Shooting in Ferguson, Missouri

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Shooting in Ferguson, Missouri
Michael Brown, an 18-year-old resident of the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, was shot and killed by a police officer on August 9, 2014. Brown and a friend reportedly got into an altercation with a police officer, Darren Wilson, who fired his weapon on Brown. A robbery had reportedly taken place at a convenience store just prior to the shooting with the suspect allegedly matching Brown's description. Attorney General Eric Holder announced a federal investigation into the matter on August 11, 2014.

Rioting in Ferguson

August 10-18, 2014

Riots and violence from Ferguson citizens began the night of August 10, 2014. Looting and protests against the police led to officers shooting tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowds hoping to bring order to the community. By August 12, 2014, the police department announced that 32 people had been arrested in connection to the violence and looting, with the department defending their tactics, stating, "What occurred last night, the mob action, we know certainly is not representative of what's going on and what the people in the neighborhood necessarily think."[1]

August 11, 2014
Democratic Party Attorney General Eric Holder:
The federal investigation will supplement, rather than supplant, the inquiry by local authorities. At every step, we will work with the local investigators, who should be prepared to complete a thorough, fair investigation in their own right.[2]
Democratic Party Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) released a statement expressing her sadness and insisting, "I, like so many other Missourians, will not be satisfied until we have a complete and transparent understanding of all the facts and circumstances that led to this young man’s death."[3]
August 12, 2014
Independent Cornell William Brooks, head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), called on the Ferguson Police Department to release the name of the officer who shot Brown, claiming, "It seems to me that the most important thing here is to let the facts come out as quickly as possible, sending a signal to the community that the investigation is proceeding and that the investigation will in fact be transparent. I don’t believe, where the name will be known at some point, delaying that for any undue period of time helps the situation."[4]

Highway patrol takeover

August 14, 2014
Sen. Claire McCaskill briefing Eric Holder from a tire store in Ferguson
Following days of riots and violence, including the arrests of two journalists by local authorities, Missouri Highway Patrol took over security in Ferguson on August 14, 2014, with the intent of changing the mood of the area and de-escalating the violence. The highway patrol ditched riot gear for plain clothes, talked with the people and even marched with them for a short time. Ron Johnson, the captain of the patrol, said of his personal ties to the area, "I roamed these streets. When the media from out of state is gone and when the people from out of this community are gone, Ron Johnson is still going to be here."[5]
August 14, 2014
Democratic Party President Barack Obama spoke out against the arrests of the journalists covering the story on August 14, 2014, "[H]ere in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who were just trying to do their jobs and report to the American people on what they see on the ground."[6]
Republican Party Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) criticized the militarization of the police department's reaction to protests and riots, tweeting, "Is this a war zone or a US city? Gov't escalates tensions w/military equipment & tactics?"[7]
August 15, 2014
Republican Party
Missouri State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal (D) responded with her frustrations to Gov. Nixon
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) wrote about the shooting in a Time editorial, stating that "it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them." He went on to explain, "Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies — where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement."[8]
Democratic Party Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) called for the president "to declare martial law," warning him, "If you fail to act, the fires of frustration and discontent will continue to burn, not only in Ferguson, Missouri, but all across America."[9]
Democratic Party Governor Nixon explained the decision to change the forces patrolling Ferguson to the highway patrol, stating, "As we saw the acceleration, both in the tone as well as in the armor, I knew it was time to make a change." He continued noting the situation escalated in part due to the heavy police presence, "Militarization caused exactly the opposite reaction, in my view, as to what it normally should. Instead of bringing safety, it brought less safety in this situation, because people felt diminished and felt controlled in their own community."[10]

State of emergency declared

August 16, 2014

Governor Nixon declared a state of emergency and established a curfew between the hours of 12 a.m. and 5 a.m. on August 16, 2014.[11] The following day, the NAACP, ACLU and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law called for Governor Nixon's curfew in Ferguson to end, arguing, "Any order restricting constitutional rights must clearly communicate to the public when and where it will apply, articulate valid justifications for the restrictions, and provide ample alternative locations where people may gather to express their views on the important issues being discussed in Ferguson."[12] Governor Nixon canceled the curfew for the following day.[13]

Violence continued on the evening of August 17, 2014, when peaceful daytime protesters turned markedly more violent after dark. Molotov cocktails and gunshots were fired in the direction of the highway patrol officers. Officers responded by firing tear gas into the crowd. Three more reporters were temporarily placed under arrest at the direction of Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson.[14] Governor Jay Nixon responded on August 18, 2014, by ordering the National Guard to Ferguson to help restore order.[15]
August 18, 2014
Democratic Party On the increased violence in the area, President Obama said, "While I understand the passions and the anger that arise over the death of Michael Brown, giving into that anger by looting or carrying guns, and even attacking the police, only deserves to raise tensions and stir chaos, it undermines, rather than advancing justice."[16]
Republican Party Former Rep. Ron Paul (R) called for an end to the Defense Department program, explaining, "Police are supposed to be local people, and they’re supposed to be peace officers. They’re not supposed to be warriors."[17]
Republican PartyRep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) spoke out about fellow politicians using the situation to gain support for their election or legislation, stating, "Don’t try to capitalize on this tragedy with your own policy initiatives, don’t try to link some prejudged conclusion on what’s happening on the ground right now. We should take a deep breath, let’s have some sympathy for the family and the community … and let’s let the investigation take its course and hope that justice is served appropriately."[18]

National Guard in Ferguson

August 18-21, 2014

With the National Guard in place, protests devolved into violence once again on August 18, 2014 into August 19, during which it was initially claimed 31 protesters were placed under arrest. Record obtained by local media outlets on August 19, confirmed there were actually 78 arrests.[19] Four police officers and two civilians were injured by gunfire from the protesters, police said. Of those arrested, some had come from as far as New York, California and Washington.[20] Prior to the protests on August 18, Johnson announced that journalists in the area would continue to be detained because of the violent nature of the protests. He stated that once taken into custody, journalists would be treated properly, including a prompt released, if called for, but explained, "in the midst of it, we cannot — in the midst of it, in the midst of chaos, and trying to move people on, we have to be safe. ... And we are providing protection for journalists. We had, we had a journalist who was trapped in the midst of that gunfire, in the midst of that chaos. And we're providing protection for them. We took journalists back to their trucks."[21]

Holder's Ferguson visit

August 20, 2014
On August 18, 2014, President Obama met with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and decided to send Holder to Ferguson to look into the incident and ongoing problems. On the decision, he stated, "While I understand the passions and the anger that arise over the death of Michael Brown, giving into that anger by looting or carrying guns, and even attacking the police, only deserves to raise tensions and stir chaos, it undermines, rather than advancing justice."[16] Called on to join Holder for the trip to Ferguson were Missouri Senators Roy Blunt (R) and Claire McCaskill (D), both of whom expressed their pleasure in having Holder see the situation first hand and the department's assistance in the investigation already underway, although Blunt made clear his opposition to the idea of federal investigators taking over the case from state investigators, if it were to be proposed.[22]

Holder recalled his own problems with authority while visiting Ferguson on August 20, 2014, stating at the local community college, "I understand that mistrust. I am the attorney general of the United States. But I am also a black man. I think about my time in Georgetown — a nice neighborhood of Washington — and I am running to a picture movie at about 8 o’clock at night. I am running with my cousin. Police car comes driving up, flashes his lights, yells ‘where you going? Hold it!’ I say, ‘Whoa, I’m going to a movie.’ "[23]

Violence in Ferguson calmed after Holder's appearance. The night following his visit, only six arrests were made, compared with 47 the night before he visited. Holder met with more than 50 community members, including Brown's family and friends, during his visit.[24]

August 21, 2014
Democratic Party Rep. Cleaver, commenting on President Obama's decision to send Eric Holder to Ferguson, said, "I don’t think the president needs to come to Ferguson. It adds another distortion. We don’t need that now. We don’t need any more people coming into Ferguson to help the poor people out during this time of trouble. What we need is a sense of calm and anything other than that is going to be dangerous."[25]

Brown's funeral

August 25, 2014

Michael Brown Sr., the victim's father, called for a day of peace and silence from protesters for the day of his son's funeral, August 25, 2014. Those in attendance included three White House aides sent by President Obama, Martin Luther King III, Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Snoop Lion, Spike Lee and the families of Trayvon Martin and Sean Bell.[26][27] Rev. Sharpton gave a speech directed at creating social change in communities across the United States, while Brown's uncle, Rev. Charles Ewing, gave Brown's eulogy, saying Brown's "blood is crying from the ground, crying for vengeance, crying for justice."[26] It was estimated that about 7,000 people showed up at the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis for the service.[27]

Democratic Party Rev. Al Sharpton, while eulogizing Brown at his funeral, criticized police militarization in the United States, saying, "America is going to have to come to terms with [the fact that] there’s something wrong, that we have money to give military equipment to police forces but we don’t have money for training, and money for public education and money to train our children."[28]

Police investigation

Officer's identity revealed

Wilson's identity as the shooting officer was revealed on August 15, 2014, following days of death threats. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (D) called the release of the officer's name, Darren Wilson a "good move" as the violence de-escalated.[29] On the same day, forty-eight media organizations called on the Ferguson police department for increased transparency and lighter tactics in a letter written to the department. The letter stated, "As organizations that cover news and defend the rights of journalists to gather the news, we write to express our deep concern over the unwarranted detention of two journalists on Wednesday and with other reports of police intimidation and harassment of journalists in Ferguson," the letter states. "It is also extremely troubling that the police have not been more timely in releasing the records surrounding these incidents and the shooting of Michael Brown.[30]

Autopsy results

Autopsy results, released on August 17, 2014, by Dr. Michael Baden, former chief medical examiner for the City of New York, showed Brown was shot six times by Wilson, including two shots to his head. His clothes were not examined in the initial report, but no gunpowder was discovered on his skin, indicating that he may not have been at close range to Wilson when he was shot. The report also indicated that Brown was facing Wilson during all shots fired. Baden said some of the shots caused multiple wounds, including one shot that went through the top of Brown's head, stating, "This one here looks like his head was bent downward. It can be because he’s giving up, or because he’s charging forward at the officer." Baden, brought in at the request of the Brown family to conduct an independent autopsy, noted that not enough information had been gathered to fully reenact the scene, explaining, "Right now there is too little information to forensically reconstruct the shooting."[31]

St. Louis County officials also conducted an autopsy, but the findings were not released to the public. The U.S. Department of Justice was also scheduled to conduct an autopsy, which was considered common in cases where local authorities were not trusted by their communities, in order to ensure an honest investigation.[31][32]

Release of evidence

St. Louis County investigators announced on August 19, 2014, that evidence in the case would not be made public until it was presented to a grand jury, which would potentially take months. While the media and public have made calls for the evidence to be made public, United States Attorney Richard Callahan stated, "While the lack of details surrounding the shooting may frustrate the media and breed suspicion among those already distrustful of the system, those closely guarded details give law enforcement the best yardsticks for measuring whether witnesses are truthful." Attorney General Eric Holder re-iterated the need for patience in the investigation, explaining, "No matter how others pursue their own separate inquiries, the Justice Department is resolved to preserve the integrity of its investigation."[33]

National Bar lawsuit

The National Bar Association filed a lawsuit against the City of Ferguson in an effort to preserve all evidence of Brown's death, including officers' notes and all information collected from the scene of the crime. The suit was filed August 18, 2014.[34]

State senator arrested

State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed (D) was arrested outside the Ferguson police station during a protest on October 20, 2014. St. Louis County police said that Nasheed had violated a city ordinance forbidding "walking in a roadway where sidewalks are accessible," and did not move when warned. Nasheed was released from the St. Ann jail the following morning after an unidentified party posted bond. Nasheed said her arrest was intentional and "symbolic," urging non-violent protest going forward. At the time of her arrest, the grand jury had yet to deliver a decision on whether to charge Darren Wilson, but Nasheed told reporters upon leaving jail that protesters "have a long road ahead of us these next three weeks." Police said that Nasheed was carrying a loaded handgun and that she refused a breathalyzer test; Nasheed, who denied being intoxicated, said that she has a concealed-carry permit and regularly carries a gun.[35][36][37][38]

Grand jury findings released

On the evening of November 24, 2014, the results of the grand jury determined officer Darren Wilson would not be charged in the shooting death of Michael Brown. Evidence shown to the grand jury portrayed an altercation between Brown and Wilson inside Wilson's police car during which Brown's blood got on Wilson's clothes and gun.[39] Attorney General Holder confirmed, however, that the federal investigation had not concluded and that civil rights charges were still a possibility depending on their findings.[40]

November 23, 2014
Democratic Party President Obama asked that protesters keep their actions peaceful no matter what the outcome was from the grand jury. He stated, "You know, this is a country that allows everybody to express their views, allows them to peacefully assemble to protest actions that they think are unjust, but using any event as an excuse for violence is contrary to rule of law and contrary to who we are."[41]
November 24, 2014
Democratic Party Rev. Al Sharpton called the ruling an "absolute blow," explaining, "It was expected, but still an absolute blow to those of us that wanted to see a fair and open trial. I think that it is clear that even when you see a blow coming … it still hurts nonetheless."[42]
Democratic Party Congressional Black Caucus Chair Marcia Fudge (D-OH) said the ruling showed an "unwritten rule that Black lives hold no value." She explained, "The Ferguson grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown is a miscarriage of justice. It is a slap in the face to Americans nationwide who continue to hope and believe that justice will prevail. This decision seems to underscore an unwritten rule that Black lives hold no value; that you may kill Black men in this country without consequences or repercussions. This is a frightening narrative for every parent and guardian of Black and brown children, and another setback for race relations in America."[43]
November 25, 2014
Democratic Party Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) expressed his disappointment with the prosecutor of the case, arguing, "I have questions in whether or not this prosecutor really wanted an indictment, and I think that’s clear. It seems as though the prosecutor went into the grand jury wanting an outcome and that outcome being a no true bill. This is a decision that folks do not understand and there’s questions in regards to this particular prosecutor."[44]

Rioting renewed

Following the release of the grand jury findings, protesters returned to the streets of Ferguson where they clashed with police and the National Guard. Rioting and looting took place around the city with multiple businesses being burned. Peaceful protests also took place in Atlanta, Georgia, Los Angeles, California, Oakland, California, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and New York City. In Ferguson, where a state of emergency had been declared a week prior to the release of the findings, 61 people were arrested by the end of the night.[39][45] Governor Nixon requested more National Guard members to the area on the following day.[39]

Contributing factors to rioting

Ferguson's racial divide

In a New York Times op-ed, Jeff Smith pointed out several factors that may have contributed to the racial tension in Ferguson between the police force and the majority African American citizenry. Since the 1990 census, when the community was still a minority African American, the demographics have changed, with the 2000 census showing a slight African American majority and the 2010 census showing more than two-thirds of the population African American. Smith argued that due to the relatively recent migration to the suburb, the political structure for African Americans was not well-established, hence Ferguson's white, Republican mayor, majority white police force with three of 53 officers African American and one African American city council member. Combined with the fact that the municipality relies heavily on traffic stops for its funding, the result was 86 percent of traffic stops, 92 percent of searches and 93 percent of arrests being African Americans.[46]

Mayor James Knowles of Ferguson, MO
James Knowles (R), mayor of Ferguson since 2011, claimed there was no racial divide on August 15, 2014, arguing, "I grew up here, and it’s always been a very diverse community. So for people to come out and say that there’s some long-standing anger or there’s a history of racial tension is absolutely ridiculous. There’s not a black-white divide in Ferguson.”[47] Knowles defended his point in an interview on August 19, 2014, explaining, "There’s 22,000 residents in our community. This has affected about a half-mile strip of street in our community. The rest of the African-Americans in our community are going about their daily lives, going to our businesses, walking their dog, going to our neighborhood watch meetings."[48]

The residents of the area provided mixed opinions when questioned about whether race was an issue, with some questioning whether the protests were representative of the community or if the protests were made up of outside professional protesters. One resident disputed any long-standing racial tensions, stating, "I think the race relationships have always been good here. There’s no strife between the races. And I think these protests are going to damage that." He followed up, questioning the makeup of the protesters, asking, "I wonder, are these professional protesters or people who really live here in Ferguson?" Meanwhile, another resident explained, "Everyone knows the statistics. Ask anybody from the city. Don’t nobody come in from the city because they know this is one of the most racist places there is."[47]

Tactical weapons programs

While much of the early focus of those calling for the demilitarization of local police departments was on the Defense Department's "1033" program, allowing the local departments to purchase surplus military gear, it was reported on August 20, 2014, that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was running a similarly targeted program with more than three times the funding. The Defense program provided departments with $500 million worth of supplies during 2013, while the DHS, in fiscal year 2014, set aside $1.6 billion in grant money for local departments and with minimal oversight.[49]

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was largely in charge of the two programs dispersing most of the grant money, the State Homeland Security Program and the Urban Areas Security Initiative. Both programs were designed to provide equipment and training to localities in order for the state and local police departments to adequately be able to respond to terrorist attacks or other catastrophes. However, according to the 2011 law "Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act," the only requirement for the departments receiving funds was that "not less than 25%" of the money was to be spent on terrorism prevention, meaning up to 75 percent of the funds were discretionary. Tactical equipment covered by the funds included explosive entry devices, the antidote for cyanide, surveillance drones and, according to a report produced by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) in 2012, armored tactical vehicles such as the ones deployed in Ferguson. One anonymous congressional aide with knowledge of the programs, stated, "They don’t know what’s been bought with the money, how that equipment has been used, or whether it’s made anyone measurably any safer."[49]

A 2012 DHS audit found that between 2003 and 2011, over $11 billion had been dispersed through the programs. The report reinforced the idea that little oversight had taken place in the programs, pointing out, "Fema did not have a system in place to determine the extent that Homeland Security Grant Program funds enhanced the states’ capabilities to prevent, deter, respond to and recover from terrorist attacks, major disasters and other emergencies before awarding more funds to the states."[49]

In the 2014 fiscal year, St. Louis, Missouri, which includes Ferguson, was scheduled to receive almost $7 million total between both programs. From 2003 to 2011, the area received $81 million from the Urban Areas Security Initiative alone.[49]

"1033" in Ferguson

Between 2010 and 2013, the St. Louis County Police Department received a dozen 5.56-millimeter rifles, six .45 caliber pistols, cargo trailers, utility trucks and night-vision equipment from the "1033" program, in addition to a helicopter given to them by the military.[50]

August 22, 2014
Democratic Party Reps. William Lacy Clay (D-MO) and Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) spoke with Hagel about dismantling the "1033" program run by the Defense Department, explaining, "We are pleased to report that we had a productive, expansive and very encouraging meeting with Secretary Hagel [Thursday] on our urgent concerns about the militarization of local law enforcement agencies through the distribution of surplus Department of Defense equipment via the 1033 Program. We have asked the secretary to review the program and to respond with his recommendations quickly."[50]

Legislative actions


Online petition to Obama

An online petition aimed at the demilitarization of police departments called for Obama to stop the program allowing police departments to purchase military supplies. As of August 18, 2014, the petition had 26,000 signatures and argued, "The Pentagon is encouraging local police forces to feel as if they are going into battle — with a clear enemy and a shoot-to-kill mentality. This national militarization of police must be stopped immediately."[51]

Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA)
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) wrote a letter to members of Congress notifying them of a bill he was drafting aimed toward demilitarizing local police departments. On August 14, 2014, he wrote, "Our main streets should be a place for business, families, and relaxation, not tanks and M16s. Unfortunately, due to a Department of Defense (DOD) Program that transfers surplus DOD equipment to state and local law enforcement, our local police are quickly beginning to resemble paramilitary forces." He called the bill the "Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act," looking to end the Defense Department program that allowed local law enforcement agencies access to military surplus items.[52]

Body cameras on police

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) wrote a letter to Attorney General Holder on August 27, 2014, asking that the DOJ provide body cameras for police officers across the country. "As the investigation into the death of Michael Brown illustrates, the circumstances of an officer-involved shooting can arouse the strongest passions in a community and breed an atmosphere of profound distrust. Having a video record of events not only deters the use of excessive force, but it also helps dispute or demonstrate claims of police brutality — in either case it improves community confidence in a just result." Civil rights groups also supported the idea of body cameras on police, as well as an online petition signed by more than the 100,000 threshold for an official response from President Obama.[53]

The administration responded to the petition in support of the police use of body cameras on September 15, 2014. A White House adviser explained, "We support the use of cameras and video technology by law enforcement officers, and the Department of Justice continues to research best practices for implementation," but the adviser did insist that body cameras alone would not be the solution to all complaints about police treatment of citizens.[54]

Congressional Black Caucus hearings

On August 14, 2014, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) called for hearings into the Brown shooting as well as other African American youth killed by police around the country. In a letter to Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-WV), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, members of the CBC wrote, "These incidents raise concerns that local law enforcement is out of control and, instead of protecting the safety and civil liberties of the residents of Ferguson, is employing tactics that violate the rights of citizens and hinder the ability of the press to report on their actions. This situation requires immediate congressional scrutiny."[55]

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), a member of the CBC, praised the move of having the Highway Patrol take over security in Ferguson on August 14, 2014, saying it "greatly improved a horrible situation." He hoped the overall event would become a "turning point" in race relations with police across the country, stating, "We need police forces that reflect the communities they serve, we need to address the stereotypes associated with young men of color, and we need to find ways to prevent unnecessary escalations in situations like these. This case has the potential to be a turning point, and we must learn from it."[56]

CBC letter to Obama
President Barack Obama
Members of the CBC wrote a letter to President Obama on August 25, 2014, urging the administration to establish a commission to review state and local police practices, stating, "The administration must quickly establish a national commission to review existing police policies and practices. And identify the best policies and practices that can prevent more Fergusons and vastly improve policing in communities across the nation.” The letter further argued that a federal appointee in the Justice Department be in charge of overseeing police departments receiving federal funds. They additionally asked that the proposed Justice Department official establish racial bias training programs, establish standards of investigation when unarmed citizens are shot and killed and create diversity hiring programs. Finally, the letter called for the end of federal programs that enable the militarization of local police departments. Reps. Cummings, Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Steven Horsford (D-NV), John Lewis (D-GA), Barbara Lee (D-TX) and Gwen Moore (D-WI) signed the letter.[57]
September 8, 2014
Democratic Party Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO), a member of the Black Caucus, spoke out against the handling of events in Ferguson on the House floor. He argued, "This much cannot be disputed: Across America today, we have too many Michael Browns. We have too many unarmed black men who interact with police and wind up dead. The resolution of that problem will only come through a painful, honest national discussion about race and our inability to address these tragic disparities." Other members of the caucus also gave speeches on the floor, with Chairperson Marcia Fudge (D-OH) saying, "This excessive use of force often provokes animosity instead of building the cooperation needed to combat violence."[58]

Police de-militarization calls

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), various conservative organizations and Sen. Rand Paul among other members of Congress called for an end to a Defense Department program that allowed police departments to purchase discounted military surplus items including armored vehicles and automatic weapons. An ACLU spokesperson stated, "What we're seeing today in Ferguson is a reflection of the excessive militarization of police that has been happening in towns across America for decades." According to the Defense Logistics Agency, over $4 billion worth of surplus items have been purchased by local police departments since the 1990s.[59]

The director of the Fraternal Order of Police defended the program, claiming it helped local departments keep up with criminals. He argued, "All police are doing is taking advantage of the advances of technology in terms of surveillance, in terms of communication and in terms of protective equipment that are available to criminals on the street."[59]

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) drafted a bill that would place limitations on the Defense Department program, which he said would be introduced to the House following the August recess. He explained, "Our main streets should be a place for business, families, and relaxation, not tanks and M16s."[60]
August 16, 2014
Democratic Party
Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO)
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) stated his opposition to police militarization, claiming, "Having military style weaponry moving down the main street of a middle-American town is as un-American as a coup d’état rather than an election."[61]
August 17, 2014
Democratic Party Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO) explained his displeasure with the militarization of the Ferguson police department in their response to Brown's death, claiming, "A militarized police force facing down innocent protesters with sniper rifles and machine guns is totally unacceptable in America. Some of these police departments who have received this equipment have not been properly trained in its use by the military. So, that is a question that some of my colleagues in Congress have said that they are going to try to get answers to." New York City Police Department Chief Bernard Kerik, appearing on the same television talk show, defended the police tactics, claiming, "There were Molotov cocktails thrown. There was … property that was damaged. The police have to respond to that. You can't let the thugs take over the city."[62] On the same talk show, Clay called for more diverse police departments, stating about departments in largely African American communities, "They do not have enough diversity within their force; they do not have a healthy relationship with the African-American community that they are supposed to police," and called for a national examination of those scenarios.[63]

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) announced a Senate hearing on the militarization of police departments would be held in September 2014. She said the hearings would focus on both the Defense Department's "1033" program as well as the grant programs run by the Department of Homeland Security. In an earlier response to the situation, McCaskill stated, "We need to demilitarize this situation — this kind of response by the police has become the problem instead of the solution."[64]

Reps. William Lacy Clay and Emanuel Cleaver spoke with Hagel on August 22, 2014, about dismantling the "1033" program run by the Defense Department, explaining, "We are pleased to report that we had a productive, expansive and very encouraging meeting with Secretary Hagel [Thursday] on our urgent concerns about the militarization of local law enforcement agencies through the distribution of surplus Department of Defense equipment via the 1033 Program. We have asked the secretary to review the program and to respond with his recommendations quickly."[50]

Reps. Hank Johnson and Raul Labrador (R-ID) introduced legislation on September 16, 2014, directed at significantly cutting down on the "1033" program by limiting the types of items local police departments can request from the Defense Department. Included in the list of items that would no longer be available were high-caliber rifles, sound cannons, grenades, grenade launchers and some armored vehicles. The tracking of all equipment provided to local departments would also face stricter guidelines for tracking. At least 17 co-sponsors also agreed to support the bill.[65]

Police lobbying

Police lobbying groups, including the nation's largest, the Fraternal Order of Police, began a major effort on August 28, 2014, to maintain the Pentagon and Homeland Security programs. Jim Pasco, director of the Fraternal Order of Police, blamed "misinformation" for the calls to end the programs. He stated, "It looks like the main thrust of our effort is going to be educational because there's an awful lot of misunderstanding and an awful lot of misinformation about this equipment as to its purposes and its application in civilian law enforcement." He continued, "They talk about these Humvees as if they're these weapons of mass destruction," and defended the uses of kevlar and military vehicles for uses in mass shootings and other defensive situations.[66]

Congressional hearings

On August 9, 2014, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing on the militarization of local police departments. During the hearing, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) spoke out against the "1033" program providing local departments with tactical weapons, asking, "Tell me what the difference is between an increasingly militarized police force and a standing army?”[67]

DOJ probe

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced on August 11, 2014, that the Department of Justice (DoJ) would open a probe into the police shooting of Brown, noting it would, "supplement, rather than supplant, the inquiry by local authorities. At every step, we will work with the local investigators, who should be prepared to complete a thorough, fair investigation in their own right."[68] Three Democratic representatives, John Conyers (D-MI), William Lacy Clay (D-MO) and Marcia Fudge (D-OH), came forward on August 12, 2014, asking for a more expansive probe covering the "potential for any pattern or practice of police misconduct." Their letter, written to Holder, explained, "We applaud the Department of Justice’s decision to investigate the shooting of Michael Brown but hope that you will consider expanding the scope of federal involvement and ask that the Department dedicate sufficient resources to investigate the legal and civil rights ramifications of the shooting and surrounding circumstances."[69]

August 17, 2014
Democratic Party Rev. Al Sharpton called for the federal government to take over the investigation into Brown's death and criticized the actions of local law enforcement, claiming, "This young man hadn’t even been buried. Then they come out and say [the incident] had nothing to do with the shooting. Then why did you put it out? I saw the tape of a young man who might be shoplifting. There’s a difference between robbing and shoplifting. This issue is not whether he shoplifted. The issue is about a young man with no due process who was shot multiple times."[15]

On August 20, 2014, Holder announced the DOJ probe would focus one civil rights violations, leaving the crime scene investigation to the state and local authorities. Forty FBI agents were in Ferguson assisting the state and local police gather evidence from residents.[70]

The DOJ announced on September 18, 2014, that a probe was opened into racial bias in police departments across the country. The investigation would be a three year initiative examining five "major events" in different cities to test racial biases and learn more about police training and strategies. A $4.75 million grant was provided for the DOJ to conduct the probe.[71]

FAA no-fly zone

The Federal Aviation Administration established a no-fly zone over Ferguson, Missouri, on August 12, 2014, to "to provide a safe environment for law enforcement activities." Per the order, no aircraft were to fly under 3,000 feet in the crime scene area. The FAA took similar measures in the government standoff with Cliven Bundy as well as the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.[72] The no-fly zone designation, initially set to expire on August 18, 2014, was extended to August 25, 2014 amid continuing violence.


National Guard in Ferguson

Governor Jay Nixon called the National Guard to Ferguson on August 18, 2014, citing the need to bring back "peace and order to this community." According to a White House official, the administration did not know beforehand that Nixon was calling up the National Guard, stating, "Folks didn’t know. The White House did not know they were sending it in."[73]

Nixon ordered the National Guard to stand down on August 21, 2014, after Attorney General Eric Holder visited the town on August 20, 2014. The number of arrests and violent actions dropped significantly the night following Holder's visit, prompting the governor to do away with the National Guard troops.[74]

Comments by potential 2016 presidential candidates

See also: Possible presidential candidates, 2016

Rand Paul

Rand Paul.jpg

August 15, 2014
Republican Party Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) wrote about the shooting in a Time editorial, stating that "it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them." He went on to explain, "Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies — where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement"[75]

Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz.jpg

August 15, 2014
Republican Party Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) also weighed in on the shooting and following violent protests, stating, "Civil liberties must be protected, but violence is not the answer. Once the unrest is brought to an end, we should examine carefully what happened to ensure that justice is served." He also made a statement about the reporters who were arrested while covering the events, "Reporters should never be detained — a free press is too important — simply for doing their jobs."[76]

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton official Secretary of State portrait crop.jpg

August 28, 2014
Democratic Party Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made her first comments on the shooting and violence in Ferguson, stating, "We don't want to see our streets look like a war zone. Not in America. We are better than that." She also showed support for President Obama sending Attorney General Holder to the area in an effort to quell the violence, saying, "I applaud President Obama for sending the attorney general to Ferguson and demanding a thorough and speedy investigation."[77]

Recent news

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See also


  1. CNN, "Gunshots, tear gas in Missouri town where police shot teen," August 12, 2014
  2. Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  3. Politico, "Claire McCaskill, Roy Blunt weigh in on Michael Brown," August 11, 2014
  4. U.S. News and World Reports, "NAACP to Cops: Identify Michael Brown Shooter," August 12, 2014
  5. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named anewday
  6. Politico, "Obama: Police shouldn't bully press," August 14, 2014
  7. The Hill, "Ferguson: 'War zone or US city?'," August 14, 2014
  8. Politico, "Rand Paul’s race moment," August 15, 2014
  9. Newsweek, "Rep. John Lewis, Civil Rights Icon, Calls for ‘Martial Law’ in Ferguson, Mo.," August 15, 2014
  10. Politico, "Jay Nixon: ‘It was a tough week’," August 15, 2014
  11. Time, "Missouri Governor Imposes Midnight Curfew on Ferguson," August 16, 2014
  12. BuzzFeed, "ACLU, NAACP Condemn Missouri Governor’s Curfew In Ferguson," August 17, 2014
  13. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named curfewcanceled
  14. The Washington Post, "Police in Ferguson arrest and threaten more journalists," August 18, 2014
  15. 15.0 15.1 The Washington Post, "National Guard sent to Ferguson after violent unrest erupts," August 18, 2014
  16. 16.0 16.1 The Hill, "Obama sends Holder to Ferguson," August 18, 2014
  17. Politico, "Ron Paul: Local police not 'warriors'," August 18, 2014
  18. Politico, "Paul Ryan: ‘Deep breath’ on Ferguson," August 18, 2014
  19. The Guardian, "Ferguson officials call for calm overnight after 78 people arrested," August 19, 2014
  20. Reuters, "Police come under gunfire, arrest 31 in Missouri racial unrest," August 19, 2014
  21. Politico, "Ferguson police will keep arresting reporters," August 19, 2014
  22. Politico, "Missouri senators to join Eric Holder," August 18, 2014
  23. The Washington Post, "Eric H. Holder Jr., in Ferguson, shares painful memories of racism," August 20, 2014
  24. The Hill, "Ferguson calms after Holder visit," August 21, 2014
  25. Politico, "Emanuel Cleaver: Ferguson looks like Fallujah," August 19, 2014
  26. 26.0 26.1 Fox News, "Michael Brown funeral: Hundreds of mourners bid farewell to teen," August 25, 2014
  27. 27.0 27.1 CNN, "Michael Brown's funeral: Hope, tears and a call for social change," August 26, 2014
  28. Politico, "Al Sharpton rips ‘policing’ at Brown funeral," August 25, 2014
  29. The Hill, "Police identify shooter in Ferguson," August 15, 2014
  30. Politico, "Media orgs condemn Ferguson police," August 15, 2014
  31. 31.0 31.1 New York Times, "Autopsy Shows Michael Brown Was Struck at Least 6 Times," August 17, 2014
  32. New York Times, "Obama Administration Plans Autopsy of Michael Brown in Effort to Keep Peace," August 17, 2014
  33. The Hill, "Details on shooting may be withheld for weeks," August 19, 2014
  34. Bloomberg, "Ferguson Sued by National Bar Association Over Brown Documents," August 18, 2014
  35. Reuters, "Jamilah Nasheed, Missouri State Senator, Arrested During Ferguson Protests," October 20, 2014
  36. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "State Sen. Nasheed freed from jail, explains her 'symbolic' arrest," October 22, 2014
  37. International Business Times, "Who Is Jamilah Nasheed? Missouri State Senator Arrested In Ferguson Protesting Mike Brown Shooting," October 21, 2014
  38. KMOV, "Sen. Nasheed had handgun on her at time of arrest, refused breathalyzer, police say," October 20-22, 2014
  39. 39.0 39.1 39.2 New York Times, "Missouri Governor to Send More Troops After Violence Flares in Ferguson," November 25, 2014
  40. The Hill, "Holder: Civil rights charges still possible," November 24, 2014
  41. Politico, "Obama calls for calm in Ferguson," November 23, 2014
  42. Politico, "Al Sharpton: 'An absolute blow'," November 25, 2014
  43. Politico, "Congressional Black Caucus denounces Ferguson grand jury," November 24, 2014
  44. Politico, "Rep. Meeks: Prosecutor got what he wanted," November 25, 2014
  45. The Hill, "State of emergency declared in Ferguson," November 17, 2014
  46. New York Times, "In Ferguson, Black Town, White Power," August 17, 2014
  47. 47.0 47.1 BuzzFeed, "Is Race An Issue In Ferguson? Depends On Whom You Ask," August 15, 2014
  48. Politico, "Ferguson mayor: 'No racial divide'," August 19, 2014
  49. 49.0 49.1 49.2 49.3 The Guardian, "US police given billions from Homeland Security for 'tactical' equipment," August 20, 2014
  50. 50.0 50.1 50.2 Politico, "Reps push Chuck Hagel over militarization," August 22, 2014
  51. The Hill, "Online petition urges Obama to ‘demilitarize’," August 18, 2014
  52. Politico, "Dem pushes Ferguson machine gun bill," August 14, 2014
  53. The Hill, "Dem lawmaker pushes Holder to fund body cameras for cops," August 27, 2014
  54. The Hill, "White House favors cops wearing cameras," September 15, 2014
  55. The Hill, "Black Caucus members call for hearings on Ferguson shooting," August 14, 2014
  56. The Hill, "Black Caucus member: Ferguson turmoil could be 'turning point'," August 15, 2014
  57. Politico, "CBC members push police czar idea," August 25, 2014
  58. The Hill, "Black Caucus condemns Ferguson shooting on House floor," September 8, 2014
  59. 59.0 59.1 The Hill, "Congress under pressure from left and right to 'demilitarize' police," August 15, 2014
  60. The Hill, "Lawmaker drafting bill to demilitarize local police," August 14, 2014
  61. Fox 4 KC, "Congressman Emanuel Cleaver visits Kansas City, shares thoughts on Ferguson," August 16, 2014
  62. The Hill, "Ferguson rep: Response 'unacceptable'," August 17, 2014
  63. Politico, "Clay urges police diversity," August 17, 2014
  64. The Hill, "McCaskill to lead hearing on militarization of police," August 21, 2014
  65. The Hill, "Lawmakers unveil bill to de-militarize cops," September 16, 2014
  66. The Hill, "Police lobby fights to keep gear," August 28, 2014
  67. The Hill, "Senators blast DOD program to 'militarize' police," September 9, 2014
  68. Politico, "Eric Holder vows Michael Brown ‘fulsome review’," August 11, 2014
  69. Politico, "Reps: Larger DOJ probe in Ferguson," August 12, 2014
  70. The Hill, "Holder: DOJ probe to focus on civil rights violations in Ferguson," August 20, 2014
  71. The Hill, "Holder launches national review of racial bias among cops," September 18, 2014
  72. Politico, "FAA sets no-fly zone over Ferguson," August 12, 2014
  73. BuzzFeed, "White House “Did Not Know” National Guard Was Being Deployed In Ferguson," August 18, 2014
  74. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Nixonguard
  75. Politico, "Rand Paul’s race moment," August 15, 2014
  76. Politico, "Rand Paul, Ted Cruz weigh in on Ferguson," August 14, 2014
  77. The Hill, "Clinton breaks Ferguson silence," August 28, 2014