There's no doubt that the spark that lit the fuse in Ferguson was the police shooting of Michael Brown. But you have to wonder how much anger was simmering, how much people were already hurting from decades of building racial tensions and the fact that so many of them are hurting financially.
I don't often agree with Chris Matthews, but he hit the nail on the head last night
The disturbing cell phone video of the other killing of a black man in Missouri by police bullets, this one on Tuesday, was released yesterday. We were told that this one was unquestionably justified (which I believe the video disproves- judge for yourself, but we warned, the video is graphic and very disturbing).
But the reaction to that shooting was very different from the still-in-progress uproar and massive protests in response to the shooting death of Michael Brown some 9 days earlier, just two miles away.
Perhaps the way the authorities handled the moments following the shooting, when St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson crossed the police tape line to speak directly with the people in the crowd that gathered.
But the mayor did something unusual, as he recounted to Chris Hayes last night on All In (pertinent part comes in at 4:49)
St. Louis Mayor Slay (yes, that really is his ironic name) said
I sent some staff members out there to get a sense of what's going on in the crowd, talk to some of the people there, listen to their concerns. And one message that kept coming, over and over again by a number of those out there was "hey, we're out here protesting, but we could use a job. We need to be employed, we need to be able to support ourselves and our families." So, I had my workforce development director and his team out there. We signed up at least 85-90 people into programs that help them learn how to look for a job, and for job training programs as well.
Maybe the peace was kept in St. Louis because the people who turned out in dismay and disbelief after yet another young,black male was shot and killed by police thought that, this time, perhaps someone might be able to help them.
I don't know, and know that the video of that shooting is out, things might not be so peaceful tonight.
But one thing is apparent, people are hurting and need help.
Sasha Abramsky was on the show last year when his book The American Way of Poverty: How the Other Half Still Lives was first released. He joined me again today as the paperback is being released, and we discussed how the events in Ferguson have likely been exacerbated by the poor economic condition of so many of that town's citizens.
And finally, Congressman Alan Grayson joined me to talk about his efforts to prevent the type of militarized police situation we witnessed in Ferguson from becoming a reality.
On June 8, 2014, The New York Times published "War Gear Flows to Police Departments," an article detailing the transfer of thousands of pieces of "surplus military gear and equipment" to local police departments under the Department of Defense Excess Personal Property 1033 Program.
That article, in part, prompted the congressman to introduce an amendment to the DOD authorization act on June 19:
An amendment to prohibit use of funds to transfer aircraft (including unmanned aerial vehicles), armored vehicles, grenade launchers, silencers, toxicological agents, launch vehicles, guided missiles, ballistic missiles, rockets, torpedoes, bombs, mines, or nuclear weapons through the DOD Excess Personal Property Program established pursuant to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997.
Although Congressman Grayson had secured 19 Republican votes, assuring its passage if the Democrats stood with him and voted for the amendment, it failed by a vote of 62-355 in what he described on the show this morning as the worst any of his amendments has ever fared!
To hear the story of how this amendment was brought down by a so-called Democrat, just watch my conversation about it with Howie Klein from Monday's show:
It's enough to make you sick.
Just a few days after the amendment failed, the ACLU issued this excellent report that everyone should read, titled, "The War Comes Home."
Keep in mind that when "boys with toys" get overwhelmed, they often do really stupid things... like St. Ann Detective Corporal Ray Albers, aka Officer "Go Fuck Yourself" who should never be allowed near such weapons, let alone carry one on the streets of Ferguson, MO, where this video was shot.
I'll be back tomorrow to wrap up the week with Stephen Goldstein's "No More Bullshit Minute" and, from my musical archives, an interview with performance form Tori Amos... Radio or Not.