It’s all about ‘image’: National Guard was deliberately held back as Ferguson burned

Residents and business owners of the riot-racked town of Ferguson are furious as evidence grows that top officials deliberately kept the National Guard from protecting property during the November looting.


Missouri Governor Jay Nixon on Tuesday released hundreds of pages of National Guard memos, emails and troop orders that show the National Guard was deliberately kept at a “safe distance” from rioters for public relations purposes.

Nixon, a Democrat, and other officials are trying to maintain that the decision not to utilize the National Guard until it was too late was made to prevent confrontations with the rioters and save lives.

But documents obtained by the Post-Dispatch suggest concerns about leaving a bad image around the country could have led to the National Guard’s distant approach.

“Optics of various sorts are important as we head towards this mission,” wrote one National Guard officer in an email. “We are deliberately constraining mobilization timelines to the last couple days to minimize public backlash … We have coordinated for lower profile, less confrontational likely mission sets … [to] minimize public militarization perception.”

It’s tough to think of a worse perception than businesses burning down because of unchecked lawlessness.

According the Post-Dispatch, the Highway Patrol, which coordinated the Guard’s response wanted Guard troops off the front lines with regard to the “Governor’s intent to minimize external public appearance.”

The Guard was placed at the airport, shopping malls and certain hotels hosting law enforcement and county buildings in nearby Clayton – but none in Ferguson.

It seems while decisions were being implemented with public perception in mind, many local officials and community members were being told something different.

“It’s disgusting. I’m beside myself,” said Kurt Banks, owner of an auto-body repair shop that was severely damaged in the November riots.

“I sat in a meeting the Thursday before this happened and was promised there would be National Guard on my property. I was even told [by police officials], ‘Don’t board it up,’” Kurt said.

“I’m sorry, but we pay our taxes, and 75 percent of our business is gone.”


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