THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
August 18, 2014
Guest: Ryan Reilly
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: MSNBC`s live coverage of the situation in
Ferguson, Missouri, continues right now with a special live edition of THE
LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL.
Good evening, Lawrence.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Thanks, Rachel.
We are continuing our live coverage of the events. Police have used tear
gas and flash grenades again tonight and they continue at this hour to tell
protesters to disperse. About an hour ago police started firing tear gas
into the designated demonstration area.
Joining me now, MSNBC.com`s Trymaine Lee.
Trymaine, can -- have we figured out what started this confrontation?
TRYMAINE LEE, MSNBC.COM CORRESPONDENT: We have no idea. I have been
stationed at the corner of Ferguson and Florissant for the better part of a
couple of hours now. And there has been an initial standoff between
officers and some protesters. Everything had been going fine peacefully
And then a group of protesters decided to link arms and stand the width of
the street. But then after about 20 minutes, local community leaders and
activists kind of talked everyone down and prevented it from expanding even
though some people were throwing plastic bottles at officers, it was fine.
But then in the distance, further down to where that QuikTrip market had
been Ground Zero for protesters for the last -- the better part of the
week, there was banging, the sound of bangings and you could see the smoke
start filling the air.
Police vehicles, including the armored vehicles, were racing down that end
of the street. But we were cordoned off on the far side of the street down
towards the end of Ferguson, there closer to Canfield, where the young man,
Michael Brown, was actually killed.
And so even now they`re pushing us further away from the fence (ph). So
it`s hard for us to even get close enough to see what`s going on. And so
as all of these protesters have been told to disperse (INAUDIBLE) actions,
we have kind of been pushed further and further into the corner where we
can`t see what is going on as police officers advance down the street.
O`DONNELL (voice-over): We`re showing two images on our screen right now.
One is clearly labeled something that happened in the last hour. The other
one is live. I wish we could get a live label on that so the audience can
And what you`re seeing in the live image is a completely peaceful state in
the area where the -- where our camera position is now in the live shot.
What you`re seeing, again, on the other side of the screen, clearly labeled
in the last hour, is the stuff that we have been going through in the last
Trymaine, how many people would you say are trying to provoke
confrontations like this with police?
Is there a way that you could kind of give us a count of how many people
you think are -- might be involved in that kind of provocation?
LEE (voice-over): From what we saw, from what we saw, I didn`t see many
people on this end of the street trying to provoke it. And there were a
few people clearly threw plastic water bottles. And in days past, that
would have provoked police officers to unload the tear gas and rubber
This evening, they restrained themselves, at least on this end. But again,
whatever is happening further down the street, we don`t have access to it.
We can`t see that far down the block. So I`m not sure what would have
But again, for the better part of the evening, the protests were peaceful.
The police had put in effect that no-standing order, so you couldn`t stand
in the parking lot, the QuikTrip market. You couldn`t stand in the street,
you had to keep moving, keep walking up and down Florissant.
So they -- but at the moment when the group protesting inside locked arms,
again, they weren`t (INAUDIBLE), they were, you know, they were protesting
indeed. But it was not the same kind of provocation that we`ve seen in the
early nights. But to answer your question, it`s just so hard to tell.
O`DONNELL (voice-over): We`re joined now by MSNBC`s Chris Hayes, who has
been on the ground there for quite some time.
Chris, where are you now?
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (voice-over): OK. I am on West Florissant right
now. And we are watching a situation right now. There is a pickup truck
that just pulled up. The street has largely been cleared. You`re seeing
that image there.
There`s a bunch of people in that pickup truck who rolled through with
their hands up, with their hands up. Their hands up.
Their hands up.
Yes, yes, yes. They just rolled through a second ago -- sorry. It is a
little bit of a chaotic scene here. They just rolled through; they were
pulled over, the last stragglers right now, folks who just came over to
talk to us basically said they live just a block away from here. They got
cut off from their houses, a few of them with their kids, when the tear gas
came. They are trying -- they are now filing down West Florissant with
their hands up, not as protest, as a kind of sign -- as a sign that they
are unarmed and not intending to cause trouble. They are walking down the
street with their hands up. You`ll see -- you can see the police there.
Everybody has got their hands up right now in that pickup truck as they are
surrounded by police, outfitted in SWAT gear.
These are, as far as I can tell, the last remnants of folks who are, at
this point, trying -- you know, this is -- a block from here is a
residential neighborhood. I mean, two blocks from here is where one of
them apparently is being handcuffed right now, I believe. This is a
residential neighborhood, so there are people that need to get home. But I
don`t -- I have no idea who is in that. That appears to be one person who
is being taken out. Two people apparently are apparently taken out and are
being handcuffed at the moment. It appears like some more officers coming
out of that tactical vehicle there. There is a whole bunch now, probably
18 or so.
They have got lights in the back of that pickup truck and it looks like
they are going to pull everyone out of that truck. The people in the
truck continue to be there with their hands up. And this is at the end of
a night, a long night; it looks like they are taking them out.
O`DONNELL (voice-over): Chris, there appears to be no resistance
whatsoever here to the police officers who have -- who do not themselves
seem particularly tense as they surround this vehicle.
It seems like they have established enough communication with these people
on the truck that they know that they are going to be able to apparently
put them all in handcuffs. We have seen about three of them go into
handcuffs already, clearly saw the handcuffs. But it seems like this is a
cooperative engagement at this point.
HAYES (voice-over): Yes. No, I mean, they -- the pickup truck rolled
through here right before we came on the air with people with their hands
up. There now appears being piled out of that pickup truck, being placed
under arrest with their hands cuffed there. There is a ratio now of
probably about 3:1, police officers to whoever was in that pickup truck.
And frankly, I have no idea. I know a number of people just walked down on
the sidewalk saying they were trying to get -- just trying to get to where
they live. I have no idea who`s in that pickup truck as it came rolling
through. It was striking that I came rolling through because there is just
not a single vehicle here basically on this street. It is completely
empty. It`s been empty for a while. It`s been empty since, I don`t know,
when I was on the air, when we got chased off by the tear gas. The tear
gas basically chased everyone away.
You know, now that the tear gas is gone, people are trying to make their
way home. We have got a number of people being pulled out of that truck
one by one and walked over, patted down, walked over to the sidewalk,
placed on the sidewalk and placed under arrest. You can hear the police on
the loudspeaker and they are being -- they are being cuffed, it appears,
with their hands behind their back.
And they are now, it seems, emptying that truck. Again, that truck of
people, whoever is in it, they came rolling down West Florissant the whole
time with their hands up. We got a -- behind me there is four more
officers coming in riot gear to give reinforcements here.
O`DONNELL (voice-over): Chris, it seems like since they are cooperating so
peacefully with the police officers that this may have been a civil
disobedience demonstration, driving through there with their hands up.
They don`t seem to be at all perturbed about being arrested.
They seem to have adopted the posture and conduct of people who put
themselves in civil disobedience situations in order to be arrested.
That`s not to conclude that that`s the case, but it`s just to observe that
their demeanor and the way they`ve been handling themselves is consistent
with that kind of behavior.
HAYES (voice-over): Yes. That`s right. I mean, again, it was -- there
was no resistance from the beginning. It was -- they rolled down with the
hands up. They are complying; they are getting out; they are sitting down;
they are being arrested. They are being -- they are being put next to each
And frankly, I mean, one of the things that struck me, you know, when you
think about how protests are reported on, the sort of top line, the lead of
every article about a protest is the number of arrests.
And one of the strange things about the dynamic here and the nature of the
way policing has worked is that there has been very few arrests in the
night. And some of the nights that saw the heaviest, you know, most
intense use of crowd dispersal tactics and rubber bullets, you know, I
think it was -- last night it was seven arrests. Usually what happens at
protests is a bunch of people get arrested. And so the scene that you are
seeing right now has actually strangely been kind of a rare scene over
these eight days, given how much protesting there has been. The scene you
have more likely been seeing has been tear gas as a means of crowd
dispersal. And that, I imagine, has to do with judgments police officers
are making about their safety and their ability to arrest folks. But --
O`DONNELL (voice-over): Chris, about six or seven minutes ago when we
first picked up this image of the pickup truck, I was able to see before
they removed, it seemed, before they removed anyone from that truck, one of
the officers clearly lifted a bottle out of the back of the pickup truck,
looked like a glass bottle, and brought that bottle away from the truck out
of the frame of our shot, probably over to the sidewalk or to someone who
took custody of that bottle.
If it was a harmless water bottle, they might have just disposed of it. If
it was something else, then it has been added to their evidence that may be
part of the reason for this arrest.
HAYES (voice-over): Yes. That seems possible. I saw the item. I didn`t
see what the item was but I saw them removing the item from the back. So
that may very well be what the situation is.
And again, I have no idea who these people are, although they have the
kerchiefs around the neck that suggests they were out protesting.
Obviously those kerchiefs have been around people`s necks because it`s a
way of dealing with the tear gas when it comes. People -- a lot of the
protesters will have that over their faces or their shirts pulled over it.
And a number of them have them tied around their neck, which has been kind
of a -- you know, one of the sort of uniforms of protester here --
O`DONNELL (voice-over): Chris, if you could -- Chris, if you could please
stand by, we will go Craig Melvin, who is joining us by phone.
CRAIG MELVIN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hey, Lawrence. Good
evening to you guys. I can tell you right now we are just north of Chris.
We are behind a line of about 60, 65 officers who are about to basically --
you have got another few dozen officers at the other end. They`re going to
meet in the middle and essentially make sure that this main thoroughfare is
I just talked to Capt. Johnson, of course the Highway Patrol captain, who
is leading the effort here, who gave a little bit more insight into
precisely from the police vantage point sort of what went down tonight.
And their contention is a number of things. First of all, their contention
is that protesters, initially peaceful, the protesters who were in the very
front of the march, peaceful. But Captain Johnson says that at one point
there were some folks who were in the back of these protesters, who
proceeded to throw some sort of incendiary device. And also threw the
device, walked away from it and then said the cops did this. The cops did
He says, Captain Johnson said that it was an attempt to bait the police and
that led to sort of what we have seen over the past few night. Also said
that, yes, there was some tear gas used about a block down. He said there
have been a number of arrests at this point, could not give me a hard
But as I talk with you right now, I can tell you that the police on this
end are starting to -- some of them, again, starting to disperse the
others, again appear to be positioning themselves to make sure that the
middle area is clear.
(INAUDIBLE) also said something else (INAUDIBLE) that I felt was very
interesting. He said that tomorrow one of the things that they`re going to
talk about at the command center is some sort of different protocol with
regards to how the media is handled and how journalists are being treated.
But the contention here -- and we have heard this throughout the course of
the afternoon (INAUDIBLE) the evening as well.
Their claim is that we are exacerbating the situation. Their claim is that
when some of these young kids see the cameras, that that is precisely what
they want. That is something that he said they are going to talk about
tonight and tomorrow as well. And he said that we can expect some changes.
So obviously we`ll be following up tomorrow to hear precisely what that
O`DONNELL (voice-over): And, Craig, did the captain address this question,
which I think Chris Hayes has framed brilliantly over the last couple of
days, which is we`re in a cycle of provocation and response, provocation
and response. At least that`s what the police claim. They always claim
that they do have provocation for every action they take, including many
things that have judged -- have been judged to be overreaction to the
Did you get a chance to discuss with the captain that question of how on
the police side, what they might be able to do to break this cycle that
they`re in, which they say they`re in, of provocation and reaction?
MELVIN (voice-over): I didn`t. It was a quick conversation. My hope is
to get some more time with him tomorrow morning. You can rest assured that
is going to be something that we talk about -- you know, it`s interesting,
Lawrence, because when we were coming back from a live location, up to
where we are now, and were trying to get in our car, we were essentially
not trapped, but we were between two rows of officers. And these officers
are about two blocks apart. And we ran into five, six, 10 guys, who said
that they were trapped. They couldn`t -- they went down to one end of the
street; the cops said, you can`t get out. You got to go back to the other
end. They went back to the other end, the cops said, no, you can`t go out
this way. You got to go back.
And they said they did that three or four times. And one of the kids --
(INAUDIBLE) kids. Said we don`t want to get arrested. We don`t want to go
to jail. We don`t want to get shot. We just want to get out. We`re just
trying to go home. We`re trying to get to our car. So that -- but that is
something that we heard tonight from a number of people.
So yes, there has got to be -- I think we all know there`s got to be a
better way than this. We have just got to figure out what that way is.
O`DONNELL (voice-over): Chris, Chris Hayes, I want to get you back in
You heard Craig Melvin telling us that Capt. Johnson is thinking of
different protocol for managing the media tomorrow.
What is your reaction to that?
HAYES (voice-over): Well, look, I have heard a few things from people
here, one of which is that it`s -- I think someone actually used the term
"outside agitators" here, which is obviously a phrase that has got a really
intense historical resonance. And I`ve also heard that the media is
Well, let me be completely honest as a member of the media down here. It
is a -- it`s a media circus down here, I mean, there is tons of reporters.
There just are. And it has the feel of -- if you`ve ever been to something
that tons of reporters are coverage, which that`s the feel of it.
The idea that that`s what`s driving this strikes me as just completely
wrong. I mean, first of all, there`s a lot of people grateful that it`s
Second of all, people forget this. These protests started within minutes
and hours of the death of Mike Brown and they started on the street on
which Mike Brown was shot and killed among the whole neighborhood -- I
talked to the owner of barber shop on West Florissant, who told me it got
to him real quick. And before he knew it, everyone had left out the barber
shop to go down there. OK?
So there was no media at that point. There were no cameras down there.
There were people rushing down to the scene. There was a very heated
standoff with police as Michael Brown`s body was on the street. That was
not people trying to get on camera.
So the fundamental driving dynamic here is the sense of injustice and
outrage and frustration and anguish.
Now all of the other things are, you know, that some people have asserted,
the police have asserted about a sort of relatively small element that is
looking to escalate, I think that is almost certainly true.
Is it the case that there is some unspecified number of people that are
wont to do things for the camera? Perhaps, sure. That is possible. But
frankly, you know, I don`t know what that has to do with the First
Amendment. I mean, this is a story. It`s a news story. People are very
angry. They`re -- and frankly, to be honest, I have to say, given the
response we are seeing from police in front of the cameras, I don`t really
like to think of what would be happening in absence of the cameras, to be
O`DONNELL (voice-over): Chris, you`ve been asking this question, I think,
very pointedly and wisely, that is how do we break this cycle of what the
police say is provocation and then reaction?
Can you think or have you had any discussions with anyone on the police
side of this that indicates that anyone there has a new idea about how to
possibly break this cycle of provocation and reaction?
HAYES (voice-over): No. I mean, I think that -- look, I think that the
one night that has gone off without incident was the Thursday night in
which Jay Nixon relieved Ferguson County police and as you see that
gentleman being escorted into the back of a police truck there, sort of
clearing the people they`ve arrested from that pickup truck into police
The one night here that has gone off here largely without incident -- not
entirely but largely without incident was that jubilant Thursday night
after the Ferguson police and St. Louis County police were relieved of
their command in the wake of that awful Wednesday night that resulted in
the arrests of two reporters and Antonio French, St. Louis alderman.
Now that`s the only -- now there were essentially zero police presence that
night. That`s the only that basically went off without a hitch.
That said, when they reran that approach the next night that was the night
that ended in some looting and I think some bottles being thrown and
possibly some Molotov cocktails. There was definite -- and there was
definite looting and there were standoffs between protesters and looters.
So what we have seen is the pendulum swing back. And I said this before
and I don`t know if this is true. But what people here will say when they
-- what people will tell me is ultimately the thing that relieves the
pressure here, the plot point in this story forward that relieves the
pressure are charges against Darren Wilson, that the situation is not a
situation ultimately who -- that can be addressed through policing, better
policing, police tactics.
The underlying angst that is driving things here -- I mean, keep in mind,
whatever elements there are here that are looking to cause mayhem
opportunistically or are looking to escalate as a sort of tactical means of
trying to provoke a response that they will think will then sort of help
their cause, whatever that element is, and however large it is and however
large a role it plays in the dynamics that have set in here, the underlying
outrage here is just very real and very palpable. And it is now day eight
going into nine.
I have had a dozen people, maybe more, tell me what would have happened if
Mike Brown had shot and killed Darren Wilson. Do you think he would be
free right now? Do you think he would not have been charged by now?
That`s the -- I mean, people just see this manifest double standard in
front of them that`s coming at the long line of a whole bunch of grievances
that have built up overtime because of the dynamics.
Ferguson and, frankly, the dynamics of race in America more broadly, and so
it`s hard to think through how the tension that is in this place is
released, short of charges.
Now does that mean that -- I should just be clear about this. Does that
mean the county prosecutor should bring charges as a means of reducing the
tension? Of course not. Prosecutors have a job to look at the facts.
People here feel really clearly that the facts support the threshold of
criminal charges being brought.
And frankly, I think it`s hard to blame them.
O`DONNELL (voice-over): Well, especially with what we now have as
preliminary findings of an autopsy report confirming what was essentially
the witness descriptions of what they had seen, which is that Michael Brown
was shot, hit by -- six times, had six wounds from bullets, including some
reentry wounds of one bullet and actually two bullets that passed through
his body more than once, devastating amount of gunfire to be unloaded on an
The only kind of police firing against an unarmed person that could
reasonably be found not to be misconduct would be one bullet. You`d fire
that one bullet, then you`d discover that the person was unarmed. We`ve
had plenty of cases like that around the country. And this is not that.
We have Craig Melvin back with us now -- Craig.
MELVIN (voice-over): Lawrence, in the past few moments, again, we are kind
of stuck behind this police line now. And there are I would say about 160
different law enforcement officers. Shots have been fired about a block
away, according to one of the law enforcement officers here.
We are on West Florissant. Shots were fired about a block up. We saw
about 2 dozen of the officers behind shields, face masks, start to charge
in that direction. Right now fire trucks are going by. There`s
(INAUDIBLE) military style tank vehicles but also went in that direction as
But meanwhile there were sort of two police lines where we are in front of
that McDonald`s. Those two police lines have essentially become one
massive police line. And right now all we are doing is I guess waiting at
But I can tell you there are no protesters here. There are no protesters.
From this -- from my vantage point here, as far as the eye can see. And I
don`t see smoke. I don`t flames. But the call just came in. I heard the
call; law enforcement just confirmed it to me that now we`re seeing even
seeing a parade of vehicles. I don`t know what you`re seeing (INAUDIBLE)
have your vantage point. But we`re seeing a number of vehicles caravan by
O`DONNELL (voice-over): And Craig, what you`ve heard is shots fired
(INAUDIBLE) any sense of the number of shots fired?
MELVIN (voice-over): Multiple is what I was told. That`s -- but that`s
all we`ve got, just shots fired. Shots fired.
O`DONNELL (voice-over): I think we`re picking up the image now of the
vehicles you said were passing by.
There is also some police officers walking in the area of those vehicles in
a fairly relaxed way. There is not an extreme urgency about what they are
doing right now. They do seem to have a destination in mind. But there is
no running, there`s nothing frantic about their behavior and what we`re
seeing there right now. Many of them have their helmets off right now, a
fairly relaxed posture for some of them.
And so, Craig, the shots fired, no indication of whether the police engaged
in that firing?
MELVIN (voice-over): At this point, no. At this point, no, and I
certainly don`t want to speculate. But you mentioned the officers that you
just saw. I can also tell you that where we are, these officers are pretty
relaxed as well. Some of them actually sitting down.
So there does not seem to be, as you just indicated there, a great sense of
urgency from this vantage point. There was, again, about 5-10 minutes ago,
there was -- that initial call came in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).
MELVIN (voice-over): OK. So no new information. Just another law
enforcement officer there.
But again, as you indicated, if it were serious -- I think we have been
around these parts long enough now to know that the response would be more
This is --
O`DONNELL (voice-over): I think we`d see a lot more tension among those
Craig, we`re going to take a break here. We`re going to let you take a
break here and try to collect more of what`s going on there. Stay with us.
We will be right back with more live coverage from Ferguson.
O`DONNELL (voice-over): We`re back with our live coverage of the events in
Ferguson, Missouri right now. We`re joined now by Amanda Sakuma. She`s
with MSNBC.com live in Ferguson.
Amanda, where are you and what is happening there now?
AMANDA SAKUMA, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): I am on the corner of
Florissant and Canfield. And right now the area is cleared out because
there were roughly 20 young people who were those final stragglers of the
protest that we saw. They were definitely taking their time in leaving.
But then there was a vehicle that came by. It was a truck and the man
inside was offering to give rides home to the other protesters as they were
ambling back down the road.
And so from what I saw there were roughly six to eight people piled in the
back of this little pickup truck, when a SWAT team came, a tactical team
charging down the street and stopped the vehicle. Multiple agents jumped
out, had their guns drawn.
Immediately all of the young people in the back of the vehicle put their
hands up in the air. They were not from -- I was maybe 40 feet away. I
didn`t hear them talking back or doing anything to them. I believe the
driver was explaining the situation. And still one by one, they took each
person out of the back of the truck, brought them onto the curb of the
street here and detained them. They sat them down, put the plastic
bracelets around behind their backs and they were all hauled into the back
of a squad car and pulled away.
And additionally right in front of me, right -- we`re behind a gated area
here. And there was a young man who was walking on the street. It
appeared that he was leaving the scene when the police stopped him; they
pinned him down on the ground. He had two agents on him as they put his
hands behind his back and put the plastic bracelets around his wrists.
And then he was brought up and put back into the (INAUDIBLE) with the rest
of the young people who were being detained.
O`DONNELL (voice-over): We have live pictures of the area now, Amanda. We
saw that as it happened live with that pickup truck.
Was there anything you were able to hear the driver trying to explain to
SAKUMA (voice-over): I didn`t hear what the driver was explaining to the
police. I did hear him earlier when he was trying to convince other people
to get into the car and they were debating which route they would be able
to take, how to get people home or to their vehicles or the best way that
they could navigate the police barricade.
And so that`s how I know that he was offering rides home to people and that
explains why the car was so full of people. And understandably, they were
far over capacity. The bed of the truck was weighed down very low.
But everyone had their arms up. I tweeted a picture of it and everyone had
their arms stretched out as high as they could and agents circled around
the vehicle as they took them out one by one. I`m not sure what was
explained to the agents, but eventually they were all detained.
O`DONNELL (voice-over): So Amanda, based on what you heard the driver say
prior to picking up some of those people, this probably was not a civil
disobedience exercise deliberately intended to lead to arrest.
SAKUMA (voice-over): Them inside of the vehicle did not strike me as a
civil disobedience of any sort. They -- but they were the final stragglers
of the protest. And so, prior to this, several of those young people were
openly defying calls to leave. They were sitting on the curb in the middle
of the street.
At some point they stood in the middle of the street and they slowly
started ambling back away as -- this was around the point that the squad
cars were corralling the media members and saying that all media members
needed to be in a designated area. They are telling people that it`s for
their own safety and that shots were fired but they give no indication of
where exactly and if -- whether or not everyone is in danger and where or
O`DONNELL (voice-over): Amanda, do you have a sense of where we are in the
flow of these events?
Is this winding down now?
SAKUMA (voice-over): I would say it`s winding down but I also see teams on
the ready. They have their riot gear, they have their shields and their
batons. And I see a tactical team, two vehicles. Their lights are going
off. I see guns are lowered but ready. And they appear to be preparing to
either move or sweep somewhere.
Or -- but it is unclear what they are doing. But there are several agents
-- I want to say maybe 50 or so gathered in this one area which, from my
vantage point, has been cleared for quite some time.
O`DONNELL (voice-over): Yes. We have a camera on that now. Amanda Sakuma
of MSNBC.com, thank you very much for joining us.
On the phone now is Yamiche Alcindor, national reporter for "USA Today."
Yamiche, how did events escalate tonight?
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, "USA TODAY": I was at the -- I was across the street
from QuikTrip, where protesters were throwing rocks at people and were --
and protesters were also taking over street signs. Like one woman took off
-- pulled out a street sign that said, "Do not enter," and after being told
several times not to be in the middle of the street, she was pulling the
sign and screaming and like taunting the police with the sign in the middle
of the street. Also protesters at one point made a makeshift barrier of
cones and other objects that they could find to block the police from
coming any further up West Florissant.
O`DONNELL (voice-over): Yamiche, how many people were engaged in that kind
of -- I think you could call it provocative behavior, the putting up the
cones and ripping down that street sign?
ALCINDOR (voice-over): There were probably about maybe between 20 to 50
people. I say 20 to 50 people because about 20 people I think were part of
the actual aggression in terms of pulling out signs and in fact running
into the middle of the street. And I would say maybe about 50 or 30 people
were standing back and watching them and coming into the street slowly but
walking away. So they were calmer than the people who -- like I said, who
I said like that young woman who pulled out sign and was taunting the
police. There are probably at least 20 to 30 people taunting the police
from where I was.
O`DONNELL (voice-over): And were there any community leaders on the scene
trying to stop that kind of aggressive behavior?
ALCINDOR (voice-over): Yes. There were leaders that -- at one point one
of the leaders asked to talk to a commander who was running an armored
truck. He was also talking to the protesters, telling them, we love you,
please go home. This is not the way we want to do this. Please go home.
But it did not work. The protesters continued to defy orders to disperse
and continued to be in the road when they were told not to be.
O`DONNELL (voice-over): I am interested in what the community leaders are
capable of doing here in terms of discipline because they have asked for
more authority and more leeway from Captain Johnson.
And he has said many times in different press conferences that he wants to
work with some of those individuals and has made plans to talk to them
about what they were capable of doing.
And so for example when you have the woman trying to pull down the street
sign and as a community leader trying to argue against that, what is her
reaction if any to the community leader as she is trying to take down that
ALCINDOR (voice-over): In that specific case, that woman pretty much
ignored the community leaders. She was not trying to obey them in any way,
shape or form. She was not trying to talk to them. For the most part she
just pulled up the sign and was taunting police officers with it.
However, others, including -- and I would say a large group of people
really do listen to these community leaders and really do what they say.
At one point protesters had walked pretty much face-to-face with the
officers and were taunting them and were throwing bottles of water. And
those community leaders said stop doing this. And they held (INAUDIBLE)
pushed them back. And he told them, you need to go back. And I think in a
lot of ways a lot of people listened to them
Yamiche, the community leaders have an incredible challenge here, but one
of the advantages they have is that they know many of the people who do
Is there any way to tell and is there any way for them to tell whether they
are dealing with people from that neighborhood who they might not know?
Or in some of these cases people who have come from great distances?
We have heard of people telling us right here on our air that they have
come from a couple of states away. They`ve driven from hundreds of miles
away to be there.
Is there any way the community leaders have a grasp of that distinction
between this is someone local and this is someone who has travelled a great
distance to be here?
ALCINDOR (voice-over): Well, among the community leaders you also have
people who have traveled a great distance.
I talked to a man from D.C. and another man from Illinois. Even people who
are actually helping control the crowds, they are not local, either. There
are some people who are local who know some of the protesters, who get in
and say I know you. You shouldn`t be here.
But for the most part it`s hard to say because, again, the leaders are not
really from here. And the people and the protesters, some of them are from
Ferguson but some of them are from all over.
So I get the sense that these are people who know each other from the last
week of protesting but who don`t really have a history of knowing each
However, I should say that, even with that, even with these leaders from
D.C. and Chicago, kids in Ferguson, protesters in Ferguson are listening to
them, from what I can see.
O`DONNELL (voice-over): Yamiche Alcindor of USA Today, thank you very much
for joining me tonight.
ALCINDOR (voice-over): Thank you.
O`DONNELL (voice-over): We now have on the phone, in Ferguson, Ryan
Reilly, justice reporter for "The Huffington Post."
Ryan, where are you located now?
RYAN REILLY, "THE HUFFINGTON POST" (voice-over): I just made my way
through the command center, where we were instructed to go after they were
trying to clear out the area of downtown, I guess the area where most of
the protesters have been in Ferguson.
What we have here is the military providing -- the National Guard providing
security here. It is a very strange scene. You have actual Humvees on the
scene. And we are essentially just waiting for an update to find out
exactly what happened tonight. But it has transitioned from the civilian
to this National Guard leadership. And security takes place (ph). It`s a
bizarre sort of thing to look at.
O`DONNELL (voice-over): And, Ryan, is there any indication that any
members of the National Guard have ventured outside of the command area?
REILLY (voice-over): Not that I`m aware of; not that I have seen. But one
thing you have to -- I think it`s important to note here is that why do we
have the National Guard in here? There was a militarized presence
obviously in Ferguson already because of all the materials that the police
who had been using.
These vehicles are a little bit different in that they`re painted in
camouflage rather than perhaps black. But they are very similar in
function. And that is one of the things that I think has really set off a
lot of the community.
Bringing in those vehicles was an agitating factor, I think, and in a lot
of -- in a lot of these protests. Especially you saw that last Wednesday,
when during the late afternoon, when things were completely peaceful, they
were trying to clear out the entire community.
This is where people live. This is where people work. This is where
people shop. And to have this military presence essentially shut down that
entire area, based on nothing, based on no violence, was really disturbing
and I think it would be disturbing to any community.
O`DONNELL (voice-over): Ryan, while you were speaking, we showed some
video that we recorded earlier of a man who was apparently wounded, a hand
There is a report -- we have the shot now, the image now. There is a
report of a person having been shot in the hand, actually wounded in the
hand somehow. This may be that person police seem to be helping him toward
treatment. They are guiding him in a very non-confrontational way, away
from the crowd and into what apparently is medical help.
Ryan, is there any promise of a briefing there at the command center?
REILLY (voice-over): That`s what I have been told; we have a lot of
cameras set up, ready to hear exactly what happened. You know, but I think
in these instances, there has been -- the shooting has been used as a way
to get the media out of there or attempt to get the media out of there
perhaps a bit earlier than is necessary, I think, in the past.
So I don`t know the details of this. Hopefully we will find out more about
that at the briefing here.
But it`s tough when there`s -- it`s tough to really get a sense of what is
actually happening on the ground when we are simply just hearing what
people are -- what the people in charge here are regurgitating before the
That`s not what we want to do as reporters. We want to witness things
firsthand and be able to hold people, I guess, accountable as for any of
O`DONNELL (voice-over): Ryan Reilly, thank you very much for joining me
REILLY (voice-over): Thanks for having me.
O`DONNELL (voice-over): We`re going to take a break right now from our
live coverage of the events tonight in Ferguson, Missouri. We`ll be right
O`DONNELL (voice-over): We`re back with our live coverage of the events
this evening in Ferguson, Missouri, joined now by Jim Cavanaugh, former ATF
special agent in charge and an MSNBC law enforcement analyst.
O`DONNELL: Jim, this is -- these are strange nights for you when you have
to watch the deployment of police in these extraordinary circumstances,
taking extraordinary measures and being second guessed for most of the
moves that they make.
What is your reaction to what you have seen unfold this evening?
JIM CAVANAUGH, MSNBC LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I was glad to hear
that there was no serious injuries. I do wish they would get some peace in
that town. I think we all do.
I echo and agree with what you`re saying and what Craig said, I think
Chris, you know, does the massive police presence bring on, you know, a lot
of this activity in and of itself?
I think there is some argument for that. I don`t think it`s a good thing
for the commanders to try to do anything to the media. I think that`s a
mistake. I think they should consult with the media through the PIOs and
have a meeting with the reporters and journalists that are all over the
world there and find out from them.
And I think, you know, if there was an arrest in the Michael Brown case --
and I think eventually there will be an arrest in the Michael Brown case --
you know, maybe the city can go back to normal.
When there is peaceful people protesting, when there is traffic on the
street, when there`s reporters filtering around, asking people their
feelings and what`s going on, life comes back to a place and it does not
have to be a line of police against a line of protesters with gas all in
So you really want to try to get back to being normal. And I`m not so sure
that we`re going to get there unless there`s some step for justice in the
Michael Brown case. And I`m like Chris; that`s not a reason to push things
necessarily. But if the facts are at the bar of justice, then you need to
make a decision.
O`DONNELL (voice-over): So Jim, just tactically in what you`re seeing
tonight, one of the tactics that police seldom use and should be used more
often than they do is tactical retreat, that sometimes there are moments
where tactical retreat will lead within the next hour to a better place
than you will be in the next hour if you advanced instead of retreat.
CAVANAUGH (voice-over): Well, that, I absolutely agree. In fact, I think
that a lot of times you don`t want to show all that force up front early.
In other words, you know, we used to do this at Klan rallies in the South.
There is a lot of activity. There`s opposing groups. And the plans were
always carefully made to keep the troopers back in a municipal garage, a
block or two away, in case they are needed, but not to put them out there
and then we have a big problem.
But we -- they could respond to public safety. But out there was normal,
you know, sheriffs` deputies and police and, of course, federal agents;
we`d be in the plain clothes.
So it was, you know, it was kind of a damp down. You don`t abandon public
safety but you don`t show force unless there`s violence and people being
injured and hurt.
I do think there could be some tactical retreat and less show of force up
front. And like you said, we hear shots and you have to take those --
somebody could be shooting a gun in the air two blocks away. You know, we
don`t know what it is. And officers don`t want to get hurt. But then
again, you`re going to have that kind of activity when you have all these
people on the street.
The quicker they can get that town back to normalcy, the safer it will be
for everyone. Then police can gradually go back, I hope, maybe to beefed-
up patrols where the radio cars might have -- every radio car has at least
two people in it and maybe there`s some cars have four.
You don`t have to have the BearCats on the street, but you can have just
some SUVs with a few officers in it, you know, in case there`s a hot spot
for a few weeks. But you don`t have to be deploying gas necessarily, but
you may have to make some arrests.
Unbelievably, in my view the overwhelming majority of people you see out
there are really just peaceful. I really agree with the leaders like
Antonio French, who I think was leading that man with the injured hand to
the police line, the alderman. It`s a very small group of people, very
small. Maybe it`s 25, maybe it`s 50 that have done some of this looting
and arson. And I think that`s Antonio French, the alderman, in the blue
O`DONNELL (voice-over): Yes, I think it is.
CAVANAUGH (voice-over): And he has been pretty clear about what`s going on
there. He talked about wanting to protest in the Michael Brown tragedy.
But he`s also talked about the residents can`t sleep; they want to go to
work. They have kids that want to go to school. And you know, I think
they talked about the curfew.
So there`s a balance of residents here that say, hey, we got jobs. We got
to go to work. We want to go to school. We want to live. We don`t want
to be up all night with people. And so there was some -- they want some
I do think it`s a good idea they didn`t try to enforce the curfew. That
goes back to your line of discussion, Lawrence, as you -- where you make
things to butt up against.
So and they push it forward, you push it back. So softer is always kind of
better. You have got a lot of groups out there, trying to help and work
And eventually you know, I think it`s going to work down. And I`m just
thankful there has not been a death since the Michael Brown tragedy. I
mean that`s an awful thing, but so far, nothing. So that`s -- I guess --
in all of this negativity, it`s a positive.
O`DONNELL (voice-over): And then just to put tonight`s events in
perspective, based on what we know has occurred tonight -- and some of the
things that we believe have not occurred tonight -- this is nothing like
the bad nights that we were seeing last week.
We are showing you as much of the rough imagery of the night as our cameras
have collected. That`s what television is always going to do. It`s going
to go for the most graphic.
But what you`re not seeing are massive crowds of people who are running in
terror away from the police. You are not seeing people being gassed. The
gas that you are seeing dropped is not being dropped near the people or at
the feet of the people who are there. It`s just, Jim, being used as a kind
of defining wall, it seems --
O`DONNELL (voice-over): -- in the middle of the pavement.
CAVANAUGH (voice-over): You are so right. And I`ve noticed that each time
on the gas deployments, maybe last night and you`re the first one to talk
Yes, I`ve seen that. I saw that when they deployed smoke as well.
They`re making -- it`s the notice. It`s the measure there`s going to be.
This stuff is going to come. It`s time to go, whenever it was. It was the
curfew, if it was late or whatever. So there is smoke. There is some gas.
And there`s going to be -- it is going be uncomfortable. And here is loud
noise and here`s some flashing lights.
And they are trying to disperse the crowd. I think we all have to think
about, although tear gas makes people angry -- and I understand that. And
I understand the anger, looking at the militarized police and all that.
But also I think you could also have to at least take the step that some of
those methods are to disperse the crowd without creating injury. You know,
if we look at the `68 Democratic Convention riots in Chicago, and if you
play some of that footage back of the protesters being beaten within
sticks, I mean, it was an awful, awful scene.
And you know, we`re not seeing any kind of those activities here. So I
think the first night, Lawrence, if I was to evaluate it, I think the first
night was the worst because I think that was the peaceful protesters being
gassed, just like you say, really.
But it`s sort of been pulled back. There`s some nights have been better
like when Captain Johnson walked the protesters. That was a better night,
maybe the best night. And then there has been some intermediate nights.
But there`s been some restraint as well. So there`s some legitimate
criticism and there`s been some --
O`DONNELL (voice-over): Jim, we are going to have to break it there.
O`DONNELL: Jim Cavanaugh, thank you very much for joining me tonight.
Our coverage of this situation in Ferguson continues.
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