#Ferguson: Cops say they won't use tear gas, use it, and keep reporters away from the scene (and why not a People's Tribunal?)
In all, seven people were arrested early Sunday for "failure to disperse" during a five-hour curfew that was imposed earlier in the day. Johnson said the police used tear gas in response to a report of the shooting and arrested the seven people from the roof of a restaurant.
Update, 3:20 a.m.: Police confirmed the reporters on the ground were right after all, tear gas was used in addition to smoke bombs in order to disperse protesters in Ferguson who defied the curfew.
Police denied initial reports that they had fired several rounds of tear gas into the protesters, insisting they were smoke bombs. Others aren’t so sure.
The Guardian’s Jon Swaine, for example, directly calls the claim a lie:
I tasted it and this was a lie RT @mattdpearce Police liaison tells press it's all been smoke, not gas.
-- Jon Swaine (@jonswaine) August 17, 2014
AP contributor Nigel Duara says the claims that it was just smoke is “fucking bullshit”:
Hearing now they told our reporter Jim Salter it was only smoke. Wow. That is, how to put this gently, fucking bullshit.
-- Nigel Duara (@nigelduara) August 17, 2014
Vice’s Tim Pool also has no doubts:
I have been teargassed many times, the police definitely used it today in #Ferguson
-- Tim Pool (@Timcast) August 17, 2014
Alderman Antonio French for his part does not directly contradict police but says the smoke “does burn the eyes”:
-- Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) August 17, 2014
Whether it was tear gas or not is a key question because State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who is in charge of Ferguson security, had earlier said police wouldn’t enforce the curfew “with trucks, we won’t enforce it with tear gas.”
[A]lmost two hours after the curfew began, it appears most of the streets of Ferguson have been cleared, but it’s difficult to tell, particularly considering that officers are keeping reporters away from the scene, reportedly threatening arrests to anyone who leaves a designated press area.
Well, that's a Clusterfuck. Or not. But here's what really frosts me. Another statement from (black) State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson:
"The long-term solution is healing," he continued. "We can walk these streets again when we remember that we have made some changes here that can impact this nation. The community's going to have to be involved in that transition, in how it works, and in making it work."
"I love y'all, I love this community, and I'm really honored to be standing here with you and talking with you and just being a part of this week and listening to your voice," Johnson said.
No, no, no, no, no. That's just Johnson doing the charm offensive he was sent to do. The answer is not "healing," but justice, exactly as with (say) the foreclosure crisis. We need to see cops held accountable when they whack people, exactly as we need to see banksters in orange jumpsuits doing the perp walk. And I'm also concerned -- without real data, I grant -- that the Ferguson peacekeepers are a lot more concerned with that, then they are with justice. (If they're members of the black misleadership class, that's almost certainly true.)
As ever, the creative thinking is going to be done by people on the ground. My thought was a "People's Tribunal," since it's clear the ordinary mechanisms for securing justice are broken. Take it seriously and set up a parallel process. Take evidence under oath. Film it all. It would propagate like wildfire.