It was only a matter of time before Ferguson became the Americanized version of Gaza.
After last night's looting in which the local police was inexplicably instructed to stand down by the state highway patrol, moments ago Missouri's governor ,Jay Nixon, issued a local state of emergency and imposed a nighttime curfew lasting from midnight until 5 am. As the WSJ reports, at the Greater St. Mark Family Church in St. Louis, Gov. Jay Nixon said the overwhelming number of protesters have been peaceful. But the governor said he would not allow a small number of violent rioters to emerge again in the wake of a police-involved fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown one week ago. "If we are going to have justice, we must first have and maintain peace," the governor said adding that this is a test if the "town can break the cycle of fear." From where we stand, the answer so far is a resounding no.
Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol, left, and
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon at a news conference in
Ferguson, Mo., on Friday. Associated Press
We reported previously on the events that took place in Ferguson after midnight, when yet another protest turned violent and many of the local businesses were looted. Here is some additional detail from the WSJ:
Just after midnight on Saturday, a large group of protesters moved from the sidewalks, where demonstrators had stayed peacefully till then, into the street and confronted police officers, who had donned riot gear and had been accompanied by armored vehicles for the first time since Wednesday.
But the police eventually pulled back from the scene to avoid a broader confrontation with the protesters and looters. "There was a decision made to pull our people out of there for fear for our safety and the protesters'," Sgt. Al Nothum, spokesman for the Missouri State Highway Patrol said Saturday morning. "If there was a confrontation, people were going to be seriously injured," he added.
Many of the protesters and looters wore bandannas over their faces and chanted: "No justice, no peace." Police officers formed themselves into a line, and one demanded through a megaphone: "You must clear the roadway or face arrest." Those protesters eventually backed away from the police line.
Officers wore what are known as battle-dress uniforms, or BDUs, as they stood in line. Some wore dark blue fatigues, which is a more traditional SWAT-style uniform, while others had military-style camouflage. The varying uniforms made it difficult to ascertain which department the officers were representing.
Separately, men who said they were members of a group calling itself the New Black Panther Party worked to push protesters back and maintain order, while some of the more vocal protesters cursed the police. Some protesters ran around the side of a nearby building to grab pre-made Molotov cocktails, though none was lighted or thrown.
Not long after that, the looting began. Young men with partially-covered faces kicked in the front door of a liquor store, and began looting bottles. Protesters said that store—Ferguson Market and Liquor—was the one from which Mr. Brown allegedly stole cigars and allegedly assaulted the store owner.
And with police unwilling, afraid or generally instructed not to engage, it was up to the business owners themselves to protect their property:
Sometime after 5 a.m., men who appeared to be owners of the businesses started arriving and standing in front of the looted stores to protect them. One man who arrived at Ferguson Market and Liquor had what appeared to be a pistol in his waistband, though with about an hour to go before sunrise, it appeared he hadn't used the weapon.
After daybreak on Saturday, rain poured down on Ferguson, as police vehicles swarmed into town. Officers in bright yellow jackets took up positions in front of looted businesses, encountering no resistance.
Shop owners and members of the community were out by midmorning with brooms and shovels helping to clean up the mess made by looters.
What is most troubling is that it was also unclear who, exactly, has tactical control over the security forces in the troubled city. "The Highway Patrol has been tasked with keeping the peace in Ferguson," said Sgt. Nothum, when asked about the command structure, but he couldn't say whether that means the Highway Patrol had full tactical command of the situation on the ground, a question he said he hoped to be able to clarify by the news conference scheduled for Saturday afternoon.
"I called the police four or five times, I called since 12 o'clock!" he said, expressing frustration. "I called Ferguson and they said, 'We don't have anything to do with it.' I called St. Louis County and they said 'We don't have anything to do with it.' I called the state police, and they say, 'You have to call Ferguson.' It's like a circle!"
But Highway Patrol Sgt. Nothum said he wasn't aware that police weren't responding to calls for help and that callers weren't being put through to the appropriate department. He said he was aware of the frustration people like Mr. Jacobs feel if they have encountered such a circular situation.
In other words, the local authorities went from one extreme, of overreacting to any stimulus, to the other, of completely ignoring please for help from local residents: hardly the stuff social stability is made of.
As for Fergsuon, all that's left is for someone to break the curfew and be shot on sight: then again, if nothing else, consider all the "broken-window" GDP boosts this kind of domestic escalation could produce to the ivory tower-dwelling Keynesian econ PhDs...