Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
Date: November 24, 2014
Guest: Paul Butler, Benjamin Crump, Lizz Brown, Maria Chappelle-Nadal,
Paul Butler, Mark Thompson
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Thanks, Rachel.
We are continuing our live coverage of the grand jury decision in the
Michael Brown case. No indictment on any of the five possible charges
placed before that grand jury by prosecutors, charges against Officer
This is the scene outside the Ferguson police station from the ground
and from the air. People are also gathering at a memorial on Canfield
Drive in Ferguson where Michael Brown was shot and killed on August 9th.
We`re joined now by Paul Butler, former federal prosecutor and law
Mr. Butler, listening to the prosecutor, we learned nothing that we
had not already learned from leaks from the grand jury process a month ago.
At that time, there were some who suspected those leaks were in preparation
for what happened tonight, absolutely no charges.
PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: The leaks were in
preparation, the declaration of the state of emergency, the calling out the
National Guard. It all sounds like this was a foregone conclusion.
Lawrence, when I listen to that press conference, I wasn`t sure
whether the suspect was Officer Wilson or Michael Brown. It`s almost like
Michael Brown was the one on trial.
O`DONNELL: We are, at the moment seeing in our live cameras from
Missouri some activity on the street, there was just a crowd rocking what
looks like a police car. That has calmed down a little bit, but it is not
a situation that looks under control at this moment. There`s a lot of
pushing and shoving in the crowd there.
Now, we have a closer shot of people kicking or kind of attacking that
police vehicle. That is right outside the Ferguson police station.
There`s no intervention yet, that we can see on camera, by police officers
trying to intervene and stop, I think we just saw the back window broken.
Now, we`re seeing riot gear police entering the scene where this
police vehicle`s being attacked. They did that just after the back window
of this police car was broken, which you can see in that shot when it`s a
little bit wider, and you see the back window there. That just happened
seconds ago, the breaking window.
The riot police have immediately gotten control of the vehicle.
There`s no more movement on the vehicle.
The police are moving carefully. They are heavily equipped but moving
carefully and slowly in through the crowd at this point, to simply get the
crowd away from that car. They all, that we can see on camera, have their
firearms, their rifles aimed down, aimed down toward the street. They are
not aiming weapons, as far as we can tell from this camera angle at the
crowd, as we saw in August and even situations like this.
We -- we have -- we have MSNBC`s Craig Melvin by phone who`s right
there in the thick of that. Craig, what are you seeing? Craig Melvin,
it`s Lawrence O`Donnell, can you hear me on your phone?
CRAIG MELVIN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Yes, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Craig? Craig Melvin?
O`DONNELL: It`s Lawrence O`Donnell. You`re on the air with us, what
are you seeing in the crowd there?
MELVIN: We actually left the crowd, Lawrence, me and my team. Before
that -- let me catch my breath. Before that, there were, maybe 30, 45
minutes, there were maybe a dozen or so bottles tossed at officers, these
were officers in front of the Ferguson Police Department, roughly 20, 25 of
them. Shields, helmets. They never actually engaged the protesters until
after the action was made, approached the barricade.
At one point they breached the barricade, screaming at officers. And
the officers had not engaged.
And at one point, maybe about five minutes ago we heard what sounded
like a gunfire, three shots. The crowd had started to grow. We left,
moved farther down the street. And then we just heard more gunshots, and
the crowd began to scatter.
So, what was roughly a crowd of 500 or 600 has quickly broken up.
Meanwhile, as another crowd, the crowd that broke up, we went north, a few
hundred folks were marching south, here on South Florissant.
Again, all of this going down in front of the Ferguson police
department. But, again, right now from a distance, I can tell you the
police line in front of the -- in front of the police department is still
holding. It has not advanced. The order to disperse was given, maybe
about five minutes ago, and folks still hanging out in front of the police
O`DONNELL: Yes, Craig, the camera angle we have is from behind the
police line. We`re seeing the backs of the police officers, and they do
seem to be holding in a very disciplined position.
The protesters do seem to have created a little buffer margin between
the protesters and the police officers. It doesn`t look like there is
direct physical confrontation going on from the angle that we have here
now. It did get awfully rough around that police car with the crowd
attacking the car, Craig, including breaking the back window of the police
car with a couple of very loud bangs that broke that window.
And I`m wondering, Craig, when you mentioned hearing shots fired, is
there any doubt about that? Is there a possibility that those noises could
have been something else?
MELVIN: We`ve, we`ve got so some guys with us making sure we`re OK
who heard gunfire. And they`re pretty certain that`s what they heard.
But, again, we`re all fine. We`ve moved. We`re nowhere near that scene
I can also tell you while we were there we did see, the bottles were
being hurled at these officers, we did see one officer, he got hit with
what appeared to be a glass bottle. He fell to his knees. He was taken
away. He appeared to be OK. But he was taken away from the -- from the
front of the police line there.
Right now, as I`m talking to you, you might see me here on the corner,
corner of Adams and South Florissant here, in front of the city of
Ferguson`s fire station. The fire station`s right next door to the police
department. But it appears as if the crowd that had assembled in front of
the police station is now breaking you.
What`s very interesting, one of the things that struck me about all of
this is at one point, we were talking to a -- at one point we were talking
to a guy and his, maybe 2-year-old son, about why he`s out here, and he
started throwing bottles, and I said to the guy, are you concerned at all
about having your 2-year-old out here in this situation? And he said, no.
No. I`m not concerned at all.
At that point, I think it worsened a bit. And he did move as well.
But what are you seeing from your vantage point? I don`t have the benefit
of a monitor or anything.
O`DONNELL: The tension seems to have been reduced in that area. We
now see the police line holding the crowd. Behaving, not threatening to
the police. You know, some shouting, that kind of thing. But we do not
see any direct confrontations going on now.
And it also seems like a fairly thin crowd there around the police
station and near that area. That had briefly gotten out of control.
There`s a lot of movement there now. But it`s definitely a changed
situation from really just five minutes ago.
And, Craig, we do have the St. Louis police indicating that they
believe shots were fired too. And so, your information is getting backup
from the police on that.
But this is a very different thing that we`re watching, Craig. The
president is about to speak. We`re going to that.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, a few minutes
ago, the grand jury deliberating the death of Michael Brown issued its
decision. It`s now come that either way was going to be subject of intense
disagreement, not only in Ferguson but across America. So, I just want to
say a few words suggesting how we might move forward.
First and foremost, we are a nation built on the rule of law. And so,
we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury`s to make. There
are Americans who agree with it, and there are Americans who are deeply
disappointed, even angry. It`s an understandable reaction.
But I join Michael`s parents in asking anyone who protests this
decision to do so peacefully. Let me repeat Michael`s father`s words,
"Hurting others or destroying property is not the answer. No matter what
the grand jury decides, I do not want my son`s death to be in vain. I want
it to lead to incredible change, positive change, change that makes the St.
Louis region better for everyone."
Michael Brown`s parents have lost more than anyone. We should be
honoring their wishes.
I also appeal to the law enforcement officials in Ferguson and the
region to show care and restraint in managing peaceful protests that may
occur. Understand, our police officers put their lives on the line for us
every single day. They`ve got a tough job to do to maintain public safety
and hold accountable those who break the law.
As they do their jobs in the coming days, they need to work with the
community, not against the community, to distinguish the handful of people
who may use the grand jury`s decision as an excuse for violence.
Distinguish them from the vast majority who just want their voices heard
around legitimate issues in terms of how communities and law enforcement
Finally, we need to recognize that the situation in Ferguson speaks to
broader challenges that we still face as a nation. The fact is in too many
parts of this country a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and
communities of color. Some of this is the result of the legacy of racial
discrimination in this country. And this is tragic because nobody needs
good policing more than poor communities with higher crime rates.
The good news is, we know there are things we can do to help. And
I`ve instructed Attorney General Holder to work with cities across the
country to help build better relations between communities and law
enforcement. That means working with law enforcement officials to make
sure their ranks are representative of the communities they serve. We know
that makes a difference. It means working to train officials so that law
enforcement conducts itself in a way that is fair to everybody. It means
enlisting the community actively on what should be everybody`s goal, and
that is to prevent crime.
And there are good people on all sides of this debate as well as in
both Republican and Democratic Parties that are interested not only in
lifting up best practices with -- because we know that there are
communities who`ve been able to deal with this in an effective way, but
also who are interested in working with this administration and local and
state officials to start tackling much-needed criminal justice reform.
So, those should be the lessons that we draw from these tragic events.
We need to recognize that this is not just an issue for Ferguson. This is
an issue for America.
We have made enormous progress in race relations over the course of
the past several decades. I`ve witnessed that in my own life, and to deny
that progress I think is to deny America`s capacity for change.
But what is also true is that there are still problems and communities
of color aren`t just making these problems up. Separating that from this
particular decision, there are issues in which the law too often feels as
if it is being applied in a discriminatory fashion. I don`t think that`s
the norm. I don`t think that`s true for the majority of communities or the
vast majority of law enforcement officials.
But these are real issues. And we have to lift them up and not deny
them or try to tamp them down. What we need to do is understand them and
figure out how do we make more progress. And that can be done.
That won`t be done by throwing bottles. That won`t be done by
smashing car windows. That won`t be done by using this as an excuse to
vandalize property. And it certainly won`t be done by hurting anybody.
So, to those in Ferguson, there are ways of channeling your concerns
constructively, and there are ways of channeling your concerns
destructively. Michael Brown`s parents understand what it means to be
constructive. The vast majority of peaceful protesters, they understand it
as well. Those of you who are watching tonight understand that there`s
never an excuse for violence, particularly when there are a lot of people
in good will out there who are willing to work on these issues.
On the other hand, those who are only interested in focusing on the
violence and just want the problem to go away need to recognize that we do
have work to do here and we shouldn`t try to paper it over. Whenever we do
that, the anger may momentarily subside, but over time, it builds up and
America isn`t everything that it could be.
And I am confident that if we focus our attention on the problem and
we look at what has happened in communities around the country effectively,
then we can make progress not just in Ferguson but in a lot of other cities
and communities around the country.
REPORTER: Mr. President, will you go to Ferguson when things settle
OBAMA: Well, let`s take a look and see how things are going. Eric
Holder`s been there. We`ve had a whole team from the Justice Department
there. And I think that they have done some very good work.
As I said, the vast majority of the community has been working very
hard to try to make sure that this becomes an opportunity for us to seize
the moment and turn this into -- into a positive situation. But I think
that we have to make sure that we focus at least as much attention on all
those positive activities that are taking place, as we do on a handful of
folks who end up using this as an excuse to misbehave or to break the law
or to engage in violence.
I think that it`s going to be very important and I think the media`s
going to have a responsibility as well to make sure that we focus on
Michael Brown`s parents and the clergy and the community leaders and the
civil rights leaders and the activists and law enforcement officials who
have been working very hard to try to find better solutions, long-term
solutions to this issue.
There is inevitably going to be some negative reaction, and it will
make for good TV. But what we want to do is to make sure that we`re also
focusing on those who can offer the kind of real progress that we know is
possible, that the vast majority of people in Ferguson, the St. Louis
region, in Missouri and around the country are looking for. And I want to
be partners with those folks, and we need to lift up that kind of
constructive dialogue that`s taking place.
All right? Thank you very much, everybody.
O`DONNELL: We`re joined now by Rachel Maddow and Joy Reid.
Rachel, an extraordinary evening. There`s the president at an
impromptu address, while this disorder, it seems to be a small amount of it
compared to what we`ve seen in Ferguson in the paths. While that disorder
is under way and may be calming down, may be getting contained. It
certainly looked it was.
RACHEL MADDOW, "TRMS" HOST: It looks like there have been some acute
confrontations that we have seen. It`s hard to get a sense even from the
air of the overall scale of how large the demonstrations are and how large
the police presence is, and whether or not those are proportion things.
One of the things that`s been so difficult in the wake of the initial
response to the Michael Brown shooting was to judge whether or not police
departments were escalating the situation themselves, simply by choosing to
use a show of force and militarized tactics as a way of trying to defend
themselves and trying in some cases stop those protests.
We know they`ve been through a lot of training and they`ve been
through at lot of command changes since then. Knowing whether these
protests are going to be allowed within the bounds of the law is an open
question. It`s really hard to see people in danger again, and with this
O`DONNELL: We are joined now by Benjamin Crump, attorney for Michael
Attorney Crump, what`s your reaction to tonight`s announcement?
BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL BROWN`S FAMILY: Very
disappointed, profoundly disappointed, Lawrence. Attorney Gray, Attorney
Parks and I are going to have to spend the night talking to Michael Brown`s
parents, trying to explain to them why they got no justice, and it`s going
to be difficult.
O`DONNELL: What about the civil remedies that are available to you,
either through state court or federal court, a wrongful death and/or
federal civil rights complaint?
CRUMP: That`s certainly, we plan on exploring all the legal avenues
available to them, to get them some sense of justice, but they wanted the
killer of their unarmed son to be held accountable, Lawrence, as any
parents would have wanted.
Also, they want to have positive change. They don`t want people in
Ferguson and communities around America just making noise. We want to make
a difference. We don`t want to see this continue to happen to our
O`DONNELL: And it seems now that the leaks that started over a month
ago from the grand jury, which people then, many analysts at that time
suggested were preparing the public for no charges being filed turned out
to be exact -- that looks like the accurate view of what that was about,
along with some of the other things we`ve seen happening over the last
couple of weeks.
CRUMP: Well, Lawrence, you covered this case many times on your show,
and you correctly pointed out that the leaks were done for ulterior
motives, and that have been confirmed tonight, but it doesn`t make it
right, because this whole grand jury proceeding, when a police kills a
young person of color is just wrong. We need to have, not a local
prosecutor who has a symbiotic relationship with the local police
department and the local police officer sit in judgment of that police,
what we really need is a special prosecutor. We need transparency.
People have to have faith that they can get equal justice too, when
things happen to them, or they quit believing. And that`s what we have in
Ferguson. So, we`ve got to dig deep to try to find something positive out
of all of this to make a better way for our children.
O`DONNELL: Benjamin Crump, what would your clients, the parents of
Michael Brown, like to say to these protesters who are out on the street
CRUMP: Thank you, Lawrence. They would like to say to them, let`s
not just make noise. Let`s make a difference.
Let`s remember, as Dr. King said many years ago, we have to be not
only dignified. But we have to be disciplined. We have to contain our
emotions to have a very serious conversation about what positive changes we
can make, like the Michael Brown law, the notion that all police officers
in every American city will have a video body camera, so it will be
transparent and we don`t have to go through this ritual over and over
again. We will know what happened when they have interaction with members
of our community.
O`DONNELL: Attorney Benjamin Crump. Thank you very much for joining
us on this very difficult night. Thank you very much.
Joy Reid, to you, this extraordinary night, I just want you to begin
where you want to begin. We have an astonishing announcement from the
district attorney in this case, which turns out to be what most observers
were saying from the start.
JOY REID, THE REID REPORT: Yes.
O`DONNELL: Me not among them, by the way. I was patiently waiting to
see what he might do. Benjamin Crump credited me with reading the leaks as
what would happen. I didn`t, I know other people did. I was just kind of
We had that, we then had the president, minutes after the prosecutor,
while the president is speaking, we see this unrest in the streets of
REID: Yes, but I feel like this is the entirely predictable result of
what we`ve seen over the last several months, not just leaks. But even
today, the kind of choreography for this result. And just what we`ve
talked over the case of this evolving, the sort of passiveness of Bob
McCulloch, as the prosecutor, just sort of tossing this information in
front of the grand jury saying, you know what, you figure it out.
Almost describe -- I think you might have described it, Rachel, as a
document dump and sort of expecting them to sift through it, which is
predictable what you`re going to get when you do that, which is a non-
indictment. So, you get a sense just sort of perfunctory, almost sort of
robotic disposition of Bob McCulloch, took away any element of surprise.
This is exactly what`s expected. But then, in that case, why would you
make that announcement at 9:00 at night.
MADDOW: Why -- exactly. Why did they do this until middle of the
O`DONNELL: I just want to clarify what we`re seeing on the screen.
That is not tear gas. The St. Louis police tell us that that is smoke.
They`re firing these smoke bombs, presumably to make things more difficult
for demonstrators. It`s not clear at the moment how that does that.
And in fact, Rachel, it`s a very -- every camera angle we have is of a
very thin group of protesters. This is not the mass that we saw this
summer. It seems if we are to judge by what we can get within our frames
of the cameras, that most people who protested decided to stay home and
take this news at home tonight.
MADDOW: That, that may well be. We also heard from Craig Melvin
earlier where we had been able to see a large concentration of people
outside the Ferguson Police Department. An order was given to disburse.
People did seem to disburse. Things did get a little hairy at times.
Again, it`s hard to get a sense of how many people are out altogether.
I do think that Joy`s question, though, is a good one. I mean, if you go
back to the initial demonstrations, including the ones that turned
problematic in the first few days after the killing of Michael Brown,
Remember what the police ordered. They ordered that people only protest
during the day. It didn`t work. People still turned out and protested at
But they said even and sometimes very reasonably. It seems people can
be peaceful during the day and at night, it has been trouble. And then
they waited until local time, 8:15 p.m., dead of night, the end of
November, before announcing this tonight. And I know they declared a state
of emergency in advance and had the National Guard and everything, but Bob
McCulloch giving a statement at 8:30 at night knowing that protesters are
going to be there. It`s a strange approach given how much they had to do
it however they wanted to.
O`DONNELL: And one of the great unasked questions was why are you
doing this at this hour?
O`DONNELL: No one said to him, why didn`t you do this earlier
We`re joined now by Lizz Brown from St. Louis, Missouri.
Lizz Brown, your reaction to the announcement tonight?
LIZZ BROWN, JOURNALIST: I expected it. I am not surprised. This is
what was always in the works.
When you have a prosecutor that is clearly not impartial, clearly not
fair, this is the result. And that`s why he wanted to control this grand
jury. So, I`m not surprised. This is what was expected.
O`DONNELL: Lizz, yes, you`re a practicing attorney out there. And
you told us from the start, this is what you`re saying from the start about
this tech district attorney.
There was something he said twice toward the end of his long statement
tonight. He twice said he wanted to, quote, "make sure nothing like this
ever happens again." I don`t know what he was talking about, since --
BROWN: I don`t either. I don`t either.
O`DONNELL: In his view, nothing wrong happened.
MADDOW: Yes, no criminal act.
BROWN: I think that he doesn`t want to have to go through this much
trouble to do what he wanted to do in the beginning. I mean, in all
fairness, he did have to go through 100-something days to get done what he
could have gotten done in other circumstances in a day. So, maybe that`s
what he was talking about.
O`DONNELL: And, Lizz, with all the time he spent up there in a highly
rhetorical statement that didn`t go very close to the facts of the case, I
can`t -- I didn`t list a single thing that I learned from him tonight. Not
one thing. Every single piece of evidence that he revealed, including the
important evidence like Michael Brown`s blood inside the car, that was all
revealed in leaks from this grand jury over a month ago.
And so, tonight, we actually learned nothing, and no reporter asked
him simple question, fact question that no one`s ever specifically answered
before. How far away was Officer Wilson from Michael Brown when he killed
him? Not when he was having the encounter in the car, but when he actually
killed him, made the decision to fire the bullets that killed him? We
don`t know what that distance was.
BROWN: We don`t know, and no reporter asked him that.
And it`s just -- that`s the problem going forward with this entire
process, what this entire process has been. People have not asked right
questions. They haven`t demanded the right responses.
We have a prosecutor that is not fair or impartial, and yet and still,
he got to stay and have control of this case. And one of the other things,
Lawrence, that I think is so troubling and telling about where we are with
this case is that the racial lines that have been exposed in this case
When you think about this, when you look at who, who says what, who
stands on what side, we have white politicians on one side. We have
African-American politicians on the other side. We have largely African-
Americans on one side. We have largely white Americans on the other side.
We haven`t gotten to anything that`s going to cause that to change.
And what this result says, what this verdict says is that nothing, you
can`t expect any change.
They did exactly what they`ve always done. And they said -- and they
defended this as this is what was supposed to happen. So, what change can
happen off of that. That`s my question.
O`DONNELL: Lizz, stay with us. I just want to go to Chris Hayes, who
we have by phone, who is live.
Chris, you`re outside the police station in Ferguson or --
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST (via telephone): Yes, I just came from there.
We had to get out of there because the situation escalated they`re about to
deploy -- it was either smoke or tear gas.
It was a very chaotic and tense scene. There were several hundred
protesters assembled out there.
The Ferguson Police had put on their eye gear and then there were
gunshots that went off, probably about 50 feet from Ferguson PD, down the
Crowd rushed and sort of toured. There was a commotion, then police
started ordering people to disperse from the middle of the street.
And then they were preparing to clear the area with smoke or tear gas.
It was kind of a striking scene.
There was about 30 Ferguson police who had sort of fallen back behind
a police car outside Ferguson PD Headquarters, in full riot gear. And that
scene there -- I`m now getting reports from folks about that -- you can
probably see it right now -- that they did deploy either smoke or tear gas.
It`s unclear but that was where people had started assembling. It`s
been the kind of -- actually the concert of the main location, rallying
point for protesters.
And we`re back now on West Florissant, just about two blocks away from
Canfield Drive, where Michael Brown was shot. This is the area, of course,
the intense focus of protest back in August.
You know, the QuickTrip that had been burned on the first night`s
protest. And there some folks starting to somewhat flee here, lots of cars
Police are coming out. Police are starting to put on helmets and take
out their shields and batons as well.
O`DONNELL: Chris, is it true that -- the impression we`re getting,
Rachel and I, and Joy Reid who`s sitting here in the studio watching this,
is that it seems like there are many fewer protesters out tonight than we
saw over the course of the summer.
HAYES: You know, it`s hard to say because, you know, one of the
things about the protests in August, particularly that first Monday,
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, after Michael Brown was killed, was that
the actual raw numbers of protesters was relatively small.
They would grow over time and partly grow in response both to the
police reaction and then a lot of people sort of being awakened to what was
going on then. There were probably 3 or 400 people outside Ferguson Police
And I will say there were some sort of amnesty people there. There
were some other observers but, by and large, it did not have the feel of --
you know, it felt very spontaneous.
The spontaneous feel of the protests and unrest had here in
August, which was just people angry and out in the street, and angry. And
there was not any kind of sort of, you know, lines or sort of direct non-
It was people milling around, people chanting slogans, people with
signs, some people with bullhorns. So, it felt a lot like it did fill back
here in August, particularly in the early days.
So, right now, there`s a lot of folks in their car, honking. There
are some folks out in the street.
There is no huge mass of folks like we saw back in October, for
instance, on one of the organized days of protests. But there`s hundreds
and hundreds of people in the street.
There`s nothing like that from what I can tell at this hour.
O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes, thank you very much for joining us. I know
you`re going to pick up our coverage from there live at 11:00 p.m.
I want to go to Craig Melvin from MSNBC, who is also joining us by
phone from the scene. Craig, what are you seeing.
CRAIG MELVIN, MSNBC ANCHOR (via telephone): Lawrence, you also would
know my capability here to stuff we get to know, will be able to give you a
We just, you know -- I just heard the recapping, and I, you know,
having been three months, so I can tell you the scene that`s playing out
right now, it`s very similar to what we saw three months ago.
I mean, there were a number of armored vehicles at the end of South
Florissant here. Now, there`s a police line that has, literally,
quadrupled in size.
They are in -- they`re all in riot gear. There were, I`d say,
literally, at least a dozen flares used -- a dozen flares used and, at that
point, what seemed to be tear gas as well.
And I know that having experienced it last time, and also, again,
we`ve got some folks with us who have background in that sort of thing, and
they had surely said it was tear gas.
And, also, there were scores of people running toward us. Some of
them wearing masks, many of them not wearing masks. And there`s some folks
on the sidewalk as well who appear to be dealing with the -- dealing with
the effects of tear gas.
Right now, the situation is, is calm. I mean, there are hundreds of
folks who are here in the streets just 15 minutes ago.
There might be 15, 20 people left, if that. And, as I`m talking to
you, there`s another one of these military-style vehicles pulled out in
front of the Ferguson Police Department.
And some -- it looks like some -- it looks like there are probably 12,
15 officers who are inside that vehicle, who hopped out.
But, right now, again, I`d say, Lawrence, there were 60 -- somewhere
between -- on one side of the street, there are 60, on the other side of
the street, there are another hundred or so police officers, again, all in
The officers themselves, right now, wearing gas masks, in front of --
in front of the -- if you have a -- do you have a picture?
O`DONNELL: Yes, we have pretty good images. Craig, of what`s going on
there. I`m not sure it links up precisely with where you are.
But we did have a lot of shots earlier of what was either smoke or
tear gas. We have police sources saying that they were, basically, smoke
decoys trying to create --
MELVIN: You know what, Lawrence, I`m talking to you again. The
flares are starting up. We`re back in the truck. Tear gas again.
O`DONNELL: Yes, we see some of that in the background actually but
not in this shot. We just did in the previous shot.
MELVIN: And it appears as if the protesters who were here on South
Florissant, have moved -- again, that was smoke. We`re all fine here.
I don`t know what videos that you have, Lawrence. I assume you`ve got
the aerial. You can see --
O`DONNELL: We don`t have an aerial right -- we have had aerial shots
that actually looked very calm, Craig. The shots -- we have your shot up
And we have another ground shot, up from a different angle. But I
think it`s closer to where that smoke is. Those are the two shots we have
MELVIN: Yes, the smoke -- lots of smoke right now. This would
explain also, Lawrence -- I was talking to you when we saw the officers
putting on the gas masks.
And, now, we`ve got -- there is a car on fire at the other end of the
street. This is a police vehicle. That`s a police vehicle, OK. I don`t
know if you can see this.
O`DONNELL: Yes, we have that shot, Craig. We have that.
MELVIN: A lot of the activity was happening behind us. Two blocks
away, someone set this police car on fire. There was this -- there was
another small fire we saw in front of the -- a Mexican restaurant but --
O`DONNELL: Craig, where is that police car. Is that near the police
MELVIN: Yes. It`s two blocks from the police station. And, right
now, 12 officers are making their way. Lawrence, you know what, let me --
let me hang up with you.
O`DONNELL: We`ll come back to you when you can, Craig.
MELVIN: Look, I`m running in -- tear gas.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Craig Melvin. That`s Craig Melvin joining us
from the streets. And, Rachel, I`ve been --
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Yes.
O`DONNELL: -- I`ve been siting here, very hopeful, because I`ve been
trying to read the best possible situation in some of the imagery that we
see. And then, something like this goes off.
I mean, look, the encouraging thing about what we`re looking at now,
even with a burning police car, it`s just one car, there was one police car
that was damaged earlier tonight.
It is stand-alone. It is isolated. There are no people around it.
It`s not leading to something else at this stage.
We hope that can burn out, be put out quickly. And I just keep hoping
that we are entering the calm stage.
MADDOW: Yes. It is, obviously, it`s a chaotic situation, both in
terms of covering it and in terms of trying to get a grasp on what exactly
is going on.
The thing I keep coming back to though is the overall trajectory here
that there was -- after Michael Brown was killed, the cry was to arrest the
And after there was no plan to arrest the officer, it went to the
grand jury. Then there were -- then the cries for justice were about
trying to get an indictment or trying to get some sort of justice there,
something through the system.
It`s always something to aim at, even as people kept up the protests
in the streets. Now that there has been no indictment, and this is what`s
going on on the streets, what does this go toward.
What`s the end-game here. What happens tomorrow. What do people hope
for from hereon out.
Obviously, the potential of federal charges or civil case may be seen
by some folks as the next step. I don`t know if that will feel like
justice to people in the streets.
And a lot of these hopeful calls tonight from the President and from
the prosecutor, from others saying, "Let`s work on this in a constructive
way. Let`s turn this into something positive."
It is hard to know where this goes after tonight. And this is a bad
night. This looks -- this is a very bad scene --
O`DONNELL: And that`s a bad situation where that flame is going now,
now that the wind is taking it.
O`DONNELL: It moved up from the --
MADDOW: You also see a lot of civilian cars in the middle of all of
this stuff. There`s no -- I mean, not that -- it`s not to say it`s better
or worse to set up a perimeter, because of a lot of people who do not seem
to be involved as either law enforcement or as protesters, who are just in
the midst of these very chaotic scenes.
And, in this case, very near this burning car. That`s not a good --
not a good sign in terms of how well under control the situation is.
O`DONNELL: But, Joy Reid, we`re seeing a totally different approach
by the police. In the summer, we saw, basically martial law. You didn`t
see cars driving down the street because they couldn`t.
They had these -- all the streets blocked off. And we saw earlier,
during this -- a regular city bus moving through with passengers, right in
through the thick of this when it was pretty calm.
We still see these cars moving around, that Rachel mentioned. And,
from the aerial shots we`ve been able to get, in the aerial shots with the
widest view, you see more calm than controversy.
JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: That is true. And I think that -- you know,
those police officers, they`re going to make the best of the situation they
have. But, you know, I hate to sound like a broken record, and at the risk
of doing so, I do still wonder why this is the way it went down in terms of
the public policy, on the way that this was orchestrated and organized.
The history of mass movements, as Rachel explained, is that the
movements are largest and are most coherent when there`s an ask -- "Get
out, the right to vote," "Arrest George Zimmerman."
Whatever the mass protests that we`ve seen, whether in the `60s or in
modern times, have all been moving toward a goal -- "Arrest Darren Wilson,"
"Get us an indictment."
Whatever that ask is is what motivates and what organizes, and is the
organizing principle of protest. When protests lose their organizing
principle, what you have is the people who are most committed to despair,
who are still willing to be outside at 9:30 at night.
There`s no ask anymore. So, the idea that you would wait until the
people who are organizing -- the woman had a trajectory, a protest that had
a meaning and a call to action, which was, "We want to see an arrest and
But that wasn`t going to happen. And, I`m quite sure, Bob McCulloch
knew this morning that that wasn`t going to happen. I`m sure he knew this
afternoon it wasn`t going to happen.
He certainly informed Darren Wilson`s family. He had to inform Darren
Wilson`s attorneys, and he had to inform the Brown family.
So, there was a -- they knew that this was going to be the outcome.
Why wait until late at night.
O`DONNELL: Well, they also -- Darren Wilson -- we had a report that
Darren Wilson, last week, was shopping for a network television
O`DONNELL: -- which you would only be doing, knowing that you`re not
a criminal defendant.
REID: "I got married."
O`DONNELL: And you`re sitting down with different network television
and you used to think, "Which one of these do I want to tell my big story."
REID: So, if I`m just doing the public policy bit, I`m going to ask
myself, "Am I going to close school for two days so that we have
deinstitutionalized all the teenagers in my community."
And then I`m going to make the announcement at 8:00 o`clock at night,
when only the truly committed to despair are going to be out. Because, at
this point, I`m going to disappoint that entire crowd.
There are people weeping in that crowd, there are people suppressed in
that crowd. Now, once the announcement is over, and this 30-minute long
epic statement is over, which tells you nothing, which gives you no sucker,
which gives you nothing, --
REID: -- after that`s over, you have two choice -- you can go home
and be despairing in your house, or you can stay outside and be angry.
They deliberately almost left themselves with the people most
committed to despair. So, that`s not surprising either. That`s the
entirely predictable result of the way this was done.
O`DONNELL: Rachel Maddow, thanks a lot for joining. Your final
thoughts before you rush off here.
MADDOW: I just want -- I want to say that there is a -- there is a
sadness in the emptiness of the statements from Prosecutor Bob McCulloch
and from others who are saying that there`s a way to turn this toward
MADDOW: It is sad to hear the emptiness in that statement -- that we
need this never to happen again, that we need to work on this and keep
talking in a way to make sure this never happens.
That`s empty if there isn`t actually anything that anybody can do to
ensure that the system answers everybody in this country.
And there`s refusal to engage the people who have a legitimate beef
that there`s no way that you can get justice from the system if you`re a
young black man killed especially by a white person or a white police
officer in this country.
The lack of an answer to that charge, against all the preponderance of
evidence, is something that needs to get better, that we need better, less
empty words to talk about that, let alone, action.
O`DONNELL: Rachel Maddow, thank you very much for joining me --
MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: -- on this special coverage on what has become a crisis in
We`re joined now by State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal. Senator,
what is your reaction to the announcement tonight and to the situation in
Ferguson right now.
SEN. MARIA CHAPPELLE-NADAL (D), MISSOURI: I have to tell you that I`m
greatly saddened. And I understand just the way my constituents feel right
What we are looking at is no different from day two, and day three,
and, day four, with the tear-gassing and the anger. There is so much
And, just for a moment, I do want to follow up on something that Joy
and Rachel were mentioning a little bit earlier. Not only has this Mike
Brown Movement revealed the true intentions of people and police
departments across the state.
But I have to tell you that there has been systematic racism,
institutionally, in state government, for decades, including my own state
party. So, what we are looking at right now is a symptom of racism that
has been swept under the rug for decades.
And I am so glad now that the truth is out. And I`m very grateful to
your network for telling the truth, in reporting the truth of what`s going
to go down in the coming days.
People are angry, and they are hurt, and they`re trying to figure out
how are they going to receive justice. And I will tell you that we are now
in phase three.
Phase three is looking at our statutes that we have in law. When I
listened to Bob McCulloch earlier today, he didn`t reflect on the point
that we can change excessive force language that is in our statutes right
In fact, it`s very broad. We need to change several different
sections of statutes. And so, that is what I plan to do.
But, right now, my community is hurting. They are in pain. They had
been in pain before Michael Brown.
Having to look at Michael Brown`s body for 4 1/2 hours injured them
more. I have constituents who had PTSD. I have constituents who have no
And, tonight, when you listened to what Bob McCulloch said -- in fact,
I`ve been getting text messages nonstop as I`ve been listening to your
reporting, and people are angered because they feel as though his words are
empty, as it was said earlier today.
And because of the systematic racism that we have in our state
government and our state party, and we do not bring the truth to bear, then
we will not recover from what we are going on, what we`re experiencing
And I have to tell you, this is St. Louis` race war. We didn`t have a
race war like other cities throughout the country. This is our race war.
And people have to be open, and they have to be honest, and they have
to be earnest. And they have not been earnest for decades.
In my own experience, I know of people in my own party, in my own
government structure who disregard things that we say and how we feel. And
we are not going to allow it anymore.
O`DONNELL: Missouri State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal, thank you
very much for joining us tonight.
CHAPPELLE-NADAL: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: We`re joined now by NBC Legal Analyst Lisa Bloom, and Jim
Cavanaugh, an MSNBC Law Enforcement Analyst and former ATF Special Agent
In-Charge and former hostage negotiator.
Jim Cavanaugh, first of all, to the police tactics you`re watching
tonight, as best you could make them, given the limitation of camera angles
and camera frames, this does seem like a different approach to crowd
control than what we saw this summer.
JIM CAVANAUGH, MSNBC LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, Lawrence, it does
absolutely. I saw a lot of differences.
I think they`ve learned a lot of things. The officers were outfitted
in more traditional police riot civil disturbance gear.
I saw officers on top of the BearCat vehicle with binoculars, instead
of 308 rifles looking out, which is the appropriate way to do it. And,
you`ve mentioned some of the officers with the long guns, those were, from
what I saw, you know, the orange-colored -- those are used for gas and
rubber bullets, sting ball.
So, that`s what we saw there. And they seem a little more measured.
You made a good point. Rachel did as well.
Look, this is one car on fire. It happens every night, in every city
of America, cars get on fire.
So, it`s not something to get overly worked up about. And they seem
to be handling that appropriately. They seem to be more measured.
And the crowd is small. And whoever burned the car might have been
one or two persons. So, I don`t see this as a big -- it`s not a big riot
There`s one car on fire. And I think they`ve learned a lot. You
know, I would maybe drop back a little on the gas and smoke.
If the crowd will kind of dissipate, then you might have the rest of
the evening with no one hurt.
O`DONNELL: Lisa Bloom, I`d like to get your legal reaction from what
you heard from the district attorney tonight.
LISA BLOOM, NBC LEGAL ANALYST: I`m ashamed, Lawrence. I`m ashamed
for my justice system that is so good at protecting celebrities and
authority figures, and so pathetically bad at protecting the ordinary
person, especially when that`s an African-American person assaulted by a
white person, especially a police officer.
I mean, no question about it. What we saw from Bob McCulloch tonight
was a defense attorney presentation, dressed up as a prosecutor during the
He talked about conflicting evidence. There`s conflicting evidence in
We wouldn`t be the land of mass incarceration if every case was
treated the way this case was treated. Conflicting evidence means you
Can`t even charge a man?
I mean, that was just so outrageous and disturbing to me. There`s no
question that Darren Wilson got special treatment. I wished one of the
reporters would have asked Bob McCulloch about that.
Why don`t all of the other defendants in St. Louis get the treatment
that Darren Wilson got, which is a prosecutor who doesn`t want to file
charges himself, a prosecutor who has close ties to where the defendant
works, a prosecutor who puts on all of the evidence, meaning all of the
defense evidence, and then doesn`t request any particular charges to be
I mean, this prosecutor bent over backwards to ensure that there would
not be charges filed. And many of us, myself included, have said all along
that we would be absolutely shocked if there was an indictment because he
rigged the system to get the results he wanted.
He got that result. And he never explained in that press conference
why Officer Wilson feared for his life -- the most important fact in this
He said that Officer Wilson shot Mike Brown twice in the car. That
means that a twice-shot, bleeding Mike Brown, is running away.
Officer Wilson knows he is not armed. Even if he came towards him
again, why would he be threatened for his life. Why would he have to shoot
him in the head and kill him in that moment.
And, unfortunately, Bob McCulloch never answered that question.
O`DONNELL: I want to go back to Paul Butler, former prosecutor, who
was our first guest in the evening. To Lisa`s point, Paul Butler, the
district attorney never said what the key piece of evidence was, proving or
getting to a reasonable satisfaction level that Darren Wilson had to kill
In fact, in the press conference, there was only one real evidentiary
question asked, and that was by a woman reporter. I just have my note says
9:55 p.m. I don`t know who it was.
And she asked, "What evidence other than Darren Wilson saying that
Michael Brown was coming at him, what evidence other than that justified
the shots outside of the car which, we know, were the kill shots."
And his answer was -- he didn`t cite any particular piece of evidence.
His answer was, these two words, quote, "Everything presented." Now, that
is not a prosecutor or a lawyer`s answer, is it.
PAUL BUTLER, FORMER PROSECUTOR: It`s certainly not a prosecutor who
seems to be conducting a good, safe investigation. I`ve appeared before
grand juries a hundred times.
I`ve never seen a process like this, Lawrence. It really does seem
like the fix was in. And there`s a tradition here.
There`s a tragic tradition with this prosecutor. He`s now 0 for five
in cases, in which he`s taken to the grand jury, cops who shot unarmed
And that matches up with the tradition in our country, unfortunately,
of African-Americans getting over-enforcement of law when African-Americans
are suspects, and under-enforcement when they`re victims.
So, it does seem as though unarmed African-American man or woman has
no right that a white cop is bound to respect. That`s the anger.
I was happy to hear the President say he understands why people are
angry. That`s why.
O`DONNELL: Now, we`re going to learn a lot about this evidence as we
dig into it, depending on how much of it has been released tonight. But I
do want to play this moment in the press conference that I just referred
to, with this question about exactly what was the decisive evidence.
Let`s listen to this question and then listen to this answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: You cite Officer Wilson`s description
of Brown`s movement towards him as a charge. Was there any other evidence
that might have led the grand jury to conclude Wilson had reasonable cause
for the use of deadly force?
BOB MCCULLOCH, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY, ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI:
Again, I think I have to have -- I`m not privy to the deliberations, and so
I can`t say what they is highly significant or not.
But they had all the information, and they were charged with, and they
were told that here`s what the law requires, that you consider all of the
evidence and the information.
And so, it`s not just -- in most cases, it is not just one bit of
evidence that says, "All right, that`s it. That`s all we need to hear."
It`s everything that is presented, which is why we wanted to make this
as complete and thorough as possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, when he says everything that was presented, that
includes what Michael Brown was doing in the store, for example, --
O`DONNELL: -- which is completely irrelevant to your decision to
shoot him on the street --
O`DONNELL: -- on the street. He has to do something that threatens
your life. That is the law.
And this district attorney could easily have said, "Yes, the key piece
of evidence that justifies the shots," which he only referred to as several
O`DONNELL: -- a stunningly imprecise description by a prosecutor -- "
several shots that were fired outside the car, here`s the key piece of
evidence that justifies those shots fired outside the car."
He did not offer any evidence that justified the shots fired outside
REID: Yes. And it`s interesting. And it`s interesting that Lisa
Bloom described it as a defense presentation because it is what it sounded
He went into this preamble in which he presented something like a
narrative but then, left out really important question and really important
information -- how far away from the police office was Michael Brown at the
time he was shot.
And to your point, what was the piece of evidence that finally led to
the grand jury deciding that there was not enough here to return an
indictment, even on the multi-minimal charge.
And, I think, what was also sort of strange about McCulloch`s
presentation, in its sort of blanditude and dryness, was that it was sort
of devoid of the emotional core of this case.
It was sort of -- I don`t know, it was bloodless. But he never
explained. And he was asked over and over again, things like, you know,
what about his own feelings about people`s disregard of him or people`s
distrust of him.
He just was sort of blank. And, I think, the blankness of it, in a
sense, almost makes it worse.
And with that long presentation, he had plenty of time to present
whatever information and details could have helped people to understand
this decision. And he just chose not to do it.
O`DONNELL: We`re joined now by SiriusXM`s Mark Thompson. Mark, we
have video up now of a -- I believe we have a protest in New York City.
You`ve been with us for the evening. It`s at Columbus Circle, looks
like very peaceful. Mark, your reaction to the announcement tonight by the
prosecutor and what we`ve seen in Ferguson tonight.
MARK THOMPSON, SIRIUSXM RADIO HOST: Well, first of all, my thoughts
and prayers are with Michael Brown`s family. I cannot imagine how
devastating this must feel for them.
My thoughts and prayers are completely with him. But, you know,
Lawrence, the rule of law, that phrase has been invoked a great deal, with
regards to the protest.
O`DONNELL: Mark, I just want to mention that we have -- that you`re
speaking over a live picture from Oakland, California spontaneously,
assembled and quiet protest there.
THOMPSON: Yes. And it`s beautiful that people are reacting around
the country, Lawrence, and it`s to show the Brown family, show his parents
and his family, just how beloved he is, and just how much in solidarity
people are around the country.
But, as I was saying, this phrase, "rule of law" is so often used in
reference to the protesters, those reacting. But it was very clear tonight
when this prosecutor spoke, and he clearly is not a prosecutor, that the
rule of law was not employed in this case and what was presented to the
This is probably the first time in the history of American
jurisprudence that you had a prosecutor come out and basically announced
that he failed at his job, and that he did not win an indictment, which is
what a prosecutor is supposed to do.
This, perhaps, should have never gone to a grand jury. Darren Wilson
should have been indicted to begin with. And so, here we are again,
another justification of the killing of an unarmed young man, an unarmed
African-American for no reason at all, and an officer getting away with it.
I think we`re encouraged by the President`s words tonight. You know,
it seems that JFK had Birmingham, LBJ had Selma and, now, President Obama
But we must go beyond this. We must demand body cameras for officers
around the country.
And I would also say, we need to seriously think about some degree of
civilian oversight of our police departments. Not just civilian complaint
review, but civilian oversight as well of all of our police departments.
This is very, very important. And, lastly, I would also just say that
there should be non-violent demonstrations.
But not just non-violence for non-violence`s sake but, rather, the
King Jr.`s type of non-violence. Non-violent resistance that would agitate
and would exercise vigilance.
That`s what we need. And, I think, we ought it to Michael Brown`s
memory, to behave in just that fashion.
O`DONNELL: Mark Thompson, thank you very much. I want to thank all
of my guests -- Joy Reid, Lisa Bloom, Jim Cavanaugh and Paul Butler for
staying with me through the hour.
Craig Melvin also. I want to thank him and Lizz Brown who stayed with
us. Chris Hayes, now, is live in Ferguson with more of our coverage of
this evening`s events.
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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Monday, November 24th, 2014
Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL