Here's what we know.
Ferguson, MO, is a suburb of St. Louis, with a population of around 21,000 people, almost 2/3rds black, a racial remnant of white flight. A largely poor town, the median household income is $37,500, just over the poverty level. Despite the majority of the population being black, the town has a white mayor, a white city council, and of the 53 police officers, only 3 are black.
On Saturday, the ninth of August, Michael Brown, an 18 year old, unarmed, black male, was walking in the street around 2:15 PM, going home with a friend named Dorian Johnson. A police officer showed up, ordered the two individuals onto the sidewalk, and now Michael Brown is dead, having been shot several times, and left dead in the street for upwards of four hours.
How that happened is less clear.
According to the officer, after he ordered the two onto the sidewalk, he tried to exit his vehicle, Brown pushed him back into the car, a struggle for the officer's gun ensued, a shot was fired inside the vehicle, and then Brown ran for it. The officer opened fire, killing Brown.
According to Johnson, and other witnesses at the scene, the officer pulled up so close to Brown and Johnson that when the officer tried to exit the vehicle, the door struck Brown and Johnson, and bounced back onto the officer. The officer then reached out the vehicle, grabbing Brown by the throat. Brown tried to pull away, the officer threatened to shoot, and then did, killing Brown.
Since then, the town has descended into chaos, the culmination of decades of racism, white flight, poverty, and the militarization of police, making it incredibly hard to figure out what, exactly, is happening. The police refuse to name the officer who killed Brown
, citing death threats. The town itself is struggling to get information out, as the ever-popular group of fucksticks known as Anonymous have been attacking the government's internet services
and are trying their hardest to doxx everyone involved. Coupled with the obvious increase in national interest, the government's internet services, including email, are basically done.
What we know for sure is that there are widespread protests throughout town. Some of them have turned violent, but how many is hard to say. The police have been extremely heavy handed, but how heavy handed is much, much easier to figure out. They have tried to order away the media, citing safety concerns. They have been using tear gas on protestors. Tonight there are reports across Twitter of flashbangs, and use of high-tech noise devices designed to disperse crowds. Earlier today the police raided a McDonalds, arresting two reporters
. The reporters, working for the Huffington Post and Washington Posts, released this story of the arrest:
The reporters were released without charge a short time later.
So, in short, it is a horrible mess, even just on the surface. But underneath, for those folks who don't live in America or have been too horrified to read a lot about this, it is far, far worse.
Michael Brown isn't just a man who was shot by police. He was the fourth unarmed black man killed by police this month
. Yes. Just this month.
In Ohio, police killed 22-year old John Crawford
for walking around a Wal-Mart with the empty BB-gun he was about to buy. The police department chief said, "The officers gave verbal commands to the subject to drop the weapon. The subject … was shot after failing to comply with the officers’ commands. The quick response of officers was instrumental in containing this situation and minimizing the risk to customers.” I will point out again, that the risk was from a BB-gun. An air-rifle.
Crawford was black.
Then we move to Aurora, Colorado, the town you may know best as where 12 people were murdered, and 70 more injured, during a screening of the Dark Knight Rises. In Aurora, an 18 year old was opening carrying around a shotgun, claiming to be on a quest to make people "more comfortable" around guns. After several people called 911, the police arrived, and demanded ID, a demand that was refused. Despite the obvious public unease, and open refusal to cooperate with police, the young man was given a citation
for misdemeanor obstruction.
This young man was white.
Coupled with the increased militarization of the police force, centuries of narratives about "violent black men" and the subtle way that any grouping of black people angry at their mistreatment has become a "riot", it is incredibly hard to pick out the signal from the noise here. That Brown lay in the street for so long after being killed has been a point of hard, hard anger from many black people, stirring up pain from when lynching victims were left to hang for hours, a warning to other black people, and an attraction to white people. You'll note that the story above from the two reporters arrested involved police continuing a long, national tradtion issuing inherently contradictory orders to generate cause to arrest otherwise innocent people, particularly in cases involving minorities.
Because of this, I have tried to include sources where I can, it'd be nice if everyone tried the same, please.