Around 2 a.m. local time, Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson told reporters that Ferguson had reached a “turning point.” There were several dozen arrests last night, but the police did not use tear gas or fire a shot.
And as msnbc’s Amanda Sakuma and Zachary Roth reported from the scene, the result was an evening that was less dangerous than the night before.
As midnight arrived on the 10th evening of demonstrations here, a small group of people protesting the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown began throwing plastic bottles in actions eerily similar to what set off confrontations with police the previous night. Peacemakers formed a line around the instigators, and officers called for groups to disperse and for media to return to the staging area. Multiple people were restrained with their arms tied behind their backs and placed in a St. Louis County Police van.The flurry of activity came on the heels of what seemed to be the first calm night after a series of chaotic run-ins between protesters and police.
Attention has also turned to St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch’s office and calls from many in the community for a special prosecutor in the Brown case, removing local officials from the process. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D), citing the need to avoid “legal uncertainty,” has rejected those calls and decided to stick with McCulloch’s office.
That will not, however, be the only investigation. The Justice Department launched a probe of the Brown shoot last week – FBI officials have been on the ground, interviewing witnesses – and there’s new reason to believe the federal investigation may be even broader than first believed.
As U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder arrives in Ferguson today, the New York Times reports on just how far the Justice Department is prepared to go (via RM).
Mr. Holder and top Justice Department officials were weighing whether to open a broader civil rights investigation to look at Ferguson’s police practices at large, according to law enforcement officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal talks. The issue came up after news reports revealed a 2009 case in which a man said that four police officers beat him, then charged him with damaging government property – by getting blood on their uniforms.Under Mr. Holder, the Justice Department has opened nearly two dozen such investigations into police departments, more than twice as many as were opened in the previous five years, according to department data.
If this report is accurate, it would suggest a significant step that goes beyond Brown’s shooting death. Indeed, it suggests the Justice Department is, at a minimum, concerned about systemic problems within Ferguson law enforcement.