THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
August 13, 2014
Guest: Ryan Reilly, Casey Nolen, Sherrilyn Ifill, Adolphus Pruitt, Mustafa
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: So police now are arresting reporters in
Ferguson, Missouri. One of those reporters who was arrested will join me,
as will one of the reporters who has been hit with tear gas.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, "ALL IN": Two reporters in Ferguson, Missouri,
RYAN J. REILLY, HUFFINGTON POST: Evidently, I was not moving quickly
HAYES: For not leaving a McDonald`s.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every night, there are cops all over the place.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police officers in military style fatigue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks more like a police state.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ferguson remains on edge.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Another night of tear gas and confrontation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Third night in a row, residents have taken to the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To demand justice for Michael Brown.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The unarmed teen was shot and killed on Saturday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By a still unnamed police officer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many calls for the release of the police officer`s
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Contributing again to what is a very volatile
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sooner rather than later would be better.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There has been a lost of trust.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You must leave the area.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Only adds to this boiling cauldron we see here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Protest over the Brown shooting grew violent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: News of two shootings.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Officer shot a man who allegedly pointed a gun at him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Police say the shooting is unrelated to earlier
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But still, it all adds to this tension.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Between the community here and the police force.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After dark, it does get a little dangerous.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Urging protesters to rally peacefully.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To occur right in the daylight.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The call for peace is understandable.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s going to be a long road for this community.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The call for justice is much more dire.
PROTESTERS: The people united will never be defeated!
O`DONNELL: We have breaking news now in Ferguson, Missouri. Police have
arrested at least two reporters and one of MSNBC.com`s reporters says tear
gas has just been used.
Joining me now by phone, Trymaine Lee, national reporter for MSNBC.com.
Trymaine, what`s going on there now?
TRYMAINE LEE, MSNBC.COM NATIONAL REPORTER (via telephone): OK, about 10
minutes ago, we were in front of the police line and the paramilitary
vehicles, and someone must have thrown a plastic bottle, something was
thrown from the crowd. The police said this is no longer a peaceful
protest, you must disperse, seconds later, fired tear gas into the crowd.
I was standing about 40 feet away from where the first canisters landed and
it burns your eyes and burns the breath of your lungs. People were running
and screaming. And as we were running, it sounded like things were pinging
off the walls of the gas station here. So, I`m not sure if they were
rubber bullets or what.
And so, now, there`s a helicopter circling. People have backed up a few
hundred yards and police have given their final warning, saying if you do
not disperse, you will be arresting.
But the crowd is standing strong, people are coming from out of the
apartment complex and gathering in the streets, standing. And so, as the
police line marches forward, you know, it`s only a matter of minutes before
something is going to go down.
O`DONNELL: Trymaine, is it clear to people there which way to retreat, if
they do want to follow that police order and disperse?
LEE: Well, it`s not, because the line is right at the intersection of West
Parsons and (INAUDIBLE). So a lot of the people live back there. My car
is parked back there. So, there`s no way to disperse back home.
They`re telling people to leave, but the only problem is only half of the
apartment complexes on the side. There are other homes on the other side
of the street. So, it`s not clear where people are supposed to go.
O`DONNELL: Trymaine, stay with us. Keep that phone line open.
We`re going to bring in Ryan Reilly. He`s one of the reporters who was
arrested today. "Huffington Post`s" justice reporter, Ryan Reilly.
Ryan joining us by phone also.
Tell us what happened to you.
REILLY (via telephone): Sure. So essentially I was at a McDonald`s
recharging my phone and computer battery and sort of working on some things
and filing some things, when the police line started marching. When the
SWAT team started marching down the street and three officers came into the
McDonald`s and talked to the manager there and announced to everyone in the
McDonald`s that they couldn`t guarantee their safety if they stayed.
We said that was fine. They left, came back --
O`DONNELL: Ryan, who else was in the McDonald`s at that time before the
REILLY: There were customers, a couple of children at the time, definitely
a few other customers there. People from the neighborhood, people just
eating at the McDonald`s.
O`DONNELL: So, Ryan, nothing about the situation in the McDonald`s before
the police arrived that indicated there could be any reason not to be
there, that there was anything unsafe about being there?
REILLY: Absolutely not. It was a completely, completely calm situation.
I mean, there was absolutely nothing happening in the McDonald`s.
The protests were going on down the street. It`s more suburban actually
than I expected coming in here.
And so, you know, probably maybe half mile, not even down the street is
where the protests were taking place. And, you know, the McDonald`s was
calm and operating as normal, until the officers came in and decided to
clear everyone out.
And I think the issue was that -- he arrested two reporters, but the issue
why he didn`t like me too much is that I declined to provide identification
just simply because I was taking a photo of him, because he doesn`t have
justifiable reason to command identification from him. So I declined to do
that. And he moved on, before he then came back and decided to clear the
I think -- it seemed like they sort off forced the manager`s hand to
shutting down the store there. So, I was told to pack up and given a
countdown. It sort of reminded me some the way some parents treat their
children giving them a countdown. You know, I was given like 30 seconds to
basically get all my stuff up and I was evidently not if moving quickly
enough and perhaps giving the officer a little bit of attitude as he, you
know, was insisting that I pick up my things quickly and treating me,
honestly, like an enemy combatant.
It seemed like -- I mean, someone who`s simply operation -- was working on
their laptops in a McDonald`s and, you know, you come in, and because
they`re not moving quickly enough and you have a high-powered weapon -- and
they have a high-powered weapon decides to arrest you.
It was -- it was such an overreach and so completely unnecessary and
antagonistic. So, I think, one of the things you have to think of is
especially if I as a reporter, if we as reporters were being treated this
way, and myself as a white man was treated this way, I can`t imagine how
they treat members of the community, especially with the lack of diversity
on the police force here, you know, and the -- just so many issues that
just come into focus --
O`DONNELL: Ryan, the other reporter who was arrested in that McDonald`s,
"Washington Post" reporter, did have his press credentials around his neck
vividly displayed. Just hold it there.
We`re going to go back to Trymaine Lee --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, shit!
Do we have Trymaine Lee?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re in a bit of a --oh, shit.
O`DONNELL: We have someone on that phone. OK, control room, figure out
what`s going on with Trymaine Lee and let me know.
Ryan Reilly, going back to you here, there seems to be some action on the
street where Trymaine Lee is, and he can`t join us on the phone.
What you`re describing is a classic case of false arrest. I`ve heard both
of the accounts of you and "The Washington Post" reporter who were
arrested, and we can only hope that your journalistic enterprises, "The
Huffington Post" and "The Washington Post" take false arrests seriously as
an inhibitor of press freedom and that they bring false arrest lawsuits
against these police for what they`ve done.
We`re now -- I`m told Trymaine Lee can hear us and is connected to us now.
Trymaine, can you hear me?
LEE: Yes, I can hear you.
O`DONNELL: What`s going on in your location?
LEE: They police -- they are marching forward, there`s launching off the
cannons, I`m not sure you can hear in the background the boom, the
explosions. There`s nothing but smoke in the air. People are running
back. They`re marching. The people were standing in the street, there`s
nothing -- you can`t see anything in the street.
O`DONNELL: What do you think those noises are coming from?
LEE: They`re stun grenades and tear gas. The entire street is filled with
smoke. I can`t see 20 yards ahead of me. They started launching the stun
O`DONNELL: And from what you`ve seen about the -- Trymaine, from what
you`ve seen about the crowd`s assembly there, is there any rational you can
think of about why they had to be moved and moved urgently this way?
LEE: Not this second time. They were standing about 200 yards away, just
standing there. I`m at the last of the police warnings, about a minute or
two later, the police started marching forward. I`m not sure what provoked
They were already about 200 yards behind. Now, there seemed to be some
sort of flare in the middle of street. There`s a cloud of smoke billowing.
It`s a rough situation here. Cruoching down, you`re about to hear more
explosions. There they are.
O`DONNELL: Is there much light left in the area or is it dark now?
LEE: It`s dark now and it`s made even worse by this cloud of gas unfurling
through the streets.
O`DONNELL: Are people holding their ground against this or are they
LEE: I can`t even see. The only thing I can see is that the officers
crouching down. There`s still explosions in the background. I`m not sure
you can hear it. The only thing I can see cutting through the smoke,
(INAUDIBLE) I don`t know if you heard, they`re still throwing off stun
grenades. You can see the silhouette of all these officers on top of the
armored vehicles with the rifles. Other than that, I can`t see 20 yards
ahead of me.
O`DONNELL: Do the officers you see, that you can see, do they have gas
LEE: I cannot see. They have to. There`s no way you can breathe that
without a gas mask. No way at all.
O`DONNELL: Are people in the crowd able to communicate with each other?
Are they able to yell back and forth to each other about what they want to
LEE: It`s actually eerily silent now. People were running. But for the
bang of the stun grenades, you can`t hear much.
I hear people yelling. I`m moving closer into the crowd.
O`DONNELL: What`s your estimate, Trymaine, if you have any idea of how
many people are in this crowd, remaining in this crowd at this time?
LEE: There would have been maybe 150, maybe 200, perhaps a little more, up
to 250 maybe, at most. But they`re scattered about. Some people were
starting to go home. The police are wearing gas masks.
O`DONNELL: OK, Trymaine, stay on the line. We`re going to come back to
We`re joined now by Casey Nolen. He`s a reporter with NBC`s KSDK station
in St. Louis.
Casey, what`s your understanding of what the police maneuvers are about
tonight and why they`re attempting to obviously move that crowd that
Trymaine Lee is in now?
CASEY NOLEN, KSDK-TV REPORTER: Well, I can tell you this all started about
the time the sun went down. Early today, the police chief of Ferguson said
it wasn`t an order, but it was a request that the peaceful protest be over
with by dark.
And I can tell you, about the time it got dark is about the time that all
this activity started. The stun grenades or -- we`re about a quarter mile
away and we can hear those here. We`re at the police command area.
As to why they are using this particular amount of force or this particular
amount of effort, earlier today we talked to the St. Louis County police
chief who was overseeing this effort from a county perspective, and he said
there are a lot of good people living in a good community, and they deserve
to be safe and it`s their responsibility to keep them safe.
O`DONNELL: Casey, what do you know about the local police practices in
these kinds of situations? I understand this particular situation is
probably never occurred there in recent times, but for example, these stun
grenades, what is the police theory of how they think a stun grenade, an
explosion, what seems to be a bomb going off, somehow helps in crowd
control and calms people down?
NOLEN: Well, I can tell you what they think about their job that they`ve
done so far. The chief again said that he was amazed and inspired by the
amount of restraint that his officers and all the officers from all the
different jurisdictions that are here as part of this group, he was amazed
and inspired by the amount of restraint they had shown.
We actually had an officer involved shooting is early this morning around
1:00 a.m. police say that suspect had a gun and pointed it at a police
officer. That man was shot and is in critical condition. And the chief
said, to be honest, it was his fear since Saturday afternoon, right after
word came that Michael Brown had been shot, he said it was his fear since
that something like that would happen, it hadn`t happened so far.
So, he was praising the officers here for their restraint. As for their
tactics, I can also tell you that you`re right, not in recent memory. The
chief said he`s been doing this for 28 years. Not only has he never
experienced anything like this, he says, he`s never heard of anything like
this in the St. Louis area. He says they`ve not been able to drill for
anything like this.
O`DONNELL: Casey, what is your understanding of what the police theory is
about this so-called curfew, and where they get the authority, where do the
police believe they have the authority to enforce a curfew?
NOLEN: I will tell you, as of about an hour or hour and a half ago, there
was officially no curfew. They said very clearly that this was a
suggestion, this was what they would like to see happen, that people cease
their protests by sundown. We asked the county police chief if he was
planning on an official curfew. He said that didn`t help him much, because
he felt like the people who were, in his words, causing the problems at
these protests, wouldn`t obey a curfew any way, and they would actually
have a negative impact on people he said would be taking the bus home,
trying to get too and from work.
So he didn`t feel like a curfew about an hour and a half ago was an option
for him, that he was even considering. We did ask if he was going to bring
in the National Guard. He said he was considering that, but that
represented more of a management issue. But he had some benefits in his
mind in terms of manpower.
O`DONNELL: And, Casey, quickly, we`re going to take a break, but, quickly,
what ask the police theory about their constitutional right to break up any
free assembly of people that they seem to choose at any time to do?
NOLEN: Well, I`ll do my best to speak for the police chief in that I
believe once you had a gas station burn down and once you had several
numerous businesses broken into and looted, he feels like he has a
responsibility to the homes that are just outside the zone that you`re
seeing on TV across the country and world, where you see the burned
buildings, where you see broken windows, there are some solidly middle
class, nice homes -- not that that matters one way or the other, but are
just outside the view of most of the cameras. The chief feels he also has
the responsibility to protect those people.
O`DONNELL: But just to be clear, they haven`t directed you people in the
media there to any legal authority for what they`re doing, or
constitutional authority for what they`re doing in terms of dispersing free
assemblies of people there?
NOLEN: No. In fact, they believe that they have done a good job of
giving, not being a firm wall against protests during the day. I was down
there yesterday when there was an impromptu protest at that gas station,
that was burned down. People blocked traffic and police blocked the cars
from getting to them, versus pushing the people out of the streets.
We actually had some protesters kind of take charge of their fellow
community members and kind of organize them, get them off the street. But
the police, you might say, I think they would say made it safer for them by
keeping cars away from them as they were blocking the streets. Come
nightfall, that`s when they start pushing people out.
O`DONNELL: Casey Nolen, please stay with us if you can.
We`re going to take a break here and be back with more on what`s happening
right now on the street in Ferguson, Missouri.
O`DONNELL: We`re back with more of our breaking news coverage of what`s
happening on the street right now in Ferguson, Missouri.
I`m joined on the phone by Trymaine Lee, who has been in a tear gas cloud
for the last 20 minutes.
Trymaine, what`s your situation there now?
LEE: I`m trying -- I can barely breathe. My nose -- my lungs are burning.
I can`t open my eyes and I just can`t escape it. The further back you go,
it still hangs in the air. It looks like the police have taken over
completely at the end of the street.
But again, far down the street, the clouds of tear gas are engulfing
everything. Just a few seconds ago, another stun grenade went off. Again,
my entire face, from my nose to my lips and eyes, it`s all burning, my
stomach is on fire. So, I can`t imagine what people who were in it
actually feel. And I`m pretty far back at this point.
O`DONNELL: When you say in it, Trymaine, what are the contours of what`s
going on there? Where are you, where are the police, and where are the
other people in the crowd?
LEE: So, if you think about West Parsons (ph), the main drag through the
part of this community, there`s a Quickie Mart that was one of the first
establishments burned and looted the first nights of the disturbance. And
so, at one end towards Canfield (ph) in the area where the young man was
killed, you come back further down past the Quickie Mart and you pass one
intersection. That`s where the people had been pushed back initially from
the first round of tear gas.
So, as the police officers march forward and start firing tear gas, they
fled down the opposite direction away from Canfield. But in that -- in
between the police and where the protesters were, there`s a street that
leads back to a set of apartments and further down more apartment
So, I`ve come down further into the neighborhood. So, that`s where I am
O`DONNELL: Do you see other people trying to cope with this tear gas now?
LEE: Most of them have handkerchiefs or t-shirts wrapped around their
faces. So, they seemed -- many of them saw it coming. They`ve been out
here night after night, so they experienced it. So, they were prepared.
Others have fled into their apartments.
There`s still people jogging away. As far back as I am now, there only
about five other people out where I am. So the problem is, there`s nothing
back here but apartments. If you don`t live back here, I`m not sure you
can do back in this direction.
I can`t go back towards the street because they`re setting off explosions
and tear gas. So I`m along with other people stuck back here. I see a
couple -- a news van up there, and they`ve been stuck in it all.
O`DONNELL: We have what appear to be some live images coming from
Ferguson, Missouri right now.
Trymaine, at the beginning of these shots, we could see kind of a fog
effect, very low, kind of on the street, the way tear gas falls, it`s a
heavy gas, so it falls, so that it stays low at human being level, like six
feet off the ground in that area.
LEE: I`m not sure, I`ll still be around.
O`DONNELL: Trymaine, do you think you should be moving to a safer location
right now? Because I don`t want to keep you on the phone if you need to
LEE: Honestly, in this circumstance, I`m not sure what a safer position
would be. I`m going to try to find something, so I would -- I`m going to
try to find some clean air and look forward to being in touch with you.
Let you know what`s going on.
O`DONNELL: OK, Trymaine, do that. Get in a better position and we`ll
check in with you later if we can -- if we can get back to you.
LEE: OK, sounds good.
O`DONNELL: Thanks, Trymaine Lee from MSNBC.com, reporting from the scene
tonight, on the street in Ferguson, Missouri, where tear gas has been being
used for at least the last half hour.
Joining me now is Sherrilyn Ifill, resident and director of the NAACP Legal
Defense Fund, and Jim Cavanaugh, retired special agent in charge and MSNBC
law enforcement analyst.
Sherrilyn, his is -- we`re seeing some extraordinary things happen here
tonight. But they`re not things without precedent in American law
enforcement history, and the incidents in this country where police have
clashed with communities. The 1968 Kerner Commission report where they
found virtually all the community clashes they had with African-American
communities reported as rioting in many situations, were all preceded by
some kind of interaction with police, usually police use of deadly force
that the community was objecting to.
And so, we have a very long history of what we`re see thing week in
SHERRILYN IFILL, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: Yes, Lawrence, no question. I
think that it is all too familiar. But I think that would explain the
first night, Sunday night. We are now at Wednesday.
And what we`re seeing today is actually something quite different than
we`ve seen in the past. We saw today that there were peaceful protests.
We heard the request of the police commissioner that people stop protesting
at sundown, and we`re even here on this show having a conversation as
though this is just about the police.
The police are law enforcement officers. They`re there to enforce the law.
The people who make the law are the people who we elect to the citizens of
Ferguson and of the surrounding communities elect. We`ve not heard from
Where is the town council which has the authority to create a curfew if
indeed there is one? There is no evidence that there is a lawful curfew
passed by those authorized to make the laws in Ferguson. All we have are
police officers requesting the police chief requesting people go home at
So, there`s no clarity that it is lawful for the police to suggest that it
is somehow unlawful for the citizenry to be protesting in the evening. We
haven`t heard from the town council. We haven`t heard from the county
commission. We haven`t heard from the governor.
We heard Governor Jay Nixon say several days ago that he was praying, that
this seems to have opened a wound that hasn`t healed and all those things
are true. But he is the governor of the state and we`re seeing local
constabulary -- we heard the chief of police say they haven`t even had an
opportunity to drill for a situation like this.
So they are using rubber bullets, incredible weaponry, tanks, they have not
even practiced using this material in this kind of urban situation, and we
have silence coming from the governor of the state of Missouri. I think
that, Lawrence, we have to shift our attention to the local elected
officials for whom the local chief of police and the police officers work.
They do not themselves create the law. They are enforcing the law made by
the people who are elected by the citizenry of Ferguson, the surrounding
counties in Missouri, and we need for them to step up and take control of
O`DONNELL: Yes, Ron Allen reported to us last night that Governor Nixon
came there last night for one short meeting. He gave a written speech,
left, no questions. Wasn`t there, hasn`t been there since, wasn`t there
before, but here he`s got a very active police situation, kind of recently
unprecedented police situation going on in his state, and he is not at that
scene. It`s a very good point.
Jim Cavanaugh, I want to bring you in. I`ve been wanting to talk to you
about this all week, first of all about the police tactics that ended in
the death that has preceded all of what we`ve seen, but I think more
urgently right now, I want to discuss the police tactics that we are
hearing of and seeing some of tonight with what they`re attempting to do
with crowd control? Just your reaction to some of the elements that we`ve
brought in so far on this?
JIM CAVANAUGH, MSNBC LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, they really need to
tone this down, Lawrence, and ratchet it back. I mean, this is not the
response to a protest. You know, when you shoot all this gas and you have
Bearcats, armored vehicles like that with officers with rifles on top,
you`re dealing with violence, a riot, the people are hurt, killed, people
with weapons charging the police line, there`s gunshots. That`s the kind
of response that has this kind of police activity.
I mean, I grew up around it in the `60s. We all saw that stuff.
But when there`s protesters, like Sherrilyn was saying, why do we have all
that police activity, rifles, Bearcat vehicles? That`s not required.
What you do is you pressure the citizens and you tear gas the citizens for
protests. That`s not right. You don`t need to ratchet that up.
The reporter has mentioned, the chief said they were restrained -- well,
you know, the officers did a good job, they were fired upon by somebody
with a weapon, they shot him and arrested him. OK, that`s a good job. But
that`s policing, that`s good policing.
But shooting tear gas at protesters and force, and get off if street, you
know, last night I saw a clip where they shot tear gas at a man on his
front lawn. You don`t tear gas people on their front lawns. So, they need
to ratchet it back, really ratchet it back.
O`DONNELL: Yes, just to clarify one point about the other officer shooting
last night is that the -- the report is not that he was fired on but that
the person aimed a gun, the suspect aimed a gun at the police officer,
which is absolutely provocation enough to be shot by a police officer.
So if that story is true, then that is a clean police shooting as we
understand it so far.
Sherrilyn, I want to go back to you about what now is -- because we have
some clustering events as social scientists call it, including this one
that`s happened here in Los Angeles, a shooting of a young man who was also
unarmed, he seemed to already be in police custody when he was shot here in
Los Angeles and all sorts of consternation in the community here about
What would you say about the national component of these kinds of events?
By which I mean there`s always an echo, when the modern world of
communications, if something happens in a place like Ferguson, Missouri,
that America has never heard of, they will hear of it instantly and there
will be an impact, there will be sociological, a psychological impact
throughout the country from this kind of event.
IFILL: Well Lawrence, you`re absolutely right. And I think that`s why the
killing of my Michael Brown created such a strong emotion throughout the
country. These are -- these incidents that, you know, are happening in
jurisdictions all over the United States are part of a long pattern and
story. And my organization, the NAACP legal defense fund, we have a letter
that we sent to the justice department asking for a full review and
investigation nationwide of the use of excessive force against unarmed
This has gone back for decades. And I could sit here and rattle off the
names just off the top of my head of ten in the last five years of
incidents where people have been fatally wounded, seriously wounded or
assaulted by police officers when they`ve been unarmed.
There is something here. I described it, Lawrence, to you as a cultural
problem that we have to deal with in the -- in terms of the way African-
Americans are viewed, and this expectation of criminality. There is a
problem with policing and the excessive use of force. There`s a problem
with police training, but most of all there is a problem with police
culture. And what`s disturbing about what we`re seeing on the streets of
Ferguson tonight, is this is precisely the problem. It`s the ratcheting
up. It is the inability of police officers in too many jurisdictions to
deescalate, to tamp down a situation or a confrontation.
And frankly, what the Ferguson police are showing us is exactly the wrong
thing to do. It`s taking everything to the next level, bringing in tanks,
bring in this level of weaponry, shooting rubber bullets. Only ratcheting
up the tension and the violence.
The police officers, you know, of the United States, many of them are
excellent public servants, but too many of them are ill-trained, poorly
prepared, psychologically ill-equipped and overly equips in terms of
military equipment to handle the delicate situation that involves life and
death decisions every day and protecting our citizenry. And it is a
national problem that has to be addressed.
O`DONNELL: When people refer to rubber bullets, I just -- I want to make
this point, they`re not toys. You can be killed by a rubber bullet. It is
a deadly weapon and can be used as a deadly weapon. It`s better absolutely
than using regular ammunition in this situation.
But Jim Cavanaugh, I don`t know if you can see some of the live imagery we
have here up on the screen, but what we just saw, as Sherrilyn was speaking
two minutes ago, maybe, was one of these officers who took his rifle and
just aimed it down the street, his long-barreled rifle, just casually aimed
it down the street for a couple of seconds and just put it down.
Now, there is no conceivable reason to be casually aiming a rifle down the
street like that, an active street that we see cars moving on. We`re
seeing all sorts of untrained, unprofessional police work, just by aiming
cameras on those streets.
CAVANAUGH: Well, and we have reporters being arrested, you know. We have
a protest broken up with sort of an overwhelming force. I mean, you wonder
is this Egypt? Why are we arresting our reporters? Why are we doing them?
Why are we breaking up protesters? Like Sherrilyn said in the curfew, this
needs to come back, ratcheted way back.
And the image of officers on top of the bear cats with rifles pointed at a
crowd of protesters, did a riot precede this tear gas event, that a riot
preceded were people injured and stopped and buildings burned down tonight?
I don`t think so.
So it needs to come back a little bit. Let`s bring it back down. But the
underlying cause of this, Lawrence, is no action on the murder of Michael
Brown. I mean, we have watched the witnesses, and you can talk about it
later if you want to. But they need to make an arrest. There`s plenty of
facts in this case and it needs to move forward and it doesn`t need to drag
on forever. And that`s causing a lot of the feelings of people, rightfully
O`DONNELL: We have live video imagery coming in now of the tear gassing
and some of this. It`s KARG radio actually that`s supplying this live feed
of video from Ferguson, Missouri, at this very moment. We can see big
waves of tear gas moving through there now. Such that if there are people
on the other side or in that tear gas, we couldn`t possibly see them, the
density of that gas being what it is right now. The video is being shot
from what seems to be a few hundred feet away from that gas there in
CAVANAUGH: Right. It`s going to draw crowds and is going to make people
angry and it is going to ratchet up everything. You know, what happened to
precipitate the deployment of gas and the movement of all those officers?
Again, go back to what was the reason for that?
Normally when you`re moving on a crowd, there`s violence, cars turned over,
people are hurt. Did that happen tonight? Because if that didn`t happen
tonight, then you know, it seems like it`s a little too much for the people
of Ferguson to get this gas thrown at this point. I mean, they`re upset
that this young man was killed and we need to have an arrest. We need to
have some answers. We need to have some clarity. And that will probably
be the best thing to damp down this rather than just more tear gas and more
O`DONNELL: We`re seeing some tear gas canisters fly through the air right
now. As you were speaking, Jim, we just saw a couple that landed. When
they`re shot, you can see the kind of bright trail they leave off as
they`re flying through the air.
The person shoot thing video is clearly running now. The video has gone --
has turned quite messy as the person handling that camera is running from
the tear gas. We see other journalists obviously with professional camera
equipment running away from that tear gas there in Ferguson at this very
minute, the -- and the crowd it seems whatever small crowd was there
looking at that gas.
We now have the person that`s been shooting that video on the phone.
You`re going to have to tell me your name, sir, because this is breaking
right here as we speak.
MUSTAFA HUSSEIN, REPORTER, KARG (via phone): My name is Mustafa.
O`DONNELL: And your last name?
O`DONNELL: And you`re with the radio station there shoot thing video?
HUSSEIN: Yes, sir, KARG.
O`DONNELL: And where are you exactly?
HUSSEIN: Right now, I am crouched down in a person`s yard, as the police
department continues to shoot canisters of gas, down into this
neighborhood. The crowd has disbursed and they`re going after individual
people who are trying to get back in their vehicles. We are trapped away
from our vehicle and cannot get back to it as they block off the street.
They ask all media to shut off all video recordings before they advanced on
the crowd. And a lot of us did not.
O`DONNELL: Now, what -- is that something -- you`re local there. I mean,
is that something that this police department thinks they have the
authority to do, to tell the American media to turn off their cameras, do
they believe they have that right?
HUSSEIN: I don`t know if they believe they have that right. I know that
this is a practice that they have taken over the last three nights. And we
have reports from the crowd once the media has left the area --
O`DONNELL: Now Mustafa, there was clearly a moment where you decided to
run. You were taking some steady shots and then the camera went pretty
wild as you were running. What were you running away from?
HUSSEIN: I was hit twice. I`m not sure if it was from a canister or if it
was from rubber bullets. Luckily I had my battery back and my backpack on
my back. But the force was enough to push me forward and I think that`s
what you saw in the video.
O`DONNELL: And so you were actually -- your backpack was hit, either by a
tear gas canister or a rubber bullet?
O`DONNELL: And can you -- could you figure out why the area you were in
was the target of this police assault?
HUSSEIN: As I was filming, the protesters began to sit in the streets,
they were chanting. There were rumors I didn`t hear it, but another news
crew has said that someone had thrown an object towards the police
department. And there was no reaction there the crowd when that took
place. But we just started running as soon as the canisters of smoke were
O`DONNELL: And how many people would you say were in that crowd that the
smoke was aimed at?
HUSSEIN: I would say there was roughly 250 people gathered, maybe 300.
O`DONNELL: And what`s happened to that crowd now?
HUSSEIN: The crowd has been disbursed. There`s nobody left.
O`DONNELL: And somewhat is -- what are the police doing at their side from
what you can see now?
HUSSEIN: I`m still hearing tear gas canisters go off in the distant. A
helicopter is still circling about a block north towards the 270
interstate. And the S.W.A.T. vehicles are still a block and a half away
from me, with their lights pointed down this residential street.
O`DONNELL: And were the police attempting to affect any arrests there?
HUSSEIN: No, no arrests were attempted. Their main mission was to
disburse the crowd and the protest.
O`DONNELL: And what about people who are actually living in that area, is
the tear gas getting into their homes?
HUSSEIN: Yes, they`re firing tear gas directly into the yards of these
houses as people are fleeing down the side streets.
O`DONNELL: Mustafa, can you stay with us on the line there for a second?
I just want to bring in Jim Cavanaugh. Jim, what is your reaction what
we`ve been able to establish so far in that used of the tear gas?
CAVANAUGH: Well, that was a great interview, Lawrence, with Mustafa there.
And he really gave the salient facts. You have the protests of 150 people,
I think he said, are sitting down. They were sitting down chanting. And
somebody threw something at the police line. OK, well, this is a police
line who has helmets and, you know, shields and 36 inch riot batons. And
they`re prepared during the a police line, and maybe they should be there.
maybe they should be there. Somebody throws an object at them, that is not
time to advance with tear gas and start going after protesters.
One person threw something. You`re protected with the defensive gear of
the police, you`re protected from that thrown object. You just need to
chill out. Maybe you can identify the guy through a picture. But you
don`t have to launch an all-out tear gas program on these people having a
This needs to get ratcheted way back. The city doesn`t need to be
experiencing all this. It can be a lot calmer. Really just needs to
tamper down. Somebody is going to get hurt. A citizen is going to get
hurt. And the police officer, because he (INAUDIBLE) in the middle of this
together, this needs to really, really get ratcheted down. I imagine now
that the tear gas is blasted all over the town, we`re going to be having it
all night, and people are just trying to get to their cars.
So I go back to what we said earlier, Lawrence, what precipitated the tear
gas and the movement of all the officers, if it`s just one object thrown, I
think that`s a little too much.
O`DONNELL: I want to go back to Mustafa Hussein from KARG radio who is on
the scene there shooting that video that we have see. But we`ve lost our
phone connection to him but we still have his video that he`s been
capturing there for us.
Sherrilyn Ifill, I want to go back to you on this. Jim Cavanaugh is
raising a very important point, a very important dynamic in this situation.
And that is that the first thing that police have to ask themselves in
these kinds of situations is, are we going to make the situation worse?
And that does not seem to be a question that those police commanders are
asking themselves there tonight.
IFILL: This looks like a textbook case, Lawrence, of what not to do. As
Jim pointed out, the police are the ones who have the superior weaponry,
the superior numbers, they have all of that on their side. And their job
is to protect and serve. And, you know, I suspect that the chief of police
thinks that`s what he`s doing.
But it should be apparent by now, by day three, day four, that what they
are doing is not working. They have all day today, when things were calm,
if they wanted to enact a curfew, to have the council pass the curfew law,
to have that information distributed, to have people understand that this
was coming from the elected leadership and not just from the police. And
then to take appropriate actions thereafter.
It`s not clear to me, as Jim suggested, that the appropriate actions are
the use of tear gas, or the pointing of these giant weapons at the
citizenry. They are angry. They are protesting. And frankly, to be
honest with you, from the very beginning, the failure to respect the
community by providing the name of the officer who killed Michael Brown,
which happens routinely in all cases of a police killing. We know the name
of the officer who killed and was involved in the killing of Eric Garner in
New York. This is not information that`s normally kept secret.
Those are the things that raise the tension and the anger in the community
and the sense that nothing was being done. So it`s nice to say all of the
good words that you want to make things better and that you feel terrible
that you`re part of the problem which the chief of police said earlier.
But there are actions being taken. They are actually making it worse. And
by now, by today, it should have been apparent that ratcheting up this
militarization is only creating a worse situation. And so, the focus today
should have been on what is it that we can do to involve the civilian
responsible actors, like the elected leadership in these jurisdictions, to
tamp down the situation. What can we tell the community that shows them we
are taking appropriate action.
The idea of doubling down on not releasing the officer`s names, the fact
that we are not seeing the elected leadership. Of course, we`re seeing the
extraordinary videos and statements of Antonio French, that`s been
wonderful. But where is the rest of them? Ad where is the governor of the
state? This is traumatizing the town of Ferguson, the surrounding
communities, the state of Missouri and the entire country, who is
witnessing this police action against reporters, against civilians.
This has to stop. And somebody has to take responsibility by being a
leader. And the leader should not have to be the chief of police, who was
hired by the elected officials in the community. We need the leadership to
take control, to tell us what is the state of the law? What have they
asked the chief of police to do to sit down and talk about what is the best
way to quell the concerns and the unrest in the community and to act
Obviously, the way that has been selected is not working. It is not only
that it appears to be blatantly against the law, unconstitutional, ill-
advise, it`s not working.
So we really need to see leadership that is focused on bringing peace into
this community, talking to the members of the community, respecting their
dignity, providing transparency. It`s shocking how much people having
information calms down the sense of outrage. And right now this
communality feels like they don`t have the information that they need. So
I really think that what we`re seeing here, Lawrence, is just a very poor
set of decisions that have been made that are making this situation even
O`DONNELL: As we continue to watch live imagery coming out of Ferguson,
Missouri, of what has been a massive in some areas tear gas attack against
people gathered in the streets in by all reports so far, a completely
nonviolent assembly of people there. Some of this video obviously handheld
by journalists on the -- literally on the run from the tear gas as they`ve
been shooting it.
We`re joined now by Adolphus Pruitt, the president of the St. Louis NAACP.
Mr. Pruitt, Sherriyn Ifill`s point, where are the elected leaders as this
community is under siege tonight?
ADOLPHUS PRUITT, PRESIDENT, ST. LOUIS NAACP (via phone): You know, that`s
a very good question, and they`re probably covering up their faces and
hiding from the tear gas if you ask me. It`s unfortunate the fact that,
you know, in this country, I remember in the occupy movement and some of it
happened in St. Louis, where people actually (INAUDIBLE) and protested and
stayed there for weeks and months and they didn`t take anything like this
in order for that movement to eventually dissipate and people were returned
to alternative use of their time.
I have no reason whatsoever for the Ferguson police, St. Louis county
police, any police to rely on these tactics to deal with the crowd out
there. It makes no sense whatsoever at this point in time. The saddest
part about this is that all of this actually started by the police. We
have witnesses who have come forth and told us that on Sunday night, they
fired a flare towards the marchers, which resulted in them throwing bricks
and rocks and an explosion happened that Sunday and has been going on ever
since. And it seems that they have not learned that when they intimidate
and attack the people out there, that is not the method to try to quell the
violence, it does just the opposite. It infuriates them. It enflames them
and in some cases, it makes them want to stay longer.
O`DONNELL: And Mr. Pruitt, have you or anyone at the NAACP been able to
have that conversation with police, that some of their tactics are capable
of make thing situation much worse?
PRUITT: We`re scheduled to have that meeting tomorrow morning at 10:00.
It was already scheduled as of this morning to talk about it, and we got
tied up with the witnesses in front of -- making sure all the witnesses got
in front of the FBI and the U.S. attorney, which was more priority for us.
But we`re scheduled to meet with the chief tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. And I
can assure you, this is a big part of the conversation. And I agree with
the state attorney general called me earlier. And he was going to call
back. I have not talked with the governor`s office lately, but I can
assure you tomorrow, it is -- that`s number on after relate some of the
calls and some of the priority is time for the state of Missouri to step in
and bring some sort of realistic meaningful way of dealing with the
protesters out there.
It`s obvious the local police officers can`t do it. And one other quick
thing is that we had another source that just came to us, the chief of the
Ferguson police department and the chief of the St. Louis county police
department were both came up the ranks together through the St. Louis
county police department. The chief at Ferguson retired from the St. Louis
county police department and now he`s running Ferguson.
So I have no doubt that both men are in agreement with the tactics that are
going on, because they`ve probably been using them for the past 20, 30
years when they went into the department together.
So these things we have to deal with and we have to get realistic. I tell
you this, the last time I saw something like this, I think I was looking at
a protest over in eastern Europe. It`s getting ridiculous.
O`DONNELL: Mr. Pruitt, the ACLU today filed an official request under
Missouri law, government records, to disclose the incident report, the
police incident report in this case, which of course would have the name of
the police officer who did -- who shot Michael Brown, and it`s very clear,
Missouri law, I have been reading today, it`s very clear, it says that all
incident reports and arrest reports are open records.
And is that point, the release of that incident report -- by the way, to
distinguish, investigative reports are not open records until the case is
completely closed and over. But incident reports, which simply say what
time, where, what happened, the basics of what occurred there, those are
public records. Is it part of the NAACP`s agenda tomorrow if meeting with
the police to demand that they comply with that ACLU request for the open
PRUITT: Absolutely right. We get police reports from incidents all the
time. And they always show who the officers were. As a matter of fact,
they show not only the officer who initiated the arrest or the contact, but
also shows who the officer was that filed the report. And we get them all
the time. And yes, that is one of the things on the agenda when we get
with the chief tomorrow is to talk about releasing those documents that
state law requires be done.
O`DONNELL: And Jim Cavanaugh, I want to go with you on the release of that
incident report Because Sheerilyn Ifill has mentioned that Mr. Pruitt, we
just discuss that, the ACLU is on it, finally, to making a legal maneuver
to get it to happen. But the police chief has said that because they
received, they say they received without including any evidence about it,
that they received some kind of death threat to a police officer who was
rumored to be the shooter, that they consider that reason enough to simply
not comply with the law that says this is an open record. Jim, what`s your
reaction to that?
CAVANAUGH: Yes, I think it`s part of the problem they`re having here.
They`re not doing the right thing on moving quickly. When you have a major
case, a major event like the killing of Michael Brown, then what you do is
you`re going to bring in all your detectives, you`re going to have all the
resources, you are going to have all the people there to do it. You`ve to
the FBI, you`re going to conduct all these interviews swiftly. You are
going to get all the facts down quickly. And then you`re going to make
some quick decisions.
You know, Lawrence, if you take the situation that happened on the street
with Michael Brown and just for a moment, and I`ve been in these situations
as a uniformed officer, you know, with a man standing around the double
yellow line and another guy over here with a gun. But if you just take
that situation and say, let`s just take the police officer out of it.
Let`s say it`s a man in an SUV drives down the street. He has words with
two pedestrians. There`s some cursing going on. He backs up, there`s an
altercation, the door hits a man, the neck is grabbed. There`s a fight.
And then from inside the vehicle, there`s a lot, a pedestrian is shot, then
the driver chases the me pedestrian, shoots him on the back. When he
turns, he shoots him on the front.
Now, if you get there, and you`re the uniform patrol officer, I`ve been
there in those situations a number of times. I`m going to arrest the guy
that did the shooting on the unarmed man that murdered him and left him in
the street. I`m not going to call the D.A., wait for grand juries. I`m
not going to do any of that. I`m going to book him for murder and I`m
going to call the detectives. And we are going to get all those witnesses
And this is what is so upsetting in these cases. Now, I would defer and
say that because it is a uniformed office, that that shouldn`t happen
immediately. That night maybe. Let`s get some facts out, because the
police do have a tough job.
You know, when I was a policeman and a federal agent all my life, and I
don`t think you should arrest that officer on the spot, but we`re five days
into this. We have the witnesses all over the media. And those facts are
not going to change. The facts are there. The man was killed, he was
unarmed, he was shot, and nobody is going to square that circle.
This is murder in every state in America. It`s a violation of civil rights
to walk freely on the street. It`s a murder under the civil rights
statutes. We need a law enforcement leader or commander, a prosecutor to
walk down in the morning and get a complaint for murder and arrest the
officer. That`s what needles to happen. We don`t need to be talking about
releasing his name, we need to be arresting him. And then the community
needs to relax and this stuff needs to get pulled back and we need to go
back into what Sherrilyn said and the NAACP leaders and talk about how
we`re going to, you know, fix our policing in America to be the right way
we want. There`s lots and lots of great cops out there. And I can tell
you all the cops I know would condemn this whole shooting incident on
Michael Brown and makes him sick their stomachs that we even have cops that
do this kind of thing.
O`DONNELL: Sherrilyn Ifill, the history here of these events is that, of
course, these names are revealed and they are revealed very quickly as we
mentioned in the Staten Island case, in the Rodney King case we knew the
names and many of us in Los Angeles still remember the names of those
officers. And sure, there have been in some of these instances real death
threats that are communicated to these people. But often times that have
not been real death threats but claims of death threats.
None of those death threats have ever turned out to be real. There`s not
one case of what the police are fearing in Ferguson for their officer who
shot -- was the shooter in this case, there`s not one incident they can
point to in history of law enforcement where an officer in this situation
was then in any wait harmed by the community.
IFILL: The nature of whatever threats the police say that have been
lodged. I would point out, however, that excuse came on Tuesday when they
were going to release the name and they drew it back and said we`ve been
getting threats on social media. I don`t understand why it was Tuesday.
I`m saying that Sunday, this, you know, we should have known who the
officer was. Monday we should have known who the officer was. Actually
waiting for the community to become upset and for some crack pot to call in
and make death threats and then say that`s the reason you`re not releasing
the name. It doesn`t really explain why immediately we didn`t know who the
The officer is a public servant. There is no reason why we don`t know the
name. I certainly, you know, no one wants anything untoward to happen to
the police officer. And so, certainly, whatever protection you think that
police officer is entitled to in order to protect his safety, absolutely.
That should happen.
But anonymity I don`t think is the right of a public servant who has shot
an unarmed man as occurred in this case. So I think, again, I want to go
back to the beginning. I think what we`re seeing here, there`s a lot of
bad decision making here. Whatever was the intentions of the chief of
police, there have been just bad decisions that have been made about how to
manage the situation from the very beginning. And that`s why I`m
suggesting that when you make bad decisions and they produce bad results on
the job, your bosses are supposed to step forward and they`re supposed to
stop you from making bad decisions. They`re supposed to bring in people
who can turn the situation around.
And I`m not seeing the bosses. I`m not seeing the elected leaders. This
should be a civilian conversation that we`re having about the management of
a terrible tragedy that happened. This should not be, you know, a kind of
embattled war, a pitched battle. I want, and I hope that the people of
Ferguson will actually go home and use the process. You know, don`t let
their elected officials off the hook. Call them and say what are you doing
about this situation? Because this really should not be a confrontation
that`s happening between the constabulary and the citizenry on the streets.
O`DONNELL: And Sherrilyn Ifill that will have to be our LAST WORD for this
hour on the subject. Thank you very much for joining us. Thanks also to
Jim Cavanaugh for joining us and for Mr. Pruitt of the NAACP in St. Louis.
Our live coverage of the situation there in Missouri will continue now with
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THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL