Slate will post running news updates about the situation in Ferguson below. For other Slate coverage of Ferguson, click here.
Aug. 18, 9:00 p.m.:
Aug. 18, 8:30 p.m.: 90-year-old political activist and Holocaust survivor, Hedy Epstein was arrested, along with at least seven others during a protest in downtown St. Louis on Monday afternoon.
KMOV: “The marchers were protesting Governor Nixon’s order to activate the National Guard. The protesters, who chanted ‘National Guard has got to,’ marched from Kiener Plaza to the Wainwright building at 3:00 p.m. Monday. Governor Jay Nixon has an office in the building. Eight arrests were made around 4:30. All of the suspects were arrested for failure to disperse … Crowds were seen trying to get into the building, but were held off by security personnel. There is also a ‘sit in’ outside the building.”
Aug. 18, 8:00 p.m.: A photojournalist working for Getty Images was arrested by police in Ferguson on Monday. Scott Olson was covering street protests when he was arrested for “not getting out the way fast enough,” according to a Telegraph reporter on the scene. Getty confirmed Olsen’s arrest.
Aug. 18, 5:30 p.m.: Speaking at a White House press conference, President Obama announced that Attorney General Eric Holder will be traveling to Ferguson on Wednesday to supervise the “independent federal civil rights investigation into the death of Michael Brown.”
The president also spoke in very broad terms about racial disparities in America’s criminal justice system, taking off from a question about whether he himself will travel to Ferguson. (Short answer: no.)
I have to be very careful about not prejudging these events before investigations are completed—the DOJ works for me and when they’re conducting an investigation I’ve got to make sure that I don’t look like I’m putting my thumb on the scales one way or the other. So it’s hard for me to address a specific case beyond making sure that it’s conducted in a way that’s transparent, where there’s accountability, where people can trust the process, hoping that with a fair and just process you end up with a fair and just outcome.
But as I think I’ve said on some past occasions, part of the ongoing challenge of perfecting our union has involved dealing with communities that feel left behind, who as a consequence of tragic histories often find themselves isolated, often find themselves without hope, without economic prospects. You have young men of color in many communities who are more likely to end up in jail or in the criminal justice system than they are in a good job or in college. And part of my job that I can do I think without any potential conflicts is to get at those root causes.
Now, that’s a big project. It’s one that we’ve been trying to carry out now for a couple of centuries. And we’ve made extraordinary progress but we have not made enough progress, and so the idea behind My Brother’s Keeper is can we work with cities and communities and clergy and parents and young people themselves all across the country, school superintendants, businesses, corporations, and can we find models that work that move these young men on a better track. Now, part of that process is also looking at our criminal justice system to make sure that it is upholding the basic principle of “everybody’s equal before the law.” And one of the things that we’ve looked at during the course of investigating where we can make a difference is, there are patterns that start early. Young African-American and Hispanic boys tend to get suspended from school at much higher rates than other kids, even when they’re in elementary school. They tend to have much more frequent interactions with the criminal justice sysytem at an earlier age. Sentencing may be different. How trials are conducted may be different. And so one of the things that we’ve done is to include the Department of Justice in this conversation under the banner of My Brother’s Keeper to see, where can we start working with local communities to inculcate more trust, more confidence in the criminal justice system?
And I want to be clear about this because sometimes I think there’s confusion around these issues and this dates back for decades. There are young black men that commit crime. And we can argue about why that happened, because of the poverty they were born into, or the lack of opportunity, or the school systems that failed them or what have you, but if they commit a crime they need to be prosecuted because every community has an interest in public safety. If you go into the African-American community or the Latino community some of the folks who are most intent on making sure that criminals are dealt with are people who’ve been preyed upon by them. This is not an argument that there’s not real crime out there and that law enforcement doesn’t have a difficult job and that they [don’t] have to be honored and respected for the danger and difficulty of law enforcement. But what is also true is that given the history of this country, where we can make progress [is] in building up more confidence, more trust, making sure that our criminal justice system is acutely aware of the possibilities of disparities in treatment, that there are safeguards in place to avoid those disparities, where training and assistance is provided to local law enforcement who may just need more information in order to avoid potential disparity.
One of the things I was proudest of when I was in the state legislature way back when I had no gray hair and none of you could pronounce my name was I passed legislation requiring videotaping of interrogations and confessions and I passed legislation dealing with racial profiling in Illinois. And in both cases we worked with local law enforcement and the argument was that you can do a better job as a law enforcement official if you build up credibility and trust and that there are some basic things that can be done to promote that kind of trust. And in some cases there’s just a lack of information and we want to make sure that we give that information to law enforcement. So there are things that can be done to improve the situation.
Here’s video of Obama’s answer:
Aug. 18, 2:25 p.m.: Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has announced that there will be no curfew tonight in Ferguson. Nixon’s statement does not explain the reasoning for the decision.
Aug. 18, 1:15 p.m.: The Washington Post reports that St. Louis County’s medical examiner—one of three experts who have performed or will perform an autopsy on Michael Brown—has concluded that Brown was shot between six and eight times in the front of his body and that he had “marijuana in his system” when he died. The first finding is consistent with the results of the autopsy conducted by Dr. Michael Baden. The latter, it should be noted, does not necessarily mean Michael Brown was intoxicated when he was killed—marijuana can be detected in blood and urine, for example, for several days after being consumed. (Nor, of course, is marijuana generally known for triggering aggressive behavior of the sort that Ferguson police claim Brown engaged in before he was shot by officer Darren Wilson.)
Aug. 18, 12:40 p.m.: Dr. Michael Baden, the forensic pathologist who conducted an autopsy of Michael Brown at the request of his family, said this morning at a press conference that he did not find any evidence of a struggle between Brown and officer Darren Wilson. Baden, the former chief medical examiner for New York City, also said Wilson could have fired at Brown from anywhere between 1 foot and 30 feet away and that examinations of Wilson and of Brown’s clothing could help further clarify the circumstances of the teenager’s death.
Aug. 18, 12 p.m.: Each night in Ferguson, it seems, police respond to questions about their use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and riot gear by saying they’ve been attacked with bottles, Molotov cocktails, and guns. Amid the chaos, documentation of these threats has been scarce. Last night, however, at least two reporters echoed Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson’s claim that shots had been fired. One MSNBC reporter saw four men firing weapons:
… [A reporter] witnessed protesters, including teenagers and young children fleeing as the sounds of live gunfire rang out along the corridor where Chambers meets West Florissant – a hotbed of protest in recent days. A second MSNBC reporter passed by a group of four armed teenaged boys who were firing live rounds from pistols into the air as they headed toward that intersection.
CNN producer Steve Kastenbaum also says he heard shots fired in the vicinity of police. Johnson told members of the media that one protester had been shot by another and was in critical condition; there doesn’t seem to be any word this morning on that individual’s condition.