Black Agenda Report’s Glen Ford says Holder’s DOJ is abdicating its responsibility to uphold the law by not charging officer Darren Wilson for killing Mike Brown
SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore. In breaking news, The New York Times and a few other media outlets are reporting that the Justice Department has decided against filing a civil rights charge on Officer Darren Wilson for the killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. Similar to St. Louis County grand jury, the independent federal investigation reportedly failed to find enough evidence to charge Officer Wilson. The final decision rests in the hands of outgoing attorney general Eric Holder and the head of the DOJ’s civil rights division, Vanita Gupta. Ms. Gupta is the former deputy legal director for the ACLU. Now joining us to discuss all of this is Glen Ford. He is the cofounder and executive editor of the Black Agenda Report. Thank you for joining us, Glen. GLEN FORD, EXEC. EDITOR, BLACK AGENDA REPORT: Well, thank you for allowing me here. PERIES: So, Glen, what is your response to the latest news? FORD: Well, first of all, the decision by the Justice Department not to indict Darren Wilson was not unexpected. In fact, the Justice Department had been leaking this news, telling selected members of the news media–specifically The New York Times–that there was going to be no indictment way back in September. They were saying that they didn’t have enough evidence to reach the high bar of proof demanded by the courts when you go after cops who kill. But still Eric Holder continued the charade that the investigation was continuing when that decision had already been made. Missouri officials tried to get Holder to make his announcement that there would be no indictment against Darren Wilson at the same time that the St. Louis prosecutor was making his announcement that there’d be no indictment back in Wilson back in November. But Eric Holder refused to go along with that. Instead, he continued the farce that the Justice Department was still investigating. And that certainly was just shameless theatrics and the height of cynicism. The Justice Department still claims that it’s conducting an investigation into a possible federal suit against the city of Ferguson for a pattern and practice of racial discrimination against blacks, using excessive force and excessively stopping black folks. And that ought to be a very easy case to make in Ferguson. The average black household has three warrants. That is, mother, father, and daughter in the average black household has a warrant. And the state of Missouri has conducted its own studies which show that Ferguson stops blacks disproportionate compared to whites, and so do lots of other little towns around St. Louis. It’s the same pattern. So the Justice Department could look further than Ferguson if it wanted to. The Justice Department does, under Eric Holder, have some kind of record of pressuring police departments on pattern and practice cases. They’ve gotten consent decrees for monitoring or overseeing departments in about 20 cities and some state departments. But, of course, none of that helps Michael Brown’s family, and their option is sue for civil damages. And they ought to, because Darren Wilson does have money. White folks raised $1 million for Darren Wilson in a kind of reward for killing a black man. I think that the lesson here is that the Justice Department has not only failed Michael Brown’s family; it has failed black America. They claim that the courts have made it too difficult to indict killer cops, because you have to prove that the cop had that the intention of depriving the victim of his civil rights. But federal courts have already ruled that you can charge killer cops with reckless disregard for the constitutional rights of victims or for open defiance of people’s constitutional rights, and that by showing open defiance of constitutional rights, you are in fact proving intent. But that’s not just an argument for lawyers; this is a political question. I think that Eric Holder had an obligation to test the limits of the law. And the fact that he did not test the limits of the law shows that black lives still don’t matter at the U.S. Justice Department. PERIES: Right. And as you said, Darren Wilson had lots of money raised for his defense. And one possibility here is that Michael Brown’s family is able to bring a civil rights case against Darren Wilson. Now, I imagine his mother does not have the similar funds to bring about a case of this sort. FORD: That’s right. One would hope that the pro bono help and some financial help could be raised in this endeavor, but that of course doesn’t let the federal government off the hook. The federal government has the resources and the federal government has the obligation to test the limits of the law. This is not precedent set in stone; it simply requires the political will. So, obviously, despite the fact that we have a nascent new movement active in the land, the pressures have not been great enough to get to move that mountain of Justice Department unwillingness to exercise its powers on behalf of black folks and their constitutional rights. PERIES: Glen, I thank you very much for coming on so quickly and giving us an update. And let’s hope that the attorney general does the right thing. FORD: Well, let’s see. Thank you for having me. PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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