BY DAN FEIN
AND ILONA GERSH
FERGUSON, Mo. — Some 300 people demonstrated here on the morning of Aug. 11 to protest the police killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was gunned down two days earlier in this predominantly Black working-class suburb of St. Louis while on his way to his grandmother’s house.
Protesters marched to the local Police Department demanding the identity of the cop be made public, and that he be charged with murder. Outside the station, cops from Ferguson and other jurisdictions were mobilized in riot gear.
“The cops act as judge, jury and executioner,” Zaki Baruti, of the Universal African Peoples Organization said at the rally, organized by the Ad Hoc Committee for Justice on Behalf of Michael Brown.
Demonstrations against the cop killing of Brown have spread nationwide and come on the heels of outrage over other recent incidents of political brutality, such as New York cops’ July 17 chokehold killing of Eric Garner in Staten Island.
Eyewitness and police accounts differ widely on what happened Aug. 9, but the basic facts are unambiguous: Brown, who is Black, was unarmed and attempting to flee when he was shot to death. An autopsy has confirmed he was shot multiple times.
According to Dorian Johnson, who was walking with Brown, the two were accosted by an officer who almost hit them with his car. The cop choked Brown, tried to pull him into the car, threatened him with a gun and shot him once, which provoked the two to try to escape. Brown was shot once while trying to run away and several more times after turning around with his hands up. His body remained in the street for hours after he was killed.
According to a brief police account, an “encounter” with the two led to an assault on the cop and a struggle over the officer’s gun, which resulted in the first shot being fired.
Demonstrators chanted, “No justice, no peace,” “Hands up, don’t shoot,” and “If we don’t get it, shut it down.” At the end of the march there was a standoff between protesters and police, who blocked the entrance to the police station. Several speakers talked about the need for a peaceful demonstration, which remained disciplined and without cop violence.
The day after Brown was killed, thousands filled the streets at the site of the killing for a vigil. Many carried hand-made signs, The outpouring was met with hundreds of rifle-toting cops in riot gear with police dogs. Later in the day some residents took to rioting on West Florissant Avenue. Several businesses were destroyed or damaged and looted and several police cars damaged. Police arrested nearly three dozen people and dispersed crowds with tear gas and rubber bullets.
“Nobody could leave their house and feel safe,” said high school student Jessica Williams about the riot. “We want the officer to be charged and go to jail.”
“The police think they can get away with this,” said Tobias Court, a student in his 20s and neighborhood resident. “I’ve never been to any marches before, but I thought I should come out today because the police are getting out of hand,” said Court, who is Caucasian.
“I came down to see if they really canceled the rally as they said on the news,” said Robert Hamilton. “I’m glad they didn’t because the world is watching what happens here now. How many times do police get arrested for shooting someone? Never. We need to get more people involved, especially the young ones. Some of them are going to be out on the street one way or another. It’s better if they’re marching with us.”
After the march on Monday, participants car-caravaned through the streets to the memorial where Brown was killed. Along the way, the caravan passed by the site of the looting where volunteers were cleaning up the damage and boarding up broken storefront windows.
“The cops were very aggressive at last night’s vigil,” said Carissa McGraw, 26, a boutique manager and one of the cleanup volunteers. “I heard one cop tell another, referring to me, ‘If she moves, push her down.’ We were protesting the killing, but for some it turned into looting and greed. They said they were looting for Mike, but it’s pointless.”
Monday night, the St. Louis County branch of the NAACP sponsored a town hall meeting attended by an overflow crowd of several hundred at a local church.
“We need a thorough investigation by those who are in charge of protecting and serving,” said NAACP National President Cornell Brooks.
“I can confirm that the FBI is working closely with the St. Louis Police Department to review the matter at this time,” Justice Department Special Agent Cheryl Mimura said at the meeting.
“You don’t do a dog like that,” Brown’s mother Lesley McSpadden told NewsOne Aug. 11. The police “didn’t let me identify him or anything,” she said. “It was some girl down there who had recorded the whole thing, took pictures, and she showed me a picture on her phone. … my son laying there like this for no apparent reason.”
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