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Stop playing

Playing games with people’s lives

St. Louis American, September 25, 2014

St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch
St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch

Recently at a press conference, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was asked why an African-American woman had not been assigned to his advisory team to deal with the fallout from the Ray Rice domestic violence situation. While Goodell did a public relations dance around the question, I was hoping that any black woman who might have been asked had flatly refused the assignment because they understood they were being used. Off the field, the NFL is still playing games with people’s lives.

While the NFL was implementing damage control last week, some other folks in positions of authority decided to play some games with people’s lives.    

Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch announced an extension for the grand jury’s decision in the case of Mike Brown. Brown is the unarmed, black teen who was shot down by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson on August 9. Originally the decision for an indictment was expected sometime in October. McCulloch and his cronies apparently believe that an announcement coming in the middle of winter will ice any protests. What a delay could do instead is to ignite a slow-burning fuse. Playing games.

This was not the first of the game-playing around the Mike Brown tragedy.

The governor had the power to appoint a special prosecutor, should the sitting prosecutor need to step aside for any reason.

Early on, one of the community’s demands was that McCulloch recuse himself from investigating the case, as there was not a scintilla of confidence in his ability to be fair and impartial. McCulloch said he would step aside if Governor Nixon asked him. Nixon said he would appoint a special prosecutor if McCulloch stepped aside. I think you see where this was going. Playing games.

In an unprecedented move, McCulloch did not give the grand jury the usual guidance on charges the prosecutor is seeking. If the grand jurors come up with a decision contrary to an indictment of Darren Wilson, McCulloch will make the jurors the scapegoat. Playing games.

A funny thing happened on the way to Gov. Nixon declaring a state of emergency in Ferguson. In a state of emergency, the governor has broad powers; he can even appoint a special prosecutor. An hour before a press conference by the Don’t Shoot Coalition demanding just that, Nixon announced that he was lifting the emergency order. Playing games.

Mike Brown’s life was brutally snuffed out by a police officer from a racist, hostile Ferguson Police Department who confronted righteous protestors with military force. The municipal court system has now been exposed as nothing more than a debtor’s prison for Ferguson’s black residents. The apartheid system in the city where the white minority rules the black majority manifests itself in the police department, city council and school board (we still don’t know why Dr. Art McCoy was fired).

All of these entities – plus the mayor, city manager, police chief, prosecuting attorney, governor and a cast of other characters up and down the hierarchy – must take responsibility for what has happened and what will happen in Ferguson. They all have propped up this oppressive system of oppression, and they all must be held accountable.

Along the way, the people who maintain positions of authority in Ferguson, as well as those who support them, have failed to create a city where all citizens are valued, protected and included. The black people who are being exploited, double-crossed, harassed and disrespected know when they are being played – and they don’t like it. Let’s stop with the games and use that energy towards working together on real solutions.

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