MO Nation Guard: A decision was made to let Ferguson burn
Ferguson rioters set almost two dozen dozen buildings on fire, looted stores, shot guns at firefighters, murdered one person, and more.
All while the Missouri National Guard stood by and did nothing. A legislative investigation has been concluded. It is now being admitted that the Missouri National Guard was ordered not to intervene. The Governors office felt that there would be no way to stop the violence without killing some of the rioters.
The Guard was never meant to engage with protesters, Adjutant Gen. Stephen Danner said on Tuesday. Troops were to stand guard over sites critical to the region, sometimes as invisibly as possible, documents show.
Guardsmen were not authorized to shoot to protect property in Ferguson, make arrests, or even stop people from committing most crimes.
“That was never the plan, to have the Guard in Ferguson,” Danner said. “When you’re dealing with a civil disturbance and a tightknit group of folks coming at you, you cannot string your soldiers down the street like so many parking meters. That is a danger to them.”
Moreover, the Guard’s late arrival on Nov. 24, after violence swept through Ferguson, wasn’t his call. The Guard was waiting for orders from the Missouri Highway Patrol, Danner said.
And the Highway Patrol’s field operations commander, Maj. Bret Johnson, said he simply couldn’t see how the Guard would help, at that moment, without taking lives.
Gov. Jay Nixon’s office released on Tuesday hundreds of pages of internal Guard memos, emails, troop orders and timelines in response to a months-old Post-Dispatch public records request. A joint legislative committee has also requested the records, and plans to investigate Nixon’s decisions in Ferguson.…
In a joint interview on Tuesday at National Guard headquarters, Danner and Johnson explained that the state had studied unrest and military response throughout the nation’s history, and wanted to avoid civilian deaths.
“And we made that decision to choose life over property,” Johnson said. If the Guard had tried to stop the arson and looting on Nov. 24, “the only way to stop that, with the amount of people there, would have been with deadly force. We would have used citizen soldiers against our citizens of the state of Missouri.”
The Guard had warned, in a presentation sent to Nixon’s office in October, that it needed to mobilize and “stage” National Guard early to “mitigate potential POTUS insurrection act authority use” — to prevent President Barack Obama from sending troops to Missouri.
In November, St. Louis County asked the Highway Patrol — which was coordinating the National Guard response — to provide troops at the Ferguson Police Department, along West Florissant Avenue, and in the Canfield Green apartments, where Brown was shot.
The patrol agreed to place the Guard at the airport, at shopping malls, at hotels hosting area law enforcement and around the county government buildings in Clayton.