Amidst rising tensions and violence stemming from the police shooting and subsequent death of unarmed African American teenager Michael Brown comes an unintended moment of unplanned and ill-timed levity.
Members of the Ferguson police department used incorrectly labeled canisters of nitrous oxide, more commonly known as ‘laughing gas’ against a crowd of demonstrators assembled for a peaceful protest.
At an evening press conference during the melee, Chief of police Thomas Jackson remarked, “In our haste to assess and control the situation and to clear the immediate and surrounding vicinity, several of our officers utilized the wrong supply of materials.”
Stifling a bout of laughter, Jackson continued, “They grabbed the … they grabbed the wrong cans!” After several minutes, Jackson regained his composure and continued. “Now is the time for law, order, and peace to return to our community. We ask for everyone’s cooperation.” Jackson hurriedly exited the press conference to assume command of the police operation, covering his mouth as he left.
Nitrous oxide is a sedative agent and its use is standard practice during dentistry procedures. Often, feelings of calm and light-headedness result from exposure to the gas, with some individuals expressing giddiness and euphoria.
The August 9th shooting of an allegedly unarmed Michael Brown, 18, by police officer Darren Wilson under still-conflicting circumstances, has ignited a nationwide firestorm and initiated coast-to-coast discussions on issues involving race relations, militarization of local police departments, and questions of reasonable force when subduing and dispersing public gatherings.
Huffington Post reporter Gayle Jacobsen, an early online presence since the outbreak of the conflict struggled through her coverage of events:
This is the most … tragic and surreal … event that I have never … that I have ever been here to … excuse me a minute, my … my eyes are watering … This is the most water… I mean this is … the most excessive use of … the use of farce … no, I mean force … Oh, Jeez … let me start again … this is the most [unintelligible] … tonight’s level of gas is the worst one thing and … all the bystanders who were standing in the … by the … the gathering of the … gathering for the … the … [unintelligible]
Other eyewitnesses have reported seeing several officers dancing atop heavily armored vehicles and indiscriminately firing weapons into the air.
President Obama interrupted his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard to hold an impromptu press conference to comment on the situation and ask for calm, while Missouri Governor Jay Nixon appealed to religious leaders for peace.