The world held its breath as a grand jury reviewed evidence and listened to witnesses who saw first-hand the altercation between Officer Darren Wilson and 18-year old Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri. That altercation ended in Brown’s death. Brown was unarmed at the time and witness accounts of the incident vary. While some eye witness accounts corroborate Wilson’s side of the story, other witnesses’ say that Brown was surrendering when fatally shot by Officer Wilson. The latter belief has caused numerous riots throughout the country and countless claims of prejudice.
While some have tried to portray Michael Brown as a “gentle giant”, the 6’4” teenager who weighed almost 300 pounds is seen on surveillance tape stealing cigarillos from a convenient store and then shoving the store clerk when he is confronted. This happened shortly before the now infamous shooting. The surveillance tape displays Brown more like a dangerous bully than a gentle giant.
Authorities were worried about what the reaction to the outcome of the Wilson trial would be. They feared more violence and riots if Officer Wilson was not indicted. Proponents of Officer Wilson were afraid that he would be indicted simply out of fear due to the threats being made by black communities across the country who said they would wreak havoc if Officer Darren Wilson was not indicted. In preparation, Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri called in the National Guard. It was not enough, however, to stop the violence that erupted.
St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch reported that the jury listened to over 70 hours of testimony spread across 25 days from over 60 witnesses before deciding not to indict Officer Wilson. Wilson’s attorney’s said in a statement: “From the onset, we have maintained and the grand jury agreed that Officer Wilson’s actions on August 9 were in accordance with the laws and regulations that govern the procedures of an officer … Officer Wilson followed his training and followed the law.”
Most of the witnesses who sided with Officer Wilson’s version of the story were African-American, like the majority of Ferguson residents. Even with these witness testimonies and forensic proof that Wilson acted appropriately on August 9, and even with Michael Brown’s family pleading for peace, riots and violence throughout Ferguson ran rampant when the grand jury’s decision was revealed.
A local car lot was set on fire, a Walgreens was torn apart and looted, local businesses were also set ablaze, and even a community outreach center was torched – all despicable acts that will not solve anything except to create more violence. Even President Obama addressed the nation asking that protests remain peaceful and said that “using any event for violence is contrary to the rule of law.”
St. Louis County Police Department tweeted: “Bricks thrown at police, 2 police cars burned, gun seized by police. Tonight was disappointing.” Police used tear gas and smoke grenades in attempts to control unruly crowds but even that did not stop the devastating destruction that continued throughout the night. Nick Cannon tweeted, “No need for the gas. We already had tears.” So what then should be done with protestors setting fire to buildings and looting stores? Just allow it?
While Police did not have to use their guns at any point throughout the night, gunshots could be heard throughout the community. At the Mayor’s request, more Missouri National Guardsmen are being deployed to Ferguson.
By early Tuesday morning, there had been 29 arrests and dozens of buildings were set on fire. Police Chief Jon Belmar says that most of the buildings are “a total loss.” But protests were not limited to Ferguson. In New York City, thousands of protestors caused at least three bridges to be shut down and created a hazardous traffic situation. They could be heard chanting, “You say get back, we say fight back!” and “Whose streets? Our streets!” The streets of Oakland, California also erupted in demonstrations that led to violence and fires that shut down Interstate 580. It is estimated that there were in total approximately 70 protests arranged around the country.
A Ferguson shopkeeper said, “This won’t change, and I want better … I think it will get worse before it gets better.” Benjamin Crump, Brown’s family attorney, said that the family would file federal charges against Officer Wilson if he was not indicted. Based on the outcome of similar cases in the past, Crump admits that it is not likely the Brown family will win.
Officer Wilson and his family have had to go into hiding for fear of their lives. RbG Black Rebels Tweeted on November 9, “We are paying $5k cash for location of Ofc. Darren Wilson. Real $, no joke, no crime we just wana [sic] get his photo an [sic] ask him a few questions.” The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that a $1,000 reward for the location of any close family member was also offered.