Tag Archives: Ferguson

Ferguson Commission Calls For Police To ‘Minimize Use of Militarized Weaponry’

A report released on Monday by the commission appointed to study the racial divide and the unrest following the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, advised that police reduce their use of military-style tactics and weapons.

The 198-page report, titled “Forward Through Ferguson: A Path Toward Racial Equity,” was released by the 16-member commission appointed by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, and includes 189 policy “calls to action” for police.

The commission was assembled after the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager who was shot and killed by former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in Aug. 2014, sparked protests throughout the community. Police responded to those protests with military-style tactics and equipment.

The protests turned into riots, and the response from police, along with a scathing report from the Department of Justice, highlighted the racial divide in the St. Louis suburb, and the discriminatory practices exercised by local police against the black community.

[RELATED: Truth In Media Gets It Right, DoJ Says Policing For Profit Part Of Ferguson Discrimination]

The report suggested that the state be directed “to cease providing, and local departments to cease using, militarized weaponry that does not align with a use of force continuum that authorizes only the minimal amount of force necessary.”

According to the report, departments across the state also need to “revise use of force policies and training to prioritize de-escalation and to clarify the instances when officers should engage in tactical withdrawal.”

“The regular use of force has led many citizens to view the police as an occupying force in their neighborhoods, damaging community trust, and making community safety even more difficult,” the report noted.

In addition to recommendations about police tactics, the report also advised that the state increase the minimum wage from $7.65 per hour, expand eligibility for Medicaid and merge the 60 police forces and 81 municipal courts that cover the St. Louis area.

The Ferguson Commission’s report has been met with skepticism by Missouri residents such as John Parker, who runs a public relations firm in the area. He told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he sees the commission as a way for Nixon to “save face.”

“The governor put this commission together to save face on race relations in this city,” Parker said.  “If you actually want to effect change, you effect change. Change is not putting commission members together to discuss what everybody already knows. That’s a waste of time.”

[RELATED: Truth In Media: The Root Of Police Militarization]

Investigative journalist Ben Swann looked at the root of America’s current problem with the militarization of police in communities including Ferguson in an episode of Truth In Media in Dec. 2014:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=2&v=UsRV3y37qcs

Oath Keepers: Americans “Are Being Given A False Choice” In Calming Ferguson Tension

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dk9p9PN4UqY

Truth In Media’s Joshua Cook followed up with Oath Keepers president Stewart Rhodes to provide an update on the Oath Keepers’ presence in Ferguson.

Cook asked Rhodes, “what is the media getting wrong about your group?”

“One of the first things they said was that our presence was inflammatory,” answered Rhodes. “And it’s quite the opposite. There were actually no shots fired and interesting enough, no arrests made while our guys were on the streets. And we protected several black owned businesses again like we did last year.”

“The point of us being there is, (a), lead by example and show the people of Ferguson this is how you prevent arson, this is how you protect against looting, etc. And (b), protect your community so that you don’t have this false choice that’s being presented to the American people- that the only way to stop arson and looters is to trample on the First Amendment Rights of the protesters or to have a hyper-militarized police state. The American people are being given a false choice,” said Rhodes.

“The American people are being given a false choice.” – Stewart Rhodes, President of Oath Keepers

Rhodes said that there have been increased instances of business owners more actively protecting their property during the unrest. “There’s a growing number of businesses doing exactly what we did, stand up and do what the police can’t do. The police cannot or will not protect the people’s actual businesses from the looters and arsonists. The best answer is for the folks in Ferguson to do it themselves, it takes away that false choice,” said Rhodes.

Cook asked Rhodes about his thoughts on St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar’s comments about his group’s presence being “unnecessary” and “inflammatory.” Rhodes responded that their presence has actually had a “calming” effect and many of the protesters realized who the Oath Keepers were and that their presence was meant for protection.

“I think Chief Belmar, like all too many police officers, have this idea that only the police should have firearms. It’s a threat to their turf. It’s a turf battle. He’s kind of a small minded man and looks at it like that,” said Rhodes.

“What we are doing is leading by example. And we want to see the people of Ferguson to stand up for themselves and take care of their own security so they won’t need a heavy police presence.” said Rhodes.

“Frankly they need a new police of chief there,” said Rhodes. “I think a lot of the problems go away with better leadership.”

Cook asked about the criticism Oath Keepers have received for offering to protect independent journalists while major media outlets have provided themselves with security teams. “If you’re a mainstream media journalist with a professional security team, that’s okay. But if you’re alternative media like Alex Jones or some other small group who has us along to help protect them, then it’s somehow extreme. So it’s a double standard, it is,” said Rhodes.

Rhodes advised that “the people themselves need to step up and take care of their own neighborhoods and suppress the thugs. The few thugs who are causing the problems, it’s up to the experienced veterans in Ferguson to step up.”

EXCLUSIVE: Oath Keepers Reportedly Attacked By Law Enforcement And Rioters

As previously reported by Truth In Media in an exclusive interview with Stewart Rhodes, Oath Keepers helped Ferguson businesses from the arsonists and looters ransacking Ferguson, Missouri last November.

Oath Keepers are back in Ferguson and their presence has gained world-wide attention.

Oath Keepers is an organization focused on defending the Constitution and includes former police officers and ex-military. Members of Oath Keepers kept guard of four Ferguson businesses last year at the permission of the business owners.

[RELATED: Exclusive: Called “Domestic Terrorists” By The Feds, Oath Keepers Help Stop Ferguson From Burning]

Truth In Media’s Joshua Cook spoke with Oath Keeper member Sam Andrews to dispel the myths about why Oath Keepers are in Ferguson. Andrews also shared with Cook troubling experiences regarding what is really happening between protesters, Oath Keepers and law enforcement entities, which has been ignored by the mainstream media.

The media is trying to portray Oath Keepers as a racist, all white group. This is not true, according to Andrews.

“We have people from all different races on our security team. We’re not racist and we wouldn’t tolerate anyone in our organization who is a racist. If we found out that someone was a racist we would kick them out of our organization. So that should dispel myth number one,” said Andrews.

“The second myth is that the police are doing the right thing. The truth of the matter is Chief Jon Belmar of St. Louis County Police has been breaking our state law, threatening to disarm people, and violating people’s rights. They’ve been breaking Missouri’s revised statute 44.101. I would encourage everyone to look up for themselves. It prevents the police or any government official from disarming anyone during a state of emergency. Yet Belmar continues to threaten to do that and continues to try to intimidate anyone who is armed,” said Andrews.

[RELATED: Exclusive Interview: Oath Keepers Surrounded by 50 Police Told To Stop Defending Building in Ferguson From Fires]

“The third myth is that we are out in Ferguson to hurt people. And that’s the opposite of the truth. We are there to protect people. We’ve been guarding African-American people, Asian people, white people, people in mixed marriages, Korean people, Chinese people. It’s just ridiculous that the media continues to try and put forth this lie that we are racist and white supremacists. That’s not true at all,” said Andrews.

“We’re a cross-section of America. We’re made up of people of all races, all political persuasions,” said Andrews.

Andrews went on to explain how he’d been told by various area law enforcement agents including highway patrolmen, sergeants, lieutenants, captains that the Department of Justice gave direct orders to police officers to not arrest arsonists and looters.

While suspects of committing violence have avoided arrest, according to Andrews, innocent protesters have been attacked, as well as Oath Keepers and journalists.

“They fired rubber bullets, teargas, made threats to disarm us, tried to arrest us. Gave us an illegal order to disperse when no one’s breaking the law. They have broken so many laws with Department of Justice directives,” said Andrews.

Andrews told Cook that a St. Louis Post-Dispatch journalist was attacked, beaten and taken to a hospital Sunday evening. “That’s why we agreed to offer help,” said Andrews. Many journalists had no protection, according to Andrews, and the Oath Keepers assisted despite death threats from “radical organizations” as well as threats of arrest and disarmament by the St. Louis County police.

[RELATED: Media Ignores Oath Keepers Protecting Small Business Owners in Ferguson]

Andrews said that the presence of the Oath Keepers has been well-received by the area community. However, Andrews explained that response from the highway patrol and St. Louis County Police to the presence of Oath Keepers has been negative, and he said that they had lied to the protesters by spreading false claims that the Oath Keepers were members of the KKK. Andrews told Cook that the Oath Keepers received several death threats throughout Tuesday.

Cook asked Andrews what he would say to the protesters in Ferguson.

“The first thing I would say is ‘Black Lives Matter.’ The second thing I would say is that the Oath Keepers are there to protect your rights. We care about you, regardless of all the lies that the media and some other instigators have tried to propagate. Black lives matter, we care about you, we love you and we are there to protect you,” said Andrew.

“We love the people of Ferguson and they deserve to be protected and the St. Louis County police is not doing the job.”

Listen to the exclusive interview with Sam Andrews from Oath Keepers:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RS05Gk81cZg

 

Annabelle Bamforth contributed to this report.

Media Ignores Oath Keepers Protecting Small Business Owners in Ferguson

As previously reported by Truth In Media’s Rachel Blevins, “peaceful protests commemorating Michael Brown, the 18-year-old unarmed man who was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson one year ago on Sunday, turned violent after gunfire erupted leaving one man in critical condition.”

Following Sunday night’s gunfire, members of the Oath Keepers, an American non-profit made up of current and former police and military members aimed at restoring the Constitution, came to Ferguson to protect small business owners. The group also came to Ferguson last fall to carry out similar activities.

“When they’re here, there’s definitely a weight lifted off of our shoulders,” Davis Vo, whose family owns a local restaurant, told the New York Times, when discussing the Oath Keepers in November. “I’d be lying if I said otherwise.”

Apparently members of the group also offered to protect InfoWars reporters in the event of any unrest. Rather than discussing the Oath Keepers’ work to protect local business owners, the media chose to focus on InfoWars, stating that the website hired the Oath Keepers.

Mother Jones wrote, “According to reports, the Oath Keepers said they were on the scene to provide voluntary protection to a journalist working for the site InfoWars, the conspiracy mill run by noted lunatic Alex Jones.”

Mother Jones went on to describe the Oath Keepers as a “mysterious group, who called themselves voluntary ‘patriots,’ (which) primarily consists of heavily armed white men dressed in military uniforms. Many of them are former soldiers and police officials.”

However, shortly after similar reports began to circulate InfoWars began debunking the claims. InfoWars wrote:
 
“CBS News published a false story claiming that Infowars reporter Joe Biggs, a highly-experienced combat veteran, “hired” a militia group to protect both him and reporter Jakari Jackson in Ferguson, Mo.

“CBS News reports that several members of a militia-style group called the Oath Keepers showed up carrying assault weapons; they were hired by Infowars.com — a website run by Alex Jones — to protect its reporters,” the Aug. 11 article falsely states.”

The news website stated that they “did not hire Oath Keepers for private security”. Shortly after denying hiring the Oath Keepers, InfoWars reported that News Director Rob Dew called John Butler, the news director of CBS St. Louis/KMOX, about the story. In the video below Dew explains to Butler that the story is false and Butler agrees to retract the claim.

NBC reported that Oath Keepers “added an extra dose of unease to protests in Ferguson,” and that St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar described their presence as “both unnecessary and inflammatory.”

Protesters on the scene expressed skepticism of the Oath Keepers. Some of the crowd stated that the Oath Keepers were allowed to open-carry and march around because they were “white”. Missouri currently allows for legal open-carry of firearms.

In a post to the Oath Keepers facebook page, admin Robert Hase writes, “I am sorry, the Oath Keepers kept parts of Ferguson from burning to the ground last year and we will do it again. Many small business owners thanked us personally for our presence. NBC “news” can get the hell out of here with their nonsense.”

fergusonoath
An Oath Keeper with a local business owner in Ferguson, Missouri, Fall 2014.

 

So why did the media focus on the InfoWars connection and only report that residents were unhappy with the Oath Keepers? Why not report on the groups attempt to protect small business owners? Perhaps it has to do with the list of 10 orders that Oath Keepers agree they will not obey. These orders include attempts to the disarm the American people, conduct warrantless searches or turning Americans into internment camps. The group also promises to disobey orders that  “impose martial law or a ‘state of emergency’ on a state.”

[RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Oath Keepers Reportedly Attacked By Law Enforcement And Rioters]

On their website, the Oath Keepers wrote Is it any surprise that a Main Stream Media (MSM) outlet would attempt to demonize Oath Keepers by portraying us as hired guns? It is just another attempt by the MSM to smear Oath Keepers. One of their tactics is to make an accusation against us, then step back from it when the truth is pointed out. The damage has been done, however, as the initial accusation is stuck in the minds of the public.”

If the Black Lives Matter protesters and other activists in Ferguson chose to work with the Oath Keepers and focus on police violence, this movement for accountability might actually have some legs. If not, and the people continue to allow themselves to be divided, then tyrannical governments and violent police will remain in power.

Perhaps the groups in Ferguson can take a lesson from activists in Ohio. Truth In Media recently reported that members of Anonymous, Open Carry Ohio, and Greene County Black Lives Matter teamed up for an action commemorating the death of 22-year old John Crawford, who was shot by a Beavercreek Police officer at a local Wal-Mart.

What are your thoughts? Is there any hope for unity from these groups with a wide-range of often differing opinions? Or is it a lost cause? Leave your thoughts below.

Peaceful Protests End In Violence As Gunfire Erupts On Anniversary Of Michael Brown Shooting

Ferguson, Mo. – A day of peaceful protests commemorating Michael Brown, the 18-year-old unarmed man who was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson one year ago on Sunday, turned violent after gunfire erupted Sunday night leaving one man in critical condition.

Police claim that gunfire was initially exchanged between two groups of protesters, and that officers only engaged after one of the protesters opened fire on four detectives in an unmarked vehicle. They returned fire, and the man was critically injured.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that gunfire erupted after police officers had threatened to arrest any protesters who stayed in the street, and at that point protesters were “estimated at fewer than 100 and were outnumbered by members of the media.”

At a 2:30 a.m. press conference on Monday, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said that the groups exchanging gunfire “were criminals” rather than protesters, and that he believes there is a “small group of people out there that are intent on making sure we don’t have peace that prevails.”

The man injured by police has been identified as Tyrone Harris Jr., 18, from St. Louis. His father, Tyrone Harris Sr., told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that his son went to high school and was good friends with Michael Brown, and that, regarding Sunday night’s shooting, he thinks “there’s a lot more to this than what’s being said.”

Belmar said that in addition to being in an unmarked vehicle, the four detectives were not wearing body cameras. This decision was criticized by coalitions such as the Ferguson Action Council, who said that “having plainclothes officers without body cameras and proper identification in the protest setting leaves us with only the officer’s account of the incident, which is clearly problematic.”

[RELATED: Ferguson Police Have Body Cameras… But Don’t Wear Them]

Reuters noted that the gunfire on Sunday night was in “marked contrast to a day of mostly subdued, peaceful commemorations” in Ferguson, where about about 1,000 people gathered together to share 4-1/2 minutes of silence in honor of the 4-1/2 hours Brown’s body lay in the street after he was shot, and to release doves and embark on a “silent march through Ferguson to honor Brown and others killed in confrontations with police.”

On Sunday night, a few local businesses were looted and robbed, and Post-Dispatch reporter Paul Hampel said that he was beaten and robbed while covering the protests.

White House Sets New Limits On Federal Distribution Of Military Equipment To Police

On Monday, the White House announced new restrictions on federal programs that supply local police forces with military-style equipment, after a report was released from President Obama’s “Task Force On 21st Century Policing.”

The Hill reported that after four months of study, a Cabinet working group tasked by President Obama has come to the conclusion that local law enforcement will be banned from acquiring eight categories of military supplies through federal funds, including “grenade launchers, tracked armored vehicles, armed aircraft, bayonets, and guns and ammunition of .50 caliber or higher.”

The Washington Post noted that other equipment, such as tactical vehicles, explosives and riot equipment, “will be transferred only if local police provide additional certification and assurances that the gear will be used responsibly.”

In order to obtain equipment including drones, Humvees and flash-bang stun grenades, Politico reported that local police departments will have to be approved by a civilian governing body, such as a city council, and they will have to provide a “clear and persuasive explanation for why the controlled equipment is necessary.”

Among other recommendations, the report from the task force suggested that research conducted to “evaluate the effectiveness of crime fighting strategies” should specifically look at the “potential for collateral damage of any given strategy on community trust and legitimacy.”

The report also recommended that law enforcement agency policies for training on use of force should “emphasize de-escalation and alternatives to arrest or summons in situations where appropriate,” and should “mandate external and independent criminal investigations in cases of police use of force resulting in death, officer-involved shootings resulting in injury or death, or in-custody deaths.”

The Department of Defense Excess Property Program, or the 1033 program, which supplies the military gear to local police forces, captured the nation’s attention in 2014, when local police in Ferguson, Mo. responded to protests, by using military-style equipment including armored vehicles and flash grenades, against American citizens.

While new limits are being set on the 1033 program, The Hill noted that the White House has “stopped short of eliminating the program,” due to the report’s claims that the equipment “enhances the safety of officers” who are responding to dangerous situations.

Investigative journalist Ben Swann discussed the root of police militarization in Dec. 2014, on an episode of Truth in Media. Swann described the federal program as one that “provides surplus DoD military equipment to state and local civilian law enforcement agencies for use in counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism operations, and to enhance officer safety.”

Watch the full Truth In Media episode on the Root of Police Militarization:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsRV3y37qcs

Report: 2 People Shot After Demonstration Breaks Out In Ferguson

KMOV.com

Ferguson, Mo. – According to reports, two people were shot late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning during a demonstration that broke out in Ferguson, around the area where Michael Brown was shot and killed by then-police officer Darren Wilson on August 9, 2014.

KMOV, the CBS affiliate in St. Louis, reported that a man was shot in the leg Tuesday night, near the intersection of West Florissant Avenue and Canfield Drive. The man then ran to a nearby Chinese restaurant for help. According to reports, a second person was shot in the neck around 12:20 a.m. Wednesday on Canfield Drive, and was then taken to the hospital.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the man who was shot in the leg was among a group of about 50 protesters demonstrating on West Florissant near Canfield, and that while it was “unclear if the shooting was related to the protest,” police took a suspect into custody and recovered a gun.

KMOV reported that two suspects were arrested, and that in addition to other shots fired throughout the night, a Mobil on West Florissant was looted around 1:40 a.m. Wednesday, for the third time since August 2014, and five suspects connected to the looting were arrested.

The Post-Dispatch reported that protestors initially gathered on Tuesday night, chanting things such as “No justice, no peace” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho. These killer cops have got to go,” while police officers patrolling the scene told protesters they were “unlawfully assembled” and that arrests would be made and “chemical munitions” used against them, if they did not leave.

St. Louis Alderman Antonio French reported via his Twitter account that police were arriving in riot gear, and that demonstrators were throwing rocks at the SWAT vehicles as they arrived to the scene.

(The following video contains graphic language)

The Post-Dispatch reported that witnesses said they heard 15 gunshots around 11:50 p.m., and that although several of the protestors retreated after the gunfire, there was still a small crowd present around 1 a.m.

The demonstration in Ferguson comes at a time when protests are also breaking out in Baltimore, Md., following the unexplained death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died on April 19 from a severe spinal injury, while in custody of the Baltimore police.

After days of peaceful protests, riots broke out on Monday, and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency and called in the National Guard.

The scene of demonstrators throwing rocks and other objects at police in Ferguson is reminiscent of the scene in Baltimore, where dozens of minors were seen throwing rocks at Baltimore SWAT officers on Monday, and at times, the officers were seen picking up the rocks and throwing them back.

 

BREAKING: Michael Brown’s Parents File Civil Lawsuit Against City Of Ferguson

At a press conference on Thursday, the parents of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager who was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, 2014, announced that they have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Ferguson, former police chief Thomas Jackson, and former police officer Darren Wilson.

Reuters reported that the Brown family is seeking “unspecified punitive damages, $75,000 in compensation and changes in policing,” and the lawsuit requests a court order “prohibiting the use of police techniques that demean, disregard, or underserve its African-American population.

During Thursday’s press conference, the attorneys representing Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr. said pursuing the civil lawsuit will lead to new evidence that will show that Wilson should have been indicted and held responsible for Brown’s death.

The attorneys said that this lawsuit is a way to “challenge the police officers who kill people of color,” and they used the recent examples of shooting victims such as Walter Scott, and Tamir Rice, to highlight the fact that “the standard police narrative is contradicted by the objective evidence” in many cases.

USA Today reported that the lawsuit alleges “Wilson violated Brown’s civil rights through a deprivation of his right to unlawful detention and the use of excessive and deadly force,” and it accuses both the city of Ferguson and former chief Jackson of “failing to hire, train, supervise, retain, and conduct a fair and impartial investigation, alleging the police department had a custom or policy of negligently hiring and retaining officers, failing to property train and/or supervise officers in the use of deadly force.

On March 4, the Department of Justice announced that it declined to indict Wilson with any civil rights violations in the shooting that killed Michael Brown on August 9, 2014. Both the initial shooting, and the decision not to indict Wilson led to protests and riots throughout the city of Ferguson.

Michael Brown’s parents originally announced that they would file the lawsuit during a press conference on March 5. During that conference, their lawyer Anthony Gray, maintained the fact that they have felt from the very beginning that “Officer Darren Wilson did not have to shoot and kill Mike Brown, Jr. in broad daylight in the manner that he did, that he had other options available to him.”

Just days before the announcement was made that Wilson would not be indicted, the DOJ released a report, which revealed that the police department in Ferguson, Missouri, exercised discrimination against the black community by using excessive force, issuing minor citations and making unnecessary traffic stops.

Missouri National Guard Labeled Civilian Protesters ‘Enemy Forces’

National Guard Defends Language as ‘Generic’

by Jason Ditz, April 17, 2015

Adding to the backlash from the bloody crackdown on public protests in Ferguson, Missouri last year, leaked international Missouri National Guard documents reveal that the Guard was officially referring to demonstrators as “enemy forces” in mission briefings.

Missouri Army Chief of Staff Col. David Boyle realized pretty early on how bad that looked and in a November 18 email urged officials to reduce the “public militarization perception” and avoid potentially inflammatory language.

Still, the National Guard is defending the label, with Captain John Quinn insisting it was “standard language” in “general military planning.” Capt. Quinn went on to insist that the National Guard would also consider inclement weather and heat potential threats.

Which underscores just what a blunder it was to use the term “enemy forces,” as despite Capt. Quinn’s protestation, presumably state National Guards do not, as a general rule, refer to tornadoes or thunderstorms as “enemy forces.”

The decision to label civilian protesters as “enemy forces” is deliberately provocative, and part of a policy throughout the Ferguson debacle of treating civil unrest and unfriendly media coverage as problems to be solved through military force of arms.

Ferguson Shooting Suspect Recants Confession, Says He Was Abused by Police

On Tuesday, the attorney for Jeffrey Williams, the suspect in the shooting that wounded two police officers just after midnight on Thursday, claimed that not only had Williams not fired a weapon, but that his confession was made when he was in a great amount of pain, after being physically abused by police.

Jerryl T. Christmas, the attorney for the 20-year-old who was arrested Saturday night and charged with two counts of first degree assault and one count of firing a weapon from a vehicle, told Yahoo News that Williams claimed he was in a “tremendous amount of pain,” after he was pistol-whipped by police officers before being interrogated by detectives.

He told me that he never fired a weapon,” said Christmas, who explained that “under those circumstances,” he believed Williams would have said anything.

Anytime someone is questioned without counsel and then I see that kind of bruising, then I’m suspicious about any statements that he may have voluntarily given,” Christmas said.

While St. Louis Police have called the accusation that Williams was abused “completely false,” Christmas pointed to the bruising on the right side of Williams’ face in his mugshot. “I don’t see how they are denying it, it’s right there on their own mug shot,” Christmas said.

Christmas told Yahoo News that officers struck Williams “in the face, neck, back and head while arresting him at his girlfriend’s house late Saturday,” and that he has “a knot on the back of his head where he says they hit him with the butt of a pistol.”

At a press conference on Sunday, St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch announced that Williams had been arrested and was being charged in the shooting that wounded two police officers outside the Ferguson Police Department as a protest from Wednesday night was coming to a close.

Protestors had gathered following the resignation of Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson, who resigned in the wake of a scathing report that revealed the police department in Ferguson exercised discrimination against the black community.

He has acknowledged firing the shots,” McCulloch said, referring to Williams. “He was on probation here in St. Louis County for accepting stolen property.”

McCulloch also claimed that Williams was a regular protestor, and had attended several of the demonstrations in the Ferguson community that have occurred since an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed by a white Ferguson police officer on August 9, 2014.

Following Sunday’s press conference, journalists and activists took to Twitter and contested the claim that Williams was a “regular protestor.”

Activist DeRay McKesson wrote that he could not recall ever seeing Williams at any protests, including the night of the shooting, and Journalist Matt Pearce wrote that judging from what he and other reporters remembered, Williams was “no mainstay, if he had ever protested at all.

BREAKING: Officials Announce Suspect Has Been Arrested in Ferguson Shooting

St. Louis, Mo. – On Sunday, St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch announced that 20-year-old Jeffrey Williams was arrested around 10:30 p.m. Saturday night and charged in the shooting that wounded two police officers just after midnight Thursday.

At a press conference on Sunday afternoon, McCulloch said that Williams has been charged with two counts of first degree assault and one count of firing a weapon from a vehicle. If convicted, he could face up to life in prison.

He has acknowledged firing the shots,” McCulloch said, regarding the suspect, who is African American and lives north of Ferguson. “He was on probation here in St. Louis County for accepting stolen property.”

McCulloch said that Williams was a regular protestor, and that his intention in the shooting is pending investigation, due to the fact that he may have been targeting someone other than police. McCulloch added that the weapon police recovered from Williams matched the casings found at the scene.

The shooting occurred just after midnight on Thursday, as a demonstration was winding down outside of the Ferguson Police Department. Protestors had gathered on Wednesday night following the resignation of Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson, who resigned in the wake of a scathing report that revealed the police department in Ferguson exercised discrimination against the black community.

At a press conference on Thursday, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said that two officers were wounded in the shooting: a 41-year-old officer from St. Louis County was shot in the shoulder and a 32-year-old officer from the suburb of Webster Groves was shot in the face. Both officers were released from the hospital on Thursday.

March 15, 2015, 4:10 p.m. Eastern: UPDATE: Following the press conference with St. Louis County officials on Sunday, Mediaite reported that both reporters and protesters spoke out on Twitter, and contested the claim that Jeffrey Williams was a “regular” at at any of the  Ferguson protests.

DeRay McKesson, an activist and a regular protestor as the Ferguson demonstrations, said that he hadn’t seen Williams at the protest on the night of the shooting, or at any protests prior to that night: 

Matt Pearce, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, questioned whether Williams had ever attended a Ferguson protest:

Wesley Lowery, a reporter for the Washington Post, said that none of the regular protestors he knew were familiar with Jeffrey Williams:

Search for Suspects Continues in Ferguson Shooting that Wounded 2 Police Officers

Ferguson, Mo. – The search for suspects continues on Friday, in the shooting that wounded two police officers at a protest outside the Ferguson Police Department just after midnight on Thursday.

Reuters reported that while “investigators scoured streets near the scene of the shooting for clues” and several people were brought in for questioning after a SWAT team raided a Ferguson home, they were all later released and there have been no arrests.

On Thursday night, residents gathered to hold a candlelight vigil where they grieved for the wounded officers and prayed for the community of Ferguson as it moves forward.

The Associated Press reported that while the vigil was followed by about 200 protesters gathering outside of the police department, “the scene was a marked contrast to the previous night, when fights broke out before the shootings.”

President Obama addressed the shooting on Thursday night during an appearance on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live. He called the discrimination in Ferguson “oppressive and objectionable” and “worthy of protest,” but said that there was “no excuse for criminal acts.”

Whoever fired those shots should not detract from the issue — they are criminals, they need to be arrested,” Obama said. “And then what we need to do is make sure that like-minded, good-spirited people on both sides — law enforcement, who have a terrifically tough job, and people who understandably don’t want to be stopped and harassed just because of their race — that they are able to work together to come up with some good answers.”

Obama has yet to visit the St. Louis suburb since protests initially broke out following the death of unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, who was shot by white Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson, on August 9, 2014.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted that the shooting on Thursday came at a time when many in Ferguson “had expected a peaceful night,” given the fact that Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson had announced his resignation on Wednesday night following the release of a scathing report from the Department of Justice that revealed racial bias and discrimination against the black community in Ferguson.

During a press conference on Thursday morning, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said that both officers, one who was shot in the shoulder and the other in the face, were lucky to be alive. Belmar called the shooting “an ambush” and said that the muzzle flashes from the suspect’s gun came from about 125 yards away, indicating that the suspect was embedded in the crowd of protestors.

In contrast, activist Rev. Osagyefo Sekou from the Fellowship of Reconciliation, who is on the ground in Ferguson, told Ben Swann that the gunshots came from “an area where the protestors were not gathered.”

Those shots did not come from the protestors, contrary to what Chief Belmar said. The shots were not coming from someone who was embedded with us,” Sekou said. “As a community, we’ve been grieving for over 200 days, and we grieve with the families of the police officers.

2 Officers Shot During Protest Outside Ferguson Police Station

St. Louis, Mo. – After midnight Thursday, two officers were shot during a protest held outside of the police department in Ferguson, Missouri.

At a news conference following the shooting, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said that both officers were taken to the hospital, and are conscious. He said that their injuries were “very serious,” but stated no further details.

Sgt. Brian Schellman, a spokesman for the St. Louis County police, released a statement saying that after one officer, from the St. Louis County Police Department, was shot in the shoulder, and another officer from the suburban Webster Groves department, was shot in the face, both were in serious condition, but their injuries were not life threatening.

“I don’t know who did the shooting, to be honest with you,” Belmar said. He added that based on the path of the bullets, he believed “these shots were directed exactly at my officers.”

The Associated Press reported that the protesters gathered on Wednesday night following the resignation of Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson, who resigned in the wake of a scathing report that revealed the police department in Ferguson exercised discrimination against the black community.

 

March 12, 2015, 10: 10 a.m. Eastern: UPDATE: On Thursday morning at a press conference regarding the shooting, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said there were about 150 protesters gathered outside of the police department and 70 officers on the scene.

Belmar said that the muzzle flashes from the suspect’s gun came from about 125 yards away. He stated that the police department has some leads on who the suspects in the shooting are, but there is no one currently in custody.

 

March 12, 2015, 1:50 p.m. Eastern: UPDATE: The St. Louis County Police posted an update on its Facebook page, verifying that while both officers were in serious condition when they arrived at Barnes Jewish Hospital, they have been released.

Man Who Changed Investigations for WI Officer Involved Shootings, Speaks Out On Tony Robinson Shooting

Washington D.C.- After Wisconsin police spent a mere two days investigating the police who shot and killed his son during a traffic stop in 2004, Michael Bell Sr. made it his mission to change how law enforcement in the state looked into officer-involved shootings.

He worked with police and sheriffs departments, lawmakers and criminal justice and law professors to require an external review takes place whenever an officer of the law shoots a civilian.

Bell tells Ben Swann how his son’s death has led to his involvement with the protests over Tony Robinson Jr.’s death in Madison.

Michael Brown’s Parents Will File Lawsuit Against City of Ferguson, Darren Wilson

On Wednesday, the Department of Justice announced that it will not charge Darren Wilson, a white police officer from Ferguson, Missouri, with any civil rights violations in the shooting that killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager on August 9, 2014.

Brown’s parents, Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr., have confirmed that they will pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against both Wilson and the city of Ferguson.

Anthony Gray, one of the attorneys representing the Brown family, spoke at a press conference on Thursday, and maintained the fact that the Brown family has felt from the very beginning that “Officer Darren Wilson did not have to shoot and kill Mike Brown, Jr. in broad daylight in the manner that he did, that he had other options available to him.”

“We are officially in the process of formulating a civil case that we anticipate will be filed very shortly on behalf of the family,” Gray said. “In our case, we plan to show and outline pretty much the same evidence; however, you will get a more clearer, a more accurate of what took place that day.”

Darryl Parks, another attorney representing the Brown family, said that the family is not surprised by DOJ’s findings, and that they were only choosing to file a lawsuit now, because they did not want to get in the way of the DOJ’s ongoing investigation before, and they are now “entering a different phase of this action.”

As previously reported, the DOJ’s decision not to charge Wilson with any civil rights violations in the shooting that killed Brown, comes at the same time as a report from the department, which revealed that the Ferguson police department exercised discrimination against the black community by using excessive force, issuing minor citations and making unnecessary traffic stops.

Federal law enforcement officials told the Associated Press that upon investigation, they found that 88 percent of the time use of excessive force was documented by Ferguson police, it was being used against a black individual, and that out of the city’s 53 police officers, only three were black.

Truth in Media Gets It Right, DOJ Says Policing for Profit Part of Ferguson Discrimination

A report from an investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice revealed that the police department in Ferguson, Missouri, exercised discrimination against the black community by using excessive force, issuing minor citations and making unnecessary traffic stops.

While the full report has not yet been released, anonymous federal law enforcement officials told the Associated Press that it “chronicles discriminatory practices across the city’s criminal justice system, detailing problems from initial encounters with patrol officers to treatment in the municipal court and jail.

The investigation began weeks after an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, was shot and killed by a white police officer, Darren Wilson, in the city of Ferguson in August.

The officials told the Associated Press the investigation found that in a city that is 67 percent African American, “black were 68 percent less likely than others to have their cases dismissed by a municipal court judge.”

The officials also found that 88 percent of the time use of excessive force was documented by police, it was being used against a black individual, and that out of the city’s 53 police officers, only three were black.

Investigative Journalist Ben Swann documented the clashes between the residents and local police when he visited the city of Ferguson in November.

Swann pointed out that while a lot of people would describe the moment Brown was shot by Wilson as the moment conflict began, some of the city’s residents would say the shooting was the highlight of something that has been building under the surface for decades.

Mark and Earl Banks, brothers who grew up in Ferguson, and now live in Detroit, told Swann that they aren’t surprised by this incident, and that the issues in Detroit are no different than the issues in Ferguson.

Joe Stevenson, who also grew up in Ferguson, told Swann that 30 years ago, just like today, the relationship between citizens and police was tense. He attributed this to the fact that police would look for anyone to write tickets for in order to obtain money from fines.

You could make the argument that this all comes back to social media and new media: the ability for people to rally together, to protest, to communicate, for information to rise to the surface,” Swann said. “Maybe this incident was a long time coming, but for many they’re glad that the moment is finally here.”

Ferguson Sued For Running “Debtor’s Prison”

Washington D.C.- Civil rights lawyers are taking the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo. to court over what they are calling unconstitutional “debtors prisons.”

The claim is that city officials routinely burden low-income individuals with outrageous fines before proceeding to throw them in jail for failure to pay these penalties, the group of attorneys is targeting the largely African-American city’s second largest source of income.

In the video above, Ben Swann talk with RT’s Marina Portnaya.

Darren Wilson Grand Juror Sues Prosecutor For The Right To Speak

Washington, D.C.- A grand juror in the Darren Wilson case is suing the St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch for the right to speak out about the grand jury proceedings. The juror says that McCulloch and his staff have “mischaracterized” the grand jury proceedings.

The grand juror, referred to only as “Grand Juror Doe” in the lawsuit, takes issue with how McCulloch characterized the case. McCulloch released evidence presented to the grand jury and publicly discussed the case after the grand jury decided not to indict Wilson, then a Ferguson police officer, in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African-American.

According to the lawsuit, “The current information available about the grand jurors’ views is not entirely accurate — especially the implication that all grand jurors believed that there was no support for any charges.”

The grand jurors are under a permanent gag order unless a court grants them the right to speak out about the case.

Meanwhile, in New York, a hearing was postponed on Monday that would allow the the grand jury proceedings in the Eric Garner case to be released to the public.

In the video above, Ben Swann talks about the cases.

Nashville Police Chief Defends Decision Not to Crack Down on Police Brutality Protesters

Following the highly-publicized and controversial officer-involved deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, protests erupted nationwide. In many cities, police responded to demonstrations with overwhelming force and military hardware, and rioters reacted by setting fire to storefronts and looting local businesses. However, Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson took a dramatically different approach, instead treating the anti police brutality rallies as a type of parade or community event. Consequently, no violence or property damage took place.

At one point, protesters took over I-24 and engaged in a technically-illegal die-in, inconveniencing Nashville drivers. Recognizing that arresting all of the protesters and clearing them from the roadway would elevate hostilities and take several hours to complete, Chief Anderson, channeling the Music City’s culture of politeness, blocked I-24 to protect the protesters and drivers. The demonstrators made their point and exited the roadway within around 20 minutes. However, detractors, who would have rather seen Nashville’s top cop unleash maximum force on demonstrators, complained about the Chief’s soft response. The Tennessean is reporting that Chief Steve Anderson issued a Christmas message on December 26 in which he responded to critics, and, in so doing, laid out his philosophy on law enforcement in which Nashville police are instructed to focus on community safety, rather than revenue generation and arbitrary crackdowns over political ideology. He also expressed his view that open-mindedness holds the key to a resolution of the core issues behind the police brutality protests and said, “It is only when we go outside that comfort zone, and subject ourselves to the discomfort of considering thoughts we don’t agree with, that we can make an informed judgment on any matter.”

Chief Anderson’s letter opened by thanking Nashville police and acknowledging that “not everyone will understand or agree with the manner in which we have responded during these demonstrations.” He told his subordinate officers, “As a member of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, you have responded to these events in a manner that clearly shows that this is a professional police department staffed by professional individuals who respect the points of view of all persons. Again, thank you for showing the Nashville public that, individually and collectively, they have a police department they can be proud of.”

However, he did not stop there. Anderson also included and responded to a letter from an anonymous detractor who complained that failing to arrest the protesters for taking over I-24 would lead to a collapse of the rule of law, endangering community safety. Nashville’s Police Chief said that the letter was representative of the views of people whose “thought processes are driven, not by what has occurred during the demonstration, but more by the social positions taken by the demonstrators.” He continued, “Clearly, they are more angry at the thoughts expressed by the demonstrators than how the demonstrations are being conducted. While I respect their right to take that position, we cannot allow those views to be a part of our decision making process. Decisions need to be made with a view toward what is best for all of Nashville.” Chief Anderson’s operating policy is to remain neutral on the political views of protesters in keeping with the First Amendment.

The critic also asked how he is supposed to teach his son to respect police who would allow protesters to get away with such lawlessness. The letter calling for a crackdown implied that Chief Anderson may have been ordered by Nashville Mayor Karl Dean not to arrest protesters.

Anderson responded generally by taking ownership of and standing by his decision, saying, “comparing the outcome here in Nashville with what has occurred in some other cities, the results speak for themselves.”

However, he also took the opportunity to explore a teachable moment regarding officer discretion in incidences in which minor violations of the law have taken place. He asked if the individual who wrote the letter would make the same complaint if he were issued a warning after committing a minor traffic violation. Chief Steve Anderson then confirmed a long-standing rumor by admitting that officers in his department institutionally give warnings rather than citations to citizens found clear of warrants and repeat offenses who commit minor traffic violations. Said Anderson, “In the year 2013, our officers made over four hundred thousand vehicle stops, mostly for traffic violations. A citation was issued in only about one in six of those stops. Five of the six received warnings. This is the police exercising discretion for minor violations of the law. Few, if any, persons would argue that the police should have no discretion.”

There is no doubt that Chief Anderson could raise significantly more revenue for the city if he ordered crackdowns on every minor offense and technicality, but his policing style is focused on community safety and harmony, rather than revenue generation. The below video contains footage of a police encounter with an officer from the Metro Nashville Police Department which was filmed by a Tennessee-based cop watcher.

Note in the video above that the cop watcher was given a polite warning about his non-functioning headlight, which could be a safety hazard, and was then allowed to go on his way. The two had a friendly, agreeable conversation about an incident in which Chief Steve Anderson criticized the Secret Service for asking his officers to fake a warrant, which they refused to do, in an effort to illegally search the home of an Obama critic.

The cop watcher in the above video had also previously recorded a July 4, 2013 stop in another county in Tennessee, in which officers appeared to coach a K-9 unit to signal the presence of drugs in an effort to conduct an illegal search. That video, seen below, went viral nationwide and demonstrates the difference between the conduct of police officers under Steve Anderson’s leadership in Nashville and others working in rural counties across the state.

Civilians and non-civilians alike gather to bid farewell to fallen NYPD officer

It has been hard to be a police officer in America after the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and two NYPD officers were killed in retaliation for the failure of grand juries to indict officers in relation to their deaths.  In retaliation, two NYPD officers were killed by a civilian on Dec. 20.

One of those slain NYPD officers though, received an emotional sendoff Friday, as officers, civilians, and others gathered to say goodbye to the fallen.

Officer Rafael Ramos, 40, was one officer killed in the line of duty.  Ramos was said to be a devoted member of the Christ Tabernacle Church in Queens, and his funeral is expected to draw thousands according to the New York Daily News.  Ramos was an active member in the church, which he attended for the past 14 years with his wife and two sons.

“Ralph was one of the faithful ushers who made Christ Tabernacle feel like home,” said executive pastor Rev. Adam Durso.  “He loved his family and his church.”

Police officers from all over the country are also said to be in attendance for Ramos’s funeral.  ABC News has reported JetBlue has flown about 670 law enforcement officers from all over the country to New York City so they can show their support for the fallen officer.  The airline company also said they are offering free transportation for those officers across the nation who wish to attend the funeral.

Vice President Joe Biden has also said he would be in attendance for Ramos’s funeral on Saturday.

Mayor Bil de Blasio, who NYPD officers have said has “blood on his hands” for the killings of the two officers, has said, according to Reuters, he hopes the funerals for both officers will help in reuniting the broken city.

The funeral arrangements for Officer Wenjian Liu, who was killed alongside Ramos, have not yet been announced as federal agents have begun to help transport his family members from China to America for his funeral.