A Former War Correspondent Explains Why The Ferguson Protests Are So Unprecedented

Steve Harrigan Fox NewsCourtesy of Fox NewsFox News’ Steve Harrigan in Ferguson

Fox News correspondent Steve Harrigan has reported from multiple conflict zones in the Middle East, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. He reported from the site of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash on the Ukrainian border earlier this summer.

Something about seeing the same types of anger lead to a simmering conflict at home, though, is different. Harrigan has been covering the racially charged protests in Ferguson, Missouri, which have intensified over the past two nights.

“It’s absolutely fascinating to me, having done this in different places and now getting a taste of the potential gap in my own country, and to see the division in my own country. It’s something I haven’t done before,” Harrigan told Business Insider in an interview from Ferguson on Tuesday.

“I’m used to talking to a furious Chechen. I’m used to talking to a furious Afghan. Now I’m talking to an American on the street who’s absolutely furious. I haven’t done that before, in my own country. It’s new territory.”

Some correspondents have compared the scene of the protests to the war zones Harrigan has covered. Harrigan wouldn’t go that far, saying war zones include “shrapnel” and “blood.” But he said it’s a “poorly handled” situation that nonetheless has helped produce a legitimate conversation about an important racial divide in America’s heartland.

Harrigan experienced firsthand the passion from protesters in Ferguson. While he was live on air Monday night, one protester took issue with Harrigan’s description of the protests as “child’s play” — since the area was filled, Harrigan said, with mostly members of the press. The protester cursed at Harrigan on air — a delay spared the language from being broadcast — for about 30 seconds.

“It’s interesting when you’re reporting about something and a lot of people are all around you hearing every word and can object to what you say,” Harrigan said. “And one man did object to what I said, and I gave him a chance to express his very real anger and rage on live television. You don’t always get the ability to do that — to respond in real-time to a reporter.

“I think that gives people a sense of what he was angry about and the situation on the ground here.”

Harrigan said he has talked to dozens of people over the past few days. What he’s found is a larger divide in the town that has prevailed for much of the past four decades.

One 61-year-old man told Harrigan outside of a local Target on Tuesday that he’s all but accepted the fact that he has to comply when police tell him he needs to “move along” during protests. It’s “not fair,” Harrigan said, and he’s glad the press is working to foster the conversation.

“It’s really good that we’re focusing on a racial divide in an American city,” Harrigan said. “There’s something wrong here. The younger people express it differently than the older people — perhaps not appropriately, and perhaps doing more harm than good. But there’s something wrong here. It’s clear.”

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