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2014 Ferguson Protests are an ongoing series of civil disturbances and violent anti-police demonstrations that began in Ferguson, Missouri following the fatal police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August 2014.
On August 9th, 2014, Michael Brown, an eighteen-year-old African American, was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown was unarmed at the time of the shooting.
On August 10th, Jon Belmar, the police chief for St. Louis County, gave a statement explaining Brown had been shot after he assaulted a police officer and attempted to gain control of officer’s gun.
That evening, crowd members participating in a day of vigils reportedly began looting businesses, vandalizing vehicles and clashing with the police officers. At least 150 riot officers were dispatched to the scene, using tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.
On August 12th, protesters congregated in Clayton, Missouri demanding the criminal prosecution of the officer who shot Brown. Police used tear gas on the crowd, claiming bottles had been thrown at officers. On August 13th, journalists Ryan J. Reilly of The Huffington Post and Wesley Lowery of Washington Post were arrested while charging their phones at a McDonald’s restaurant. Later, Reilly claimed officers slammed his head into the glass and Lowery tweeted that he had been pushed into a soda machine.
That evening, the @OccupyOakland’s Twitter feed posted a screenshot of tweets sent from Palestinian citizens provided tips on handling tear gas.
On August 14th, Redditor kevan submitted a photograph of police officers in Ferguson purportedly tear gassing press and dismantling their equipment to the /r/pics subreddit (shown below). In the first six hours, the post garnered upwards of 5,500 votes (95% upvoted).
After a few days of relative calm and peace following the appointment of Missouri highway patrol Captain Ron Johnson to head police efforts in Ferguson, violence escalated on August 17th, 2014, in the evening, with the police reporting the next morning that violent protestors had thrown rocks at the police.
The escalation of violence was seen as result of the release of a private autopsy on Brown that day which revealed he had been shot six times, including twice in the head.
The Ferguson public school year, originally scheduled to start the week of the 11th, was also cancelled on August 18th, following the riots and raids. On August 18th, the governor of Missouri Jay Nixon ordered the National guard to Ferguson to temper any further violence.
Water Canon Vine
On August 19th, Vine user Joseph Solis uploaded a clip of CNN’s coverage of the riots which features anchor Rosemary Church suggesting the police use water canons on the protestors, while her co-anchor Errol Barnett gives her an incredulous look. This suggestion came off as offensive seeing as the police actions in Ferguson have increased racial tension and water canons were famously historically used during desegregation protests in the 1960s. The Vine was posted to Reddit’s r/videos subreddit the same day. The clip was also covered by several websites the same day including UpRoxx and Buzzfeed.
St. Louis Shooting
On October 8th, 2014, in St. Louis, Missouri, Vonderrit Myers, an 18-year-old African American was shot and killed by a white, off duty police officer. Witness testimony immediately contradicted the official report, with the officier claiming Myers had a gun and witnesses claiming he was only carrying food. The night of the shooting the official Twitter account for the St. Louis police department sent out a tweet saying Myers had fired at the officer.
Similarities to the Mike Brown case sparked a new wave of activism and protests, online and offline. The same night the hashtag #shawshooting (referencing the shaw neighborhood where the shooting occurred) was introduced, in less than a week the hashtag was tweeted out over 140,000 times. Live protests began on October 9th, and on October 12th, twenty protestors were arrested during a sit in at a local gas station.
On November 13th, 2014, CBS St. Louis reported that a chapter of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Park Hills, Missouri has been distributing “threatening” fliers across the town of Ferguson, where a series of anti-police protests have been ongoing since the fatal shooting of local black teenager Mike Brown in August, publicly condemning the protesters as “terrorists” and that “lethal force” would be used against “violent protesters”. The sightings of the KKK fliers were reported as the grand jury is expected to deliver its decision on whether or not to indict Officer Darren Wilson before the end of November.
In the midst of the ensuing controversy, the KKK and Anonymous reportedly exchanged several rounds of threats. On November 14th, 2014, the YouTube channel of Anonymous Australia published a video titled "“ANONYMOUS #OpKKK”:http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/events/opkkk, in which it declared the launch of a cyberattack campaign against the KKK. The video communique was briefly taken down from the site before it was reactivated on November 18th.
We are not attacking you because of what you believe in as we fight for freedom of speech… We are attacking you because of what you did to our brothers and sisters at the Ferguson protest on the 12th of November.
Grand Jury Decision
During the days leading up to the announcement of the county grand jury’s decision, tensions continued to build up between the protesters and the police, as well as some non-participating residents. On November 21st, the Ferguson-Florissant School District preemptively cancelled classes for Monday and Tuesday while Missouri governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency in anticipation of post-announcement protests in Ferguson. At 9 p.m. (EST) on November 24th, the county officials revealed that the grand jury has decided not to indict Darren in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.
The revelation of the grand jury’s decision immediately sparked a fresh wave of outrage among hundreds of protesters assembled outside the Ferguson Police Department, and as the demonstrations progressed into early morning, violence continued to escalate; bottles and rocks were reportedly thrown at officers, several police cars and at least a dozen buildings were set on fire and shops were vandalized and looted. In addition, the traffic on Interstate 44 was temporarily blocked by protesters in St. Louis where another local black teen Vonderrit Myers was fatally shot by an off-duty police officer in October. At around 1 a.m. the next day, Governor Jay Nixon deployed additional National Guard troops to help provide security for the Ferguson Police Department.
By early morning on November 25th, at least 61 individuals had been arrested on a wide range of charges from unlawful assembly and trespassing to burglary and arson. At around 9 a.m. (EST), a body of a 20-year-old black man with gunshot wounds was found inside of a parked car in a neighborhood. The police initially classified the case as an investigation of suspicious death, but later that afternoon, it was upgraded to a possible homicide case, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Image Source: New York Times
New York Times – "Huffington Post Reporter Arrested In Ferguson":National Guard Troops Fail to Quell Unrest in Ferguson
Washington Posts – Protesters stage surprise sit-in at St. Louis gas station; 17 arrested
New York Times – Protests Flare After Ferguson Police Officer Is Not Indicted