The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri provoked civil unrest and outrage against those that were meant to uphold justice and peace in the community – the police. This was not just an opportunity to let off steam, or for a few to find joy in looting petrol stations and smashing windows. There was no joy. There was only anger, frustration and alienation against the city government and police who in a long line of history have let them down repeatedly.

If we look at what has been speculated and what is fact, we can briefly get some sort of account of what actually happened around midday on the 9th August 2014.

The Facts:

The Alleged Robbery

The Ferguson Police Department released a video of CCTV footage that apparently shows Brown stealing a packet of cigarettes from a corner shop, before the shooting, and shoving the shop owner before exiting. However, the footage leaked shows only a segment of what actually took place in the store. The shop owner confirmed he did not report the robbery but it was in fact a customer who may have been mistaken about what was going on. Longer footage confirms Brown did pay at the till, but may have taken more; possible indications regarding the alleged robbery remain unclear.

The reason for Brown engaging in physical altercation with the shop owner is also unclear, lack of audio reinforces this.

It was confirmed that Brown had no criminal record.

The Shooting

The time between police officer, Darren Wilson, confronting Brown and Johnson for the first time and the fatal shooting appears to be from 12:01 – 12:03.

What is certain is Wilson drove by Johnson and Brown and confronted them about walking on the pavement rather than the centre of the road.

From then, all eyewitness accounts point to a physical struggle between Wilson and the two boys through the car window where two shots were fired. From then, Wilson had removed himself from the car and whether in perusal or defence, it is unclear, but according to official postmortem, at least six shots were fired by Wilson, fatally killing Brown.

Speculation:

The multiple eyewitness accounts of the shooting remain conflicting, coming to a consensus in only a few areas. Some say that Wilson supposedly grabbed Brown by the neck, beginning the struggle. Others claim to have witnessed a struggle through the window and Wilson firing two shots at Brown. Three postmortem examinations took place. However most interestingly, the independent autopsy that took place at the request of Brown’s family, performed by Dr. Michael Baden, confirms that a shot to Brown’s right arm supports the theory that Brown had his arms raised in surrender, or his back was indeed facing Wilson as if fleeing from the shots and not as some profess, charging towards him in attack.

Whatever happened that day, no one can deny the fact that at least six shots were fired and a young black man’s life ended at the hand of a white police officer. There has been an extraordinary effort by some right-wing media to claim that this is not a racial issue at all. While Wilson’s actions may not have been racially motivated, one cannot ignore that this event adds to a long legacy of racial tensions between African Americans and an unrepresentative, largely white establishment.

Michael Brown was one of four black teenagers shot fatally by police in the month of August alone. In 2007, the Chicago Reporter investigated and found that African Americans were disproportionately targeted in the ten major cities they studied. The New York Police Department figures show that about 58 per cent of those killed by officers between 2000 and 2011 in the city were African American, as opposed to those from a white, Asian or Hispanic background. This alarming figure highlights that there is definitely still a racial bias when it comes to officers resorting to lethal force.

In a tactical way to demonise African Americans in society and to justify the use of lethal force by officers throughout America, Fox News argued that: ‘Black Americans are no more than two to three times more likely to commit violent crimes than whites… Among blacks, teenage crime is much more of a problem’. This then encourages the question towards why?

Crime often has a strong correlation with poor social conditions. African Americans continue to be a largely oppressed minority group within American society. We can point to poverty in Detroit and Chicago where gang crime is prevalent and there is a lack of initiatives and welfare to get underprivileged groups the lift they need to ascend through society. However, a poor social condition can also account for an unsatisfactory local government that the people themselves feel alienated from. In Ferguson, the population has a 67 per cent black and 29 per cent white demographic. The Ferguson Police Department chief is white and only 3 out of 53 police officers are black. If one is to work towards a more harmonious relationship between the police department and the community, the authorities are going to have to start having more of the interests, sentiments and experiences of the people they are representing and supposed to protect.

This major problem of disenfranchisement leading to violence is worldwide and needs to be addressed. When Mark Duggan was shot in 2011, it sparked riots across London. This is a human rights issue and not merely a civil rights issue. Both young men were unarmed and if the officers were acting in self-defence, they should have shot to immobilise rather than to murder.

Amnesty International sent a 12-person delegation team to offer support to the protesting community within Ferguson, reinforcing the injustices of the militant response. Steven W. Hawkins, Amnesty’s USA executive director emphasised: ‘Law Enforcement, from the FBI to state and local police, are obligated to respect and uphold the human rights of our communities. The U.S cannot continue to allow those obligated and duty-bound to protect to become those who their community fears most’.

 

Sources:

http://aattp.org/ferguson-cops-busted-new-video-seems-to-show-brown-paying-for-cigarillos-video/
http://newsone.com/3047840/mike-brown-shooting-facts/
http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/08/police-shootings-michael-brown-ferguson-black-men
http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/10/22/truth-about-young-black-men-and-police-shootings/
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2014/08/14/ferguson-police-department-details/14064451/
http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/press-releases/amnesty-international-sends-human-rights-delegation-to-ferguson-missouri