What others say: Leaders must step up in Ferguson

  • By St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial
  • Wednesday, August 20, 2014 7:12pm
  • Opinion

It was reported Monday by Andrea Peterson of the Washington Post that the city of Ferguson had hired a Chesterfield public relations firm that specializes in crisis management. We tried contacting the firm to verify this, but no one answered the phone. As metaphors for the communications issues that have characterized the protests in Ferguson, this works very nicely.

As the 10th night of protests approached, a few things had sorted themselves out. More remain unsorted.

The family of Michael Brown, the unarmed 18-year-old whose death at the hands of a Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9 sparked the protests, has hired lawyers. Mr. Wilson apparently has hired lawyers. Three autopsies have been performed, none of which appear to conclusively support initial eyewitness testimony on either side.

The Ferguson and St. Louis County police departments, which could not have bungled communications worse if they’d tried, were relieved of overall command by Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol. For a couple of days, Capt. Johnson talked to everyone, leaving no doubt who was in charge.

After Sunday night, when protesters made a move on the police command center, Gov. Jay Nixon activated the National Guard to protect the command center, apparently surprising Capt. Johnson. As Monday evening began, Capt. Johnson was still in charge on the streets, which had been ordered cleared, but the Guard was in charge at the command center.

For all the uncertainty on the law enforcement side, there was more on the protesters’ side. The pastors and local activists who played a leading role in the first days of the insurgency, appeared to have no control over certain more aggressive elements in the crowd.

These awful events will not be calmed until leaders emerge, on both sides, and communicate clearly, among themselves, among each other and to the public. Law enforcement should speak with one, clear voice. It must engage on social media, where it is being creamed in the info-wars. It must treat reporters fairly. In return, reporters should respect lawful orders, as they would if they were embedded in a war zone. People are frightened, and frightened people sometimes make bad decisions.

On the other side, protesters should consider who they are following, and for what purpose. Mob mentality is not just a figure of speech. There are people in this crowd who are there to create trouble, not solve problems.

If progress is going to be made in dealing with very real issues facing Ferguson and St. Louis, responsible leaders must step forward and be heard.

— St. Louis (Missouri) Post-Dispatch,

August 18

More in Opinion

Larry Persily (Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: State’s ‘what if’ lawsuit doesn’t much add up

The state’s latest legal endeavor came July 2 in a dubious lawsuit — with a few errors and omissions for poor measure

The entrance to the Homer Electric Association office is seen here in Kenai, Alaska, on May 7, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion file)
Opinion: Speak up on net metering program

The program allows members to install and use certain types of renewable generation to offset monthly electric usage and sell excess power to HEA

Gov. Mike Dunleavy signs bills for the state’s 2025 fiscal year budget during a private ceremony in Anchorage on Thursday, June 25, 2024. (Official photo from The Office of the Governor)
Alaska’s ‘say yes to everything’ governor is saying ‘no’ to a lot of things

For the governor’s purposes, “everything” can pretty much be defined as all industrial development

Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. board members, staff and advisors meet Oct. 30, 2023. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: The concerns of reasonable Alaskans isn’t ‘noise’

During a legislative hearing on Monday, CEO Deven Mitchell referred to controversy it’s created as “noise.”

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: Crime pays a lot better than newspapers

I used to think that publishing a quality paper, full of accurate, informative and entertaining news would produce enough revenue to pay the bills

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo
Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom addresses the crowd during an inaugural celebration for her and Gov. Mike Dunleavy at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Jan. 20, 2023.
Opinion: The many truths Dahlstrom will deny

Real conservatives wouldn’t be trashing the rule of law

Gov. Mike Dunleavy discusses his veto of a wide-ranging education bill during a press conference March 16 at the Alaska State Capitol. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Governor, please pay more attention to Alaskans

Our governor has been a busy guy on big issues.

Priya Helweg is the acting regional director and executive officer for the Region 10 Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
Happy Pride Month

This month is dedicated to acknowledging and uplifting the voices and experiences of the LGBTQI+ community

A roll of “I voted” stickers sit at the Alaska Division of Elections office in Juneau in 2022. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Strengthening democracy: Native vote partners to boost voter registration

GOTNV and VPC are partnering to send over 4,000 voter registration applications this month to addresses and P.O. boxes all over Alaska

Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times
Former President Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower after he was found guilty of all counts in his criminal trial in New York on May 30.
Opinion: Trump’s new fixers

Fixers from Alaska and elsewhere step in after guilty verdict

Ballot booths are set up inside Kenai City Hall on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Perspective from an election worker

Here is what I know about our Kenai Peninsula Borough election system

Apayauq Reitan, the first transgender woman to participate in the Iditarod, tells the House Education Committee on March 30, 2023, why she opposes a bill restricting transgender rights. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: The imaginary transgender sports crisis

House Bill 183 is a right-wing solution to a problem that doesn’t exist now and never will.