Ferguson celebrates anniversary of shooting with... another shooting

Who could have seen this coming… aside from everyone? Last week I wrote an article predicting how the media would get the anniversary of Michael Brown’s shooting wrong. That played out precisely as most of us expected, with endless discussions about whether or not his “sacrifice” had really improved things both in Ferguson and around the nation. There were glowing commentaries offered about how the events of August 9, 2014 had “spurred a movement” of peaceful, political engagement and change. And since America loves an anniversary, there clearly had to be a “moment” yesterday back where it all started.

Well, they wanted a moment… and they got one. (Reuters)

A man was gravely wounded in a gun battle with police in Ferguson, Missouri on Sunday night after a day of peaceful rallies to mark the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white officer one year ago.

Several volleys of gunshots rang out as police in riot gear tried to disperse demonstrators blocking traffic and smashing storefront windows along a street that was a flashpoint of last year’s unrest in the St. Louis suburb after Michael Brown, 18, was slain.

Police later said the gunfire began with two groups of agitators apparently shooting at each other. When one gunman ran across a parking lot, four police detectives pulled up in an unmarked vehicle and confronted him.

The suspect opened fire on the police vehicle and was badly wounded in the ensuing foot chase and exchange of gunshots with the four officers, police said.

If there is one saving grace in all of this it’s that the media isn’t going to have any sort of ledge to gain purchase on in terms of saying that nothing has changed, the police are all racists, blah, blah, blah. This entire affair was caught on camera (or at least on microphone) from beginning to end and it was the same old story that nobody ever wants to talk about. The “peaceful protesters” included any number of violent combatants, some of whom may have been angling for the cops and others who were apparently just fighting among themselves. The shooting started between civilians who seemed willing to settle their differences with a bit of gunfire. When plainclothes officers hopped in an SUV to give chase to the shooter he unloaded a “remarkable” number of rounds, shooting out the windshield and striking other portions of the vehicle. When they jumped out to confront him, he once again opened fire on the officers. (Credit where credit is due, this guy must have been pretty fast at switching out magazines.) At that point the cops opened up on him, somehow failing to kill him in the process.

But yet again, that wasn’t the truly emblematic moment of the evening… just the loudest, shiniest thing for the media to grab onto. Before the shooting began, the battle lines were already drawn and the activists made no secret of their attitude.

The scene changed dramatically after dark with dozens of protesters converging on West Florissant Avenue, which bore the brunt of last summer’s rioting, chanting “Shut it down” in the midst of a severe thunderstorm.

A phalanx of helmeted police wearing body armor and carrying shields moved in. Protesters briefly fell away before regrouping to confront the line of officers, who ordered them to disperse.

The protesters, locking arms and edging closer to the police cordon, began throwing water bottles and shouting, “We are ready for war!” Both sides held their ground while clergy members and activists circulated between the two sides appealing for calm.

We are ready for war.

To be clear, there are no doubt quite a few people on both sides who have an honest interest in making changes to the current system and are looking to do so through the political process. But at the same time, it’s rather feckless of the city leaders and the media to keep trying to portray this situation as a flower power march with “one or two bad apples” who keep coming along and spoiling everyone’s good time. There is a mood for war in the streets in many places and it’s not even thinly disguised. The sooner law enforcement comes to terms with that concept, the better. They should absolutely find the folks who are interested in peaceful dialogue and debating possible solutions and get them involved in the process. But at the same time it’s rather suicidal to ignore the fact that there is an undercurrent of potential violence which is only awaiting the right spark – even if it’s a car backfiring – for the bricks to be hurled, the buildings set aflame and the looting to begin.

Oh, and speaking of bricks…

Police initially had reported two people shot Sunday night. But Belmar later said a police officer was struck in the face with a brick hurled by protesters and a member of the local news media was also robbed and assaulted in a nearby parking lot in separate incidents amid Sunday night’s turmoil.

Bad news, folks. That’s not a bug… it’s a feature.