Ferguson riots followed Michael Brown's death, an unarmed, black St. Louis teenager who was gunned down by white cops. The story, as one might expect, took on an instantaneous racial overtone. African Americans within the St. Louis suburb where Brown was shot have now taken their protests to an aggressive level – looting, burning, smashing storefronts and windows of parked cars, even pilfering goods by the armful.
Reports the USA Today on Aug. 11: “Police began using tear gas to disperse crowds early Monday morning in suburban St. Louis after multiple stores were vandalized and looted Sunday night. Crowds became unruly at a vigil for an unarmed black man who was shot and killed by police.”
Killed on Saturday in the town of Ferguson was 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was reportedly unarmed and had his hands raised over his head when he was gunned down by a white officer.
USA Today summarized the story as follows:
It began with an altercation involving two men and the officer around noon Saturday, [St. Louis County Police Chief Jon] Belmar said. One of the men pushed the officer into his patrol car, there was a scuffle inside the car over the officer's gun, and the officer fired one shot inside the cruiser. Seconds later, outside the cruiser, he fired several more shots and 18-year-old Michael Brown lay dead.
A candlelight vigil Sunday night drew a crowd of over a thousand individuals, and the scene took a decidedly violent turn. Angry protestors, taking to the streets to demand answers, shouted: “We want answers” and “No justice, no peace” while a news conference was being conducted. Some men spray painted “RIP Michael” in the middle of the street. Others walked into the St. Louis police station and shouted, with their hands up: “Don’t shoot me!”
Over 60 officers were brought in to quell the riot, including members of the ST. Louis SWAT team. The disturbance lasted into early Monday morning. Tear gas grenades were propelled into the crowds, and over 30 arrests were made.
Brown’s mother Lesley McSpadden, who attended the vigil, said she needs answers, and she wants the officer who killed her son to face the death penalty.
“I would like to see him fired,” McSpadden said. “I would like to see him go to jail with the death penalty. My son just turned 18 and graduated from high school, and he don't bother nobody. They told me how many times my son was shot. Eight.”
The Daily Mail, which carried multiple pictures of Brown and handkerchief-wearing black looters robbing stores, wrote: “TV footage showed streams of people walking out of a liquor store carrying bottles of alcohol. In some cases protesters were also standing on top of police cars and taunting officers who stood stoic, often in riot gear. Other witnesses reported seeing people vandalize police cars and kick in windows. Television footage showed windows busted out of a TV station van.”
Ferguson’s mayor, James Knowles, denounced the riot and crime spree.
“Contributing to the unrest that is going on is not going to help,” the mayor said. “We're only hurting ourselves, only hurting our community, hurting our neighbors. There's nothing productive from this… We understand people want to vent their frustrations. We understand they want to speak out. We're going to obviously try to urge calm.”
Details surrounding the shooting have not been released, though police have confirmed that Brown was not armed. With the divisive nature of the story, the specifics of the shooting may come out very slowly, if at all. It was not said yet whether the other man with Brown was armed. It’s also unclear if Brown was the man that struggled with the officer inside of the police cruiser.
According to the Daily News, John Gaskin, who serves on both the St Louis County and national boards of directors for the NAACP said, “We're outraged yet again a young African-American man has been killed by law enforcement.”
The Reverend Al Sharpton also weighed in, calling the shooting “very disturbing” and stating that he will meet with the family this week.
Let’s hear from you on this controversial story. One man’s shooting, appeared brought on by some sort of kerfuffle with police, led to his death. Excessive force? Or too soon to say? And why does a community respond in kind by exercising ferocity through violence, unrest and committing crimes? Sound off below.
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