TIME Crime

Ferguson Wrestles With What to Do Next

Michael Brown Sr, yells out as his son's  casket is lowered into the ground at St. Peter's Cemetery in St. Louis
Michael Brown Sr., center, yells out as his son's casket is lowered into the ground at St. Peter's Cemetery in St. Louis on Aug. 25, 2014 Richard Perry—Pool/Reuters

The town is trying to figure out how to turn a tragic moment into a lasting movement

The funeral was choreographed to the smallest detail, from the celebrities sprinkled through the church to the Cardinals cap laid atop the black-and-gold casket. A massive crowd filed past the television cameras and into the jam-packed sanctuary or the overflow rooms live-streaming the service. The ceremony was billed as a celebration of Brown’s life, which ended Aug. 9 in a hail of bullets fired by a white policeman, and the crowd heard upbeat gospel music, stirring sermons and a eulogy from the Rev. Al Sharpton. But it was also an opportunity to send a message to his mourners. “We are required,” Sharpton told them in his peroration, “to leave here today and change things.”

For the residents of Ferguson, Mo., Brown’s funeral on Monday closed one chapter and opened a new period of uncertainty. The worst of the violence appears over, and the protests are beginning to subside. Soon the television cameras will get packed up, leaving a town that has become the latest shorthand for America’s racial divide to figure out how to translate the energy, intensity and anger of the past two weeks into concrete change.

The problem is that nobody is quite sure how to do it — or what that change would even look like. The shooting of an unarmed, 18-year-old black man at the hands of a white Ferguson policeman opened all sorts of wounds that have festered for generations. Of the thousands who have tromped up and down West Florissant Avenue since Brown’s death, there are nearly as many diagnoses about what Ferguson needs now.

To some, the answer is erasing the pattern of improper police behavior that has plagued this St. Louis suburb. To others, it is addressing income inequality or struggling schools. Still more cite the need to regain lost jobs, or repair the ruptured trust between the community and the people sworn to protect it. Then there is the glaring lack of African-American political representation: Ferguson is a city that is two-thirds black, run by a white mayor and nearly all-white city council.

“This is Jim Crow country,” says Garrett Duncan, a professor of education and African-American studies at Washington University in St. Louis. “You still have a predominantly white and affluent population voting for who runs North County,” the collection of townships like Ferguson north of St. Louis.

Ferguson’s protesters are united on one point: they want justice, in the form of an indictment for Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Brown at least six times just after noon on Aug. 9. (A new audio recording, provided to CNN by an unidentified resident, who alleges he inadvertently captured the incident on tape, purports to show that Brown was killed in two distinct bursts of gunfire separated by a pause. CNN says it cannot authenticate the tape.) But an indictment will be slow, if it comes at all. Robert McCulloch, the lead prosecuting attorney in the case, has estimated he won’t finish presenting evidence to a grand jury until about mid-October. Issues can flare and fade in a blink. If the courtroom lag diverts attention from the systemic problems that led to Brown’s shooting, the community could lose the momentum it has gathered.

To Larry Jones, bishop of the Greater Grace Church in Ferguson, the solution is to reach out to a generation of young, black men who don’t believe the system is geared to represent them. Part of that, he says, is to form mentorship programs that help blacks prepare to enter the workforce and to cope with episodes of police targeting. But another part is improving civic participation. “We have forgotten the power we’ve been given to go to the polls and cast our vote,” says Jones. “It’s those local elections that really affect our lives. We do have a voice, and we need to use it.”

In 2013 municipal elections, just 6% of African Americans turned out to vote. The figures are so low, in part, because the elections were held in the spring of an off-year. But that doesn’t explain the racial gap: whites, who comprise just one-third of the city’s population, were three times more likely to vote. A number of groups are trying to improve African-American participation. The organization HealSTL, launched in the wake of the shooting, leased office space in town as part of its bid to “turn a moment into a movement.” Other organizations have also erected voter-registration booths alongside the protests.

Another challenge will be fixing the issues with local police, which range from widespread reports of bias to the heavy-handed crackdown on the protests. Chris Koster, Missouri’s attorney general, has announced workshops this autumn designed to diversify the state’s urban police forces. (Ferguson, whose force is 94% white, is hardly the only township with an unrepresentative police department.) Democratic Congressmen Emanuel Cleaver and William Lacy Clay, both of Missouri, met last week with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to air their concerns about the “militarization” of area police, who responded to the protests with tear gas, rubber bullets and armored tanks. “If there is any good that can come out of the tragedy in Ferguson,” they wrote in a statement on the meeting, “our hope is that this effort will spur a national discussion about how to achieve a fundamental shift in local law enforcement, away from military-style responses, and towards a more community-based policy.”

Other residents hope that the exhale following the funeral will allow them to rebuild the city’s reputation. Ferguson has become a byword for racial strife and civic unrest, but it is more complex than a single stretch of heavily photographed road. Other sections of town bear the ubiquitous signs of urban reinvention: a downtown strip dotted with a wine bar and refurbished loft apartments, a farmers’ market, community gardens. In 2010, a 30-person delegation even traveled to Kansas City, Mo., to compete for an All-America City Award, for which the city was a finalist.

“For the most part, we get along,” says Brian Fletcher, a former Ferguson mayor who is one of the founders of a group called I Love Ferguson. The committee has passed out more than 8,000 signs bearing that credo, which dot leafy yards in the more affluent neighborhoods and line some of the city’s streets. It hopes to raise money to repay the businesses that suffered in the looting, and maybe even enough to incentivize others to move in. “The image that we’ve received is a city in chaos. We don’t ignore the fact that there’s racial tension and segregation,” says Fletcher, who is white. “We have chosen to stay here. We’re not leaving. It is an amazing community.”

The community has done some amazing things since Brown’s death, from the volunteer peacekeepers who soothed tensions between protesters and police to the residents who showed up each day with crates of bottled water and trays of food, paid for out of their own pockets. Now the challenge, as Sharpton told the mourners at the funeral, is to “turn the chants into change.” But marching orders are much more easily given from the pulpit than carried out on the street. It is up to Ferguson to figure out whether it will be known for a shooting or the healing that followed. “How we responded to the tragedy,” says Fletcher, “will become the real legacy.”

TIME remembrance

Ferguson Gathers to Say Farewell to Michael Brown

Michael Brown, Lesley McSpadden
Lesley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown, wipes a tear as she stands by his casket at his the funeral at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis, Monday, Aug. 25, 2014. Richard Perry—AP

Lively but mournful service was held at the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St Louis on Monday

Hundreds of mourners gathered at the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St Louis on Monday for the funeral of slain Missouri teen Michael Brown.

Musicians, politicians, civil rights activists, and residents of the teenager’s hometown of Ferguson joined the family in mourning the African American 18-year-old, whose fatal shooting by a police officer on Aug. 9 exposed racial tensions within the suburb and sparked widespread demonstrations and several nights of violent protest.

“Michael Brown’s blood is crying from the ground…crying for justice,” said Michael’s uncle, Charles Ewing. “At such a time as this, God is shaking this nation.”

Though it was a somber occasion, the church sanctuary was often overrun with praise as family members and friends took to the podium to share memories of the young man they called “Mike Mike.” Brown would have been about a week into his freshman year of college on Monday.

“He said one day the world would know his name,” a family member said. “He did not know how his name would be remembered, but we are here today remembering the name of Michael Brown.”

Eulogizers calling on members of the community to channel their anger over the death of the teen in positive ways—through voting and peaceful assembly—and calling on the country to take a hard look at how law enforcement engages with black and minority communities.

“America, it’s time to deal with policing,” said Rev. Al Sharpton, who delivered a speech at the funeral. “We’re not anti-police. We respect police. But those police that are wrong need to be dealt with just like those in the community that are wrong need to be dealt with.”

Brown’s mother Lesley McSpadden, wearing a red sleeveless dress, sat just steps from her son’s closed casket which was surrounded by enlarged photos of the teenager. Throughout the service, mourners reached to console McSpadden, who was often overcome with emotion.

Brown’s funeral comes two weeks after the teen was shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in circumstances that are still unclear. The investigation into Brown’s death is still ongoing, though the federal government has stepped in to conduct a separate analysis of the events alongside local authorities.

TIME Crime

Ferguson Father Wants ‘Day of Silence’ for Michael Brown Funeral

From left: Michael Brown, Sr., Reverend Al Sharpton, and Lesley McSpadden during a news conference outside the Old Courthouse in St. Louis on Aug. 12, 2014.
From left: Michael Brown, Sr., Reverend Al Sharpton, and Lesley McSpadden during a news conference outside the Old Courthouse in St. Louis on Aug. 12, 2014. Jeff Roberson—AP

“Please, please take a day of silence so we can lay our son to rest. Please"

The father of the unarmed Missouri teenager whose shooting death at the hands of police sparked widespread protests called for peace Sunday as he and his family prepared to lay their son to rest Monday.

“Please, please take a day of silence so we can lay our son to rest. Please. That’s all I ask. And thank you,” Michael Brown Sr., the father of Michael Brown, said during a rally Sunday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

The event, known as Peace Fest, is an annual festival held in a St. Louis park, but its message held particular resonance this year for a community still reeling from the death of Brown, 18, and its aftermath. Brown was shot by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. Protests and sometimes violent clashes rocked the St. Louis suburb for days following the shooting.

Attention will again turn to Ferguson again on Monday for the funeral. Services are scheduled for 10 a.m., and three White House officials will attend, the Washington Post reports.

TIME justice

John Lennon’s Killer Denied Parole Again

Mark David Chapman was convicted of murdering John Lennon outside Lennon's Manhattan apartment on December 8, 1980.
Mark David Chapman was convicted of murdering John Lennon outside Lennon's Manhattan apartment on December 8, 1980. AFP/Getty Images

It's the eighth time Mark David Chapman was denied parole

The man who shot and killed John Lennon has been denied parole by the New York State Parole Board for the eighth time because his release would be “incompatible with the welfare of society.”

Mark David Chapman, 59, shot Lennon four times outside the musician’s New York City apartment in a 1980 murder that attracted worldwide attention. The crime earned him 20 years in prison.

In its decision, the parole board showed little hesitation to deny Chapman’s parole, Bloomberg reports.

“You stalked and waited for your victim and thereafter shot him multiple times causing his death,” the board said in its decision. “The victim had displayed kindness to you earlier in the day and your actions have devastated a family.”

Chapman will be up for parole again in 2016.

[Bloomberg]

TIME justice

California to Fight Ruling Against Death Penalty

California Attorney General Kamala Harris Announces Lawsuit
California Attorney General Kamala Harris speaks during a news conference on October 10, 2013 in San Francisco. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

State Attorney General Kamala Harris to appeal

California is appealing last month’s federal court ruling that declared the state’s enforcement of the death penalty to be unconstitutional.

State Attorney General Kamala Harris said Thursday that she would appeal the ruling by Judge Cormac Carney of the U.S. Central District of California, who said that the state’s death penalty violated the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Last month, Carney, a Republican-appointed judge in Orange County, vacated the death sentence of Ernest Jones, who was convicted in the 1995 rape and murder of his girlfriend’s mother but is still on death row. In a lengthy decision, Carney ruled that uncertainties and delays over executions in the state violated inmates’ constitutional rights.

“The dysfunctional administration of California’s death penalty system has resulted, and will continue to result, in an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution,” Carney wrote. “As for the random few for whom execution does become a reality, they will have languished for so long on Death Row that their execution will serve no retributive or deterrent purpose and will be arbitrary.”

The case will now move to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“I am appealing the court’s decision because it is not supported by the law, and it undermines important protections that our courts provide to defendants,” Harris said in a statement. “This flawed ruling requires appellate review.”

Only 13 people have been executed in California since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978, and no inmate has been executed since 2006. More than 900 are currently on death row in the state.

TIME justice

Oklahoma Cop Charged With Raping 6 Women While on Patrol

Some of the alleged assaults took place during traffic stops

An Oklahoma City police officer was arrested Thursday and charged sexually assaulting at least six women while he was on patrol, though police expect more alleged victims to come forward.

Daniel Holtzclaw is charged with rape, oral sodomy and sexual battery. The three-year veteran of the force is being held on a $5 million bond, Reuters reports.

Police said the assaults took place while Holtzclaw was on the job, in some cases as a result of traffic stops.

[Reuters]

TIME justice

Chelsea Manning Says Military Still Denying Gender Treatment

Motion Hearing Held In Bradley Manning Case
U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning is escorted as he leaves a military court at the end of the first of a three-day motion hearing June 6, 2012 in Fort Meade, Maryland. Alex Wong—Getty Images

A year after requesting gender-reassignment treatment, convicted national-security leaker Chelsea Manning says the military has given her nothing but “lip service.” In an exclusive statement to NBC News, the former Army private once known as Bradley Manning said life in the military lockup at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, has restricted her ability to express her gender identity.

Read the rest of the story at NBC News

 

TIME Crime

Attorney General Holder Meets With Community Leaders in Ferguson

US-POLITICS-HOLDER-IMMIGRATION
US Attorney General Eric Holder speaks during a Naturalization Ceremony at the Justice Department in Washington, DC, July 22, 2014. Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images

Amid continuing street protests over the death of Michael Brown

Attorney General Eric Holder met with students, community leaders and police officials in Ferguson, Mo., on Wednesday, where daytime demonstrations have turned into nightly street violence since a police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager 11 days ago.

Holder’s visit comes amid investigations into the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. The circumstances leading up to Brown’s death remain unclear, but Holder told community leaders that the nation’s “most experienced agents and prosecutors” are on the case.

The Attorney General also met Wednesday with students at a St. Louis Community College, including Molyric Welch, whose brother died of cardiac arrest at the age of 31 after allegedly being tasered by Ferguson police. “A lot has happened here,” Welch said. “[Holder] promised things were going to change.”

Holder, who was joined in Ferguson by Acting Assistant Attorney General Molly Moran and other Justice Department officials, expressed gratitude to those working in the area to keep tensions cool amid the daily protests. During brief statements on Wednesday, Holder said he understands the mistrust for law enforcement the people of Ferguson have expressed while also sharing personal interactions he has had with officers throughout his life.

“We have seen a great deal of progress over the years. But we also see problems and these problems stem from mistrust and mutual suspicion,” Holder said. “I understand that mistrust. I am the Attorney General of the United States. But I am also a black man.”

Holder said while the dialogue that has started as a result of the uprising in Ferguson is important, there remains a need for “action to change things in this country.”

“Dialogue is important,” he added. “But it can’t simply be that we have a conversation that begins based on what happens on August 9, and ends sometime in December, and nothing happens. The same kid who got stopped on the New Jersey freeway is now the Attorney General of the United States. This country is capable of change. But change doesn’t happen by itself.”

Holder also met with Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson, who is now heading up Ferguson police operations, and Justice Department staffers also plan to meet with officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigations, members of the U.S. attorney’s office, and prosecutors from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights division to discuss the investigation. Holder’s arrival in Ferugson comes just days after a Monday statement in which he called for patience as officials work to gather all the facts of the case.

“The selective release of sensitive information that we have seen in this case so far is troubling to me,” Holder said at the time. “No matter how others pursue their own separate inquiries, the Justice Department is resolved to preserve the integrity of its investigation. This is a critical step in restoring trust between law enforcement and the community, not just in Ferguson, but beyond.”

In an open letter published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Wednesday, Holder made a pledge to the people of Ferguson that the “investigation into this matter will be full, it will be fair, and it will be independent.”

TIME justice

Rick Perry Booked in Politically Charged Abuse of Power Case

Rick Perry Mugshot
Texas Gov. Rick Perry gets booked on abuse of power charges at the Travis County Sheriff's Department in Austin, on Aug. 19, 2014. Travis County Sheriff's Department

The Texas governor faces two felony charges

Texas Gov. Rick Perry turned himself in at the Travis County Courthouse Tuesday on two felony charges of abuse of power.

Perry, who has vowed to contest the charges stemming from a threat and ultimate veto of funding to the state’s public integrity unit, surrendered himself to Sheriff’s deputies to be fingerprinted and have his mug shot taken. Perry is scheduled to be arraigned on Friday.

Outside the courthouse, Perry allies protested the indictment handed down by a grand jury Friday evening. “I am here today because I believe in the rule of law,” Perry told a crowd of cheering supporters before entering the courthouse. “And I am here today because I did the right thing.”

Perry was indicted for threatening and then ultimately vetoing funding for the unit after its head, District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, was arrested on charges of driving while intoxicated. Perry demanded that Lehmberg resign and, when she refused, vetoed the funding.

“I am going to enter this courthouse with my head held high knowing the actions I took were not only lawful and legal, but also right,” he added.

The governor and potential 2016 presidential candidate has hired a high-priced legal team and deployed his political machine in his defense, which has become a rallying point for Republicans across the country. Democrats, including former Obama strategist David Axelrod, have also expressed doubts about the merits of the prosecution.

Perry cast the criminal complaint as “an attack on our system of government,” arguing it was well within his rights to veto the funding. “If I had to do so, I would veto funding for the public integrity unit again,” he said.

“I’m going to fight this injustice with every fiber of my being,” Perry said before turning to enter the courthouse. “And we will prevail.”

Perry’s political action committee, RickPAC, released a new video defending the veto Tuesday.

After he left the courthouse, Perry tweeted that he went to purchase an ice cream cone.

 

TIME Ferguson

Attorney General Holder Appeals for Calm in Message to Ferguson

Obama Meets Holder About the Situation in Ferguson
United States Attorney General Eric Holder looks on during a meeting in the Oval office of the White House with U.S. President Obama to receive an update on the situation in Ferguson, Missouri August 18, 2014 in Washington, DC. Olivier Douliery—Olivier Douliery/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

"This is my pledge to the people of Ferguson: Our investigation into this matter will be full, it will be fair, and it will be independent."

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called for an end to the violence in Ferguson, Missouri, as he promised the Justice Department investigation into the shooting death of an unarmed teen by a police officer “will be full, it will be fair, and it will be independent.”

“At a time when so much may seem uncertain, the people of Ferguson can have confidence that the Justice Department intends to learn — in a fair and thorough manner — exactly what happened,” Holder wrote in a piece published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The U.S. Attorney investigating the case told TIME Tuesday his department’s work is going smoothly, but cautioned the released of information will be a slow process.

Holder’s message comes as violent unrest continues nightly in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson after the August 9 death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old killed by a police officer there. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon ordered National Guard troops to the area Monday after local police were heavily criticized for what many argued has been an excessive response to the unrest. However, the National Guard’s presence did little to calm tensions Monday night, as at least 78 people were arrested during violent demonstrations that continued through the evening.

Holder arrived in Ferguson Tuesday to take stock of the situation and “be briefed on the federal civil rights investigation” that’s currently underway, he wrote. Holder says the Department of Justice has committed around 40 Federal Bureau of Investigation agents to the case in addition to Civil Rights Division prosecutors investigating the shooting. Holder also urged Ferguson’s peaceful protestors to work together to calm those who have been looting and rioting during the ongoing demonstrations.

“I urge the citizens of Ferguson who have been peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights to join with law enforcement in condemning the actions of looters, vandals and others seeking to inflame tensions and sow discord,” Holder wrote.

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