For more information than this article provides, please refer to the collection of links at the bottom of the article from a variety of news sources.
On Saturday, August 9th, teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, MO. There has been dispute about what exactly the situation was, partly because the name of the police officer involved has not been released. There have been a couple of names floating about, including one that was released by the hacking group “Anonymous”, but all names have been called incorrect by police. The Ferguson police had planned to release the name of police officer, but decided not to on Tuesday due to the amount of threats they had received. Anonymous has also released the audio tapes from the St. Louis dispatch, which can be listened to here.
“The circumstances of the death are in dispute. Mr. Brown and a friend were walking home from a convenience store when friends and witnesses say they were stopped by an officer for walking in the middle of the street. They say that Mr. Brown’s hands were in the air when the last of several shots was fired. The police say that Mr. Brown was shot during a fight over the officer’s gun. The F.B.I. has opened a civil rights inquiry into the shooting, and the case is being investigated by the St. Louis County Police.” –The New York Times
The police force and witnesses are giving very different accounts. The LA Times gives a great contrast, beginning with the police’s account: “Brown was walking with a friend in the middle of the street when a Ferguson police officer tried to exit his vehicle. Brown pushed the officer back into the police car, then entered the car, and a struggle ensued over the officer’s weapon. A shot was fired inside the car. The officer and Brown then exited the vehicle, and the fatal shooting occurred.” Then follows up with the witnesses accounts: “Dorian Johnson, a friend of Brown’s, told Fox 2 that he and Brown were walking in the street when the police car pulled up. The officer said to ‘get the eff onto the sidewalk,’ he recounted. Johnson said the officer reached out of the car window and grabbed Brown around the neck… Another witness, Piaget Crenshaw, said she saw police chase Brown. ‘He ran for his life,” she said. ‘They shot him and he fell. He put his arms up to let them know that he was compliant and he was unarmed, and they shot him twice more and he fell to the ground and died.'”
The Police Force
The main topic of outcry around both the country and the globe is the role the police are playing in Ferguson.
A convenience store was set on fire, and at least 11 other local businesses have been looted. Police officers have fired tear gas and rubber pellets at demonstrators and have arrested more than 50 people since Sunday. On Tuesday, the Federal Aviation Administration barred aircraft from flying below 3,000 feet over Ferguson after the police said that department helicopters were shot at. On Wednesday, local leaders called for protests to be held only during daylight hours. –The New York Times
This is just the more violent acts though, most of what has been happening in Ferguson has been peaceful protests which have been met with “riot gear” (shields and rifles), tear gas, and rubber bullets. A fact to note is that the Ferguson police force does not racially reflect the town’s population in the slightest. 63% of the population is Black, and of the 53 commissioned police officers, only three are black. The public are saying that the racism in this situation can’t be ignored.
Note: Something to keep in mind is in June there was an increase in war gear flowing to police forces around the country. You can learn more about that from this New York Times article.
Since Saturday, the media have picked up on the story and social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr have been exploding with first hand accounts, information for those of us trying to learn more, and interesting facts that have come to light. (Sidenote: On Wednesday, August 13th, #Ferguson should’ve been trending on Twitter and reports have been saying that Twitter took it off the US trending list, but there haven’t been any official reports.) Here are some thought-provoking and great tweets that I’ve seen.
There have been a large amount of accounts from journalists who have been trying to film parts of the protest and crowd/police interaction stating that the police have been telling them to stop filming and arresting them if they do not comply. Remember, this is against the law. It is legal in all 50 states to photograph and film the police as part of our first amendment right.
Steps Taken By Authorities
On Tuesday afternoon, President Obama released the following statement:
“The death of Michael Brown is heartbreaking, and Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family and his community at this very difficult time. As Attorney General Holder has indicated, the Department of Justice is investigating the situation along with local officials, and they will continue to direct resources to the case as needed. I know the events of the past few days have prompted strong passions, but as details unfold, I urge everyone in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country, to remember this young man through reflection and understanding. We should comfort each other and talk with one another in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds. Along with our prayers, that’s what Michael and his family, and our broader American community, deserve.”
In his speech, he called for the Ferguson police to be “open and transparent” as they investigate the death of Michael Brown. You can find the video and the transcript of the speech here. He didn’t call for police to release the name of the police officer who killed Brown, however, and this has been met with public outrage. He did, however, mention the arrest of journalists.
“Police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs,” Mr. Obama said. ‘Now’s the time for healing. Now’s the time for peace and calm on the streets of Ferguson.'”
The FBI opened a civil rights investigation on Ferguson on Monday.
As well, there have been reports that Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri would be removing the St. Louis County police from dealing with the protests in Ferguson.
“The police chief of Ferguson, Tom Jackson, said during a news conference that federal, state and local officials were meeting Thursday to discuss the police response to the protests, in part to determine if the actions of officers had exacerbated the conflict… We’re going to talk about not only the tactics but the appearance’ of the officers, who have been equipped with riot gear, armored vehicles and assault rifles during the demonstrations, Chief Jackson said.”
Stay tuned to social media and the news for more developments in Ferguson. This is an event that shows the racial tensions in our country, and is startling similar to riots, peaceful protests, and crowd/police clashes of the past. You can sign a petition to enact new federal laws to protect citizens from police violence and misconduct here, and donate to Michael Brown’s memorial fund here. Also, schools in Ferguson have been closed since Monday which has become an issue for children who get a portion of their food only from school. You can donate to help feed them here.
For More Information:
- Live coverage from The New York Times here
- Photographs from The New York Times Lens Blog here
- The New York Times Chronicles the Social Media here
- Senator Rand Paul’s Op-Ed in Time Magazine here
- Op-Ed by Nick Gillespie for Time Magazine on making cops wear cameras here
- Video and Story on the looting of a QuikTrip in Ferguson from Fox2News (St. Louis) here
- Interview with Alderman Antonio French who was arrested by police here
- Huffington Post reporter arrested in Ferguson – story here
- Ferguson and the militarization of police in the US here
- NAACP want police to identify shooter here
- Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon, calls for Martial Law in Ferguson here
If you have any other links or information, please share in comments.