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2014-08-18

St. Louis Pastor: Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson Should Resign

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Community outrage grew in Ferguson, Missouri, over the weekend after the police named the officer who shot Michael Brown, Darren Wilson, after withholding his identity for five days. But in naming Wilson, the police also released video footage showing a young man who appeared to be Brown shoplifting a box of cigarillos from a convenience store. The Ferguson police released the video while continuing to withhold all other details about Brown’s killing, including how many times he was shot and the incident report from the shooting. In disclosing the video, the police appeared to suggest Brown may have been stopped as a suspect in the shoplifting. But hours later, Ferguson police admitted the officer did not know about the incident and had stopped Brown solely for walking in the middle of the street. Joining us from St. Louis, the Rev. Clinton Stancil, senior pastor at the Wayman AME Church, says Police Chief Tom Jackson should resign. He also says that efforts are being made to galvanize African-American voters in the next election to address concerns over the lack of diversity in the city’s elected officials.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: "Be Free," J. Cole. The rapper went to Ferguson, and the song is going viral. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. To talk more about what’s happening in Ferguson, Missouri, we’re joined now by two guests in St. Louis. Reverend Clinton Stancil is the senior pastor of Wayman AME Church in St. Louis, and Dr. Art McCoy was the first superintendent of the Ferguson-Florissant School District. He was named to the position in 2010, served until he resigned in March after he had been placed on administrative leave in November of last year. It was a large controversy around his leaving that position. He’s currently an adjunct professor of education at the University of Missouri, on the board of the Urban League’s St. Louis chapter.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! I want to begin with Reverend Clinton Stancil of the Wayman AME Church in St. Louis. Can you talk about the latest news—Governor Nixon bringing in the National Guard, another night of mass protest, tear gassing? We even have word that two people were shot, though it is not clear who actually shot them. Reverend Stancil?

REV. CLINTON STANCIL: I think the National Guard is never a good idea. I don’t want to see soldiers on the streets of America, and especially in our communities. As much as I don’t think it’s a good idea, it may be necessary at this particular time. I think the curfew was a really, really bad idea, simply because what we need now is information, not restriction. And the more we’re restricted and more we don’t have access to accurate information, the rioting is going to continue. And so, again, just going back to that the National Guard may be a necessary at this particular point because it’s deteriorated so far.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you go back, take us back, Reverend Stancil, to what has taken place in Ferguson? Describe Ferguson to us and when you got word about the shooting on August 9th of this 18-year-old teenager, Michael Brown.

REV. CLINTON STANCIL: Well, not only did I get word about the shooting, I think one of the concerns is that once we got word of the shooting and responded to the scene, we still had a young man lying on the concrete. They had not moved his body, I think which created a very tense atmosphere in the beginning, allowing him to lay there for hours, with his family around him not being able to get to him. And so I think that created an atmosphere, just in the way things were handled in the beginning.

We tried peaceful protests. I think we—I personally met with the assistant chief of police in Ferguson and also the chief of police in Ferguson. We organized a march. We asked them to march with us. They agreed, until they heard shouts of "No justice, no peace!" And the assistant chief told me that he was afraid for his officers. And I think it just speaks to the problem that these officers are serving a community that, number one, they’re afraid of, and they’re afraid of because they don’t understand. They have no rapport, and they don’t even understand the community. I don’t know how you can police a community that you’re afraid of.

And I think things have been deteriorating ever since. Thursday night, we got some calm and peace with Captain Johnson coming to the scene, and I think we got calm and peace. But then there was one more flare-up, and all of a sudden we instituted a curfew, which again, more restrictions, no information. And I think we’re finally where we are right now.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Missouri Governor Jay Nixon speaking to reporters Saturday about why he imposed a curfew on Ferguson.

GOV. JAY NIXON: If we want justice, we cannot be distracted. We must be focused on making sure that people are allowed their First Amendment rights, but we do so in a peaceful fashion. We cannot have looting and crimes at night. We can’t have people fearful.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: We can’t have police officers killing people!

AMY GOODMAN: That was Governor Nixon. He was interrupted by people yelling for the indictment of Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown. He also called for peace, saying justice comes after that. Reverend Clinton Stancil?

REV. CLINTON STANCIL: Well, I think, in our community, there seems to be a reversal. When there’s probable cause and it involves us as the criminal element, there’s generally—when there’s probable cause, there is arrest, then investigation. When it involves them, there is investigation before the arrest, even when there’s probable cause. We’re simply wanting justice. We want the legal process to take place. But the officer, based on eyewitness statements, should be arrested. Now, after investigation, we will see how that investigation turns out. He may be innocent, he may be guilty—we don’t know yet. But based on the evidence and the eyewitness reports that we’ve heard so far, there is no doubt in my mind that this officer should be arrested.

And that’s why we’ve been calling on the county prosecutor to do simply do your job, stop being afraid to do your job. And he has given it to a grand jury for indictment. But let’s not—let’s be clear: He has the power. He has the power to bring charges himself. And we’re calling on him to bring charges or, more importantly, just get out of the way and let someone with courage and bring in a special prosecutor who’s willing to do their job.

AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Stancil, can you explain that? He says he’s empaneled a grand jury; you’re saying he doesn’t have to. And explain who he is.

REV. CLINTON STANCIL: Well, Robert McCulloch is the county prosecutor. And with probable cause in any case, he can bring charges based on having enough evidence, based on probable cause. He’s chosen not to. He is afraid to get involved. And I think many times some prosecutors have such a close relationship with the police force, and I think that’s good, but sometimes it seems like it’s hindering them from doing their job. So he’s allocated that off to a grand jury, which, again, there’s nothing wrong with that, but that is a longer process that—before we will get an indictment and maybe—and an arrest. And so, as this thing drags out longer and longer, we’re going to get more protests in the street. The people are going to get more frustrated, because the people are looking for information.

And let me just add, I think the thing that sparked this whole thing—let’s be clear. I was listening to somebody talking about the spark was—the spark was the release of the video of Michael Brown at the same time they released the name of the officer. That was the spark. We’re victimizing the victim. Today in America, theft—if that was Michael Brown on the video—theft is still not a penalty—the penalty for theft is still not death in America, no matter how you cut it. We call it armed robbery. What I clearly saw was shoplifting. And we had a young man who’s unarmed that’s shoplifting. My children—I’m a father of four boys. My children went in a store and took some candy; I hope, I thank God, that they didn’t suffer the penalty of death for taking some candy. Neither should Michael Brown suffer the penalty of death for taking some cigars, if he took them at all. And so, releasing that video and victimizing the victim has caused outrage in our community.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson speaking later on Friday. This was after he released the name of Darren Wilson, when he was repeatedly asked by reporters why he released video of the shoplifting by Michael Brown if it wasn’t related to why he was first stopped by Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed him.

POLICE CHIEF THOMAS JACKSON: All I did—what I did was—was release the videotape to you, because I had to. I’d been sitting on it, but I—too many people put in a FOI request for that thing, and I had to release that tape to you.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER 1: Why did it have to be today? Why did it have to be today, Chief Jackson? [00:32:35.07]

BETSEY BRUCE: People are angry that it had to be today at the same time you released the officer’s name. It appears to be a justification for the shooting.

POLICE CHIEF THOMAS JACKSON: I understand that, but consider that if I just released that tape and didn’t release the officer’s name, there would be similar questions.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER 2: If the murder and the robbery did not come together, why did the video come out, if it was not related, together?

POLICE CHIEF THOMAS JACKSON: Because the press asked for it.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER 1: But clarify.

POLICE CHIEF THOMAS JACKSON: He was in the area following the robbery, because he was on a sick case.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER 3: If the robbery had nothing to do with the stop, then why would you release the video of the robbery? What’s the explanation for the timing of it?

POLICE CHIEF THOMAS JACKSON: Because you asked for it. You asked for it. I held it for as long as I could.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson. Reverend Clinton Stancil, your response?

REV. CLINTON STANCIL: First of all, he needs to resign. He doesn’t have command over his people. He has no rapport with the community. He has bungled this case. And it is time for him to step aside.

But one of things that—when you listen, he said he released the video because the press asked for it. Well, the press has also asked for justice. The press also had been asking for autopsy reports. The press has also asked for the police reports of what happened, the police records of what happened on that scene. He hasn’t released any of that. And so, how do you pick and choose and decide what—the press has asked for a lot of stuff. That’s the only thing you’ve released. How did you come to that decision? What was your decision-making process? We’ve lost all confidence. And I’ve met with this man on multiple occasions. We’ve lost all confidence in him. And as you see at the press conference, it makes—it gives the appearance of a cover-up, that they’re trying to cover up.

And we’ve had enough. We’re tired of our young men dying in the streets of America. We have had enough of Chief Jacksons. We’ve seen too many of them. We’ve experienced this. And Michael Brown’s case was just a bubbling point. This has been going on in Ferguson for a long time. And so, we got—and part of the issue—now, let me just say this—part of the issue is ours. It’s not all Ferguson, because we’ve got to galvanize, organize, to begin to vote, because we can control who sits in the Mayor’s Office. We can control that, when there’s a city of 70 percent African Americans, that we don’t have anyone in power that looks like us. We can control that, and we control that through our voting. And so, we do take that responsibility, and we’re getting ready to organize and galvanize and get people registered to vote and get them to the polls. But Chief Ferguson—I mean, Chief Jackson has got to go.

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