Ferguson was a lesson in how to out maneuver and manage a growing protest movement

St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch (D) was criticized on Monday night for the decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, and for his 20-minute statement leading up to it.

Instead of immediately announcing that Wilson would not be prosecuted for shooting and killing 18-year-old Michael Brown this past August, McCulloch opened by blaming social media and the media in general for supposedly pushing a distorted narrative of the shooting.


Ferguson just wrote a textbook on how governments can time, script, and engineer racially-charged grand jury announcements.

As significant as the no-indict decision itself was, the grand okie dokieness was how the Missouri state political machine brilliantly managed the highs and lows of verdict expectations.

Not only was the process long, but it was one suspiciously bumbling leak after the other. Not only did it string an anxious public along with mythical dates from one week to the next, but media propaganda teased news tickers into a corrupted jurisprudence of lost faith.

In this masterful, torturous, and stretch of peel-the-bandaid off slowly, St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch engineered one of the most effective snow jobs in recent memory.

He was preachy, finger-wagging, putting folks in their place to pimp the notion that ‘see, the system does work, now shut up and go home.’

It’s a telling commentary on the state of things that we cynically called the verdict before it officially dropped. We knew it was going to happen. Equally fascinating, was how the process jerked the public’s chain while shrouded in the fake semblance of unbiased deliberation.

Nor can protesters or any agitators itching for a fight stand outside long enough, when much of the country, like Ferguson, is bundling up for a chilly polar vortex. Here we find early winter freeze is law enforcement’s best friend with officials watching the thermometer as closely as they were watching protesters. As the grand jury kept deliberating, the weeks turned colder and the embattled St. Louis suburb was consistently cold enough to keep the most committed from risking hypothermia. Just like Occupy Wall Street, cold air gives police a long break from those sweaty summer clashes of August.

By the time a burst of warmer spring breezes set in, everything will be the same. Sign-waving activists once fixtures on West Florrisant Avenue will have either moved on to the next badge-of-honor bungee jump or will be absorbed by non-profit ventures. Others will be deeply immersed in the governor’s cleverly assembled, “Ferguson Commission,” a bureaucratic Venus fly trap laid out as a Blue Ribbon decoy.

By this time next year, Ferguson’s white mayor and all white (save one) city council, will continue presiding over their majority-black suburban plantation. Economic disparities will persist, and local governments will continue preying on the poor for traffic fines to keep their budget balanced.

Predictable bursts of reaction, from the peaceful to the violent pop off, will be met by well-equipped police in waiting. However, while the heat from calls for justice might thaw the frigid night air, the next day, month, and year will find it right back where it all started.

-Tamara El (@_SheWise_)