Monday, September 22, 2014

What is the Real Reason Behind the Media Blackout in Ferguson City Council Meetings

Thomas Battles (L), Southeast Regional director of the Department of Justice's Community Relations Service, talks with community activist and mother of former Martin attorney, Natalie Jackson, Francis Oliver (R)Photo: Trymaine Lee 
On September 19 it was reported that the DOJ will ban Reporters and non-residents from upcoming Ferguson town hall meetings.

The city of Ferguson is promoting a five-week series of “town hall” meetings beginning today geared toward updating residents on changes the council wants the community to consider and to address community concerns.

On Friday, an arm of the  U.S. Department of Justice, the Community Relations Services (CRS), became involved and it was then that the restriction were extended to non-residents of Ferguson, Missouri.  Eric Holder also sent in CRS in the days following the shooting of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Williams to "help keep the peace and resolve racial tension".  This unit is reportedly connected to "The Peacemakers".

Devin James, a spokesman for Ferguson, told reporters Friday that the Community Relations Service was insisting that reporters be kept out of the city’s “town hall’’ meetings because having media present could alter the conversations.

Those who followed the Trayvon Martin case closely may remember this little known unit of the DOJ.  There were secret meetings between CRS and officials in Sanford, Florida before the arrest of George Zimmerman which resulted in the firing of Police Chief Bil Lee of Sanford.

A little background to give you an idea of how CRS facilitated the arrest of George Zimmerman.

From documents obtained by Judicial watch on April 24, 2014:

Document: DOJ Community Relations Service was deployed to Sanford, FL, “to provide technical assistance for the preparation of possible marches and rallies related to the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old African American male.” 

  • March 25 – 27, 2012, CRS spent $674.14 upon being “deployed to Sanford, FL, to work marches, demonstrations, and rallies related to the shooting and death of an African-American teen by a neighborhood watch captain.”
  • March 25 – 28, 2012, CRS spent $1,142.84 “in Sanford, FL to work marches, demonstrations, and rallies related to the shooting and death of an African-American teen by a neighborhood watch captain.
  • March 30 – April 1, 2012, CRS spent $892.55 in Sanford, FL “to provide interegional   support for protest deployment in Florida.”
  • April 11:  After Governor Scott appointed special prosecutor, Angela Corey, George Zimmerman was arrested in Sanford Florida and charged with Second Degree murder for the shooting of Trayvon Martin, 17.  
  •  April 15, 2012, during the height of the protests, the Orlando Sentinel reported, “They [the CRS] helped set up a meeting between the local NAACP and elected officials that led to the temporary resignation of police Chief Bill Lee according to Turner Clayton, Seminole County chapter president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.” The paper quoted the Rev. Valarie Houston, pastor of Allen Chapel AME Church, a focal point for protestors, as saying “They were there for us,” after a March 20 meeting with CRS agents. 
The former head of CRS, Ondray Harris, said the problem with CRS is the conflict “between being mediators versus being advocates.

Benjamin Crump had been pushing for the arrest of George Zimmerman, going so far as to lie about a potential key witness during a "bombshell" press conference on March 20, 2014.
April 16, 2012: “Congratulations to our partners, Thomas Battles, Regional Director, and Mildred De Robles, Miami-Dade Coordinator and their co-workers at the U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service for their outstanding and ongoing efforts to reduce tensions and build bridges of understanding and respect in Sanford, Florida” following a news article in the Orlando Sentinel about the secretive “peacemakers.”
In reply to that message, Battles  said: “Thank you Partner. You did lots of stuff behind the scene to make Miami a success. We will continue to work together.” He signed the email simply Tommy.
But an arrest wasn't good enough, Benjamin Crump and a group called the Dream Defenders, led by one of his former social justice employees, wanted Zimmerman back in jail and they wanted Sanford Police Chief, Bill Lee, fired.
 April 19: "...  “community meeting” held at Second Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Sanford on April 19, 2012. The meeting, which led to the ouster of Sanford’s Police Chief Bill Lee, was scheduled after a group of college students calling themselves the “Dream Defenders” barricaded the entrance to the police department demanding Lee be fired.  According to the Orlando Sentinel, DOJ employees with the CRS had arranged a 40-mile police escort for the students from Daytona Beach to Sanford. (emphasis mine)
April 23: Chief Lee resigns, but his resignation is rejected by Mayor Bonaparte and the City Council. 
We will just have to wait and see what is in store for the Police Chief of Ferguson, the State Attorney, and the Governor of Missouri after the CRS finishes their business.

For a much more in-depth look at this organization, please read, Ondray Harris: “In some cases, this is the U.S. government taking a stand against some people”.  It will be even more clear to the reader why this media black-out is concerning, especially for Officer Wilson.