The Protest Ethics Check List And The Ferguson Demonstrations

APTOPIX Police Shooting Missouri

Protests are an American tradition, with protective rights enshrined in the Constitution, and a distinguished legacy that includes the Boston Tea Party and Martin Luther King’s civil rights marches and rallies. They are also perhaps the most misused and abused device in national politics. Most of them are useless, many of them are stupid, and too many of them do tangible harm.

The Obama Administration’s crisis of the hour is the Ethics Trainwreck in Ferguson, Missouri, where a perfect storm arose when an an inept, distrusted and untrustworthy police force and a poor and frustrated African-American population clashed over the Rashomon shooting of an unarmed black teen. Now there are demonstrations every day in Ferguson; several people have been killed, and the demonstrations have spawned rioting and looting.

What is the purpose of all of this? It better be a good one, given its cost, and the protesters better be right. The problem is that the protesters can’t possibly be right at this point, because the facts aren’t known. We are told that the reason for the demonstrations is larger than mere anger over the shooting of Michael Brown; that it’s about police harassment, abuse and violence against African-Americans and their lack of accountability for it. That would only be a sustainable justification if in fact the death of Brown was an unequivocal, clear-cut example of the phenomenon being protested. It is not, not yet, and it may never be. So again the question has to be asked: is it ethical to be protesting in Ferguson at all?

A Rasmussen poll has determined that fifty-seven percent (57%) of black adults, 17% of whites and 24% of other non-black minority Americans think police officer Darren Wilson “should be found guilty of murder,” for a population wide total of 23%. Every single individual in that 23% is, regarding this matter, ignorant, irresponsible, and unethical. That is fact. There is no basis, at this point, for any of those 23% to know with sufficient certainty—the judicial standard is beyond a reasonable doubt in this society—that Officer Wilson committed a crime. There is no way to be certain of anything in this case other than the fact that Michael Brown is dead, and Officer Wilson shot him. For that 23% to say that they know Wilson is guilty of murder can only be a product of various poisonous concoctions of bigotry, bias, stupidity, recklessness, and/or confusion. Are these 23%, including the 57% of black adults, the ones demonstrating in Ferguson, chanting “Justice for Michael”? It would seem so, and if that is the case, “Justice for Michael” means “Ignore Justice For Darren Wilson.” The responsible U.S. adults in this episode are the 43% of blacks, 49% of other minorities and 56% of whites who are undecided regarding Wilson’s guilt, the only fair and rational position possible.

Early in this blog’s history, I proposed a Protest Ethics Check List, ten questions that responsible would-be protesters were obligated to answer before they could be sufficiently certain that their protest or demonstration was just and met utilitarian standards. Here it is:

Protesters, no matter what they are protesting, have an ethical duty to ask themselves these ten questions before they stop traffic, jam networks, take over buildings or otherwise make life miserable for people who have little or nothing to do with what is being protested:

  1. Is this protest just and necessary?
  2. Is the means of protest appropriate to the objective?
  3. Is there a significant chance that it will achieve your objective or contribute to doing so?
  4. What will this protest cost, and who will have to pay the bill?
  5. Will the individuals or organizations that are the targets of the protest also be the ones who will most powerfully feel its effects?
  6. Will innocent people be adversely affected by this action? (If so, how many?)
  7. Is there a significant possibility that anyone will be hurt or harmed? (if so, how seriously? How many people?)
  8. Is the motive for the protest personal, selfish, or narrow?
  9. Are you and your group prepared to take full responsibility for the consequences of the protest?
  10. Would an objective person feel that the protest is fair, reasonable, and proportional to its goal?

Question #7 is of special relevance in Ferguson, where looters have struck with a vengeance. Large demonstrations often create chaotic circumstances that allow lawless predators to do terrible harm. I believe that protester and demonstrators who create the conditions for looting deserve to be held accountable for the results. This is especially true in protests like these, which are directed at police and place law enforcement in an impossible position if it attempts to restrain the protests and contain them. Yesterday I heard Ferguson business owners whose establishments had been gutted by looters plaintively ask CNN’s Jake Tapper, “How does this get justice for Mike Brown?” Good question, and I hold the demonstrators responsible for not asking that question at the outset.

By my assessment, the protests in Ferguson don’t meet the requirements of at  least nine out of the ten questions.

It is an unethical protest.


Addendum: Here is the Ethics Alarms Protest Code of Ethics, first published here.

The Protest Code of Ethics

A. Guiding principles

All participants in protests and demonstrations should recognize and respect the important role lawful assemblies for the purpose of airing grievances and advocating change and reform have played in the history of the nation and civilization, must strive to uphold the best of that tradition by upholding these ethical principles. A protest without leadership and objectives is only a mob, and a protest without discipline and respect for others is a riot.

B. Public protests

Any protest involving demonstrations or other public conduct…

1. Should have clearly articulated objectives, and not be motivated by trivial offenses or narrowly selfish interests.

2. Should be planned, controlled by its organizers, establish standards of conduct, communicate and enforce those standards, and last no longer than is reasonably necessary to send its desired message.

3. Must designate leadership and spokespersons who take responsibility for the consequences of the protest and conduct of the protesters, speak for its participants to the media and others, and are authorized to deal with and negotiate with authorities.

4. Should be preceded by the obtaining of all necessary public permits and the payment of all required bonds, as well by timely advance notice to authorities.

5. Should accept and meet financial responsibility for public expenditures resulting from its activities.

6. Should avoid destruction of property.

7. Should take place only on public space, or private space where permission has been obtained in advance.

8. Should be sufficiently controlled to ensure that its activities, demonstrations and message are not co-opted and used by other groups and activists with different agendas, goals and objectives.

9. Must not unreasonably and unnecessarily disturb the peace, safety and quality of life in the immediate vicinity.

10. Should not unreasonably, recklessly or carelessly interfere with the ability of uninvolved parties to get to and from work, run errands and otherwise engage in their normal activities.

11. Must accept responsibility for and be accountable for the words and conduct of its participants.

C. Protesters.

In participating in demonstrations and other public protests, protesters…

1. Have an obligation to have a clear, definable and substantive object of protest. Protesting is not a game or a pastime. It is a serious civic act and should not be undertaken frivolously or without legitimate cause or provocation. Trivial, ephemeral, vague or undefined goals are not legitimate objects of protest.

2. Should make every effort to ensure that the purpose of the protest is just.

3. Must have a thorough knowledge and understanding of the issues involved and the relevant facts relating to them. Participation in any protest should be based on sufficient study to include opposing points of view, reliable data, and credible sources. It is not sufficient to delegate this responsibility to others. One should not protest based on the unsubstantiated assertions, opinions or passions of others. If a protester does not have sound personal comprehension of the reasons why the object of a protest is legitimate and just, he or she should not be participating in the protest.

4. Must not violate any laws in the course of the protest, unless the law itself is the object of protest. If the purpose of the protest is to violate a law to demonstrate opposition to it, the protester must not resist arrest, but submit to it according to the principles of civil disobedience.

5. Must not assault, threaten, insult, attack or defy police, except in cases where defiance is the objective in protesting an abuse of legal authority. Any such defiance must peaceful and non- confrontational.

6. Must not engage in violence of any kind.

7. Should not bring weapons to the protest, or display weapons in a threatening or provocative manner.

8. Should avoid incivility, gratuitous insults, racist or other bigoted messages, signs or chants, gross characterizations  of adversaries, misleading statements, unfounded accusations, obscenity, threats of violence and rumor-mongering.

9. Should not use or exploit as participants or props children or other individuals who are incapable of understanding the purpose of the protest or giving informed consent to their participation in it.

10. Must not use illegal drugs or protest while intoxicated or otherwise substance–impaired.

11. Should practice good safety and hygiene during the course of the protest.

12. Should make every effort to restrict the effects and consequences of the protest to the parties directly responsible for the object of the protest, or decision-makers whose actions and policies are substantially involved.

13. Must not intentionally or carelessly harm, burden or inconvenience innocent third parties, groups and organizations.

14. Should actively police the protest, and make reasonable efforts to discourage unreasonable, unlawful, violent or otherwise unethical conduct by fellow protesters.



55 thoughts on “The Protest Ethics Check List And The Ferguson Demonstrations

  1. To be fair, I don’t think this is The Obama Administration’s trainwreck. I think he’s just a passenger on this one, albeit he got a first class ticket. But I don’t think he’s the conductor of the train, or even on the board of directors for the line… He may be a stock holder though as his divisiveness, especially along racial lines didnt help the background situation. But I wouldn’t say this is his trainwreck.

    • I respectfully disagree. It is his train wreck, from his administration arming small police departments across the country to his very biased, reverse-racist Justice Department’s actions and inactions.

      He was supposedly a community organizer in areas of the black murder capital of the U.S., Chicago, some of which saw rapid turnovers from white to black with accompanying increases in violence and crime, so he is familiar with the problems of the ‘hood. Yet what did he accomplish in Chicago to improve or aid the problems in the black community? If you know, please tell me.

      He owns a house in an upscale mixed neighborhood (Louis Farakhan is a neighbor) that was always a sort of “oasis in the desert,” controlled by the University of Chicago, where he and Michelle both “worked,” so he is familiar with the “way.” He is totally aware of the impact that his words and actions could have on either community, yet his only accomplishment seems to have been to feather his own nest. If you know otherwise, please inform me.

      This is the third time he has seen fit to comment or involve himself in a black/white situation that he had no business, as president, involving himself in, and he only succeeded in fanning the flames of resentment and outrage at the so-called violent reaction of the police to violence, but legitimizing the violent reaction of the populace to violence.


      • Yes, I believe that the deterioration of race relations in the US is, in great part, due to the racial distrust engendered by the media and Democrats pushing the excuse that Obama’s failures are due to Republican and white contempt for and refusal to respect a President who is black. And I hole Obama accountable for allowing himself to be defended and supported this way. In my view, it may be the worst of all of his poor leadership decisions, and the most damaging to the nation.

        Listen to MSNBC’s Michell Barnard play that card to claim a “war on black men,” and Chris Matthews lacking the character and guts to tell her she’s full of crap.

  2. I keep hearing about the frustration of the minority community with respect to law enforcement as the rationale for this explosion of civil unrest. I would like to know what steps were taken by the local citizens prior to the shooting to address these festering issues that are now being used to justify the demonstrations.

    If harassment of young blacks by the police is prevalent in this community did anyone (the community leaders) take up the issues faced with them mayor of county executive to seek solutions and prevent a situation like this from happening in the first place. What was Maria Chappelle-Nadal, the now highly visible state senator who tweeted F*** the Governor, doing to ameliorate the conditions on the ground before Michael Brown woke up on the day he was shot? If the police in my neighborhood were harassing me or my neighbors I would be addressing the issue with my elected officials and, if necessary, in the courts.

    Journalists worth their salt should be able to dig up evidence of prior charges of police harassment by community members and the outcomes of those investigations. Instead we are simply told that the (mostly white) police have a history of antagonizing black youths. Why should I take that as a fact without any substantiation? Exactly what do the complainant’s mean by “harassment” from police?

    I don’t like the militarization of our police forces but asking them to provide security without proper equipment, when they might be confronted by someone with a Tec9 machine pistol or other lethal concealed illegal weapon, is asking a bit much.

    If officer Wilson committed a crime he should be punished, but what is going on right now is no different than the mob wanting to lynch the black man based on the word of the one person who felt was wronged by the accused. If this is the justice the community wants then it needs no police department. The community can simply mete out its vengeance on its citizens that violate the law as a mob.

    • When a subset of the community has been repeatedly convinced they are victims, these episodes can only be expected. The truth to them as they’ve been educated by the hustlers, grievance mongers, the education system and the media, is nearly impossible to break through logic and cognitive dissonance.

      When people haven’t been taught to take a step back, evaluate objectively, then engage proportionately in a deliberate manner, knee jerk emotionalism is the rule.

    • Journalists worth their salt should be able to dig up evidence of prior charges of police harassment by community members and the outcomes of those investigations. Instead we are simply told that the (mostly white) police have a history of antagonizing black youths. Why should I take that as a fact without any substantiation? Exactly what do the complainant’s mean by “harassment” from police?

      Like this?

      Police in Ferguson, Missouri, once charged a man with destruction of property for bleeding on their uniforms while four of them allegedly beat him.

      Police pull over and arrest the wrong man, beat him and kick him in the head when he complains, give him a concussion, and charge him with destruction of property when his blood sprays over their uniform. Case was dismissed when the videotape of the jail cell was “accidently destroyed.”

      It turns out that having a clean record for a police officer in Ferguson is meaningless, as complaints are put in another file not associated with the officer in question, and no one has any idea where the file, if it actually exists, is kept. So yes, it does seem like a systematic problem in Ferguson that can’t be easily discounted or waved off.

  3. Most evidence of police harassment/brutality around the world is undocumented. So it won’t surprise me if reporters only can rely on witness interviews. That doesn’t mean the accounts are true, but it also doesn’t mean the accounts are false. But this why protesting (or protesting turning into rioting) often is viewed as the only course. One man facing police brutality is pretty powerless, but a mob of angry citizens can be heard. I don’t like it either and this whole situation has me thoroughly depressed.

    • “Most evidence of police harassment/brutality around the world is undocumented.”

      What does that even mean? Most evidence that one-eyed, one-horned, flying, purple people eaters descend to earth around the world is undocumented. Go ahead, try to prove me wrong. I’ll just say it is undocumented.

      Sorry, that comment doesn’t fly.

      And I don’t care about police brutality around the world, as most of the world doesn’t have Republican governments designed around protecting due process — quite frankly police brutality is built into their systems. I do care about police brutality here in America where our system is designed against it. I think you’ll find in most cases of “brutality” you find resisting arrest.

      More subtle problem: police abuse of the populace and increasing view by the police to assume wrong doing from the outset of engagement. But even then, the UNEDUCATED populace doesn’t realize it has options to address this without direct confrontation.

      Side topic, but related – how much of this Us vs Them mentality derives from or is exacerbated by the fact that we have to many laws and we’re pretty much all lawbreakers because of it?

  4. I would maintain that there is a distinct difference between a peaceful protest march- for whatever reason or at whatever level of justice- and what we see in Ferguson MO. This is not a matter of justice anymore, in any case. It’s an incited race riot and a concurrent opportunity for looting. That it started with the death of a looter is only a common irony.

    The real issue, however, is unsaid at present. Obama and Holder have been behind the program to militarize police. Yet now, they find such a sponsored force in a street battle with black radicals… who are also base voters! When the Black Panther leaders started making publicized anti-Obama speeches, that led to Holder’s being dispatched to Missouri. There’s no consideration of peace or justice here. This is a political crisis now.

    • This is not a matter of justice anymore, in any case. It’s an incited race riot and a concurrent opportunity for looting. That it started with the death of a looter is only a common irony.

      Oh, you haven’t heard? It turns out that there was no robbery, or even shoplifting. The store owners have acknowledged that there was no theft, and did not call in the police. Video shows Brown paying for the cigars. It looks like he didn’t have enough money to pay for all that he wanted, so he huffed, and put the extra ones back. He exchanged some words with the clerk (perhaps the clerk wanted to card him), then walked toward the exit. The clerk tried to block him from leaving, Brown pushed him aside and went along his merry way. A customer, who did not see Brown paying for the cigars, but only the altercation at the exit, assumed that Brown was stealing and called the police.

      But for all those who said that that the “strong-arm robbery” went to his state of mind, it is now even more irrelevant. Brown had no reason to fear the police, because he had done nothing wrong. More alarming, the police department had access to the complete video, and had to have known this before they released the video just showing Brown pushing the clerk out the way. Once again, it fits into the idea that the police department, rather than standing for impartial justice, instead wants to protect one of their own, and will stop at nothing, including outright lying, to do so.

      • I personally doubt that. But even were it true, it would not change the fact that Brown attacked the police officer. Under the circumstances, Officer Wilson seems to have had every reason to fear for his life and believe he was confronting a violent criminal. Would it have made any difference to you, Deery, if Wilson had been a black policeman?

        • Watch the video. You can see Brown giving the clerk money, and the clerk accepting it.

          But even were it true, it would not change the fact that Brown attacked the police officer. Under the circumstances, Officer Wilson seems to have had every reason to fear for his life and believe he was confronting a violent criminal.

          Those are the facts in dispute. All the witnesses say that Brown was struggling to get away from the officer, who had grabbed him by the neck. Brown broke free, and ran (not in dispute). From a far distance away from the police officer (35 feet, according to the police department), Brown stopped running for some reason, and turned to face the officer. Witnesses say Brown was shot, and turned around, got on his knees, with his hands up to surrender. Police have issued three different versions of this portion of events. The latest one says that Brown charged the officer, which doesn’t account for all the bullets, nor the distance.

          So far the police have not observed protocol, not released information, and have had to “revise” their statements several times in the face of contradictory facts. Eyewitness statements agree on the substance with each other, even the one which was written pretty much as the events were happening. Right now I tend to believe eyewitness accounts.

          Would it have made any difference to you, Deery, if Wilson had been a black policeman?

          No it wouldn’t. Should it?

          • I don’t know where you’re getting your information from, Deery, but it tends to conflict with what I’ve been getting. It’s pretty much in line with what Brown’s companion said. However, other witnesses provide a different story. Nor is it unusual that a police department will issue revised statements when under the pressure of riots in the streets. Under normal circumstances, a shooting will be evaluated over a period of days before an official press release is issued. These things don’t happen every day! BTW: I guarantee you that if Wilson had been a black man himself, therre would have been a big difference in how this situation would have developed.

        • We don’t actually know, just yet, if Brown actually attacked Wilson. We have Wilson’s statement and little else, outside of several conflicting eye-witness statements. Like Jack, I would caution everyone against a rush to judgment.

            • Thank you, Steven. I hadn’t see that yet. Been sitting at my computer all morning dealing with a purely local ethics issue.

            • Yet that still doesn’t prove or disprove who initiated the scuffle. There is a chance that the officer started it, and quite frankly if that is what happened, a citizen has every right to resist in self defense (knowing full well it is hard to prove you the abused was in the right).

              This one is just too close to call right now.

              • Perhaps. But given what is known about the character of the deceased suspect, the officer in question and the conditions that brought on the event, it looks to me like Officer Wilson deserves every benefit of a doubt.

                • But given what is known about the character of the deceased suspect, the officer in question and the conditions that brought on the event, it looks to me like Officer Wilson deserves every benefit of a doubt.

                  We know nothing about the officer in question, barely even his name. We know very little about Brown, and the most detrimental things have turned out to be a lie put about by the police department. There is no reason to doubt the eyewitness accounts, which agree on the substantive details that there was a scuffle by the police car, Brown ran, appeared to have gotten shot, turned around, got on his knees and put his hands up, while the officer advanced and shot Brown several times, until Brown fell over dead. The witnesses do not know each other, several did not know Brown, and one account of the shooting was pretty much written as it happened, date-stamped. How did everyone spontaneously come up with the same narrative, without even time to confer with each other?

                  It strains credulity to believe the officer narrative, which to account for all the details would be thus: that Brown became enraged for very little reason, tried to squeeze his 300 lb frame through a police car window, wrestled with a police officer over his gun, fired it, was magically transported 35 feet away, at which point he became enraged again, and charged headfirst, arms waving in mid-air, with his eyes down on the ground so he couldn’t see where he was going, an officer who was firing bullets at him, before Brown was finally, heroically taken down by the officer. The officer then did not call the shooting in, left the body to rot in the mid-summer sun, and rather than waiting, was allowed to drive off in his own police car, a part of the crime scene in question. Yet we are supposed to trust the police narrative?

                  • This sounds a lot like the “magic bullet” narrative, Deery. BTW: According to the report, Brown attacked the officer after he had opened to door of his vehicle and was attempting to emerge. That Wilson was attacked seems confirmed by the released medical report. Of the six wounds found in Brown’s body, all were inflicted from the front. Four were in the extremities, one clipped his head and one (the fatal shot) was in the forehead. This corroborates the officer’s testimony that Brown turned back to charge the policeman after initially attacking him. It also indicates that Officer Wilson attempted to shoot to wound until, when the other shots had no visible deterring effect, fired to the head to stop the onrush.

                    • Your narrative is in conflict with statements that the police themselves have released saying that officer was “at least 35 feet away” when he shot Brown. Also, the body was not found anywhere near the police vehicle. So the six shots that struck Brown did not occur near the initial confrontation at the police car. …A shot was fired inside the police car, and Brown was eventually shot about 35 feet away from the vehicle, Belmar said.

                      At least one of the shots either happened when Brown’s back was turned, or his hands were up: From my link in the previous post, Forensic pathologist Shawn Parcells, who assisted Dr Baden, said that one of the gunshot wounds to Mr Brown’s arm could have occurred as he had his hands up, but it remains unclear if that was the case. This particular arm wound could also have been sustained while Mr Brown had his back to the officer or while he was facing the officer with his arms in a defensive positioning.

                      There were at least six direct hits, four in the arm, one in the eye, and one, the fatal one, at the top of his head. Another possible graze wound is ambiguous. All casings recovered from the crime scene were the officer’s.

                    • With all due respect, Deery, CNN’s integrity in this matter has been severely compromised. Nor is there any testimony that Michael Brown was holding his hands up to surrender except by his companion, whose word must be held suspect, as he was an accessory to the initial crime. The autopsy report remains in line with Officer Wilson’s report. And- naturally- all the expended brass was from Wilson’s pistol! There’s also the matter that marijuana use was revealed by the autopsy. If Brown was high at the time, it would be in keeping with his behavior and why the initial wounds did not deter him.

                    • With all due respect, Deery, CNN’s integrity in this matter has been severely compromised.

                      I was just using CNN as a source for the police statement that the officer was 35 feet away. This statement was a public statement made at a press conference, you can find many other sources for the same statement

                      Nor is there any testimony that Michael Brown was holding his hands up to surrender except by his companion, whose word must be held suspect, as he was an accessory to the initial crime.

                      Several other witnesses say the same thing as the companion. Tiffany Mitchell: As I pull onto the side, the kid, he finally gets away, he starts running. As he runs the police get out of his vehicle and he follows behind him, shooting. And the kid’s body jerked as if he was hit from behind, and he turns around and puts his hands up like this, and the cop continued to fire until he just dropped down to the ground and his face just smacks the concrete.”

                      Piaget Crenshaw : I saw the police chase him … down the street and shoot him down,” Crenshaw said. Brown ran about 20 feet. Michael jerks his body, as if he’s been hit,” Mitchell said.

                      Then he faced the officer and put his hands in the air, but the officer kept firing, both women said. He dropped to the pavement.

                      Thee Pharaoh, someone live-tweeting the shootings: dude was running and the cops just shot. him. i saw him die bruh…the first two [shots] was, the next 5 werent, he turned around…

                      The autopsy report remains in line with Officer Wilson’s report.

                      What report? We still haven’t seen it yet. The police release details, which they hastily revise” when it turns out the initial version could not possibly be true. Plus, I repeat, the officer was allowed to leave in the vehicle where the altercation supposedly started, did not call to report the shooting, request backup, or call for medical help/attention in the aftermath.

        • If the clerk was preventing him from leaving without just cause, as now appears to be the case, then Brown was legally justified in using force to prevent false imprisonment.

            • How so? If you haven’t stolen anything, and someone is preventing you from leaving the premises, what would you do? I think most people would shove the person aside and keep it moving, without even thinking too much about it either.

              • I’m sure he was late to give his legal brief to advise Henckley on the latest developments involving the Reagan assassination attempt and how Henckley was merely in the right…

                • In regard to your reply to me, Deery: You must have noticed that those sources you quote came forward only after the incident had erupted onto the national scene. This, quite frankly, tells me that something more personal than “justice” was involved. At least one- Piaget Crenshaw- was featured on a national TV talk show. It’s not uncommon under these circumstances that “witnesses” crawl out of the woodwork for a shot at fame and/or money. Wisdom decrees that such “delayed” witnesses be given a healthy skepticism unless there were compelling circumstances as to why they held back for so long or that they have shown that they have nothing to gain from their testimony.

                  • You must have noticed that those sources you quote came forward only after the incident had erupted onto the national scene. …Wisdom decrees that such “delayed” witnesses be given a healthy skepticism unless there were compelling circumstances as to why they held back for so long or that they have shown that they have nothing to gain from their testimony.

                    The police never canvassed the neighborhood, and never asked for witnesses to come forward. They never even interviewed the other guy that was with Brown that was present at the shooting. The DOJ finally had to step in and interview him. So the fact that the police did absolutely no leg work or investigation is supposed to count against the witnesses? But to your other point, one of the people live-tweeted the shooting as it was occurring. There was no opportunity to confer with other people. Yet it matches the other accounts.

                • Interesting. Normally the one who prevents or tries to prevent a person from leaving is considered to be the one who committed the assault. I was unaware of the, “if you are big guy people can’t assault you” rule to that. Keep in mind that the store admits there was no theft. So what justifies a clerk from trying to keep Brown there then? I know this goes against the “Super-Negro” narrative, the same one that has a guy running *towards* a hail of bullets, but now it appears the clerk would be the one in the wrong.

                  • The relative size of the people involved will certainly go to the question of whether the use of force was reasonable. Also, after shoving him out of the way Brown proceeded to turn and follow the clerk back into the store instead of immediately walking out of the store, making the idea that he just wanted out more spurious.

                    This, however, is all pretty irrelevant to the inquiry as to whether he may have attacked the officer when he was stopped. Whether he had a valid legal defense doesn’t indicate whether he may have thought he did something wrong. In fact, as a black man in an area that purportedly has a history of police discrimination, he would be more likely to believe that the police might attempt to arrest or abuse him for something he didn’t think was wrong, and would therefore be more likely to overreact when stopped by police.

                    • Exactly, which is why the real story could be one of multiple tragic understandings. However, if Brown, as some witnesses are saying, charged the cop after being ordered to freeze, whether Brown was afraid or thought he was in danger doesn’t mean that the cop isn’t allowed to shoot. If this was an example of two people misjudging the other, that’s not murder.

                  • Stopping or trying to stop someone you believe is leaving an establishment without paying or without paying enough is not going to be treated like a crime or a tort unless there is excessive force. But a 300 pound, 6’4″ guy doesn’t have to lift a finger to leave in the situation I see, and so he can’t just shove a little guy like that. I doubt anyone would prosecute, but if a guy shoved me like that, I’d call the cops and swear out a complaint.

                    In some states, the clerk could have SHOT Brown, and might well have gotten away with it.

                    • Stopping or trying to stop someone you believe is leaving an establishment without paying or without paying enough is not going to be treated like a crime or a tort unless there is excessive force.

                      Ah, but there’s the rub. The clerk did not think that that Brown did not pay, as he, in fact, did pay. The clerk hurriedly tried to block the door, Brown shoved him out of the way, the clerk raised his arm as if to hit Brown, Brown made it clear that wasn’t a good idea (without hitting the clerk), and then left. No crime, and moving someone who is barring your way is not illegal, even f you are a big guy.

                    • This is really entertaining.

                      I actually liked the bit where you and SMP were giving equally plausible explanations based on the evidence…

                      But now, I’m really enjoying reading the absolute spin on everything.

                      Why would clerk move to bar his exit if he didnt think Brown had done something wrong?

                      Why did you even state he intended to steal but eventually paid and then inevitably didnt pay enough and had to angrily give back some of what he “purchased”. If that is indeed what happened.

                      Is ken Rockwell the only guy who’s discussed this angle?

                    • What, you think the clerk is in the habit of standing in front of diesel trucks for no good reason? Obviously he thought something was amiss, like underpayment. That’s a justifiable reason to say “Stop.” Presumably he told the kid to wait, and the kid continued to walk out.

                    • If, as you are claiming, Brown paid for whatever, why, then, is the clerk trying to stop him from leaving? As you mentioned, Brown is 6’4″ and the clerk is like 4′ even. I doubt the clerk was doing this for fun, as he likely noticed the size difference as well. Come on, use your head.

                    • “moving someone who is barring your way” is a very weasley way of saying “bodily throwing someone out of the way and then following up by staring him down.” But it is still beside the point, the incident made it more likely that Brown would be on edge when approached by police, making it more likely that he would react by attacking the officer. The only reason the incident is relevant at all is to explain how he may have reacted in his confrontation with the officer. Whether he a) robbed the store, b) assaulted the clerk, or c) validly defended himself in a somewhat dubious way, the result is the same. He would be more likely to overreact when stopped by a police officer (and this likelihood is further increased by the perception that the police force has a history of abusing black people.)

                    • Yes, the tape is relevant for only these reasons—it shows that Brown—Rush has been calling him the “Gentle Giant”—was a big scary guy (unlike the image portrayed in the most frequently used photo, a trick out of the Trayvon playbook), and that he was capable of doing harm physically and not hesitant to show it. Who could or could not claim assault in the altercation in the store doesn’t matter a bit. It wouldn’t matter to the justification for the shooting if Brown had ripped the clerk’s head off and eaten it whole.

                    • Except, yet once again, NO THEFT OCCURRED. This is according to the store itself, who did not call the police to report a theft, robbery, or shoplifting. This is supported by video evidence as well showing Brown paying, and putting the stuff that he could not pay for back. People are straining to find Brown in the wrong, despite the bare facts.

                      Why do small guys pick fights with larger ones? I don’t know, but I have seen it happen, more than once, as I’m sure we all have. That doesn’t mean that the larger guy is automatically in the wrong for defending himself physically. But in the absence of theft, which had tenuous relevance at best, now that we know there was no theft, it is beyond irrelevant for the case now. But I guess the police chief accomplished has objective in releasing that information.

                    • The theft was tangentially relevant at best. I just explained the relevance of the video, and it has to do with the physicality and conduct, not the theft. It is as relevant now as ever, and I don’t know what your innuendo is supposed to be about. This was not a harmless kid. Simple as that. The “unarmed teen” trope was misleading, and intentionally so. A guy that big is never defenseless.

                  • Send me a link to the video you are watching.

                    So far all I see is Brown passing a box back to his buddy. Then appear to talk before forcefully reaching over the counter and coming back with another box plus a half dozen smaller boxes which he promptly drops. Then I see further hasteu discussion before the two return the 2 big boxes while scrambling to pick up the half dozen small packs he dropped before hurrying to leave, store clerk rapidly in pursuit.

                    I’d love to see te video your watching. I don’t see money changing hands…


                      It looks like he leaves the money on the counter around the 30 second mark or so, and the clerk slides it towards himself afterwards. Brown doesn’t seem particularly angry, furtive, or concerned, even taking his time to check out the curves of woman in the line behind him.

                      But at any rate, given both the video and the statements of the store itself (a neutral 3rd party), which are consistent with the store not reporting any such theft by Brown, why try to maintain that Brown stole something? At this point that narrative does not seem supported by the facts.

                    • Nonsense, that’s him returning the box he reached across the counter for.

                      Checked out the woman’s curves?

                      Christ, this is rich. You really are using every detail in every most positively spinnable light…

                      What next? Brown can be seen clearly calling his account manager to wire $10,000 to cancer research foundation?

                      The only statements I’ve found of the clerk so far involve not wanting to be involved in the whole fiasco. That sounds like fear to me.

                    • Deery may be in the throes of confirmation bias. I have found no conclusive statement from any reputable or objective source that the video proves there was no robbery, or that the storeowner, whose store was looted, is anything but terrified to say anything. This sure seems like spin to me.

                    • Saw the same video. You didn’t see any money change hands because there isn’t any. Deery has a very active, bias-driven, imagination, fueled by “news” gleaned from the Huffington Post.

  5. Does anyone know why Dr. Baden was unable to examine the victim’s clothing?
    I would esp. like to hear if there was gun shot residue present (on the clothing).

  6. It would seem that Johnson’s latest story changes the analysis some.

    Either he’s reached a deal to receive lesser punishment in the robbery, or he’s telling the truth, or Brown initiated the assault but ceased the assault and the officer shot him anyway.

    I eagerly await Deery’s analysis.

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