“Democracy on Fire”: Protestors Respond to Grand Jury’s Failure to Indict Mike Brown’s Killer
The Real News speaks to Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, Black Agenda Report’s Glen Ford and former Black Panther Eddie Conway for their reactions to the decision of a St. Louis County grand jury not to indict Darren Wilson
JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Across the country, protesters reacted with outrage that after a three-month deliberation, a St. Louis County grand jury decided to not indict Officer Darren Wilson in the death of a black teen Michael Brown.
The Real News reached Reverend Osagyefo Sekou by phone at 10:30 p.m. local time in Ferguson after the decision. He described the chaotic scene, with tear gas in the air, dozens if not hundreds of riot police in the street, at least five buildings on fire on one of Ferguson’s main avenues, West Florissant.
REV. OSAGYEFO SEKOU, FREEMAN FELLOW, FELLOWSHIP OF RECONCILIATION: I’m in the middle of–yeah, yeah, there’s–it’s filled with smoke; on West Florissant, the air is filled with smoke [incompr.] on fire. It is sheer pandemonium. Riot police are advancing now and there are shots being fired. It is sheer pandemonium that is a grieving community. Their hearts are broken. Democracy is on fire. This is just an amazing, amazing crisis that we’re facing. Riot police have their vans. The building’s on fire. We’re in a deep, deep crisis. There are hundreds of riot police in the street now.
NOOR: Reverend Sekou said, in light of the local grand jury not indicting Wilson, protesters are demanding the federal government take action.
SEKOU: We need the federal government to intervene because this–it has been clear that this police department and this system cannot hold [incompr.] about justice.
NOOR: He also described the crowd’s reaction to the news Wilson was not indicted.
SEKOU: People just began to freak and scream and yell and wail. People feel like they have no choice. This is all that they have.
Police are advancing now. They’ve [turned (?)] their weapons. I need to go. Bless you.
NOOR: Along with protest in Ferguson, demonstrators also marched in Washington, New York, Oakland, among other cities. In Chicago, protesters reportedly shut down major thoroughfares. In New York, thousands marched through Times Square.
The decision was announced by St. Louis prosecutor Robert McCulloch shortly after 8 p.m. local time. He said the grand jury found no probable cause to indict Officer Darren Wilson.
ROBERT P. MCCULLOCH, ST. LOUIS COUNTY PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: After their exhaustive review of the evidence, the grand jury deliberated over two days, making their final decision. They determined that no probable cause exists to file any charge against Officer Wilson and returned a no true bill on each of the five indictments. The physical and scientific evidence examined by the grand jury, combined with the witness statements supported and substantiated by that physical evidence, tells the accurate and tragic story of what happened.
NOOR: The grand jury’s decision to not indict Officer Wilson was not particularly shocking. As Mother Jones has reported, in the last ten years, St. Louis County police officers have killed at least 14 people. Few have faced grand juries, and none have been charged.
But the process under which the grand jury was convened was widely panned for its unusual level of secrecy. Many had also asked McCulloch to recuse himself from the case because of what’s been described as his long history of siding with the police.
Black Agenda Report editor Glen Ford says this context is essential in understanding the lack of an indictment.
GLEN FORD, EXEC. EDITOR, BLACK AGENDA REPORT: It’s fundamentally and foundationally important. When people describe what apparently went on with this grand jury for more than three months, they call it a secret trial. And that’s important, because the bar of proof in a trial is a lot higher than that which is normally applied that is probable cause for a grand jury. That’s why they say that a prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, because the bar of probable cause to take something to trial is so much lower than the bar for guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
But we heard McCulloch, the prosecutor, describing the evidence just as someone would in a summation of a trial, with the same kind of standard of proof. And if that is the case, then it would make it very, very difficult, extremely difficult, for any policeman especially, but just regular people who were on the good side of the authorities to ever be indicted, because the level of proof that would have to be available to get them indicted would under normal circumstances not be available.
NOOR: Real News producer and former Black Panther Eddie Conway says, regardless of the decision of the grand jury, communities need to organize so they’re able to control law enforcement and criminal justice on a local level.
EDDIE CONWAY, TRNN PRODUCER: Well, I think it’s important that people realize that they need to have effective community control of the police, which means they need to organize, like the Black Panthers did almost 50 years ago, community control of the police boards with subpoena power and the ability to hire and fire the officials that are organizing the police departments across the country, because the fact of the matter is that as long as the police department is going to be protecting the wealth and the property of the elite, there’s always going to be violence between them and the rest of the community, because the community needs jobs, they need food, they need housing, clothes, and so on. And sometimes they’re going to execute violent means to do that, and then at other times they’re just going to be frustrated because they don’t have that. And in order for police to control them, they’re going to have to use violence.
And they continued to use violence even after the Ferguson case. They have just recently just killed another young 12-year-old in Cleveland, Ohio, with a toy gun. And that kind of violence continued to occur throughout the land.
NOOR: The Real News will continue following developments in Ferguson.
From Baltimore, this is Jaisal Noor.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.