Since the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug 9th, residents within the St. Louis suburban city of Ferguson and throughout the country have continued to express anger and frustration from the incident between white police officer, Darren Wilson, and unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown.
The issue has raised racial tensions, something that many believe is a reoccurring problem in this country. In the aftermath of the shooting, ongoing protests, both violent and peaceful, have sprung up within the community, such as riots, looting of local businesses, and extreme distrust of those in uniform within Ferguson, M.I., as well as across the country.
In the shooting, the unarmed Brown, who many believe raised his hands in surrender during the altercation with officer Wilson, have been waiting months to see if the officer would be indicted in Brown’s death, which has since made national headlines across the country.
On Monday, Nov. 24 at 8:00 p.m., the verdict was finally announced. The jury found officer Wilson, who shot and killed Brown, not guilty of his death, with no charges. Since there were many conflicting witness accounts of what exactly happened during the altercation between the officer and the victim, the grand jury looked more at the physical evidence rather than what people said.
According to the StarTribune, Bob McCulloch, St. Louis County’s prosecutor stated that, “many witnesses to the shooting of Michael Brown made statements inconsistent with other statements they made and also conflicting with the physical evidence. Some were completely refuted by the physical evidence.”
The New York Times also noted that with Wilson’s statement of what happened that day, countless jury documents and conflicting eye witness reports, the jury decided that “the officer had committed no crime when he killed Mr. Brown.”
Despite what happened in the courtroom, Brown’s parents expressed their remorse but positive words after hearing the final verdict. “We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions. While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.”
With an already unsettling atmosphere within the Ferguson community, the news did not settle well, and anger exploded into a hostile fury of violence and what some spectators say, was more over the top than when the shooting first occurred. Police in riot gear stood together in a line in front of protestors as demonstrations raged on throughout the streets. As the night wore on, demonstrations grew more intense as their anger heightened with police cars and buildings set on fire, rocks being thrown at people and police, and looting.
The scene had been like that of a war flick, and as The New York Times reported, “gunshots could be heard along the streets of Ferguson, and law enforcement authorities deployed smoke and gas to control the crowds.”
According to the BBC, there were about 2,000 National Guard Troops sent on Tuesday night, which was a drastic change in security. The night before, there were 700 troops. Wednesday night, protests continued while a crowd of about 200 protesters gathered outside St. Louis City Hall, “holding a mock trial for Mr. Wilson.”
In an ABC News exclusive with reporter George Stephanopoulos, Wilson stated that race was not a key factor in why the shooting occurred and originally only wanted to arrest Brown. But when he had felt his life was on the line, Wilson tells the reporter, “All I wanted to do was live.” He later said “It’s always going to be something that happened. The reason I have a clean conscious is that I know I did my job right.”
President Obama spoke about the protests but called the nation to peace. “We are a nation built on the rule of law, and so we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make. There are Americans who agree with it and there are Americans who are disappointed, even angry. It’s an understandable reaction. But I join Michael’s parents in asking anyone who protests this decision to do so peacefully.”
Protests did not just happen in Ferguson but all across the country, including Oakland, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago and New York to name a few. Protests not only filled the streets, but in some instances, filled the freeways, blocking many cars and sitting in traffic, and in cases completely shutting them down.
The protesting that emerged was not just to hate on police, but for the community as a whole to come to understand the issues that people of color endure in the deeper struggle of the racial divide with law enforcement. In Ashville, N.C., demonstrators gathered together in the streets showing homemade signs that read, “no justice, no peace, no racist police” while others said, “hey, hey, ho, ho, killer cops have to go.” Nicolas Burtan, 32, was quoted as saying to the Citizen-Times, “I came because I wanted
to support my people. Black Americans are facing a genocide. Privilege is something that isn’t given to all Americans, especially people of color. Events like this help white people see that black lives matter.”
On how the rest of the world views the Ferguson tragic battleground in recent days, the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung noted how there may be even bigger issues that lie in American society. “Potentially the Grand Jury has indeed examined all evidence comprehensively and impartially. But the fact that so many people between New York and Los Angeles are convinced that justice has not been administered is another tragedy. Gestures and respect and reconciliation will be indispensable to bridge the gap between the police and America’s black population. But even that will not be enough.”
Even with the protests and the violence that have continued until now, Patheos.com, a well known faith blog, reported on a prayer service that was held on the night the verdict was released. Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis led the prayer service in which he pleaded with the community to consider peace rather than violence. Carlson spoke about how he understands the hurt and anger within the community that has surrounded the shooting after mass but believes violence is not the answer. Carlson
expressed that, “Whatever you do, do not lash out with violence at your brothers and sisters. Do not seek to destroy or divide. Instead, we must come together as a community through prayer, mutual understanding, and forgiveness if we are to obtain peace. Rather than fuel the fires of hatred and division, we should strive for peace in our own hearts and share it with those around us. Violence does not lead to peace; they are opposing forces and cannot co-exist.”
Here at Religio, we hope and pray for the safety and justice of the Ferguson and global community.