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A protester throws back a smoke bomb while clashing with police in Ferguson, Missouri August 13, 2014. Police in Ferguson fired several rounds of tear gas to disperse protesters late on Wednesday, on the fourth night of demonstrations over the fatal shoot
A new report gives some more insight into the boiling melting pot that was Ferguson, before the tragic events of August 9, 2014. According to NPR:
In 2013, the municipal court in Ferguson — a city of 21,135 people — issued 32,975 arrest warrants for nonviolent offenses, mostly driving violations.
That's more than 10,000 arrest warrants than actual citizens. I realize it's in the quote already, but wow. That's 1.5 arrest warrants for every person living in Ferguson. Don't worry, this isn't only happening in Ferguson.
A new report released the week after 18-year old Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson helps explain why. ArchCity Defenders, a St. Louis-area public defender group, says in its report that more than half the courts in St. Louis County engage in the "illegal and harmful practices" of charging high court fines and fees on nonviolent offenses like traffic violations — and then arresting people when they don't pay. The report singles out courts in three communities, including Ferguson.
Besides racism, what else is motivating this?
The ArchCity Defenders report argues that this resentment is justified. Last year, Ferguson collected $2.6 million in court fines and fees. It was the city's second-biggest source of income of the $20 million it collected in revenues.
Maybe there's a different way to look at this data? No. No there isn't. Alex Tabarrok, a professor of economics at George Mason University:
You don’t get $321 in fines and fees and 3 warrants per household from an about-average crime rate. You get numbers like this from bullshit arrests for jaywalking and constant “low level harassment involving traffic stops, court appearances, high fines, and the threat of jail for failure to pay.”
This is small part of a larger issue in our country of harassing and squeezing money out of the impoverished sections of our society. The longer we put off dealing with these ugly realities the worse the blow-ups will be. There is a bully culture at work here and our young people are the ones who really get hurt.

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