By Paul Bremmer
Ferguson, Missouri, is approaching the volatility of a stick of dynamite as the time nears for an announcement whether a grand jury will indict police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown.
While the deadline for a decision isn’t until January, the prosecutor’s office has said word could come just about any time now.
Which is why Metro Shooting Range manager John Stephenson in nearby Bridgeton, Missouri, told CNN gun sales were up 40 percent to 50 percent. And many people are coming to the range for training, saying they are worried. And Dan McMullen, who runs Solo Insurance in Ferguson close to where violence broke out in early August, told CNN he has brought an extra gun to his office ever since racial tensions skyrocketed following the Brown shooting. He speculated on the possibility he might get trapped in his office and “have to have a John Wayne shootout.”
Business owners are boarding up windows and one Ferguson resident told CBS, “We are getting prepared for war.”
So the work of the federal Community Relations Service, a secretive arm of the U.S. Department of Justice that is intended to smooth out differences and reach compromises, should be helping.
But is it, questions one leading activist.
Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, said his organization has been tracking the CRS’ actions in Ferguson, just as they tracked the CRS’ actions in Sanford, Florida, after the 2012 Trayvon Martin shooting.
He does not believe CRS workers are impartial mediators.
“They obviously did not facilitate anything in terms of positive outcomes and community relations, and our work showing what they had done in the Trayvon Martin shooting controversy shows that they are not there as a neutral party,” Fitton said. “They go down there to advocate on behalf of the racialist point of view that the Department of Justice has.”
It could be that one of the results of the agency work is the 19 “rules of engagement” that protest organizers have said they want police to follow if protests develop follow the decision on charges against Wilson.
Essentially the “Don’t Shoot Coalition” wants police to abandon military tactics and let protesters free rein in designated areas, critics said.
The CRS was established by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and attempts to calm racial strife in American towns and cities through confidential mediation of disputes. The CRS doesn’t investigate cases, make arrests, or file lawsuits. It aims only to give all sides a private place to talk to each other and resolve their differences.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, CRS mediators arrived in Ferguson the day after Wilson shot Brown. They met with Brown’s family late that night, and they have been working behind the scenes every day since then, according to the paper. They have held dozens of private meetings with police, residents, and community leaders.
The Justice Department won’t comment on the CRS workers or what exactly they are doing, but back in August, less than a week after the Brown shooting, Ferguson mayor James Knowles told The Daily Caller that two CRS agents were in his town training demonstrators on how best to participate in protests.
Colin Flaherty, author of “‘White Girl Bleed A Lot’: The Return of Racial Violence to America and How the Media Ignore It,” thinks the CRS is actually spreading resentment and hostility among the Ferguson protesters.
“The Department of Justice community organizers are spreading the word this incident had racial overtones, was racially motivated, and that is basically just putting a keg of dynamite in the middle of Ferguson and lighting the fuse,” Flaherty said. “Now when it blows up they’re going to walk away and say, ‘Hey, I don’t know anything about that.'”
Flaherty said those who are boarding up their windows and buying guns are not engaging in baseless fear. He pointed to several elected St. Louis officials and community activists who have said there will be violence if the decision doesn’t meet their demands.
He said the DOJ has done nothing to calm the Brown supporters.
“So, this Department of Justice, they’re not peacemakers. They’re resentment-creators, and we’re seeing the effects of that right now in Ferguson and around the country,” Flaherty said.
Jack Cashill, who wrote “If I Had a Son: Race, Guns, and the Railroading of George Zimmerman” about the Trayvon Martin case, agreed that the CRS actually emboldened the protesters in Ferguson, just as they did in Sanford after the Martin shooting. Here is an excerpt from “If I Had a Son:”
“That same day, Day Twelve of the trial, the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch released the results of its investigation into Justice Department activities in Florida in March and April 2012. For more than a year the Treehouse had been calling attention to the provocative role played by the stealthy and powerful Community Relations Service (CRS) within the Department of Justice. Judicial Watch was able to document at least some of its involvement. Although CRS is officially tasked with identifying and easing racial tensions before they arise, the information secured by Judicial Watch showed that the agency ‘actively worked to foment unrest.’ Former CRS director Ondray Harris confirmed that its career employees were often guilty of ‘acting as advocates instead of mediators.'”
Now the CRS is up to no good again, according to Cashill.
“What they’ve done is they’ve treated the Ferguson protesters as though it’s legitimate and they have every right to do what they’re doing,” Cashill said.
He said this acquiescence has led to the absurdity of the protesters’ “rules of engagement.”
“This is a first, I believe, in American history, where people are threatening to riot and then making demands as to how their rioting should be received,” Cashill said. “And unfortunately, the Obama administration has done, to this point, everything it could do to make them feel justified in their demands.”
Flaherty said Attorney General Eric Holder did not help the situation by proclaiming back in August, shortly after the Brown shooting, “I am the attorney general… but I’m also a black man.” He said Holder signaled his support for the protesters and their grievances.
“We see it repeated now relentlessly all over the country – white racism is everywhere, white racism is permanent, white racism explains everything,” Flaherty said. “Black people are the relentless victims of racism. That’s the message.”
Fitton agreed that Holder only fanned the flames of resentment in Ferguson.
“Eric Holder has a despicable record of failing to enforce the law and exercise his authority as attorney general in a race-neutral manner,” Fitton said. “And, you know, his comments at Ferguson suggest that he was not going to approach this case in a neutral manner.”
Citing the eight people who beat an off-duty Chicago policeman into a coma last week, Flaherty added, “They’re not shy about saying what the results of their message and belief are. If they find you guilty in the streets of this white racism, you will be subject to violence that you richly deserve.”
Cashill also agreed that Holder essentially gave aid and comfort to the protesters.
“It seems that the purpose of the CRS is to justify the grievance mentality and to empower and to enable it,” Cashill said. “And obviously, Eric Holder did his best to foment that and it seems like Loretta Lynch, his likely successor, will do the same.”