[Trigger Warnings: murder, police brutality]
The first I heard about this story was a screencap of a tweet or Facebook comment that appeared to be part of a conversation about the shooting – it was someone claiming to have witnessed the shooting asserting that the victim hadn’t been committing a robbery and had been shoved by the cop with the car door. This sparked my interest, as it sounded like an unusual event, but I didn’t see any more about it until another snippet the following day. Eventually I started being able to piece together what had happened as more articles appeared about it, and I found out the victim’s name so that I could look for more.
The details have been vague, confused, and differing – as is to be expected when there is a ‘police version’ and ‘eye-witness version’ of events – with a lot of coverage getting distracted by stories of ‘riots and looting’, but today it seems that things are becoming clearer. This morning I stumbled onto this piece (there is also a video of Dorian giving his account), which gave the most details on the situation surrounding the shooting that I’d gotten so far. Michael Brown, 18 years old, was shot at least twice and killed (and then his body left there for quite some time) because he was walking along the road with a friend (Dorian Johnson, 22) and when a police officer told them to get back on the footpath, they didn’t immediately comply, as they were almost at Michael’s grandmother’s house.
Yep, killed for walking on the road for a little bit.
Personally, I think every step of the cop’s reaction, as described by Dorian, was an overreaction and using unnecessary force at that time. Taking the shooting into the context of all the other shootings like it over the years, and how the community – specifically the black community – in Ferguson feel about police and police treatment of them, I’m not surprised by the community response.
An article that seems to be making the rounds today, “America Is Not For Black People” by Greg Howard at The Concourse, gives a concise, clear description of the shooting – both the ‘police version’ and Dorian’s – and goes on to discuss what it means in a broader scope, giving a good overview. It also mentions a man killed by police after a car accident, which sounds very similar to a story I saw yesterday as part of an image, and couldn’t believe until I read the full story – since when do cops use tasers on car accident victims?
I’ve been avoiding the hype about the ‘riots and looting’, particularly after Black Girl Dangerous pointed out how it’s distracting from the real issue at hand, but one I did read caught my eye as it recounted a police officer telling journalists they were “in the middle of a war zone” – and from the sounds of the measures being used to break up protests, that’s pretty accurate. It’s hard to get a completely clear picture of what’s happening with the protests, but it sounds like they’re largely peaceful, with justified anger bubbling over (I haven’t heard of more than yelling at police, or one man speeding at them and breaking right in front of them), and the looting is opportunists unrelated to the protests.
While shop owners in Ferguson have shown up (heavily) armed to their stores to deter looting, a young man has been shot by police for allegedly pointing a handgun at an officer who was called to the scene after reports of “shots being fired and men wearing ski masks carrying shotguns”. I find it worrying that another police shooting has occurred with the community already having reached their breaking point, as well as residents responding to the threat of property damage and looting with arming themselves. Then again, I’m Australian, so someone owning a gun at all is weird to me.
I plan to keep an eye on the situation in Ferguson, as I’m concerned about how things might escalate or simply be swept under the rug. I hope there’s a way for the protests and those involved to accomplish some long-term change, without the police response involving more violence, and without peaceful protests turning violent.
(Correction 15th August: previously I’d written Michael and Dorian were headed to Dorian’s house, in fact in was Michael’s grandmother’s house)