Hours after the Department of Justice released a report Wednesday highlighting systemic racial discrimination committed by the Ferguson Police Department, protesters gathered in front of the police station in Ferguson to call for change and the dismantling of the current department. The DOJ announced on Wednesday afternoon that former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson would not face any federal criminal charges over the shooting death of Michael Brown last August. At the same time, a 100-page report was released showing the Ferguson Police Department’s “pattern and practice” of targeting African-Americans in the community.
Attorney General Eric Holder held a press conference to announce the DOJ findings into city’s police department Wednesday afternoon. He stated that the racial tensions that developed in the area were far from surprising given the toxic environment that was fostered by the local police. Per Holder, the Brown killing was just the spark that lit the powder keg that had been built up by years of abuse heaped upon Ferguson’s African-American community. Holder specifically noted that Ferguson PD looked to black members of the community as a revenue generator for the city.
“According to our investigation, this emphasis on revenue generation through policing has fostered unconstitutional practices — or practices that contribute to constitutional violations — at nearly every level of Ferguson’s law enforcement system.”
The report, which can be read in its entirety here, showed that while African-Americans made up 67% of Ferguson’s population between October 2012 through October 2014, they accounted for 85% of its traffic stops. Also, it was noted that while black drivers were twice as likely to be searched than whites, white drivers were 26% more likely to be carrying contraband than blacks. It was also revealed that African-Americans made up 88% of use of force instances and 90% of citations issued. Every single time a police dog was used to attack an individual involved an African-American.
Overall, the DOJ found that the city looked towards the police department to harass poor African-American community members in order to sustain Ferguson’s budget. In 2010, the city collected $1.38 million in fines and fees through its courts, out of a total budget of $11.07 million. By 2013, the amount had grown to $2.11 million, and Ferguson is estimating that it should collect over $3 million in 2015. The city’s population is 21,000. Essentially, city officials look to their police officers to act as salesmen, but instead of selling a product, they are out there writing tickets to bring in money to the city.
While Holder was criticizing the Ferguson police, St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch was criticizing Holder. The prosecutor, who basically served as Darren Wilson’s defense attorney during Wilson’s grand jury proceedings, took umbrage with the leaks that came out from the report before its release and the fact that Holder said a bunch of mean things about the Ferguson PD.
“The only pattern and practice I can talk about is the pattern and practice of the Department of Justice of leaking information to the media. [No one is saying] there haven’t been instances of racial profiling and other profiling, but to suggest that somehow it’s all that goes on out there in fact does a great disservice to everybody.”
Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III gave a prepared speech shortly after Holder’s press conference. Knowles promised there would be reforms made to the city’s police department and other government entities. (Of course, Ferguson has no choice, lest they want to be sued by the DOJ.) He also highlighted some of the changes that have been made in the city over the past few months. However, his address was brief, and Police Chief Tom Jackson was nowhere to be seen. After delivering his remarks, Knowles skedaddled to the back of the Ferguson Community Center.
With this as the backdrop, dozens of protesters arrived at the Ferguson police station Wednesday evening to make their voices heard and let the city and department know that change isn’t an option, it is a necessity. Despite frigid temperatures, activists and demonstrators showed up in force to protest outside the building that symbolically represents the racial disparity that exists in this nation’s justice system. For at least two hours, protesters marched up and down the street in front of the building, stopping traffic both ways most of the time.
Eventually, police officers on scene decided to force the demonstrators out of the streets by threatening arrests. The demonstrators agreed to move to the station’s parking lot and sidewalk to continue the protest. However, at least four people were arrested by the police for illegally being in the street. (A tactic, mind you, that was mentioned in the DOJ’s report.) All were women, one being a legal observer. Per Kayla Reed, a community organizer and activist, at least two women were assaulted by police during arrests. She was able to capture video and post it on Twitter.
Watch how they grab her pic.twitter.com/2Q5tiBvRrK
— KayRay (@RE_invent_ED) March 5, 2015
One message that was sent clearly Wednesday evening was that the protests will not stop until justice is delivered. That justice will not be served with Ferguson getting rid of a few bad apples. The protests won’t stop with the firing/resignation of Jackson. Justice will not be delivered by hiring a few more black officers. No, the protests will continue as long as racial discrimination in our nation’s police departments and court systems exists.
Justin Baragona is the Managing Editor at Politicus Sports as well as Senior Editor at PoliticusUSA. He was a political writer for 411Mania.com before joining PoliticusUSA. Politically, Justin considers himself a liberal but also a realist and pragmatist. Currently, Justin lives in St. Louis, MO and is married. Besides writing, he also runs his own business after spending a number of years in the corporate world. You can follow Justin on Twitter either with his personal handle (@justinbaragona) or the Sports site’s (@PoliticusSports).