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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Michael Brown’s death: 6 things that escalated the situation in Ferguson

State Senator Maria Chapelle-Nadal has had little positive impact on the crisis in Ferguson
State Senator Maria Chapelle-Nadal has had little positive impact on the crisis in Ferguson

Michael Brown’s assassination is the latest revolting example of the continued police brutality in Black communities. More than half a century has gone by since Dr. King pleaded for the social freedom of the Negroes, but freedom still eludes the Black community.
Whether their hands are up in the air, behind their backs, or in chains, the Negroes are still subjected to unwarranted gunshots. Brown, an unarmed Black teenager of Ferguson, Missouri, was gunned down with his hands up.
The question now is not whether there will be justice for Brown, nor whether there will be charges against this state’s police force for grossly violating the first amendment, but whether the people in Ferguson will accept continuing to live under such a failed state. When figures of public authority murder unarmed civilians at will—whatever the race—and then use tear gas to diffuse mostly peaceful protests, the situation escalates from racial issues to human rights issues, which should concern every citizen. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
The state of Missouri abused its authority and power by deploying unnecessarily heavily armed police officials who violate the right to peaceful assembly, as granted by the United States Constitution. The role of the state is clearly and succinctly defined—to protect its people.
Missouri State officials have demonstrated an inadequate response to the murder of Brown and the protests and outcry for justice that followed. Below are six examples that vividly demonstrate the incompetence on the part of authorities in Ferguson.
1. The extreme levels of police brutality. I was enraged to see heavily armed men with masks spreading tear gas and tackling people who were running away. For a moment, I thought I was watching footage covering a story on the U.S. military in Iraq or Afghanistan. This should have no place in an American city, as President Obama was quick to state in disbelief.
2. The local authorities took advantage of the incidents leading up to the slaying of Brown to score political points rather than coming together to address the problem. Ferguson Chief of Police Tom Jackson and state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal both made controversial and paradoxical statements about the situation. The two clashed in a press conference that was supposed to soothe the anger of the protesters after police sprayed them with tear gas. “I just wanted to know if I was going to be gassed again, like I was on Monday night,” Chappelle-Nadal said. “We couldn’t get out, and we were peacefully sitting. I just wanted to know if I’m going to be gassed again?” To the shock and amusement of many, Jackson answered, “I hope not.”
This confrontation was untimely and extremely unhelpful. If anything, it just divided the public support even further. It increased the level of hatred and animosity toward the police force, and further confused the average citizen  about the willingness of the state to come together to seek justice for the slaying of Michael Brown.
3. The release of a video showing Brown allegedly robbing a convenience store and stealing a box of cigars.  There are several problems with the release of this video. The first is that Officer Darren Wilson, who fatally shot Brown, stopped him because he was walking in the middle of the street, not because he was a robbery suspect. The biggest issue with releasing this video was that it makes the local authorities look biased and defensive.
“The decision to disclose [this video] suggests an attempt to assassinate Mr. Brown’s character by showing that he had roughly pushed a convenience store clerk on the day that he was killed,” said Dennis Parker of the American Civil Liberties Union. The immediate result of releasing this video was even higher levels of police mistrust within the Ferguson community. The following evening, three hundred more protesters took to the streets. The reason was simply that, as Parker put it, “The Ferguson Police Department’s actions appear misleading and remarkably cynical. They call into question the department’s commitment to ensuring an independent and impartial investigation into the killing of Michael Brown.”
4. The curfew. I could not believe Gov. Jay Nixon would make such a poor decision. He effectively attempted to suppress the frustration and anger of the people with institutional threats. After Gov. Nixon made this decision, Malik Shabazz, the national president of Black Lawyers for Justice and a former leader of the New Black Panther Party, was quick to predict that this curfew would only worsen the situation. Predictably, on the first night of the curfew, hundreds of people took the street. It was like pouring oil onto a fire: a new reason for violence and erupting protests. On that night, one person was shot and critically wounded, and more than half a dozen citizens were arrested, which only served to bring more attention to the situation and increase the level of revolt.
5. The arrest and harassment of journalists covering the situation. This only brought further attention. “Here in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs,” said President Obama. More than six journalists were taken into custody, and several others were either hit or brutally harassed for doing their jobs. Ansgar Graw, one of three German reporters who were taken into custody, commented, “This was a very new experience.” He added, “I’ve been in several conflict zones: I was in the civil war regions in Georgia; the Gaza strip; illegally visited the Kaliningrad region when travel to the Soviet Union was still strictly prohibited for westerners; I’ve been in Iraq, Vietnam, and in China; I’ve met Cuban dissidents. But to be arrested and yelled at and be rudely treated by police? For that I had to travel to Ferguson and St. Louis in the United States of America.”
6. Loss of trust in local authorities. Many in Ferguson believed that the local authorities in charge could not bring them justice. Everybody seemed less than trustworthy, from the governor to the state police. Most of the protesters marching called for the removal of St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch. The president once again needed to make a statement in a bid to soothe the protesters. “I will be watching,” he said in reference to how the process would pan out.
A version of this article appears on winstonnewsposts.tumblr.com