Hey LEO’s– I’ve Got Your 6!

Some days you get up and writing cute stories about squirrels and other furry critters just isn’t foremost in your mind.  The events being played out in Ferguson, Missouri right now are troubling on so many levels.  I’m just going to talk about one right now.  Generational poverty, disenfranchisement, quality educational access, and sundry other issues will wait for another time.

Four more Law Enforcement Officers (LEO’s) were injured in the line of duty last night in the civil unrest going on nightly in Ferguson, Missouri. Did you see that in the national news this morning? I’m guessing not. Here’s a link to a summary of the events from last night from the local newspaper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. → St. Louis Post-Dispatch News, 08-19-2014

From the beginning, now entering the 11th day, law enforcement has stood patiently by while passersby poured water bottles, sodas, slurpies and anything else they were carrying on them. They have been enduring insults and verbal abuse I will not repeat here. They have been pelted nightly with rocks, bricks, bottles and other objects. They have come under gunfire nightly. They are dodging Molotov Cocktails nightly. Each night LEO’s are being injured in the line of duty while protecting those who come to protest and peacefully express their views, an ever-growing sea of journalists and media, neighboring homes and businesses, and themselves. While being spat upon. Their restraint has been remarkable. After eleven (11) nights of civil unrest and disobedience, not one person on either side has been killed. It’s amazing. And yet, the LEO’s are being criticized daily in the media. They have seemingly become “the bad guy” in this. How?

Last night, Monday August 18, 78 people were arrested, 75 for failure to disperse when repeatedly requested. Of those 50 were from the greater St. Louis area, and only four (4) from Ferguson itself. The remainder were from around the country, over 35%. These are not the peaceful protesters, and that needs to be understood. They had all gone home by that time of night. Many clergy and local community leaders are on the front lines with the LEO’s, working hard to maintain peace and whatever is left of the area’s image as it all plays out on national and international television and reporting.

“At least 12 people were arrested in a truck at Canfield. Two pistols were found on those arrested, and a Molotov cocktail was found in the bed of their truck.”– St. Louis Post-Dispatch, linked above

Unfortunately, this situation stopped being about Michael Brown a long time ago, when group after group arrived to hijack the story to further their own agendas. His family pleads daily for peace while trying to keep focus on the loss of their son.  Everyone wants justice in the Michael Brown shooting. Everyone. Because what affects one person affects us all. But there should not be a rush to justice, circumventing the process, in order to appease a noisy crowd. Nobody knows what happened that day. Nobody. The most intelligent piece I have read about the situation was in a blog by Matt Walsh. Here is a link to read it for yourself. He says it too well to try to repeat here. → Matt Walsh Blog- “You Don’t Know What Happened”

There is a decidedly criminal element that has arrived upon the scene here. By and large, Ferguson folks are not getting arrested, as shown by last night’s numbers. People from Texas, California, New York, Chicago and other places are, as there are those here now who obviously do not care about the safety of the legitimate peaceful demonstrators, seeking to foment violence and seek retribution from anyone in uniform for their own agendas and reasons. Unfortunately, there are those on both sides who would like to see this turn violent on a large scale to bring attention to their own agendas and messages, and the LEO’s risk their own safety night after night peacefully trying to prevent that from happening. The longer this continues, the less optimistic I become that they will be successful in doing so, while the President seems more concerned with ensuring the rights of peaceful protest than the safety of law enforcement and the right to peace and security for all the families in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Following a night of unrest and disturbance, every morning citizens of Ferguson and surrounding areas assemble early in the morning to clean up the debris and mess left from the night before, help vandalized businesses repair and clean up. Volunteering. Blacks and whites, working hand in hand together to try to preserve their community. Have you seen that on the national news? Have you seen those citizens of Ferguson? Living blocks from all that is going on every night, how do they go about a normal life right now? How do their children sleep at night with gunshots, explosions, fires, shouting, obscenities, looting, vandalism, sirens, tear gas and helicopters flying overhead all thru the night? Local schools, scheduled to open last week, remain closed with the school year yet to start. The Ferguson-Florissant School District, the largest in the area, has now cancelled classes for the remainder of the week. Little kids with new clothes and book bags, looking forward and eager to starting school remain at home. I know of one little girl starting kindergarten that was so excited to be starting school, and then when told she could not go burst into tears, fearing it was her fault. How does a parent explain this to their children? That their neighborhood is no longer safe enough to go to school—in the daylight. The right to peacefully protest seems unaffected by the “right to privacy” or the legal constraints of “peace disturbance” for these citizens it seems.

Living on the outskirts of the area I witness the live local news coverage each night as events unfold. The very first night I witnessed a man walking by a news camera, carrying a sawed-off baseball bat, taped around the handle, in his hands as he approached the police. One normally does not go to a meeting to peacefully discuss an issue armed with a sawed-off baseball bat. Some members of this criminal group wear bullet-proof vests. Now they are showing up in gas masks. They wear bandanas and pull their tee shirts over their heads to hide their faces. Printed instructions were found by a reporter on the street this morning- “How To Make A Gas Mask”. They are armed. There is no good or positive intent in any of that. “Shots fired” is a frequent call on the scene. Numerous people have been shot over the period. All by members in the crowd. None by the police. The LEO’s have not fired a single live round to my knowledge.

Last night a reporter remarked that drugs and alcohol were rampant throughout the crowds, impairing judgment and fueling anger even more. He stated that the marijuana smoke was so thick in the air that it was stinging his eyes and lungs. People were in a drug-fueled rage around him. Have you read that anywhere? These are not the peaceful protesters, several of whom have children with them.

The violent element seeks to mingle and hide among peaceful groups and journalists, launch their attacks at the police and then disappear amongst the crowd. Time and time and time again. Every night. I no longer know the number of police and ambulance vehicles that have been severely damaged, trying to respond to calls. In one instance a police vehicle came under heavy attack by members in a side street crowd from rocks and bricks, smashing its windows with officers inside. Other LEO’s fired smoke and tear gas to rescue the attacked officers. You can listen to one of the interviewed officers in the attacked vehicle talk about it here in a local radio show interview, a side of the “Al Jazeera Reporters” incident you may not have heard, along with other concerns. If the police were really trying to interfere with reporting, wouldn’t they just have quickly smashed the Al Jazeera lights and cameras, instead of taking the time and gently lowering them to the ground? → Officer Radio Interview.   On numerous occasions LEO’s have asked TV reporters to turn off their bright lights, not to illuminate either the reporters or officers as targets, only to be questioned about it.

“However, he said (Captain Johnson) some “criminals and agitators” threatened police, threw glass and plastic bottles — some filled with urine — at officers and hid behind members of the media covering the protests.”– St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 08-20-2014

Panic stricken employees of a McDonalds called 911 the other night and locked themselves in the cooler, fearing for their safety from crowds inside the restaurant. A side window was broken out. When the police arrived with guns drawn, not knowing what they might be facing, they were criticized by the press for excessive display of force and over-handed tactics while moving people out of the way to get thru.

Journalists have been requested to stay in designated areas after dark, marked off with yellow police tape. Police remain by these areas to protect them. I have seen LEO’s gather and rush journalists behind vehicles for their safety when shots were being fired in the area. Another time, to move journalists around to another side of a building because of “shots fired”. Some of the media seem more intent to become the story than to report the story while clamoring over each other for the big scoop or most sensational headline for the morning news. Have we not heard this before?

When a situation got dicey last night, the police moved towards a crowd and asked journalists to move to their designated areas, for their own safety. When someone has a gun and shots are being fired or there is danger, there isn’t always time to say “Pretty please, please move”. Last night I purposefully counted over 12 requests over the loud speaker before the LEO’s moved in to make arrests. “You need to disperse immediately. If you are credentialed media, move to your designated area. Do it Now!” Over a dozen times. Yet some members of the media refused to do so, for their own safety. So when they get caught up in the action, smoke or tear gas- who is to blame? The police? The police repeatedly position themselves between the media and shots fired and try to move media away before smoke or tear gas is deployed in an area, putting themselves at risk in the process. The police’s job would be a lot easier if they did not have hundreds of media members to protect in addition to everything else. But we do not read that side in the media because it does not fit the news angle of their story. Instead we read reports of law enforcement infringing on the freedom of the press. Really? The only thing that I have seen noticeably lacking in the media coverage is the LEO’s side.   And if, God forbid, something happens to a media member, you know who will be blamed and it won’t be them. The officers will inevitably be accused of not providing enough protection.

One of those removed from the crowd by officers last night was carrying a plastic gallon milk jug, presumably filled with gasoline or an accelerant. It was clearly not milk. Maybe it was diluted pink Kool-Aid in the jug. Maybe it was an accelerant. I don’t know. The police do not know either until they check. But the risk was there. So they moved in, repeatedly asking journalists to get out of the way so they could safely do their job. But which headline will garner the most attention the next morning—“Ferguson or Fergustan- Media Rights Trampled in Missouri” (a real article this morning, not made up) or “Police Move to Protect Journalists”? But when the police lecture the journalists about being in the way of the police doing their job, it’s the police portrayed as in the wrong.

“When protesters defied police orders to leave the parking lot of the burned-out QuikTrip, police fired tear gas Monday night after repeated warnings. (11:55pm)

Just before midnight, St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson told reporters shots had been fired at Canfield and told the media to go to the command center about a quarter-mile away.

The St. Louis County Police Chief, Jon Belmar, echoed Dotson, telling reporters to move back to the command post because of gunfire.” – St. Louis Post- Dispatch, 08-19-2014, linked above

But yet they continue joining in the crowds placing themselves in danger.  Admirable and dedicated.  To a point.  Risking personal safety and interfering with the duty of LEO’s simply trying to do their jobs is beyond the point.

To my unofficial count, approximately 20 businesses have been looted and vandalized, with the Quick Trip Market burnt to the ground the second night. It is hard to keep track as some who have reopened have been hit a second time. Does that count as one or two? The first night was at least 12, then at least 2 more in South St. Louis the next night, then a few more, then 8 or so the other night. The fire in the barbeque place last night, the second time that poor fellow’s business was hit. (This time they ripped out the security cameras, just in case.) I lose track as the days go by. The majority of the stores victimized have been “mom and pop” establishments, someone’s business and family living. “Civil unrest” losses are not covered by the vast majority of insurance policies. You don’t hear that reported much. These business owners are just stuck with the repairs and losses. And if they close altogether, employees are out of work. More families affected and a further diminished tax base for the community.  Since originally posted, it has been reported that Quick-Trip has started pulling gasoline tanks out of the ground.  Looks like they are not planning on reopening, a business loss for the city and local neighbors who depended on it for fuel and supplies.

Every night the LEO’s are facing unruly crowds hurling insults at them, along with bottles, rocks, bricks, Molotov cocktails, and gunfire. They respond by wearing shields and helmets, use smoke and tear gas when necessary in order to protect themselves, the peaceful demonstrators, members of the media, businesses and surrounding neighborhood families.  Among all the people who have been shot during all this, there has not been one “police involved” shooting that I am aware of.   A “gentler, kinder” approach last week was greeted with more bricks, bottles and gunfire the next night when the LEO’s were told to not wear riot gear in a more passive, understanding mode, putting themselves at incredible risk in order to be more “approachable”.  Indeed, they were.

Every one of those in law enforcement is someone’s son, daughter, husband, wife, father, mother or friend. The LEO families watch and witness this all unfold every night on live TV in their homes, in agony and anguish worrying about the safety of their loved ones while witnessing objects flying thru the air and hearing repeated calls of “shots fired”. Each officer wants to go home safely at the end of the day, just as you or I. They are placing themselves in danger and harm’s way, serving the public, every night.

The  LEO’s are doing and enduring all that they do and are being put thru, all while being criticized in the press for being “militarized”, accused of excessive force without a single “police involved” shooting or serious injury to a suspect, suppressing peaceful protests, infringing on journalists’ rights by trying to remove them from danger areas for their own safety, standing thru pouring rain and hot, humid days. They are furnished with equipment by the governments- federal, state and local- and then criticized for putting it into use and seeking to protect themselves from present criminals intent on violence. Most or all have probably not had a day off since this all started, into its second week. They are working long days thru the nights, tired, ill-fed, with no end in sight– and still show up for work.  Those LEO’s not directly involved in Ferguson are covering endless shifts in their home precincts for the officer’s who are deployed to Ferguson every day and night.  But law enforcement continues to get the heat and scrutiny because no one wants to risk pointing a finger at the protesters, demonstrators, the violent element hurling the bricks, bottles and bullets, or those coming to town to urge them on. The LEO’s are the easy target in all of this- literally and figuratively. And that is not right.

I am constantly amazed at how we are still able to stand upright, while somehow the world has gotten turned so upside down.

And now Amnesty International has arrived on the scene, yet another group with an agenda. Not enough going on in China, North Korea, Nigeria, Ukraine, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Russia, Afghanistan, Gaza, The Sudan and Central America to keep you busy? Ferguson, Missouri. Really? A member of Amnesty was asked by a reporter if he had seen rocks being thrown at police last night. His response- “even if a few rocks were thrown, it wouldn’t have made a difference. The police are in full body armor.” (from St. Louis Post-Dispatch, linked above) Is this the attitude we have towards our police now, the ones we count on for our own protection and safety every day? It doesn’t make a difference—because they are protecting themselves? They are damned for protecting themselves in the presence of clear and present danger?   If a crowd of hundreds or a thousand, some armed with bricks, guns, Molotov Cocktails, sawed off baseball bats and the like are marching down the street to your home, do want the police to show up in brightly colored tee shirts with smiley faces or riot gear to protect you and your family?

God forbid, but is it really going to take the death of a police officer in this to refocus the image and debate? How many—2, 3, 6, a dozen? Do we have to repeat a World Trade Center loss of such magnitude to regain respect for those putting their lives on the line every night in service to their communities?

It has been a number of years since the tragedy of 9-11. How appropriate- 911- the number we call without hesitation for LEO help, protection and assistance. Are any of these LEO folks in Ferguson in any less danger and any less deserving of our appreciation and respect than those who rushed into the buildings doing their jobs thirteen years ago? Have we forgotten already? These are the same people, showing up night after night after night to confront obvious and violent danger with immeasurable restraint, to protect and serve– us.  As well as the firefighters, paramedics and emergency personnel that show up to every call. Everybody celebrates the coming home of returning military and service personnel, as we should. But are the LEO’s doing their jobs each night any less deserving of our respect and concern?

It’s time to start a support line behind the LEO’s, just to let them know there is someone there. Someone who has their backs. For me, the only thing the LEO’s have been guilty of in all of this is not getting their side of the story out.

“HEY, LEO’s → I’VE GOT YOUR 6!”

 

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