Among the many bad decisions made by almost everyone involved since Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown to death last August, two of the worst occurred Monday night.
One involved waiting until after dark to release the results of the grand jury investigation, knowing it was going to anger Brown's supporters. Riots are more easily launched after dark. Looting and vandalism are more common. There is something about the cloak of darkness that contributes to stirring passions and turning protestors into a mob.
Authorities, whose handling of the entire affair could only (and generously) be described as clumsy, should have waited until early Tuesday morning, when those urging peace would have had better chances -- and time -- to be heard, until the sun went down.
The second terrible decision was the insistence by some of Brown's supporters that they were going to riot if they got anything less than an indictment for first-degree murder. This was a lynch-mob mentality that had been building for days, and the black community leaders who had been calling for calm apparently had their words fall on too many deaf ears.
So, a minority of that community went on a rampage, destroying the property of innocent people who had nothing to do with Brown's shooting but who were just in the way as the tide of anger rolled through Ferguson.
At some point in the next week, some rioter is going to head out to the corner market to buy some bread and milk and discover it is ashes. That person will now have to leave their own neighborhood, the one they destroyed, to meet their daily needs. Many of those businesses burned Monday night will not rebuild. There will be fewer jobs in the neighborhoods, adding to the poverty that already exists -- and all the problems that come with areas of concentrated poverty.
There is no question that part of this disaster has been brought on by a police force that did not have and will not have for a long time the respect and trust of the community it was supposed to protect. That's an issue that the people of Ferguson will have to take up by a change in political leadership. In the long run, ballot boxes, not bonfires, accomplish more.
We can debate forever what the grand jury should have done, whether or not it was right or wrong. The process played out and by all accounts the prosecutor held nothing back, laying out all the evidence, for or against Wilson, that his investigation had uncovered. Hopefully, the judge will release the transcripts of the testimony so that calmer heads and more reasoned minds can evaluate, in the light of day what that grand jury actually had before it.
But in the dark of night, when the souls of men are more easily swayed by anger and evil, Ferguson burned. It was not a moment for which anyone can be proud.
-- Kelly Everitt