.  By the time we reached Quiktrip, the
smoke was beginning to subside and the fires were merely smoldering.

After that, we checked on the eastern most blockade at Sunbury but found
that this area also was now under control.  By about two-thirty or three in
the morning, only pockets of looting remained and were largely making their
way into the city of Florissant where officers were already making numerous
arrests.  We did receive a few more reports of supposed gatherings as
social media indicated attempts at rallying specifically at a number of
Quiktrip locations throughout North County, but these also didn’t
materialize.  For the moment, it seemed that our long night was coming to a
close.

We were fortunate that we didn’t have to encounter some of things other
officers in the area did.  None of our vehicles were damaged.  Florissant
PD lost at least four cars.  None of our officers were injured, while two
were reported from other agencies.  While we heard gunshots, we never took
fire and never had to return fire.  However, it was impossible not to leave
the event contemplating the hatred and utter racism we endured just because
we had the gall to protect a Walgreens from the treatment every other
building in that area received.

The “Us and Them” mentality is oft discussed but rarely understood..  In
case anyone was wondering, this is how it happens.  There is no
justification for racism, be it from a black protester or a white
policeman.  It is interesting that there has not been a single media
discussion of racism on the part of the looters.  The lack of honest
discussion indicates a clear and indisputable bias toward a preordained
story.

The aftermath of Sunday, August 10th was covered widely by the local
media.  St. Louis County PD was also widely criticized for not moving
quickly enough to engage the looters acknowledging the severity of the
damage.  It’s interesting that there has been such a strong subsequent
push, particularly in the National Media, to minimize and in some cases
outright deny the severity of the riots on August 10th.

On the following night on August 11th, the riots resumed even earlier than
on the tenth.  The use of tear gas became a natural and preferable
alternative to risking officer and looter safety by physically attempting
to engage all of the rioters.  The August 11th riots began with the crowd
reassembling at Quicktrip and overturning several vehicles.  Following the
deployment of tear gas, the riots were largely brought under control when
compared to the night before.  Anyone that disputes that fact need only
review the radio traffic from August 10th and the radio traffic from August
11th.

Stupidly, the ruins of the Quiktrip continue to be the rallying point for
supposed protests ignoring the fact that the whole story behind the
building has already been debunked.  Quiktrip’s corporate office even put
out an official statement saying that they had investigated the claim and
that Mike Brown hadn’t so much as entered their West Florissant location at
all on August 9th, let alone been reported as shoplifting from there.
After all, their surveillance footage is stored offsite and was thus
unaffected by the fire.  There is also no discussion of the fact that even
if the story had been true, Quiktrip has every right to call the police in
reference to a shoplifting and no onus on whatever actions the police took
subsequent to that.

The National Media is also now weighing in and trying to tie these events
into a prejudged narrative inconsistent with what’s really going on.  The
most consistent and utterly deliberate lie from the media is that the
severity of the riots have been blown out of proportion and the majority of
the people present were peaceful demonstrators.  The fact of the matter is
that, at least as far August 10th was concerned, the streets were so
violent and out of control that it wasn’t safe for peaceful protesters even
if they had been inclined to demonstrate and not loot stores.

Furthermore, there’s a new narrative that everything is now under control
in Ferguson since the replacement of St. Louis County Police command with
the Missouri State Highway Patrol by order of the Governor.  The narrative
neglects to acknowledge the fact that MSHP has been present since the first
night and been a willing participant in everything that has only within the
last day been deemed too militarized by our governor and our senator.
Neither figure could be found making a stand until it was politically
expedient to do so as St. Louis County utterly lost the public relations
battle.

Furthermore, as of the night of 8/14/2014 going into 8/15/2014, violence
has not ended in Ferguson.  As soon as I walked in the door, I heard a
shots fired call near W. Florissant and Chambers involving a woman who had
bullets coming into her house.  Numerous reports of shots fired and people
flourishing firearms went on throughout the night.  This is NOT peace and
the media is lying.

I am a police officer.  I’m not perfect but I’ve never shot anyone.  I’ve
never used force when it wasn’t called for.  I don’t treat people
disrespectfully unless they disrespect me first.  I’ve never treated anyone
differently because of the color of one’s skin, simply the content of their
character.  Unfortunately, on the night of August 10th, we saw some of the
worst content anyone had to offer.

WS

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45 thoughts on “Dissonance

  1. A chilling story that, sadly, no one will really hear or pay attention to. I fear that this is a glimpse of the future of America – sooner rather than later.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Jim, opinions are like ass holes, everybody has one. You are entitled to believe what you want, but the Police put on their uniform and defend the Constitution on a daily basis. What do you do in support of the Constitution besides shooting off your big mouth? Fortunately, you are in a small minority of people with such an opinion. By the way, if you ever need help, try Dial A Prayer.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Very eloquently put. A police officer that has the ability to tell a story this well is a rarity and deserves all the attention and notoriety the public can muster. Especially considering his respectful ideals and moral thinking.
    Thank you Sir or the wonderful account of your unfortunate evening.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. An excelent presentation of facts by someone who was in the trenches. What this commentary showed however, was the gross lack of strategic planning, developement and practice of Mutual Aid agreements, riot & mob control training and a general dysfuntion of the law enforcement response. There is no excuse for law enforcement dropping the ball and elected officials should hold them accountable. This entire event has reflected very poorly on all of law enforcement and not just those in Missouri.

    Like

  4. Thank you for sharing. As someone who lives on the other side of the country and trying to weed through the media and what is actually truth, this is so important and so helpful.
    Press on.

    Like

  5. Thank you for telling a truth that the media won’t touch. Stay safe. Your and your brother officers are in our prayers. Know that you’ve done your best in the circumstances. When the blue line is crossed, there is another line and we welcome and value you here with us. Shoulder to shoulder. God Bless.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. All of that, and you’re still not “racist”? Jeez, what will it take for people who should know better to finally learn?

    Like

  7. You have some good points, and I am glad to read the view points of someone literally in the thick of it. However, as I watched the live feed, I saw a number of decent people, not just folks howling kill, kill, and so forth. It’s hard to see that, when you’re focusing on keeping the peace and staying alive. I’ve taught in the inner city, and when you’ve got a class full of at risk kids, it’s easy to focus on just the loud, obnoxious ones…and miss the quiet, decent ones, trying to keep it together. So, while I realize it’s easy for ME to say this, from the comfort of my home, I’d just hope that you can hear the quiet people. They are there. There are folks who are decent there. But they are being overwhelmed right now….

    Like

  8. Im impressed, I must say. Really rarely do I encounter a blog thats both educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. Your idea is outstanding; the issue is something that not enough people are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I stumbled across this in my search for something relating to this.

    Like

  9. As an Retired Cop from Australia I read your story with great intrest. I just wonder what the outcome would have been if a Black Police Officer shot a white offender. Stay safe fellas the thin Blue Line over here is with you.

    Like

  10. I know not all cops are bad, but the ones in full combat kit arresting reporters stating that their name is Donald Duck, and such, show that there is a big issue in that police force.

    Also as a Cop what the hell is the deal with shooting every dog in the yard, even when at the wrong house.

    And now a K9 Unit has died because the cops left him in a hot car no windows down for 6 + hours?

    Too many cops playing COD on the streets these days, thinking they are the Law of the Land.
    Too many cops that THINK they know the Law, when they do not.

    Like

  11. The bottom line is your post gave a very distorted view of what was happening during the protests. I know many people, including a Missouri state Senator and a faith leader, that were there daily. If anyone was yelling ‘kill the cops’ it was a very small fringe group and not the vast majority of protesters who conducted themselves peacefully and respectfully. This is what one St Louis faith leader (and, if it matters, this is from a white, suburban female) was quoted as saying:
    “I was out on the street one night before the violence started. It was a Thursday night before that terrible Friday night when the looting began. And I’m telling you that Thursday night, there were young black men directing traffic, protecting people of all colors, all genders, all races. They were protecting us. They were doing the job of the police and I never felt so safe in St. Louis as I did that night with those young people in control.
    Unfortunately, a small number of agitators and people with self-interested agendas took over. It was hijacked. But that young, energized group of young black leaders—if we empower them, if we support them and listen to them most importantly, we will see finally the changes that we have been praying for and talking about for generations now.”
    The next week she wrote: “They (the African American Ferguson community) did their best to keep the peace, to keep us safe on the streets with the protests by directing traffic and giving out water — and now they are focused on registering everyone they can to vote. They have been awakened and we pray that their empowerment will bring a change to business as usual.”

    Like

    • With all due respect, the rioting started before the Thursday you’re referencing on the prior Sunday 8/10, the day after Michael Brown died on Saturday 8/9. There were no faith leaders out that night. There was simply the mob. Good people stayed off the street. The people calling for police to die was not a small group but the vast majority. Also, in reference to the Thursday you’re referencing in that quote, the most number of officers to be injured up until that point occurred that night. There have been good people out there trying to stop the violent ones now, but they’ve been unfortunately inadequate and outnumbered by those wanting violence, some for the cause of Mike Brown, others for the cause of concealing their own criminal greed. Pretending that the small number who attempted to protect businesses and other protesters had everything under control is simply untrue.

      Like

    • I am not saying what she said is untrue but why is she to be believed. I was not there so cannot say it was true or not but I would rather believe the accounts of a number of Cops than the word of one person.

      Like

      • To be fair, what she said is likely true before nightfall. Though I wasn’t there until it got bad and can’t confirm it before that point. These were also gigantic events so what was going on, say at one side of W. Florissant was completely removed from what was going on at a number of intersections a few miles along the way even a few blocks away. For example, I didn’t know that the QuikTrip had burned down until we physically passed it later on Sunday night of 8/10. Comparatively a group of tactical officers a few blocks away from the Walgreens we had been protecting, was unaware that the Walgreens had survived intact. However, on the nights I was there, by the time I got there, these were not small events nor were the violent ones isolated or a minority of the demonstrators. The two state senators largely involved on the ground have tried to minimize what happened during the night by telling stories of peace during the day, incompatible with the reality of what we faced at night. That is where the lies permeate because they feel that their cause and message justifies the ends.

        Like

      • She can be believed for a number of reasons. First and foremost is I know her personally. She’s a highly respected leader in St. Louis’s faith community and any words that come from her will always be absolutely the truth. Second, she was there every day working with members of the community to help resolve issues and find positive ways to move forward from this tragedy. Third,many members of her congregation were there and had similar experiences. Finally, she and her congregation are not the only ones to report similar observations…I know a number of people that were there and amazed by the Ferguson
        community and how they came together…and even now are working together to make positive changes.

        Like

      • Friend, absolute truth is a concept of divinity not humanity. The following concepts contradict every point you’ve made:
        -The damage to businesses
        -The injuries to officer and protesters
        -The murders of other protesters
        -The shootings
        -The arsons and Molotov cocktails
        -The looting, burglary, and theft
        -The refusal of the crowd to let through the fire department and EMS

        These are not the positive actions of a community moving forward. These are the actions of a community imploding. Furthermore, your unsourced quote indicating that an individual was present “before the violence” on a Thursday indicates that they were unaware of the violence before then which is well documented particularly as I mentioned during my time there on the previous Sunday 8/10.

        http://nypost.com/2014/08/11/st-louis-suburb-erupts-in-rioting-after-cops-shoot-dead-unarmed-man/
        http://townhall.com/news/politics-elections/2014/08/10/missouri-crowd-after-shooting-kill-the-police-n1876942
        http://bigstory.ap.org/article/naacp-feds-should-investigate-black-teens-death

        Like

    • I have been watching the live stream cameras and most certainly, MANY if not all of the protestors are chanting KILL THE POLICE and WE WANT DARRYL WILSON DEAD. It is not just a small percentage of troublemakers. It is the majority that are chanting this. Even with their young children chanting along with them. On the night that it was reported an officer was shot, the crowd CHEERED with GLEE upon hearing the news.

      Like

  12. Teehee, and no one ever will hear the story because it’s too long and drawn out.
    I just came back after seeing this 2 weeks ago to finish it

    Like

  13. I disagree. I loved this writeup. For anyone with an attention span longer than 144 characters, it is an excellent, enchanting, and well put together read.

    It very much *needs* to be read, as well. It should be required reading for every resident living in, and around Ferguson, just as the article about the QT should be.

    Thank you. Both for taking the time to put this article together, and, for your service. You do not go unappreciated by many, but it helps to have those voices of support be heard. I know you know they exist, but being told “Thank you” is something not often afforded, and should be. Just know that you are appreciated, thanked, and not taken for granted.

    You are not despised, resented, or looked down upon. We know you are not superhumans, nor perfect, and cannot be in every place at the same time. I will continue to call you “Sir”, even if you are younger than me, because it is a sign of respect, even if I did something wrong. I will blush when you protest, and insist I call you by your first name, because I have too much respect to do so, and still address you as “Sir”, because it was just how I was raised. I will take punishment for whatever I have done wrong, as long as it is justifiable, but then, by the same token, I endeavor daily to not break the law. Thus, I have very rare occasion to call people “Sir”.

    While, most certainly, some may feel differently, know it is not all.

    Bless you, and may God keep you safe.

    In today’s world, you need as many prayers for safety as people are willing to send your way.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Here’s another view…from a clergy friend who has been there:
    Ferguson Journal
    October 1, 2014 |
    Tuesday, September 30, 2014
    Ferguson, Missouri
    Don’t be distracted by the introduction; it begins with a discourse on the advantages of wearing a suit in a riot.
    I came from work and even if I hadn’t I wear a suit almost every day every night. I feel good when I dress well. I admit the externals help me.
    I also find people treat me differently. I have ideas outside the perimeter of the circles I belong to and I get away with a lot more when I am wearing a nice suit.
    I buy all my suits in a boutique elegantine in Detroit, my homeland. They have my size and preferences on file. My size has also changed since I entered this phase. It has diminished.
    Wearing a suit also simplifies my problem with colors. There are certain zones of the color spectrum I do not see well. I don’t have to think about that and now that my daughters have left home, I am less embarrassed by uninformed tie and shirt selections. So for me, a suit means a simplified life. In some situations, a suit draws attention to me in an advantageous way.

    I went down to the police station in Ferguson last night in response to a call for clergy. Nine PM. Our purpose was to be a presence between the youthful protestations and the Ferguson police, who have been unpredictable and not measured in their responses since the shooting of Michael Brown. The night before there had been conflict and arrests.
    I made sure I had a dramatic head covering, kipah (yarmulke), in addition to my nice suit so I could be identified as a clergy person, rabbi. My wife, also a rabbi, is in the thick of this story and has demonstrated sensitive leadership and other attentive skills, she was also present and suggested a prayer shawl but I thought that might be excessive and ungainly.
    I showed up. I stood on the street in front of the Ferguson police station.

    We stood on South Florissant Road which is the nice part of Ferguson I suppose one would say with a celebrated open air market on Saturday mornings and some restaurants that are not fast food and even a brew house, unsure what a brew house is but I saw one there. And a corner bar. Next to the police station is a charming looking Italian restaurant that the proprietors I am sure thought they were getting a privileged spot right next to the police station. I don’t think so.
    Every night this week there have been demonstrations up and down South Florissant Road this is old town Ferguson a semi-cute stretch of thoroughfare a different environment from the Canfield Green area where the shooting of Michael Brown occurred and the West Florissant Road where the burning and looting took place during the difficult days after Michael Brown’s death.
    The protesting has moved to the police station, a newish building on South Florissant Road next to the Italiano restaurant, etc. down the street from the open air market location. Across the street is Andy Wurm’s Tire and Wheel store with a large black top parking lot where most people have gathered.

    The police station looks new, I was told that the jailhouse part of the jail was still under construction. One of the fellows arrested the night before (Sunday night) was taken to the St. Ann jailhouse he later told me.
    The protestors made chants and marched up and down South Florissant, pausing at the market grounds to drum and dance and chant. There was good use made of a bass drum that worked well to punctuate the chanting which was musical and youthful and a nice groove from a purely musical point of view, a good use of a single bass drum it was working except for the puppy dog that one of the young women was holding who was scared of the booming drum and thus doggie and her handler withdrew to the perimeter.
    There was some smell of weed in the air, not a lot, and a great measure of youthful enthusiasm. Once we returned to the police station on South Florissant some of the young people approached the Police Department building, after the 11 PM noise ordinance that the protestors were violating. The police also suggested in the most vociferous manner that the protestors vacate the street and go to the sidewalk on the other side. They did not.

    They moved into the middle of the street and sat down. By then there were about twenty five people sitting in the middle of South Florissant street right in front of the police station and a gathering of uniformed police officers in the parking lot of the police station, about the same number. It was 11:30 and I wondered why there weren’t more police officers. There were about the same number of police as there were protestors sitting and making chants in the middle of the street.
    A masculine voice from a loud speaker from somewhere on the police parking lot demanded protestors move out of the street and onto the sidewalks. I noticed that at about midnight the voice changed to a female voice.
    The protestors didn’t move. They sat down in the street and there was still some traffic moving through with the help of protestors guiding cars and trucks through the small crowd on the street, some of the cars and trucks moving a little fast compromising for sure the safety of those on the street.
    One of my pals who was taking pictures went over to the Lieutenant of the Ferguson police across the street and suggested that they close the street off to keep the safety of the protestors. I thought that was a great idea, then the protestors could make the chants, etc., and no one need get hurt or arrested.
    The Lieutenant was rude and said to my friend, we’ve thought through all the possibilities and dismissed him. The police lined up against the protestors and began to converge on the people sitting and making the chants in the middle of the street, telling them to disperse.

    Some of the clergy knelt down with the protestors and they spent some time together in prayer. That changed the rhythm of the evening; what seemed to me to be moving toward a youth riot became quiet. There was quiet for fifteen, twenty minutes and though the group returned to chanting and hollering in defiance of the police, the tension had been broken and the rhythm changed.
    A half an hour later the police closed off the street, just as my friend suggested. A minute later Captain Ron Johnson, the celebrated Captain of the Highway Patrol who the Governor had appointed during the most difficult days after Michael Brown’s death, showed up and moved right up into the crowd on the street. The protestors got up off the street and gathered around him. He had come to talk.
    Everyone gathered around Captain Johnson and shushed those who were bent on discord and said let him speak let the man speak. He began to talk with the protestors. He told them he was not in charge of the Ferguson police but if they wanted to continue their protests they could and they would be left alone if they just moved back. They were free to make all the protests they wanted. He tried to empathize without making promises, he was after all not in charge there. He had seen the confrontation emerging on television and came over to see if there was anything he could do.

    The Ferguson police (and a few other uniforms) began to disperse behind him into the parking lot of the police station. Captain Johnson was alone with the protestors and there was a few minutes of civil conversation and more lessening of tensions. The police presence began to disappear and another night of confrontation was averted.
    I stood across the street in conversation with one after another of young people who showed up for the protest. A lot of people wanted to know who I was; I was probably the oldest person there, and as mentioned above, I was dressed to notice. I wanted to be noticed, I wanted to engage people in conversation, I wanted to know who these people were, what they were thinking.

    When I arrived, it felt as if a youth riot was brewing. I walked up and down the street with people and when we returned to the police station, I stood and waited and one after another of the young people who were chanting and protesting and hollering came up to me and with genuine kindness and respect, always referring to me as sir and many even commenting how dignified I looked (their word) asked me in the gentlest way: who are you? Why are you here?
    I told them I was here to learn and listen. I want to know people. Every person I met, and I met many, were kind and communicative and respectful. There was one fellow who had been arrested the night before, spent the night in the St. Ann jail, he was familiar with all the places a person could go with mental illness kinds of problems in our area (there aren’t many) and he seemed to be a street person. Why he was there was unclear to me though the longer we talked the clearer he spoke and soon he was making more sense. He was kind of along for the ride. He brought me carrots and water and made sure I had somewhere to sit if I got tired. I was not tired.
    Others I spoke to lived nearby and gave me an earful about how the community works, Ferguson and environs, the nature of these fiefdoms in our area. There are many of them in what is called North and West County. These were people who lived there and knew what they were talking about. Some white, some black, all of them had a take on the complexity of the story in Ferguson and all its implications, the history before the death of Michael Brown and the implications of the action since the death of Michael Brown. I learned a lot that night.
    By then it was past one AM and the confrontation had risen and receded in front of my eyes. I’m familiar with police and jailhouses, etc. and there wasn’t enough policemen out that night in the incipient confrontation to be scary but there was some wildness in the street and real tension. Also a stirring and a hollering, a message of resistance and purpose, an expression of social critique and intelligent vocalization of perceived wrongs.

    I’m glad I went and I’m going back again. Every person I spoke with that night thanked me for being there. This is what democracy looks like.

    jsg.usa

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    • This account, which is apparently in reference to 9/30/2014, and not the riots on 8/9 and afterward, is discredited by the lack of reference to the gunshots fired that night directly across the street as referenced both in my post “Oh Captain, My Captain” as well as the attached video that recorded the shots fired.

      Liked by 1 person

      • This first person account is a reflection of what this faith leader observed on this evening. This isn’t a us and them debate….where one account is all correct and another all wrong…it’s about a community in turmoil and has people on both sides of the issue needing to work together for solutions. We can’t demonize all the protesters…we can’t demonize all of the police…we can try to understand that there may be wrong doing on both sides. We can learn from Rabbi Goodman’s observations…and his open mind…his willingness to listen and learn…and as he said…”this is what democracy looks like”. You seem too invested in your one view of the situation to be able to see it from multiple sides…no solutions will ever be found to any dilemma with that approach.

        Like

      • And you don’t have a problem with his observations deliberately omitting gunfire to make the event seem more peaceable? I’m not “invested in my one view.” I’m invested in objective reality and the truth.

        Liked by 2 people

      • No more than you don’t seem to have a problem ignoring the positive side what is happening in that community…or the negative side of a police officer killing an unarmed youth. I trust the source…I know him and his work in both the faith community and the prison system..I know him to be fair and objective….and I know he was a first person witness to the events he writes about….were you there….have you been there? Can you be objective and give a fair hearing to both sides of this important issue?

        Like

      • Friend, a couple of points:

        “No more than you don’t seem to have a problem ignoring the positive side what is happening in that community…”
        Positive growth means nothing if the community burns and people, officer and protester, are shot and assaulted. Nothing is being done on the protester side to stop the violence being threatened should an indictment fail to return. What’s more, previous violence is being discounted or lied about with a sort of wink/wink nudge/nudge indication that violence is acceptable because the protester side is the good guy the police side is the bad guy.

        “or the negative side of a police officer killing an unarmed youth.”
        Clearly, my writing about the riots is acknowledgment of the negative regardless of whether or not the shooting is justified or unjustified.

        “I trust the source…I know him and his work in both the faith community and the prison system..I know him to be fair and objective….and I know he was a first person witness to the events he writes about…” And yet, video evidence posted in the post, “Oh Captain, My Captain” proves that this individual is being dishonest. I appreciate that you’re vouching for your friend but you’re not countering the evidence.

        “were you there….have you been there?”
        http://www.dissonantwinstonsmith.wordpress.com

        “Can you be objective and give a fair hearing to both sides of this important issue?” In my opinion, I have been. You apparently disagree, which is your right.

        Like

  15. Here’s some good news from Ferguson:
    “Ferguson, Missouri has seen a surge in voter registration since the shooting death of Michael Brown—a sign that the killing could spark long-lasting political change.
    Since the Aug. 9 shooting, 4,839 people have registered to vote in St. Louis County, USA Today reports. About 68% are Ferguson residents.
    There’s no data on the race of the new registrants, but black community leaders have led a well-publicized voter registration drive since Brown’s death sparked weeks of protests and sporadic violence.
    Two out of three Ferguson residents are black, but five of the city’s six city council members, as well as its mayor, are white—a disparity that has received widespread attention since the unrest began.”
    http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/voter-registration-surge-ferguson

    Like

  16. Why is making jails one of the biggest industries in America? I find something wrong with that. We have lost our ability to manufacture a great product and instead make an institution our product. Jails are big business in America and that needs to change. Bad guys who hurt people need to be isolated. We need to find another system for the other America’s to better our country. The victims are the innocent children who we send a false message to and lock up their parents where a fine would suffice.

    Like

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