President Barack Obama about a year ago sent his attorney general to Ferguson, Mo., after the police shooting death of Michael Brown, which helped calm some of the angry protests, violent confrontations with police, arrests and unrest.
Neither the Justice Department nor the state grand jury investigations that followed resulted in charges against then-Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson in the killing of 18-year-old Brown. But a separate Justice Department report did expose Police Department wrongdoing in habitually violating African Americans’ constitutional rights through racial profiling and using blacks as a revenue source for the city with traffic stops, tickets, fines and fees.
To quell the latest unrest and clashes with police after the anniversary of the black teen’s death by the white police officer, Obama himself needs to fly Air Force One into Lambert-St. Louis International Airport in an unannounced trip — as if he were visiting U.S. troops in war-torn Iraq or Afghanistan. Obama then needs to take his presidential motorcade to the nearby St. Louis suburb, get out of the car on West Florissant Avenue, where the clashes with police have occurred for more than a year, and talk with the people.
It is far better that the president take such a trip instead of the controversial, right-wing and armed Oath Keepers organization landing in Ferguson on Tuesday to try to keep the peace as all former military, police and first responders. They will only make things worse.
If he goes to Ferguson, the president then should lead a march from West Florissant Avenue to the street memorials on Canfield Drive, where Brown was shot. Obama — like thousands of visitors since Brown’s Aug. 9, 2014, killing — would be moved by what he sees.
The president then should talk with the crowd about what he will have the U.S. do to truly make black lives matter. Brown’s slaying drew national attention to black males being killed all over the country by police, creating a new movement, Black Lives Matter.
To show that he means business, Obama should open his Ferguson-street speech with a new initiative targeting the schools with radical class-size reduction, high expectation, new advanced placement courses and more college to career opportunities so children in the majority-black community can become super-academic achievers. The president should promise a new housing initiative so that homes and apartments are safe, clean and affordable.
Obama should dig deeper in his federal pockets and come up with a new jobs initiative for the St. Louis area focused on literacy and job training for unemployed and underemployed young people. Job placement should accompany the training so that young people can pick up employment paying a living wage.
Eliminating payday loans in Missouri would be near impossible feat. However, the president could announce a new federal micro-loan program for individuals and families with low interest rates and accompanying financial literacy training.
The competition would drive out the financial bottom feeders in the state. For years payday, loan, check cashing services and title loan joints have hurt the state’s poorest residents and their communities.
Obama then could walk back to his presidential motorcade with a cheering crowd.
There would be no need for a military-hardened police force, which the U.S. and international audiences have seen on TV news the last few days in Ferguson and in the last year. There would be no need for the state of emergency. That could be rescinded.
There would be no looting or burning, no gun play, police clashes with citizens, arrests or violence. Ferguson would be changed forever for the good.
Obama could head back to Washington, D.C., knowing that he has lifted the spirits and given hope to people who had none, which showed in the recent and more than a year of protests and unrest after Brown’s death.
The violence would end because people would have a better way of life and the American dream to focus on for themselves and their children. Obama just needs to board the plane for St. Louis to set it all in motion.