Show: POLITICS NATION
Date: November 24, 2014
Guest: Kendall Coffey; Paul Henderson; Lisa Bloom; Wesley Lowery, Patricia
Bynes, Lizz Brown, Lisa Bloom, Paul Henderson
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Ed. And thanks to you
for tuning in.
Breaking news out of Ferguson tonight where the grand jury in the Michael
Brown case has reached a decision. An announcement is expected from
prosecutor Bob McCulloch at any moment.
It`s been 108 days since officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Brown. And
tonight, we will find out if he`ll be charged with a crime. We also will
hear from Missouri Governor Jay Nixon in about an hour and a half, to a
half hour. We`ll have that for you live.
But what happened inside the grand jury, the secret grand jury? What
decision did those 12 people come to? And what is the mood on the ground
in Ferguson tonight? We`ll have all angles covered tonight, from the
legal, to the voices in Ferguson.
We start tonight outside the center of justice in Clayton, Missouri, with
MSNBC`s Craig Melvin.
Craig, this moment has been months in the making. What`s the mood?
CRAIG MELVIN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Rev., I would describe the mood as
anxious. I mean, as you said, 108 days since that shooting here in
Ferguson. Law enforcement anxious, regular citizens anxious, protesters
anxious. We`ve seen over the past few hours, more barricades go up around
the justice center behind me where the grand jury had been deliberating.
We`ve seen monuments in front of the police department here in Clayton
covered. We`ve seen streets blocked off as well. We`ve seen more
businesses board up.
All of those things happening in the last few hours as folks here in
Clayton prepare for this decision that`s going to be announced.
So, on the side, you have this anxiousness. But you also got a fair amount
of confusion as well, Rev. We still haven`t been able to confirm precisely
when that announcement is going to be made tonight. Is it going to be 8:00
is the last time we`ve heard, eastern. But again, we haven`t been able to
get that confirmed. And also confusion over the release of those grand
MELVIN: We were told yesterday that it would not be happening. A short
time ago, the "St. Louis Dispatch," the paper of record here in St. Louis,
reporting that the documents will be released if officer Wilson is not
indicted. So anxious and confused here on the ground.
SHARPTON: All right, Craig, please stay with me. I want to bring in Lisa
Bloom, attorney and legal analyst for avo.com. Thanks for being here
LISA BLOOM, LEGAL ANALYST, AVO.COM: Thanks for having me, Rev.
SHARPTON: Lisa, we just learned Ferguson schools are planning on closing
tomorrow. You know this community. What`s the feeling right now?
BLOOM: Well, I don`t think schools should be closed. I personally think
children should be in school as much as possible and perhaps they should be
educated on this outcome, whichever way it goes, they should be enlightened
about what`s going on in their community. Those kids who are not in
school, I would encourage them to be out as part of the peaceful protests
which I expect to take place just as those protests have been 99 percent
peaceful since August 9th when Mike Brown was shot.
SHARPTON: And I think you`re right. but bring me inside the jury room,
Lisa, so people and I will understand how this works. The grand jury is
made up of seven men, five women, three of the grand jurors are black, nine
are white. Take me in the room and how the prosecutor presented evidence
and what it was like as the grand jurors deliberated.
BLOOM: Sure. Well, to understand what happened, we have to understand the
way that grand juries usually go down, 99.9 percent of the time, which is,
the prosecutor puts on a very short abbreviated case, a couple of witnesses
here that would just to show that Mike Brown was shot and killed by Darren
Wilson, not disputed. A couple of the eyewitnesses who say that Mike
Brown`s hands were up in universal sign of surrender at the time that he
was shot. And then recommend the charges, manslaughter or second-degree
murder would be the most obvious.
That`s not at all what happened here, though. Darren Wilson got special
treatment. I mean, there is really no question about that. The treatment
that he got was prosecutors who didn`t want to file charges directly.
Instead, they went to the grand jury. They put on all of the evidence,
they say, including all the evidence that helps the defense.
Darren Wilson testified for about four hours. Was he rigorously cross-
examined as he should have been? We just don`t know. but most
importantly, the prosecutors have said here that they`re not recommending
any particular charges. So they`re sending a very clear signal, I think,
to this grand jury that they don`t particularly think charges are
appropriate or at least -- it is up to the grand jury to figure out.
SHARPTON: Which is why some of us question it.
Let me go back to Craig. Craig wanted to correct something.
MELVIN: No correction here, Reverend Al. But I do want to clear up some
confusion in the past minute or two, we have heard from the prosecutor`s
office. They confirm now that the grand jury announcement is going to be
made at 8:00 local time.
SHARPTON: Yes. You said 8:00 eastern so it`s 8:00 central time.
MELVIN: 8:00 central. Right here behind me at the justice center. And we
were also told, we were told that the prosecutor is going to be taking some
questions as well.
SHARPTON: All right, thank you, Craig.
And the governor will be speaking in the next few minutes. We`ll take that
live, but we are told that the announcement will be 8:00 central, which is
9:00 p.m. eastern time. I can also say, some of us are going into
Ferguson, the parents are not appearing until tomorrow, whatever the
decision will be, will not be discussed until tomorrow. Let me go back to
SHARPTON: Lisa, for months, the prosecutor gave assurances that if there
isn`t an indictment, all the evidence would be released. He said that he`d
reached an agreement with the judge to do it. Let me let you hear it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT MCCULLOCH, PROSECUTOR, ST. LOUIS COUNTY: There`s no probably about
it. It will be released. We`ve asked the judge to do that and the judge
has agreed that she will do that if there is no indictment, she will
authorize the release of the testimony and the physical evidence that was
presented to the grand jury.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Now, Lisa, the county court`s top administrator says that`s not
true. Quote, "judge Whittington has entered no such order and has made no
BLOOM: You know, I`m shaking my head, Reverend, because there have been so
many out and out misstatements from the prosecutor, from the local police.
The disrespect for this community has been at an all-time high.
I believe the prosecutor has been hiding behind this idea that I`m going to
release the entire transcript from the very beginning, knowing full well
that would probably not happen. Because grand juries are typically held in
secret. Because he would need a judge`s order to do that. And because a
judge probably would not do that.
And you know, Reverend Al, you made it your life`s work to fight for
equality across America and especially in our criminal justice system. How
can this prosecutor justify the unequal treatment that he has given to
Darren Wilson in this case? That no other defendant that I`m aware of in
St. Louis has gotten this kind of treatment.
Listen. If I were accused of a crime, I would love to get the Darren
Wilson treatment. A prosecutor who doesn`t think I should be prosecuted.
Putting on all of the defense evidence, not recommending any particular
charges, making misstatements to the press, leaking information that is
only one-sided, that helps the police officer here. I mean it is
absolutely appalling and shameful what`s going on.
SHARPTON: Well, to be very clear, the grand jury is not to try the
innocence or guilt of the accused. It`s only to establish whether there is
enough probable cause to go to trial. And they have acted in this case, as
far as we can tell from the outside, as if this was a trial jury, not a
BLOOM: That`s right. This is the lowest legal standard that we have in
our system. Probable cause. Is there just enough evidence to hold
somebody over for a trial. And at the trial, of course Darren Wilson, like
any defendant could put on all of the evidence that might support his side.
But in this case, I mean to me, this is even worse so far than the George
Zimmerman case, because we don`t have a special prosecutor appointed. We
don`t have the family being respected by the prosecutor. And we don`t even
have charges being filed.
This is just about whether charges should be filed. This is just about
whether we can meet that very low standard of probable cause. Everything
that`s happened in the last few months is just to get over that very, very
SHARPTON: Yes. And I think that that`s where a lot of people don`t
understand the basis of the protest, the basis of the questioning. It`s
not demanding guilt, but demanding, if you have six or seven witnesses
saying he had his hands up, you have conflicting witnesses that say the
officer was right, that`s the basis of going to trial. That`s not the
basis of you trying it in the grand jury.
BLOOM: Right, absolutely. And to let all of the defense theories come out
before the grand jury, I mean, that is really unheard of. And again, I
would like to know why this prosecutor doesn`t offer these same advantages
to the other, mostly African-American defendants in his jurisdiction. Why
don`t they get these advantages when their cases are heard before the grand
Instead they get the standard operating procedure across America, which is,
you put on a couple of witnesses, you recommend charges, 95 percent of the
time, the grand jury agrees with you and the person goes to trial or they
plea bargain. Darren Wilson got a very special kind of treatment and
there`s never been an explanation as to why.
SHARPTON: And I think that the other thing that really made a lot of
people question this, and uncomfortable, is that all of that being said and
done, operating differently than many of us have experienced down through
the years. I think that many of us would have been negligent not to raise
And again, not because I hear some critics say, they`re demanding a
conviction. We`re demanding due process the way it always was, those of us
that have it, the way you do in the other cases.
BLOOM: Right. You are just asking -- we`re all just asking for a trial.
But I will say, Reverend Al, I would caution everyone, even if this grand
jury overcomes what I think was a very obvious message from the prosecutor
that they don`t want to indict, and even if the grand jury issues an
indictment today, we still have the problem of a prosecutor`s office who
does not appear to have any energy behind prosecuting Darren Wilson.
And so, even if they charge him, next up is a trial. Are they going to
handle this in the very poor way that the Trayvon Martin case was handled?
Failing to call expert witnesses, failing to put together a theory of the
case, failing to prepare witnesses, failing to do an effective closing
argument. Because we, the people, can`t get behind the closed doors of the
prosecutor`s office and make them zealously advocate for the murder victim
here, Mike Brown. I wonder, has anybody been advocating for Mike Brown in
that grand jury room.
SHARPTON: Well, that`s the question.
Lisa, I want to bring in "the Washington Post" Wesley Lowery. He is live
Wesley, you`ve been there, in and out throughout the last three months or
more. What`s the mood there right now?
WESLEY LOWERY, THE WASHINGTON POST: It`s a very transitional mood right
now. You have everyone is king of getting things in place. You have
people coming home from work, parents getting their children home. You got
a lot -- you see a lot of motorists coming behind us right now. Ferguson
is busy, but we don`t have a lot of people out and about yet. People are
waiting. . They`re under the impression they have a little bit of time
before the actual decision comes out.
SHARPTON: And what, in the last several days, I know there have been
appeals by the parents for peace, no matter what is announced. There`s
been a lot of work on the ground, I know, from different groups that I`m
privy to and involved with. How do you think that will kick in now, no
matter what decision is announced tonight?
LOWERY: As I talk to protest groups and organizers, leaders throughout the
day, clergy members throughout the day, there`s been a lot of effort that
have gone into trying to keep whatever the reaction is tonight. Because we
will see a reaction. We will see a moments of silence, we will see massive
acts of civil disobedience, we will see protests. There`s been a lot of
work done by those leaders, those organizers, to keep things peaceful.
What remains to be seen is if we see the emotional outpouring in the
community the way we saw in August. And/or if we see some type of outside
group, whether it local gangs, whether it be a national group that has come
in, whether they try to take advantage of the emotion to cause some type of
violence. That`s what we don`t know yet.
But as far as the people who are planning, they are trying to keep things
peacefully, puts together some very specific plans on what they want to do
tonight. But you never know. Any time you have hundreds of people in the
street, that`s great cover for somebody who may want to cause a problem.
SHARPTON: That`s correct.
Craig Melvin, Lisa bloom, Wesley Lowery, thank you all for your time
Coming up, we`ll be live at the news conference for Missouri Governor Jay
Nixon, also the potential charges. A closer look at what the grand jury
has been considering for officer Wilson.
And peaceful protests, what Michael Brown`s parents have been saying since
the death of their son. It`s a dramatic night of breaking news. The
announcement coming at 9:00 p.m. eastern time. Full coverage ahead.
SHARPTON: The breaking news tonight, the grand jury decision in Ferguson
will be announced tonight at 9:00 p.m. eastern time. And this news has
dominated social media all day long including our facebook and twitter
Coming up, we`ll look at all the possible charges officer Wilson could
face. And we`ll also hear from Governor Jay Nixon who is holding a press
But first, please keep the conversation going on our facebook page or tweet
SHARPTON: We`re back with breaking news tonight. The grand jury in the
Michael Brown shooting will be announced tonight at 9:00 p.m. eastern time.
So what charges could officer Wilson face? The most serious charge, first-
degree murder, which would mean Wilson showed some kind of planning before
the killing. Second-degree murder, for knowing he causing death.
Voluntary manslaughter, for sudden passion arising from adequate cause.
Involuntary manslaughter in the first-degree for recklessly causing death.
Involuntary manslaughter in the second-degree for criminal negligence or no
charges at all.
Let me bring in former U.S. attorney Kendall Coffey and prosecutor Paul
Henderson, thank you both for being here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, Reverend.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks for having us.
SHARPTON: I want to hear from both of you on this. The grand jury has
considered a lot of charges. Kendall, where do you see this going tonight?
KENDALL COFFEY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, I think most of us would be
surprised if the grand jury brings any charges. In large part because of
the way this investigation and this process was structured. The prosecutor
was never a leader presenting a narrative, a theory of the case, leading
the grand jury, which is what they normally do. Instead, they just let all
the evidence in, we`ll read the law to the grand jury and they decide.
That is not the way this is typically done at all. It was very unusual.
And I think, in no small part, that kind of structure, that kind of
process, basically set in motion, what I think is an inevitable decision
that there will not be charges.
SHARPTON: Paul, you`re a veteran prosecutor. Have you ever seen a grand
jury handled like this? And what is your prediction tonight?
PAUL HENDERSON, PROSECUTOR: You know, I`ve never seen a jury handled in
this manner. I think he is correct. I don`t expect to see charges.
Basically evaluating the information, specifically the leaks that have come
out, that have been specifically stacking the deck against charges coming
out, are clear indication to me that they are not seeking something to be
done, to have real accountability.
And I just want to remind everybody that has a prosecutorial office, you
always have the independent authority to make charges decisions separate
from a grand jury. That didn`t happen here. And the only person who is in
that room, who is driving that train, is that prosecutorial office. So
there`s no judge calling balls and fouls. There`s no defense attorney
structuring how the information is coming along. It really is in the lap
of that prosecutorial office to drive the train, to determine where we go
based on the facts in evidence.
SHARPTON: And basically the nature of a grand jury is to determine if
there`s probable cause for trial. Not whether or not there`s guilt or
innocence, but is there enough there to say, wait a minute, there could be
a crime here, let a public trial decide that. And this appears to have not
been the function of this grand jury. It appears that they were weighing
evidence and were not being instructed, almost like they were a trial jury.
HENDERSON: I agree with you.
COFFEY: Yes. And Reverend, just to add to that, in a probable cause
determination, a grand jury is not typically looking at all the evidence,
good and bad, pro-defense and pro-prosecution. They`re looking at the
prosecution`s evidence, because that`s all that needs to be considered in
determining whether there is probable cause.
In this one, they said, look at everything. You basically decide, and we
both talked about, Paul and I, that`s definitely not the way prosecutors
normally do it. A grand jury is supposed to be an investigative tool.
We`re all going to wonder whether there was a tool to create cover, to
avoid accountability from making a very difficult prosecutorial decision.
SHARPTON: Well, Paul, because and I think that one has to go to the
logical conclusion, that it`s not even fair to the grand jurors. Because
if there is no bill, as both of you have said, and I`ve said all along,
I`ve had my doubts as to whether there will be an indictment. What you are
really saying is that these jurors heard from the witnesses we assume that
said he had his hands up and heard from those that said he didn`t. The
officer who have else. And they determined they didn`t believe the one who
had have his hands up. That`s not the role of a grand jury.
HENDERSON: Exactly. So this information may not make it a find or a fact
which is a jury in front of a trial. And one of the things that I think we
can`t walk away from that I think is really important here, specifically in
Missouri, is that in a case of a grand jury, the defendant himself, or the
target of the investigation, is allowed to testify.
So even though we`re already dealing with complex legal issues, in addition
that we`re dealing with a scattering number of evidence and a number of
conflicting testimony from experts and witnesses, we get the officer who is
allowed to testify in front of that grand jury, all of that is very
persuasive at least, and very confusing at most to a grand jury.
And so for all of these reasons, I feel like this is exactly the kind of
case that should not have been handled in this manner. And very likely
could have been handled independently by the prosecutorial agency, to have
made a determination, so that these facts and circumstances and all of the
information could have been determined by a trial of fact and a jury after
a preliminary hearing, if charges were filed independently as they could
have been done. But this prosecution office chose not to handle this case
in that manner.
SHARPTON: Kendall, do you agree with that?
COFFEY: I do. And just by way of contrast, we recall from the George
Zimmerman prosecution, the first thing Angela Corey did is come in there
and say, I`m going to decide this. This doesn`t need to go to grand jury.
That`s the first thing that was done and that I think most prosecutors
The last thing you would want to do to create a prosecution scenario is the
way this grand jury was structured. And it`s not the fault of any of the
members of the grand jury who serve conscientiously.
But it`s an obvious lack of leadership by prosecutors who apparently didn`t
present a compelling narrative that would indicate a likely more probable
than not basis for bringing charges.
SHARPTON: Now Paul, the grand jurors were not sequestered. They`ve been
there over the last three months. Could that have had any impact as well?
HENDERSON: Well, certainly it has an impact on how they`re evaluating the
evidence and how they`re evaluating the information. This is a long period
of time to be hearing evidence after evidence after evidence being
presented in whatever manner. We don`t know, because we`re not in that
room. It`s a secretive process. We don`t know who the actual jurors are.
I`m not optimistic that we will actually ever get any of the testimony that
is being presented, even though the prosecution office said they were going
to try to present that. Because keep in mind, while people are testifying
and people are presenting evidence, in their minds, they are appearing in
front of a grand jury that is secretive. So they never expected that that
information, that that testimony was either going to be leaked, or
ultimately revealed to the public. And any judge that makes a
determination as to whether or not he reveals that information to a public,
has to consult with those witnesses and with that evidence as a review
before he makes a determination that it can all be open up.
But this is all part of the problem. And this is exactly why I think
you`re seeing so much of the community reaction responding negatively
against this process and feeling as though this criminal justice process is
not reflecting fairly to them.
SHARPTON: That`s true. That has been the feeling I`ve heard and many of
us in the civil rights communities expressed.
Let me go to you quickly, Kendall, we`re out of time. But I want to raise
this. If there are no charges tonight, officer Wilson could face federal
charges. The justice department is investigating. He could be charged
with criminal civil rights violation. That would require prosecutors to
prove beyond a reasonable doubt that officer Wilson intended to violate
Brown`s constitutional rights, or excessive force, as was used in the
Rodney King case.
COFFEY: Yes. And I think the standard doesn`t mean the officer was
thinking about the United States constitution at the time., but that he
was, in effect, with sufficient intentionality, using excessive force.
That could be a basis for a federal investigation and federal charges if
the prosecutors in this justice department were willing to fully pursue
SHARPTON: All right, thank you both, Kendall Coffey and Paul Henderson.
Thank you both for your time tonight.
HENDERSON: Thanks for having us, Reverend.
COFFEY: Thanks, Reverend.
SHARPTON: Coming up, at the center of this case, two very different
accounts of what happened the day Michael Brown was shot. What we know,
and what we don`t know.
And we are awaiting a press conference from Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.
Please stay with us.
SHARPTON: Breaking news, we are awaiting a press conference from Governor
Jay Nixon in St. Louis, ahead of the announcement of the grand jury
decision. I want to bring in committeewoman for Ferguson Township Patricia
Bynes, and attorney and columnist for the "St. Louis American," Lizz Brown.
Thank you both for being here.
COMMITTEEWOMAN PATRICIA BYNES (D), FERGUSON TOWNSHIP: Thank you, Rev.
LIZZ BROWN, ST. LOUIS AMERICAN: Thank you for having me.
SHARPTON: Patricia, what do you want to hear from the governor?
BYNES: You know what, Reverend, I`m not sure what I`d like to hear from
the governor. I haven`t really heard anything that he`s done anything to
actually help the situation. From not removing Bob McCulloch, to putting a
curfew on the town and now having put a state of emergency. I`m not quite
sure what the governor can say or do that would be helpful or help ease
tensions right now. I don`t know.
SHARPTON: Lizz, is anything he could say that you`d want to hear?
BROWN: Well, I would love to hear him, given the fact that we just had a
story break here in Missouri that Bob McCulloch actually lied when he went
on the air on two different stations, saying that he had talked to the
judge and the judge had given him permission to release this information,
or this transcript from the grand jury. I think that that`s almost an
actionable case on his law license. So given the fact that he`s proven
beyond the shadow of a doubt that he cannot be fair or impartial, I would
love to hear the governor take advantage of the state of emergency and call
for a different prosecutor.
SHARPTON: Now, let me go back to you, Patricia. What will happen in the
community in terms of legislators, and those elected officials, assuming
there`s no indictment, and assuming the community pushes for federal
indictment? What can be done on a local level by elected officials along
the lines of trying to correct what we`re seeing here?
BYNES: Well, there`s a lot to be done. At the state level, I know that
there`s state legislators working on legislation to intervene and have a
special prosecutor called every time that there is a police officer-
involved shooting. There`s legislation, possibly in the works to help
clearly better define what is excessive force, how to justify a police
officer-involved shooting. These are things that they`re looking to do at
the state level. Um, and then locally, people are -- people have to look
at civilian review here, over policing. So there`s a lot to be done
legislatively at the local level, at the state level, and even federally,
looking at trying to make better federal policies throughout the country.
Because this is not just a St. Louis or Ferguson problem. We have issues
throughout this country because people continue to keep getting shot and
killed by the police.
SHARPTON: Lizz, I think that`s the point. At the end of the day and
protests and all are needed and no one has done it more than me, isn`t this
going to be about some real change as well as trying to deal with this
BROWN: I think there has to be real change, but how do you define real
change under these circumstances? If this grand jury does not indict
Darren Wilson, then the real change has to come from changing people`s
understandings and world views. If Darren Wilson is not indicted in this
case for the killing of Mike Brown, that says that the quality and the
value of black life does not exist. And how do you make that kind of a
change? You can change all the laws you want to, but we have to get to the
bottom of changing the world view, changing police officers` attitudes,
changing police officers, changing police institutions, because that`s why
SHARPTON: Excuse me a minute, Lizz, here`s the governor walking up to the
podium. Let`s hear the beginning of what he has to say.
GOV. JAY NIXON (D), MISSOURI: Good evening. I`m pleased to be joined this
evening by St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, St. Louis County executive Charlie
Dooley and Missouri Director of Public Safety Dan Isom. Later this
evening, the St. Louis County prosecutor will announce the grand jury`s
decision. While none of us knows what that will be, our shared hope and
expectation is that regardless of the decision, people on all sides show
tolerance, mutual respect, and restraint. Earlier today, I visited with
some folks in Ferguson, and it`s understandable that, like the rest of us,
they are on edge waiting for a decision. But they are doing their best to
go about their daily lives, conduct their business, and support one another
and their community.
I also spoke with a number of faith leaders late this afternoon, who
offered their prayers for peace and safety. Together, we are all focused
on making sure the necessary resources are at hand to protect lives,
protect property, and protect free speech. Several churches will be
providing safe havens throughout the area to provide food, shelter, and
medical care. Mental health providers have teamed up to help ease the
emotional strain that these events have caused. These health professionals
are working right now to provide counseling and other services to the
people that need them. Law enforcement officials continue to maintain open
lines of communication with protest leaders to improve the interactions
between police and demonstrators and prevent violence.
I want to thank my director of Public Safety, Dan Isom, for taking part in
these ongoing discussions. State and local law enforcement agencies are
continuing to work hand in hand to make sure the best, most experienced
officers are on the street. The men and women of the National Guard will
also be in the area to provide security at critical facilities, like fire
houses, police stations, and utility sub stations, and offer logistical and
transportation support as needed. This will free up law enforcement
officers to do their jobs effectively. In closing, I`d like to reiterate
my call for peace, respect, and restraint. And thank everyone out there
who is working hard to make sure communities throughout the region are safe
and secure. Now I`d like to ask County Executive Dooley to make a couple
comments and I`ll call on the rest of our folks and we`ll be glad to take a
few questions. The county executive of St. Louis County, Charlie Dooley.
CHARLIE DOOLEY, ST. LOUIS COUNTY EXECUTIVE: Let me say, good evening to
all of you. I do not know what the prosecuting attorney will have to say
this evening, but I do know this. No matter what is announced, people will
be emotional. I want people to think with their heads and not with
emotion. No matter what, we have to remain focused on long-term systemic
changes that has to take place in our community. Our immediate priority is
to ensure that people are safe and able to voice their concerns in an
orderly fashion. Police and community groups have been working for weeks
to ensure the rights are protected. We are committed to de-escalating
negative situations in a responsible manner. I do not want people in this
community to think they have to barricade their doors and take up arms. We
are not that kind of a community. I do not want people to accidentally
shoot or harm someone out of fear. This is not the time to turn on each
other. It is a time to turn to each other.
We are one community. Again, our main priority at this time is to ensure
that we keep people safe and protect property. We intend to do that. But
it is to be said and to be clear, that in achieving these objectives, we
recognize the right of people to peacefully assemble and to express free
speech rights. We will honor that as long as safety and security are not
jeopardized. I personally believe that people in this community will do
what is right. In October, there were thousands of people here, peacefully
protesting, and expressing their views. No one was hurt. Many, many
people has spent countless hours, working on ways to manage this situation
once the grand jury decision is announced. And now is the time to show the
world that we can act without being destructive. I am confident that this
will be a fact. Thank you.
NIXON: Thank you. Now the great leader of the great city of St. Louis,
Mayor Francis Slay.
MAYOR FRANCIS SLAY, ST. LOUIS: Thank you, Governor, and good evening. St.
Louis is a region that endures during challenging times. We have seen it
time and time again. We`ve seen it in the face of personal tragedy, and
we`ve seen it in the aftermath of natural disaster. We face one of those
times today. What happened to Michael Brown has deeply divided us.
Whatever is announced this evening, some people are going to be angry and
frustrated. And some people are going to be angry and frustrated about
that. My message to the protesters, we will protect your right to
peacefully assemble and to speak your mind. Like last night, we will give
you leeway to occupy public safety, and we will listen to your grievances.
But turning violent or damaging property will not be tolerated.
To the people who disagree with the protesters, the actions we are taking
are designed to protect you, to protect your family, your homes, your
businesses, and your neighborhoods. That is our paramount concern. Over
the next few days, we expect to see St. Louisans loudly and passionately
expressing their views. We expect to see some of the best police officers
in the country protecting their rights and keeping everyone safe. But
after that, it will be time to heal. To close the racial divide and to
make St. Louis a better place for everyone, regardless of race or color.
We all may experience some inconvenience during the coming days. Depending
on the circumstances, we may allow demonstrators to slow down traffic. But
we will not allow them to hurt anyone or damage anyone`s property.
That`s how it went last night in the Shaw neighborhood. It wasn`t perfect.
There were two acts of vandalism, but there was no other property damage,
and most importantly, no one was seriously injured. When President Abraham
Lincoln first proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving in 1863, it`s worth
recalling that he sought to help a nation heal and to work together toward
the promise of what he called a large increase in freedom. The world will
be watching us. They`re going to watch how we handle our disagreements in
the coming days. And how we make needed change in the coming months and
years. St. Louis finds itself with an opportunity to show the nation the
ways in which a community can be more fair and more just for everyone. We
must seize this opportunity together.
Now, one more speaker and I`ll be glad to take questions here. The
director of Public Safety of the state of Missouri, Director Dan Isom.
DANIEL ISOM, DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: Thank you, Governor.
I`ve spent my entire life as a resident of the city of St. Louis and served
24 years as a member of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department,
retiring as chief of police. The St. Louis County Police, the St. Louis
City Police and the Missouri Highway Patrol, have spent the last two months
planning and training for the anticipated reaction to the announcement that
will be made in the next few hours. The plan is designed for all
contingencies. But we hope that officers will only observe peaceful
protests. I have great confidence in the design of this plan. It has
prioritized keeping all people safe, residents and protesters, the
protection of property, and ensuring that people can exercise their
I also have tremendous confidence in the men and women in St. Louis law
enforcement. They understand the importance of protecting everyone and I
know they intend to do so. I also have great confidence in the people of
my community. A tremendous dialogue has begun to take place here about
more than just policing. This community understands that through peaceful
protest and through dialogue, we will continue to grow and that violence
will set this progress back. We must continue to move this community
forward, and I have confidence that that is exactly what we will do tonight
and in the days ahead of us.
NIXON: I`d be glad to take questions.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Governor, I`m wondering, was there any thought of
delaying this until tomorrow morning? Seems like the element of darkness
at night makes it possibly more dangerous for the protesters if they do
show up, and the police officers, as well as people just standing around?
NIXON: Those were decisions made by the St. Louis County prosecutor`s
office, and that is who made that call. So, yes, Jase.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Governor, what would you say to the thousands of people
and millions of people around America who felt like the government has
failed them over the last three and a half months, that the judicial system
has failed them over the last three and a half months?
NIXON: Well, our focus is not about what happened over the last three and
a half months. I think the last three and a half months has provided
additional training, has provided additional sensitivity, and additional
knowledge on everybody in front. Our focus today, in the short run here,
is to protect lives, protect property, and to protect speech. In the
longer run, as the mayor said, to find paths for progress. So our focus is
on those clear principles, as we move forward. Yes, ma`am.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: How are you going to move forward in terms of healing
the racial divide? What steps are you going to take?
NIXON: Well, as I said, tonight is about the pieces that are in place to
do what we have to do. Clearly all of the folks behind me, as well as
significant leaders in the community, have begun that process. Had a
chance before I came in here, the conference call with a number of faith
leaders, who are working deeply and with long hours to do just that. We
have with the office of community engagement here, doing that on a daily
basis. All of these folks behind me have been outreach in the community,
listening and working, and also the commissioner I`ve appointed. I fully
expect that with their independent voice and their clear ability to chart
the long-term path forward, that we will also have suggestions, which can
lead us in a positive path forward. Yes, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Have you ruled out the use of armored vehicles and tear
NIXON: No, I`m not going to get into operational details, but the bottom-
line is, the police have been trained, as the mayor said and as others
said, to make sure that we are respecting people`s rights to communicate
and that allowing them to do that. However, on the other side, if people
are violent, or threaten property, you know, then resources will be used to
manage the issues. Yes, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Governor, are you planning to stay in the area --
NIXON: You know, I`ve been here, I believe, seven of the last eight days
and will be here tonight and as long as it takes to make sure that we move
through this particular phase, whatever it may be, into the next phase.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We have time for one more question, folks.
LARRY EVEREST, REVOLUTION NEWSPAPER: Governor, governor --
NIXON: Joe, quick first. Joe --
EVEREST: What couldn`t the lack of indictment be a justification of police
NIXON: Call on this man first.
EVEREST: If I might ask you, you need to let the alternative press speak
here. I`m from Revolution Newspaper, Larry Everest. And so wouldn`t a
lack of indictment mean fear for black people all over this country and
effectively a green light to further police violence? And second, I would
like to pose to you how you would respond to the call by Carl Dixon and
many others from the revolutionary communist party that if Darren Wilson is
not indicted for murder, the country be brought to a halt through energetic
civil disobedience by millions of people?
NIXON: I do not know what the grand jury has ruled, nor do I know what the
prosecutor is going to announce at 8:00 tonight. Yes, Joe.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Can you say now roughly how many National Guards will
be at least on standby? I know the mayor has said before he`s asked for
400. And how long you think they may be needed?
NIXON: Well, I mean, as I said before, we`ll have guard resource here that
will play a support role. For example, providing utility substation
security. As we know on Halloween, the power went out here in Ferguson.
Most of the proof would indicate that that was not accidental. Nor was it
a squirrel running down a wire, or whatever happens sometimes. Also,
police substations and stations, the guard can provide support roles there.
So that those police officers can get out into the community. And also
things like fire houses, where those, if called upon, both EMT and the fire
resources need to get there in real-time and providing that security. So
in roles like that, support roles like that, the guard will be out there.
Our hope, you know, is that it`s for a short period of time as is necessary
and that backup role is the -- is all that will be necessary. Thank you
all very, very much.
SHARPTON: You`ve been listening to the press conference of the governor of
Missouri, Governor Nixon and other officials, including the mayor of St.
Louis, as we await the announcement at 9:00 p.m. Eastern by the St. Louis
County prosecutor on the decision of the grand jury in the killing of
Michael Brown in Ferguson. Let me go to Committeewoman Patricia Bynes,
you`ve been listening. What`s your response to what the governor said?
BYNES: I was very glad to hear him define the role of the National Guard.
That`s been something that`s really been a concern not only for myself, but
for people here in the community, wondering what role are they actually
going to play over these next few days if necessary. So I was glad to hear
him discuss that. I do think, though, some of the comments, thinking that
people are protesting just about a disagreement. This is not just about a
disagreement or people taking sides. For people who are protesting, this
is much more about one case. People are out here for justice and equality
and wanting to see things done properly in all cases, not just for one case
where there`s a police officer involved.
SHARPTON: It did seem that he was very much talking about the order and
peace and clearly all of us agree with that. But he never really addressed
the feelings of people feeling an imbalance in how the judicial system
BYNES: Correct. Correct. I didn`t hear anything about police violence.
I heard about making sure protesters are on their best behavior. Didn`t
hear too much about making sure that the law enforcement that`s here are on
their best behavior as well. While they have had some training, as far as
diversity training, and trying to do some de-escalation, we have to make
sure that those things work. Because if there`s a true concern for life
and property, it`s much bigger than just this one time. We`re concerned
about life and property, we have to be concerned about justice for
SHARPTON: We`re going to take a break. We`ll have more with our guests on
the upcoming announcement on the grand jury decision on the killing of
Michael Brown in Ferguson. We`ll be right back.
SHARPTON: I want to bring back in Patricia Bynes, Lizz Brown, Lisa Bloom,
and Paul Henderson. Lizz, let me go to you. You heard what the governor
said. Your reaction and the reaction you feel the people in St. Louis will
have to what they heard from the governor.
BROWN: The governor was jumping to the place of, let`s get past this and
then let`s get to healing. The problem is that you can`t get to healing if
you don`t acknowledge the wound that has been created. There was nothing
in the governor -- what the governor had to say about what brought us to
this point. Protesters didn`t bring us to this point. The killing of a
teenaged boy, an unarmed teenage boy by a white police officer, and a
prosecutor that made the decision to keep himself involved in the grand
jury of this case. That`s unfair. That`s a biased decision. That`s what
has gotten us to this place. And there was no language from the governor
that spoke to that. We cannot heal. We cannot move ahead, until you
acknowledge and admit what has brought us here.
If the Governor really wanted to make a statement about what is happening
here, the Governor should be on the front lines with the protesters. That
would show to the people that, you know what, we`re all -- this is a
problem that has been created in our community and I stand with our
community in trying to address this wrong act that has been committed. No
words like that came from the governor. No words came from the mayor. No
words came from the county exec like that. It was all efforts to get us
past this awful decision that is getting ready to come down here. And we
can`t move forward until we acknowledge what has brought us here and begin
to address that and begin to fix that.
SHARPTON: Paul, I see you nodding your head.
PAUL HENDERSON, LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. I agree with that completely. I
mean, part of the problem is, nobody wants violence on the streets. But we
have to keep in mind, we`re talking about a lot of people and individuals
who are frustrated here. And what I would have liked to have heard was
something from our elected officials. Or something from the officials
speaking to the disenfranchised community in how we got to this point right
now. So when we`re talking about a community that is not represented in
the prosecution well, that is not represented in the judiciary, that is not
represented with law enforcement, and decisions are made, it`s very
difficult for those communities to express their voice, except when they
have these rallies, and certainly they have to be peaceful, but we have to
acknowledge that we as a society can do better. And it`s a false choice to
say that we have to choose either civil rights or public safety. Because
both of these things have to work together. And we can work together as a
community. We just have to make sure that we`re taking those steps and our
leaders are helping communities all fill included, all of us are part of
the criminal justice system. Otherwise if it doesn`t work for anyone, it
doesn`t work for anyone. That`s the point. And I wanted to hear something
more about that, acknowledge part of the history of the disenfranchised
communities, part of the history of this case where we may have had a
prosecutor abdicating his authority in how this case proceeded.
SHARPTON: Let me go to Lisa. You went through the Trayvon Martin case
with all of us. You even wrote a book about it. I heard you say this is
even more egregious.
LISA BLOOM, THE BLOOM FIRM: It is. Because we`re just deciding about
probable cause here. The family was not reached out to for months and
months by the prosecutors. And look at what we just heard. Mental health
counselors are going to be sent out into the community. I mean, what an
insult that is. You know what`s a great tonic for mental health? Justice.
That`s what the protesters want. They don`t need therapists out there.
They need justice.
SHARPTON: Patricia, let me go back to you quickly. The mood in the
community has always been 99 percent peaceful. The issue is not peaceful
in the community. The issue is peace and justice, is that correct?
BYNES: Absolutely right. We`re not going to do any more sweeping of
anything underneath the rug. There`s no more excuses, there`s no more
let`s get past this. We are determined to fix this. And I need my upper
level elected officials to understand that message and know what that
really means. This isn`t kumbaya time. We can do kumbaya once we fix what
brought us here.
SHARPTON: Committeewoman Patricia Bynes, Lizz Brown, Paul Henderson and
Lisa Bloom, thank you all for your time tonight.
BLOOM: Thank you.
BROWN: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Let me say that, in the beginning of this case, we raised the
issue of probable cause. I don`t know what the prosecutor will announce
tonight, but I do know that there is a need to have a real finding of the
facts here, where you have an unarmed young man taken. I do know that many
of us committed that we would stand with this family as they pursued the
truth. I`ll be in Ferguson tomorrow with the family. I said at the
funeral I would do that. Because I feel that if we`re going to have
healing, you first must deal with those that are injured. You can`t have
those that are outside of the injuries decide what healing is. Yes, we
need healing. In order to heal, we need to have an examination of the
Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.
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Show: POLITICS NATION