It’s pleasantly amazing, isn’t it, to see an intense, dangerous situation defused when common sense and de-escalation are brought to bear?
Overnight, literally, the situation in Ferguson, MO, went from clouds of tear gas and street clashes between police officers and protesters to the new security chief walking with protesters and holding the hand of at least one resident while listening to her express her thoughts.
And who can we thank for this turnaround?
Mainly President Barack Obama, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.
All three took key steps and made key statements Thursday that had the ultimate effect of letting the air out of the balloon that had been getting increasingly taut ever since 18-year-old Michael Brown was gunned down by a Ferguson police officer last week.
Wednesday’s key developments:
:: Obama decried attacks on the police and on protesters and asked for “peace and calm on the streets of Ferguson.” The New York Times said he had spoken to Nixon “and confirmed that he (Obama) had instructed the Justice Department and the F.B.I. to investigate the fatal shooting ‘to help determine exactly what happened and to see that justice is done.’ ”
:: Saying it was time for “a different tone,” Nixon pulled out the St. Louis County police and called in the Highway Patrol. Brilliantly, someone, maybe Nixon, placed in charge of security a black patrol captain who grew up in the St. Louis area. “We’re starting a new partnership today,” Capt. Ronald S. Johnson said. “We’re going to move forward today, to put yesterday and the day before behind us.”
:: McCaskill told reporters: “The militarization of the response became more of a problem than any solution.”
Again, isn’t it gratifying to see people in authority speak and act wisely and turn near hysteria into reflection and reconsideration?
One of the first things Captain Johnson did was tell troops not to carry tear-gas masks. “In the early evening,” the Times story said, “he accompanied several groups of protesters through the streets, clasping hands, listening to stories…”
At one point, a woman named Karen Wood approached him and said, “Do you have a minute to at least talk to, you know, a parent?”
“As sweat stained his blue uniform,” the story said, “he clasped Ms. Wood’s right hand and stood, for several minutes, listening to her story.”
“Our youth are out here without guidance, without leadership,” Ms. Wood said. “It’s important that they know there is an order.”
The Times’ story said the conversation between the trooper and the lady concluded with Johnson patting Wood on the shoulder and saying softly, “I thank you. I thank you for your passion, and we’re going to get better.”
I don’t know about you, but the report of that interaction almost brought tears to my eyes.
What a message Johnson brought to Ferguson: I hear you and I feel your pain.
And this is one guy, who, it’s very clear, really does feel their pain.
Bravo, Mr. President. Congratulations, Gov. Nixon. And thank you, thank you, Captain Johnson.