Confirmation Bias

B1FetGVIUAAGwTg.jpg largeToday, I will discuss the Amnesty International USA report on Ferguson as well as some interesting information on the leadership of the report from the US based segment of an international organization. The report on Ferguson specifically was filed by Amnesty International USA. The use of the term “International,” particularly when cited by protesters, is intended to imply that some objective third party from out of the country has been witnessing events in Ferguson and deemed them as follows in the discussion below.

Unfortunately, the implication of objectivity is suspect when you look at the leadership of Amnesty International USA. The current head of Amnesty International USA is Stephen R. Hawkins (not to be confused with the physicist with a similar name). Mr. Hawkins last position was as the Vice President and Chief Program Officer of the NAACP. He has also been an attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Of particular note, Mr Hawkins was responsible for the release of a number of black people on death row in Tennessee convicted unjustly to which he deserves as much credit as possible. However, he was also directly responsible for helping to obtain the release of Herman Wallace a prison convert to the Black Panthers and one of the “Angola 3.” Wallace was first convicted of five counts of armed bank robbery, numerous escape attempts, and was finally convicted in the stabbing murder of a correctional officer. Wallace was terminally ill when Mr. Hawkins helped secure his release which only lasted several days before he succumb to his illness.

Fast forward to August 11th, two days after Mike Brown’s death:

Hawkins hawkins2The Amnesty International USA report is dated “October 2014.” Giving Mr. Hawkins the benefit of the doubt that he and his organization could set aside obvious biases, I’ll objectively review the report below:

1.1 The Death of Michael Brown

Page 2 details a summary of the Mike Brown Shooting which refers to a single scenario in which brown is shot from the car as he walks away which sounds even more sinister than Dorian Johnson’s account. Interestingly this same prejudicial account appears to only be found by one source which I have addressed before.

“According to one witness, Brown and his friend attempted to walk away when the officer fired his weapon, shooting the unarmed Brown.”

This is the only scenario presented and seems eerily familiar to the following account:

Interesting that this account is contradicted by every other single eye-witness account regardless of whom the blame is placed on for the shooting.

1.2 Law Governing The Use of Lethal Force

“According to Missouri Law, however, a law enforcement officer carrying out an arrest or attempting to prevent an escape from custody is justified in using deadly force only when specifically authorized; or when he or she reasonably believes that the person to be arrested has committed or attempted to commit a felony; or is attempting to escape by use of a deadly weapon; or may endanger life or inflict serious physical injury unless arrested without delay.”

“The Missouri statute on the use of deadly force may be unconstitutional…”

Interesting that the state statute, 563.046 actually states as follows:

“A law enforcement officer in effecting an arrest or in preventing an escape from custody is justified in using deadly force only

  • (1) When such is authorized under other sections of this chapter; or
  • (2) When he reasonably believes that such use of deadly force is immediately necessary to effect the arrest and also reasonably believes that the person to be arrested
  • (a) Has committed or attempted to commit a felony; or
  • (b) Is attempting to escape by use of a deadly weapon; or
  • (c) May otherwise endanger life or inflict serious physical injury unless arrested without delay.”

While the wording in this law is not perfect, a reasonable belief that deadly force is “immediately necessary” in all police policy and procedure is defined as the suspect placing an individual in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury to their own person or another. This is in fact consistent with Tennessee v. Garner and quite constitutional. Deadly force used against a fleeing non-violent felon as prohibited in Tennessee v. Garner would also be prohibited by this state law because such force would not be “immediately necessary.” Immediacy is the issue. Immediacy is synonymous with exigency.

“…the shooting of Michael Brown has highlighted on a national level the persistent and widespread pattern of racially discriminatory treatment by law enforcement officers across the United States, including unjustified stops and searches, ill treatment and excessive, and some-times lethal, use of force.”

1.) How can one specific incident be used as evidence that anything is widespread?

2.) What evidence is there that the shooting, unjustified or justified, is racially motivated?

3.) What was unjustified about the initial stop of Mike Brown and Dorian Johnson?

4.) Apparently you’ve already come to a conclusion.

Moving on, the repeated lie about Brown’s body being left in the street uncovered for four hours is apparently the type of conjecture Amnesty International USA considers valid evidence and is cited more than once throughout the report. Since I’ve addressed this topic repeatedly, I’m not going to do so again. Simply read the entry “Birth of a Crisis” for further.

Several incidences of looting and vandalism of local stores late at night”

I define “several” similarly to how I define “a few.” In no way would either of these general quantities ever exceed single digits. I’m being facetious here, because the claim is obviously willfully used in order to minimize the violence committed by demonstrators on the streets of Ferguson. The following is a list of businesses attacked during the riots:

  •    Zisser Tire and Auto
  •    AutoZone
  •    Quik Trip
  •    Family Dollar
  •    Walmart
  •    Footlocker
  •    Ross Dress for Less
  •    Walgreens
  •    Shoe Carnival
  •    Hibbett Sports
  •    Taco Bell
  •    Sprint Store
  •    KMart
  •    DTLR
  •    Phillips 66
  •    Meineke

I can also confirm and add to that list that PNC Bank, T-Mobile, Boost Mobile, Sams, Schnucks, Target, Party City, Ferguson Market, Dellwood Market, Whistle Stop, Faraci’s Pizza, Beauty Town, and Red’s BBQ were also targeted. This is also not z complete list, but even pretending for a moment that it was, this far exceeds any definition of “several.”

Amnesty International USA goes on to make several specific claims of specific human rights abuses. I will discuss each:

1.) Curfew – Curfews are frequently used to help quell violence or looting. It’s interesting that they’re considered a human rights violation now. Of course, the implication is that the curfew was used to quell protests but the reality is far different in an environment where people are getting assaulted and businesses being looted and burned.  I’ll go into the specific circumstances which resulted in the curfew below.

2.) The keep moving or be arrested policy of Ron Johnson – If used arbitrarily on peaceful protesters on public property, I agree that this is not right and is furthermore a waste of time. However, if used in reference to a previously given lawful order to disperse due to an assembly deemed violent, there is no problem under Federal Law.  In that case someone who stops moving is refusing to comply with the lawful order given to disperse and is actually being granted a discretionary benefit of not being arrested on the spot when they could be.  The Federal Judge who ruled the policy in theory unconstitutional, said that the application, as outlined by the protesters would be unconstitutional if applied in that way.

3.) Apparently it’s also a human rights violation to have your protest dispersed now?  I don’t know of any codified law or statement of rights that includes a right to violent assembly. The problem remains of how to define violent, unlawful, or non-peaceful assemblies but I think like any other definition the obvious answer is articulable probable cause. For example, if I were writing the report justifying the dispersal of a crowd on W. Florissant I witnessed during the first night I was in Ferguson, I would write that:

“I observed a large crowd of approximately one hundred to two hundred individuals, members of which engaged in the following:

  • -Racial epithets directed at minority officers.
  • -Threats of physical assault against officers and their families.
  • -Threats of rape against female members of officer families.
  • -Bottles and rocks thrown at the heads of officers, specifically those without helmets
  • -widespread (at least 80% or more participation from this grouping) looting in the area of the Buzz Westfall Plaza to include burglary, property damage, and stealing.

For this reason, the crowd was deemed unlawful and dispersed according to state law and department policy and procedure.”

4.) “Restricted assembly areas.” Specifically, Amnesty International USA has a problem with police preventing assemblies on the burnt ruins of Quiktrip. They apparently have no problem with the use of the building as an icon of violence, something many in the demonstrators viewed as a victory. Besides the fact that the location is private property, the ruins of Quiktrip were the ultimate proof that the protests were not peaceful. Since the message of the arsonists was that this is what happens when a community member is suspected of calling the police for help, it was clearly meant to intimidate other peaceful citizens and business owners in the community. The use of intimidation by protesters in reference to QuikTrip is especially ironic given that the next complaint of Amnesty International USA is…

5.) Intimidation of protesters:

“While protests were reported to be largely peaceful, there were some incidents of violence looting and vandalism by a minority of protesters, often late in the night.”


“The resumption of violence by some protesters in the late night hours of August 15 brought a response where, the Highway Patrol, with assistance from the county police and smaller law enforcement agencies from across the state, confronted protesters while wearing riot gear of helmets and vests and carrying shields and batons.”
This is utterly wrong. What they are outright wrong about or willfully lying about is that Highway Patrol Troopers were prevented from wearing riot gear by Ron Johnson on August 15th while responding to a Dominoes on W. Florissant that had been set on fire by protesters who were consequently refusing to let the Fire Department through. The same protesters attacked and injured Highway Patrol Troopers who responded to the arson and required the use of a tactical unit with a bearcat to rescue them. The curfew decision came as a result of this situation.

Amnesty International USA further uses evidence of intimidation by the St. Ann officer who had a bottle of urine thrown at him. They neglect to acknowledge that he was fired for that incident.  The fact that termination resulted from this incident sheds further doubt on the implied policy of intimidation from the police response.

Moving on, Amnesty International USA states that police wearing “protective clothing or riot gear can be confrontational and intimidating.”  Why is my safety intimidating? A helmet does nothing to a protester except to protect my head in an environment where those of us without them are actively targeted because of the soft target our skulls represent.  What’s more, it’s hard to argue that you’re intimidated while chanting to kill the police.

“The throwing of bottles at law enforcement by a small minority of the protesters has often been the impetus for the determination of a “riot” by law enforcement as defined under Missouri law and the ensuing order to disperse.”

Citation needed. What has actually been used to define a riot has been gunshots, arsons, molotov cocktails, bottles and bricks thrown, as well as businesses burglarized and burned.

“Often it is unclear whether an order to disperse was given, whether that order was in fact lawful and whether that was made clear to protesters before law enforcement forcibly ended the protests.”

Gee, you mean like having a loud speaker and repeatedly stating, “DISPERSE”?

“Due to the large number of families who participated in protests on Sunday, August 17, at least two children were treated for exposure to tear gas at area hospitals and later released.”

So much for the intimidation argument. If you think the police are out to kill you and you bring you bring your children with you, you’re using them as a human shield. Amnesty International has condemned other groups for using human shields in the past, so they either lose all credibility when they refuse to acknowledge their use here… or Amnesty International doesn’t even really believe deep down that the police response has been that bad.

“Police later used tear gas on August 18 and 19 to disperse crowds who had defied the recently imposed rule that protesters must keep walking unless they were in an approved protest area.”


Actually it was in reference to this activity:

See 02:45:00 for further.


The report goes on to repeatedly mention how Amnesty International Observers were asking various riot police or people on the line why this or that was taking place. The command post was at the Buzz Westfall Plaza and everyone knew as much. Why not go there and ask questions? Of course, they didn’t do that because it sounds a lot more ominous and sinister to act as though no one would talk to them and helps to support their lack of transparency argument.

“Amnesty International noted a clear lack of consistency and transparency from night to night and officer to officer in policing practices regarding dispersal of protests or arrests of protesters”

I know this is a difficult concept to grasp but officers, of which there were around five hundred in Ferguson from around forty agencies, don’t share a hive mind and make individual decisions. What’s more, in real life the nature of individual decisions as it applies to policing is known as “discretion.” Furthermore, there’s too many people to arrest everyone who commits crimes. Arrests are being triaged as best as possible airing on the side of restraint as evidenced by the small number of arrests.

I could keep going but this is becoming a bit redundant as it’s clear what the bias and intent of the report writers actually was. If this is supposed to be objective than we clearly share different views on the definition of that word.  However, it’s much easier to reach a conclusion when you preemptively decide on what it will be and spin your story to fit that narrative.  That is the definition of confirmation bias.


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