For now the continued social attention paid to Ferguson, Mo., is welcome, justified and necessary. A rally in the town of 21,000 people took place on Saturday, with hundreds marching down Canfield Drive to the spot where Michael Brown Jr., 18, was shot to death by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9.
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“We know that his life is not going to be in vain,” the Rev. Spencer Booker of St. Louis’ St. Paul A.M.E. Church said Saturday, as reported by The Washington Post. “We know you’re going to even the score, God. We know you’re going to make the wrong right.”
And the machinery of the law — the same law likely violated by those sworn to uphold it — has ground its way along, resulting in at least some of the justice the protests have sought, as well as the pursuit of more enduring remedies.
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RAY ALBERS, a police lieutenant with the nearby St. Ann police department, pointed a rifle at Ferguson protesters on Aug. 19, while shouting “I will fucking kill you!” When asked for his name he shouted “Go fuck yourself!” A cooler head in the department intervened to get Albers to climb down, quickly walking the bad lieutenant away. An internal departmental investigation recommended that this big fan of the copulative expletive either quit or be fired for the videotaped incident. Albers has since resigned.
Officer Matthew Pappert of the Glendale Police Department lost his gig after losing his cool, online. Pappert was fired after being suspended for some ugly Facebook posts, in which he called Ferguson demonstrators “thugs” and “a burden on society and a blight on the community,” and suggested they should be “put down like rabid dogs.” One post had an especially monstrous grace note: “Where is a Muslim with a backpack when you need them?”
They had company; other officers are the subjects of lawsuits alleging a pattern and practice of civil rights violations, including use of excessive force.
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The Justice Department is reportedly considering whether to pursue a broader investigation into a pattern of this behavior by Ferguson police.
This follows the agency’s almost-immediate involvement in the Ferguson incident and its aftermath. Rather than taking the historically proven path of waiting for local officials to sort things out, Justice was on the scene within days — “Justice” meaning U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who came to Ferguson himself and met with the ranking law enforcement official — a highway patrol captain and himself an African American.
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THE REACTION of others in the national political spotlight hasn’t been as encouraging, or at least the timing of their reactions. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the all-but-certain 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, was scored on Aug. 18, when MSNBC show host Rev. Al Sharpton took Clinton, and others, to task for their silence on the chaos in Ferguson.
“This is now a national, central issue and anyone running for President needs to come up with a formula or — in my opinion — they forfeit their right to be taken seriously,” Sharpton said on MSNBC. Sharpton, who heads the National Action Network, also name-checked New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — neither of whom has said a mumblin’ word about Ferguson.
Finally, on Thursday, 19 days after the killing of Michael Brown Jr., Hillary Clinton finally weighed in with comments, most of which could have been made much earlier: