Over the past few days, you might have seen the hashtag #Ferguson on social media. And, despite how amazing she is, it has nothing to do with ABC’s Sarah Ferguson.
The Missouri town has become the topic of international news headlines, after a young black man was shot multiple times by police. Peaceful protests have inspired a militarised response from the authorities – and now the world wants to know what’s really going on in Ferguson.
What started the protests in Ferguson?
18-year-old Michael Brown was days away from starting college, when he was stopped by a police officer in the street on August 9. Reports regarding the lead up to his death differ. SBS summarised the arguments of both sides:
What do the police say?
The St. Louis County’s police chief says that Michael Brown was walking with a friend in the middle of a street. When a police officer pulled up and tried to get out of his car, Brown pushed the police officer back into the car. The police say Brown proceeded to climb into the car, and tried to steal the officer’s gun. One shot was fired inside the car, before both Brown and the police got out of the car. On the street, Brown was fatally shot multiple times.
What do witnesses say?
Dorin Johnson, a friend who was walking with Brown in the middle of the street, says that the police officer pulled over and told them to “get the eff onto the sidewalk”. Then, the police officer grabbed Brown around the neck from his vehicle, and pulled him into the car.
Piaget Crenshaw, a second witness, says that after this altercation she saw police chasing Brown. “He ran for his life,” she said. “They shot him and he fell. He put his arms up to let them know that he was compliant and he was unarmed, and they shot him twice more and he fell to the ground and died.”
Multiple witnesses say that they saw Brown unarmed with his hands above his head, as he was shot multiple times.
The issues of race and law enforcement have again been pushed into the spotlight in America, with the peaceful protests organised around Ferguson being dealt with harshly by police. The officer who shot Brown is on administrative leave; but the protesters want the officer named and shamed.
What has been happening at the protests?
Protests started soon after the shooting, with people gathering at the spot where Michael Brown had died and chanting “Killer cops have got to go”.
The ABC reports that once the protests were under way, over 100 police officers were called to the scene. A petrol station was subsequently set on fire, and then tear gas was used on the crowd.
The Ferguson mayor issued a statement saying that anyone protesting on Monday morning would be arrested. This from the ABC:
Looting and riots were reported in neighbouring towns, and reports emerged on Wednesday of police using rubber bullets and wooden baton rounds on protesters.
As the protests gained momentum, more and more residents took to the streets to vent their anger about racial inequality in the town, as well as the increasingly militarised tactics employed by police forces across the country, especially towards ethnic minorities.
But it was when the protests turned digital that people started really paying attention to what was going on in Ferguson. A photo of Mr Brown’s stepfather holding a sign saying, “Ferguson police just executed my unarmed son” was retweeted thousands of times.