No indictment. No surprise.
Although a St. Louis County grand jury decided not to return an indictment in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, setting the stage for a fiery night of civil unrest, there is a culprit on the loose that should be indicted in this case.
No, I’m not talking about Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed the unarmed teenager Aug. 9.
I hereby indict the collective news media, especially the broadcast wings that for months stoked the fires in Ferguson and Monday night added to the negative hype that practically invited rioting in the streets.
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A police shooting involving a white officer and a black victim on its face adds to the racial tension that exists in most American cities, but the talking heads on radio and television over the weeks contributed to the great divide.
Some took sides in the debate over the facts in the case and whether the officer should be charged with a crime.
Then came news early Monday that the grand jury had reached a decision, with the details to be announced later.
Almost immediately, the media’s attention turned to what they just knew would be a violent reaction to anything other than a true bill from the panel of nine whites and three blacks.
The television cameras were placed strategically where disturbances would likely take place, and correspondents took up their positions to be close to the action.
St. Louis County officials didn’t help matters by scheduling the crucial announcement of the grand jury’s decision in TV prime time. Presumably, they wanted it to come late, when businesses would be closed and most people would be in their homes.
But the 8 p.m. (Central) start time only made it better for television, which was ready to bring a live riot into American homes. It would be made-for-TV drama that certainly would rival Monday Night Football.
From the time the prosecutor began his long remarks leading up to the big news, TV cameras were trained on the streets of Ferguson in anticipation of what was to come.
After it was announced that there wouldn’t be an indictment, it was as if reporters around the town were waiting for a cue and a director to yell, “Action!”
They began to wait for the first signs of disorder. The bit characters who would assume the role of rioters followed the script, going about town setting fires and looting stores, having disregarded pleas from Brown’s family and the president of the United States to keep protests peaceful.
It was too late. A riot had been predicted, so enough people were willing to oblige, all in view of the cameras.
For the record, the thuggery portrayed on television Monday night in Ferguson put a blemish on the memory of Michael Brown rather than shine a spotlight on the ills of a racially divided community.
But there were two other events Monday that I’d rather remember than what happened in the Missouri suburb.
In Cleveland, demonstrators peacefully protested the weekend killing of a 12-year-old black boy by a police officer. Tamir Rice, who had a toy gun at the time, was shot outside a recreation center.
And at the White House, President Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 18 individuals, including three of my longtime heroes: James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, three young civil rights workers murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi in 1964, when they were trying to register people to vote.
One of the people convicted in the slayings was a deputy sheriff.
Michael Brown is not likely to ever receive a Medal of Freedom, but his memory deserves to be honored by something other than looting and rioting.