The burned businesses and the torched police cars and the busted windows and the looting of stores was as bad as it was because nobody expected it to be that bad.
That was the curious assessment of City of St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson on November 26, two days after a grand jury determined Officer Darren Wilson broke no laws in defending himself against Michael Brown. “It was more than anybody anticipated,” he said on cable news. “There was a sense of calm. There was anxious and anxiety, but nobody expected this. It’s very difficult sometimes to say this is what the criminal element is going to do.”
Really? Dotson gets credit for referring to the lawbreaking mob as criminals instead of protesters, but did he really not expect it? The violence wasn’t spontaneous. It was just on pause since the first round of crimes – arson, vandalizing, destruction of property, stealing, violent threats and other criminal behavior – since the attack and subsequent shooting occurred in August.
While Dotson apparently missed the warning signs, others clearly expected it, such as those who came to the area equipped to do it. People could be seen on live broadcasts with baseball bats. Shots were heard. Faces were hidden. Some obviously brought fire starters.
So as smoldering businesses, including minority owned, were reduced to rubble, police and other cars scorched, and one AR-15 weapon reportedly missing from a vandalized police car, Dotson said there were no serious injuries. “Even with lots of gun fire, lots of gun fire, even with the fires being set, lots of violence, still nobody was seriously injured,” he said.
OK, no serious bodily injuries maybe, but there was no concern shown for public safety as smoke bombs, flares, bottles and rocks were thrown and guns shot. There were no serious injuries because of luck, not for a lack of trying.
Plus, the loss of one’s livelihood injures people in unseen ways. An owner of a burned cake bakery told a news station that she lost everything. Fortunately, many have donated to help her rebuild and have reportedly raised six figures. There have been other news reports that he owner of the convenience store, where Brown was reported to have shoplifted and assaulted the clerk, was looted; the Brown family church was burned; vehicles paid for by taxpayers will have to be replaced. There’s a lot of financial injury.
In an online video, a lone female bravely faced down two aggressive men as they kicked the window of a Papa John’s, which was burned in the first attack in August. She put herself between them and the storefront as they took turns aggressively yelling, pushing, pointing fingers, and shaking their fists at her, and getting in her face. They eventually backed down and ran off.
On Thanksgiving Eve, more National Guard soldiers have arrived in Ferguson. They were there on Monday, but “they may not have been in the spot they were needed,” Dotson said. Anyway, he said, their presence “may not would have made a difference.”
After over 100 arrests and two nights of violence this week, residents, businesses and peaceful protesters are probably hoping the troops will make a difference now.
Happy Thanksgiving, Ferguson.