The year is 2014. Our country has made huge advancements and numerous achievements in the fields of science, technology, military, business, etc. in the past decade; however, this is not always enough. For when there are achievements, there are also countless tragedies lurking in the shadows as a reminder that not everything can be “okay” in life for a long period of time. Our country has faced countless tragedies over the years and the newest to take America by storm is one of the worst I have seen in a long time. This ongoing tragedy is occurring in Ferguson, Missouri.
Ferguson was like any other Southern town, a strong knit community who supported each other. According to their town website, the town had recently been named “Playful City USA” for the fourth consecutive year. However, life in Ferguson changed forever on August 9th, the day an injustice occurred that will not soon be forgotten.
An unarmed 18-year-old black teenager was fatally shot by a white police officer early that Saturday afternoon, August 9th. The police officer encountered Michael Brown and his friend as they are walking down the street and Brown was shot down. About 10 minutes prior, Ferguson police had received a call about a robbery that occurred at a local convenience store and that the suspect was headed towards the Quick Trip convenience store. It was not until almost a week later, on August 15th, that the name of the police officer that fatally shot Brown was released. His name is Darren Wilson. Besides releasing the information that Wilson has had six years of service with no disciplinary record, there is not much publically released information regarding Wilson. Instead, the news had made their main focus to discuss Brown’s “apparent” linkage to the called in robbery at the convenience store. Therefore, the exact circumstances of how the shooting incident occurred still remain unknown today. Additionally, there have been rumors that Wilson himself knew of the robbery beforehand causing many to assume that this shooting was strategic.
Even if Brown is eventually linked to the case, why is he dead? Why did Darren Wilson kill Michael Brown? Wilson had no concrete evidence that Brown was the robber; therefore, what reasoning does Wilson have to back his claim for his fatal shot? Nothing would have came of this incident if Wilson had just approached Brown and stated that he needed to come to the police station for questioning. Many can argue that Brown was walking along the street at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Since this tragedy has occurred, the entire town of Ferguson has been turned upside down as the rest of America witnesses the event on their televisions or reads about it in newspaper. There have been protests almost every day, demanding that justice be served. Many of the protests have become violent, as police have thrown tear gas into the crowds in order to “establish order within the mayhem.” However, is throwing tear gas on citizens really the correct and moral answer? Many are arguing that this fatal tragedy is overlapping with many events that occurred in the late 1950s and early 1960s when racism was rampant in the Deep South. This ongoing case brings up many questions regarding America and racism. Our country has come a long way since the terrible racism events that plagued our cities for so many years, but did racism ever actually fade away?
There’s another side to this unfolding event as well. Freedom of Speech has been tampered with greatly during this whole ordeal. Many journalists have been detained, assaulted and arrested because they are trying to get the truth of the events to America. Just think about that for a second. Armed officers are trying to silence journalists. Why? There has been bad history between the press and the police in the past regarding many historical events. Being a journalism major myself, these arrests are frustrating on a personally level as well as seeming utterly pointless because you cannot silence every single journalist. No matter how hard one tries to suppress the press, stories still get leaked and news gets passed around. Even President Obama does not agree with these arrests as seen by the following White House tweet:
One Washington Post reporter, Wesley Lowery published an article about his arrest that occurred on Wednesday August 13th. Lowery wrote that, he was in the local McDonalds in Ferguson that had become the staging area for most reporters as there was free Wi-Fi and outlets in the restaurant. Lowery was in the restaurant to charge his phone when armed police came in and told everyone that they needed to leave the McDonalds. Lowery began to video record the armed officers and one of them, with a large weapon, told Lowery to stop recording. Lowery exited and began walking when officers telling him to go another way approached him. As he turned to go another way, his backpack slopped and the officers took that as a sign of resistance as Lowery did not leave right away due to his slipped backpack. This was all the “justification” that stood for his arrest. In the jail, Lowery exchanged the following conversation with one of the officers:
“I hope you’re happy with yourself,”one officer told me. And I responded: “This story’s going to get out there. It’s going to be on the front page of The Washington Post tomorrow.” And he said, “Yeah, well, you’re going to be in my jail cell tonight.”
There are many unethical components to this investigation. Are the police corrupt? Did Wilson truly know about the robbery beforehand? Was Michael Brown set up, therefore making this case potential hate crime? There are many questions that need to be answered quickly in order to bring some sense into this otherwise unkempt investigation. One thing is for sure; America will never be the same after the Ferguson case is finally closed.
Aja J. Williams, KSDK-TV, St. Louis. “Timeline: Michael Brown Shooting in Ferguson, Mo.” USA Today. Gannett, 14 Aug. 2014. Web. 16 Aug. 2014.
House, The White. “@WhiteHouse.” Twitter. Twitter, 14 Aug. 2014. Web. 16 Aug. 2014.
Lowery, Wesley, DeNeen L. Brown, and Jerry Markon. “Michael Brown Case: Police Release Name of Officer, Call Slain Teen a Robbery Suspect.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 15 Aug. 2014. Web. 16 Aug. 2014.
Lowery, Wesley. “In Ferguson, Washington Post Reporter Wesley Lowery Gives Account of His Arrest.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 14 Aug. 2014. Web. 16 Aug. 2014.
“Welcome to an Engaged Community.” Ferguson, MO. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Aug. 2014.
Image Credit: Barnes, Elvert. “Stop Open Season on Black Bodies Anti-Police Brutality Protest.” Flickr: Creative Commons. Flickr, n.d. Web. 20 Aug. 2014. <https://flic.kr/p/orjfno>.