Fifty Arrested over Ferguson Killing Protests
Almost 50 people have been arrested following the most recent series of protests in response to the killing of 19 year old Mike Brown in the small Missouri town of Ferguson, over 2 months after his fatal shooting.
On October 14th, a protest led by members of the clergy and leading civil rights activists as part of the ‘Ferguson October’ movement, was met with stiff resistance from the local police department who proceeded to arrest a total 48 protesters, including notable activist and intellectual Cornel West.
The protest parallels the Grand Jury investigation into the case and the decision whether or not to file charges against Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Police Department for his shooting of Brown. The initial incident occurred on August 9th, with Brown and friend Dorian Johnson’s encounter with Wilson in the suburbs of Ferguson. Johnson’s account details that Wilson, in a police patrol car, engaged the two for ‘walking in the road and blocking traffic’, leading to a brief struggle between Brown and Wilson that resulted in the shooting of Brown -who was unarmed – with eyewitnesses recounting that Brown had his hands raised in the air, spurring the symbolic ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ chant that has become ingrained in the discourse of the protests.
Rioting and protesting from the mainly black population of the suburb of Ferguson began in the aftermath of the shooting with the heaviest protesting continuing for two weeks.
Brown’s case is not the only example of the shooting of an unarmed black male in recent years, with previous examples ranging back to the heavily reported shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in 2012.
Whilst more recently, this month also saw the fatal shooting of 18 year old Vonderrit Myers Jr., who possessed a firearm but was shot 17 times in St. Louis by an off duty police officer, only a few miles from Ferguson, fuelling the protests against excessive force as his death filtered through the lens of Ferguson. Brown’s shooting and the police response to the following protests have led to increased demands for an end to police brutality in America with the coverage of the protests through social media outlining the excessive force used by the officers in Ferguson, with the police force heavily criticised for their liberal use of tear gas and rubber bullets in dispersing crowds. The use of Twitter and amateur live streams to expose the nature of the protests has led to a consistent debate across social media, keeping Ferguson maintained in the public eye.
The prolonged support for the case for Brown has seen it evolve from an angry, passionate resistance to a well structured and organised protest movement, with the ‘Ferguson October’ drive continuing across the month. The movement, which takes a stance against ‘mass incarceration and police brutality’ has gained momentum across the states with protest events being organised across the country and support from celebrities and musicians included in its ‘artists for Ferguson’ initiative.
With the grand jury decision still in the balance and an indictment for Wilson looking increasingly unlikely, the unrest in Ferguson leaves a question mark over the future of the town and the future of racial politics in the United States.