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Michael Brown’s Death was the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an African American teenager from Ferguson, Missouri, by the officers of St. Louis Police Department during a physical altercation that allegedly took place on August 9th, 2014. The teenager’s death, which happened less than a month after the controversial death of Eric Garner, instantly prompted backlash in the social media against police brutality and racial profiling, similar to the large-scale protests that erupted in the wake of the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012.
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, stated that Brown was shot after assaulting a police officer and attempting to gain control of officer’s gun. Belmar also announced the launch of an internal investigation about the shooting per request from Ferguson’s police chief.
The hashtag #MikeBrown was introduced by Twitter user Twists_nd_turns who listed it with a collection of names of young men killed by the police, including Trayvon Martin.
The hashtag and surrounding discussion was covered by many websites on August 10th, including Bustle and Christian Science Monitor. Within 48 hours the hashtag was tweeted out over 130,000 times.
On August 10th, Twitter user CJ_musick_lawya introduced the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, which African American twitter users can use to post to pictures of themselves, one featuring a very positive, accomplished image and one that could be perceived as negative based on negative racial stereotypes.
The hashtag was meant to criticize a picture of Brown NBC News tweeted earlier on August 10th, which seems to portray Brown negatively based on racial stereotypes.
CJ_musick_lawya’s original tweet gained over 1,000 retweets within 24 hours, and the hashtag was retweeted out over 110,000 times.
Riots & Protests
On August 10th, the demonstration took on a violent turn when some of the crowd members participating in a day of vigils reportedly began looting businesses and vandalizing vehicles. 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. The protests in Ferguson continued for months during the hearing.
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 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).
On August 10th, 2014, Anonymous  issued a press release via PasteBin in a post titled “Anonymous Operation Ferguson – Press Release.” The release explains Anonymous was “outraged” by Brown’s death, and explained they would be taking action, explaining:’’
“Anonymous demands that the Congressional Representatives and Senators from Missouri introduce legislation entitled “Mike Brown’s Law” that will set strict national standards for police conduct in the USA. We further demand that this new law include specific language to grant the victims of police violence the same rights and prerogatives that are already enjoyed nationwide by the victims of other violent criminals. The Equal Protection clause of the US Constitution demands nothing less."
They went on to say that should any of those protesting Brown’s death be harmed by police, Anonymous would attack their computer systems and release the personal information of their officers. The same day the Twitter account OpFerguson was created, within 24 hours it gained over 1,000 followers. Also that day the hashtag #OpFerguson was introduced, within 24 hours it has been tweeted out over 6,000 times. That night Ferguson’s town website was hacked leading their mayor to have city employees’ personal information removed from several websites.
On August 12th, @OpFergusion tweeted that they were in the process of verifying the alleged identity of Brown’s murderer.
On August 13th, Mother Jones published an email exchange with a member of Anonymous, who claimed the group was close to revealing the officer’s name and had a source “very close personally to the officer.” The same day, TheAnonMessage YouTube channel uploaded a purported recording of the St. Louis Police Department dispatch during Michael Brown’s shooting.
On August 14th, the @TheAnonMessage Twitter feed posted the name and Facebook profile of a man whom they claimed was the officer responsible for shooting Brown. That day, the St. Louis County PD Twitter feed replied to @TheAnonMessage, claiming the officer was not affiliated with St. Louis County or Ferguson. The tweet was subsequently deleted and the @TheAnonMessage feed was banned.
On the same day, the @OpFerguson feed announced the name released did not match the one obtained from their own independent source.
On the morning of August 15th, Thomas Jackson, the chief of Ferguson Police Department, identified the officer who fatally shot Brown as Darren Wilson, a six-year veteran cop without any history of disciplinary actions or complaints, in a press conference (shown below, left). Along with this revelation, the department also released security camera footage and photographs to show that Brown had been suspected of taking part in a convenience store robbery shortly before the shooting (shown below, right).
FCKH8: Racism Is Not Over
On September 9th, 2014, online activist fashion retailer FCKH8 launched a new line of t-shirts, wristbands and bumper stickers bearing the slogan “Racism isn’t over. But I’m over racism,” along with a public service announcement video addressing the reality of racial profiling as told by six black youths from the town of Ferguson.
Between August 10th and 13th, three official investigations into the case of Michael Brown’s death commenced on both state and federal levels: the St. Louis County Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.
In the following months, three autopsies were performed on Brown’s body by the county officials, an independent medical examiner and the Department of Justice, all of which noted that he had been shot at least six times, including twice in the head, with no shots in the back.
Grand Jury Hearing
On August 20th, a grand jury in St. Louis County began hearing evidence in the case of Brown’s death to determine “whether a crime was committed and whether there is probable cause to believe the defendant committed it,” or more simply put, whether to indict the officer who shot Michael Brown. On October 17th, the FBI forensics test results revealed that Wilson’s gun was fired twice in his vehicle, one of which struck Brown’s arm; his blood was found on the gun, as well as on Wilson’s uniform. After three months of the hearing, on November 24th, the grand jury reached a decision in the case and elected not to indict Wilson.
During the hearing, Robert McCulloch, St. Louis County’s elected prosecuting attorney who opted to delegate the decision of whether to file charges against the officer to a grand jury, came under scrutiny as some officials began calling for a special prosecutor in place of McCulloch, including St. Louis County Executive Charley Dooley and State Senator Jamilah Nasheed, allegedly due to his history of close relationship with the police department and questionable decisions not to file charges in similar cases involving police officers, including the fatal police shooting of two unarmed black men in 2000. Despite a state-wide petition and calls from Democratic politicians to delegate the case to a higher level authority, McCulloch remained in charge of the case.
On November 13th, 2014, CBS St. Louis reported that a chapter of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan based in Park Hills, Missouri has been distributing “threatening” fliers across the town of Ferguson, 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.
In the hours leading up to and after the announcement of the grand jury’s decision, several hashtags and keywords, including #FergusonDecision, Officer Wilson and McCullough rose to trending topics on Twitter in the United States and the top trending tags on Tumblr. On Reddit, user roasterbagel started a Fergusion Decision Megathread on /r/AskReddit. For the latest developments in Ferguson, Missouri, check out KYMdb – 2014 Ferguson Riots.
Christian Science Monitor – Unarmed black teenager shot: Is #MikeBrown the next Trayvon Martin?