Originally published on August 12, 2014, at NationofChange.org
The FBI has joined the investigation into the police shooting of an unarmed teenager that incited rioting and looting this weekend in Ferguson, Missouri. As incidents of police brutality continue to escalate in violence, the residents of Ferguson retaliated by vandalizing stores and police cars while pelting officers with rocks, bricks, and bottles.
On the afternoon of August 9, Michael Brown and Dorian Johnson were walking in the street when a police car pulled up alongside them. According to the Ferguson Police Department, Brown shoved the officer as he was exiting the vehicle. A struggle ensued inside the car over the officer’s firearm. The officer fired a single shot, and Brown fled from the vehicle. Brown was roughly 35-feet from the police car when the officer fired multiple shots killing Brown, who was unarmed.
But Dorian Johnson and multiple witnesses disagree with the official version of events. According to Johnson, the officer pulled up next to them and ordered, “Get the eff onto the sidewalk.”
After exchanging a few words, the officer extended his arm out of the window and grabbed Brown’s neck. The officer allegedly choked Brown while pulling the 18-year-old into the car. As Brown managed to escape, the cop exited the vehicle and fired.
When the first shot missed, Brown fled for his life.
“He shot again,” recalled Johnson, “and once my friend felt that shot he turned around and put his hands in the air and started to get down, and the officer still approached with his weapon drawn and fired several more shots.”
Residents who witnessed the execution gathered in large numbers at the crime scene chanting, “Kill the police!” Backup units arrived to disperse the crowds. Although shots were fired into the air, no one was reported injured.
Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, said her son had been visiting his grandmother when he was gunned down. “They told me how many times my son was shot,” stated McSpadden. “Eight.”
As the St. Louis County Police Department held a press conference on Sunday morning, a few hundred protesters gathered outside Ferguson Police headquarters. Some approached police barricades with their hands in the air chanting, “Don’t shoot me.” No violence occurred and the crowd eventually left.
On Sunday evening thousands of people gathered together for a candlelight vigil honoring Brown. Mourners placed flowers, candles, and a teddy bear on the spot where Brown died. “R.I.P. Michael” was spray-painted onto the street.
As the crowd reached the intersection of West Florissant and Ferguson, people began smashing car windows and breaking into stores. Around two dozen Walmart employees hid inside the store as looters stole televisions and electronic equipment. While vandalizing and looting a Quiktrip store, someone set the location on fire.
Approximately 300 officers from 19 jurisdictions responded to the rioting. Police fired tear gas onto the streets and arrested 32 people in connection to property destruction. Over the course of the night, two officers received minor injuries. One had been hit with a brick while the other sustained a knee injury.
In response to Brown’s murder, the hacktivist collective known as Anonymous launched #OpFerguson. Known for targeting corrupt government agencies and private corporations, Anonymous hacked the City of Ferguson’s website on Sunday in protest against police brutality. Mayor James Knowles ordered the IT Department to remove all personal data from the site on Saturday in preparation for the cyber attack.
With the wrongful deaths of Kelly Thomas and Eric Garner captured on video, the public is becoming increasingly aware of police aggression and their liberal use of excessive force. Kelly Thomas was a mentally ill homeless man in Fullerton who was beaten to death by Officer Manuel Ramos and Corporal Jay Cicinelli on July 10, 2011. Last month, the NYPD suspected Eric Garner of selling untaxed cigarettes when they placed him in a chokehold inducing cardiac arrest.
When three of the officers responsible for beating Rodney King were acquitted on April 29, 1992, racial tensions in Los Angeles boiled over igniting a period of rioting that resulted in 53 deaths. Only 3 of the Ferguson Police Department’s 53 members are black. According to U.S. Census figures, approximately two-thirds of Ferguson’s population is black.
“I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.