Watching the preparations Ferguson, Missouri, made for St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch’s announcement of the grand jury findings in the case of Officer Darren Wilson’s killing of Michael Brown was deeply unsettling. A dismal air of inevitability hung over the event. The Ferguson police had negotiated some terms with protesters, but they still had their police tanks and gas canisters at the ready. Even in Clayton, Missouri, they were putting locks on the fucking mailboxes. That’s how little you could trust these people. You couldn’t trust them with mail. Civic unrest trumps civic failure, and nothing occludes institutional contempt for the citizenry like wanton displays of disrespect for process. This is America: You’re supposed to play by the broken rules until you can fix them, even if they’re fixed beyond correction.
Once McCulloch began speaking, his office and Ferguson’s anodyne preparations took on a note of the sinister. Announcing a “no bill” grand jury vote on an explicit 10-shot killing late at night might been chalked up to the bumbling of an overwhelmed office during the day, but later it seemed almost ideal for the purposes of impeaching protester backlash by having as many pissed off people off from work with nothing to do but be on the street. A target-rich environment of institutional excuses. All those weeks of leaked grand jury details â€” optimistically written up by the media as tempering details intended to manage expectations â€” instead seemed like prep. Rather than letting off steam slowly, it felt like stoking the fire.Â