In Case You Didn’t Know: Ferguson Erupts in Rage After Jury Does Not Indict Michael Brown Shooter
A jury delivers. A nation erupts in violent rage. And the justice system of the United States once again comes under the scanner.
“It is now up to the authorities to walk the talk, so people from certain communities do not feel unwelcome in their land of birth or adoption.”
Darren Wilson, a white police officer who had been accused of mortally shooting an unarmed African-American teenager, Michael Brown, has not been indicted by a grand jury. The shooting incident happened in August this year in Ferguson, Missouri. The days after the incident were marked by violent protests that brought to the forefront the dynamics of racial tension in the United States and in particular, racial discrimination practiced by some white members of the police force. In the Trayvon Martin shooting case, George Zimmerman, in Florida, too was acquitted of charges of murdering an unarmed African-American teenager.
Today, a community feels they have not only been treated badly but also denied justice. They feel betrayed and enraged. The recent outrage is an expression of their feelings.
Ferguson Protests Unmask a Community’s Long-Suppressed Sentiments
Protestors took to the streets of Ferguson almost immediately after the grand jury delivered its verdict. Hundreds of demonstrators bearing placards that read “hands up, don’t shoot” thronged the streets. The protests turned violent when they let loose their wrath on business establishments and vehicles on the street. They set fire to several commercial buildings, of which about 12 were razed to the ground. They also torched dozens of vehicles.
The police officers present on the ground were not spared either. Enraged protestors hurled frozen water bottles, smoke bombs, and flares at them. They also pelted the police with rocks and attacked them with tent poles.
The ferocity of the protests on the very first day prompted Missouri governor Jay Nixon to call in more National Guard troops to protect lives and property in the riot-battered suburb of St. Louis. The presence of additional troops on the ground probably led to a lull in the violence on the second day. However, the protestors were still on the streets.
Close to 45 people were arrested in Ferguson and 13 in nearby St. Louis in connection with the violent protests, but not before they spurred an entire nation to rally behind Michael Brown.
Ferguson Protests Spill All Over America
The anguish and rage of the protestors in Ferguson resonated with hundreds and thousands of people across the United States. People in many states spontaneously came out in large numbers to protest the decision by the grand jury. Some were peaceful marches, some others were violent.
In New York, different groups of protestors started marching from Union Square and walked till Times Square and Williamsburg and Manhattan bridges. There were also protest marches in Seattle and Cleveland. However, the crowds in Oakland, California and Portland, Oregon were not as patient. They smashed windows of businesses and disrupted traffic. The police had to even use pepper sprays on the protestors in Portland from where they arrested about 300 people.
The decision by the grand jury also left people across the border uneasy. People in Toronto and Ottawa took to the streets and showed solidarity for their brethren in Ferguson. They held demonstrations in front of the U.S. Consulate in Toronto and the American Embassy in Ottawa and organized candlelight vigils. They shouted “black lives matter” and carried banners that read “racism exists.” Their slogans point to a chilling reality that America is slowly waking up to.
Will the Ferguson Protests Herald Change?
The Michael Brown shooting incident has laid bare the ills of the police system in the United States. President Barack Obama recognizes the menace of police militarization and has called for a review and possible revamp of policies that encourage such behavior amongst the police forces. At the local level, the attorney-general of Missouri has announced he will look into ways to bring in more ethnic diversity in the police departments. Police officials in Ferguson have stated their intention to include more African-American personnel in their ranks and ask them to reside in Ferguson. These are obviously attempts to cultivate empathy for non-white members of the public amongst the policemen.
Right now, the streets across America resemble battlefields. On one side are men and women who feel hard done-by and have lost faith in the American justice system. On the other side of the battle line are the state and federal police forces who have to not only counter stones hurled at them but also stand up to a wall of hurt sentiments, resentment, and betrayed trust felt by an entire race. It is now up to the authorities to walk the talk, so people from certain communities do not feel unwelcome in their land of birth or adoption.