Ferguson’s police force has sparked nationwide controversy, creating widespread discussion of the rise in police brutality and racial prejudice against minorities, specifically African-Americans. After the murder of an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown, civilians in the town of Ferguson, Missouri were outraged, leading to protests and riots across the city. Though much of mainstream media reported solely on the riots themselves, not the reason behind them.
The execution style murder of Brown currently has two unofficial witnesses, one being Dorian Johnson, who was with Brown at the time of the incident. Witnesses claim Brown had his hands in the air as the officer stood over and shot him several times, resulting in his death. The chief of police refused to release the name of the officer involved, after receiving numerous death threats. On Sunday evening a looting of several businesses occurred after a vigilant gathering for the deceased, Brown’s family later released a statement that they did not condone any of the violence.
Peaceful protests continued to be held the following days, only this time the police were dressed in not riot, but military gear. Local law enforcement had transformed into a striking image of a police state, armed with SWAT gear and M16 rifles, all for a peaceful protest? To top it off, the Federal Aviation Administration has declared Ferguson a “no fly zone,” requested by the city police. Thus making public broadcasting of the protests difficult to cover, on the air and in the streets of St. Louis. Several journalists were reportedly harassed and threatened to face arrest if they did not evacuate the premises, Al-Jazeera journalists were directly hit with tear gas by police amid the commotion. Reporters are not the only ones being harassed, with Ferguson police throwing tear gas at peaceful protesters, including the state senator. Rubber bullets have also been used to disperse crowds, with reports of tear gas being thrown into neighborhoods. Images of militarized police pointing rifles at black protesters can be found all over social media, as activists repeatedly shout back “Don’t shoot!” Amid all of this, Palestinians are tweeting advice to Ferguson protesters on how to protect themselves from tear gas, cheering them on for their bravery.
Due to the lack of coverage by mainstream media, protesters and activists have been using social media to spread the message, showing live footage of this abuse of authority. Anonymous, a group of international hackers known for their digital activism, have hacked into the Ferguson police website. Releasing St.Louis dispatch tapes and threatening to expose the name of the officer responsible for the death of Brown. As well as hacking into the webcam of Chief of Police John Belmar’s home computer, posting photos of his wife and son, one which shows a confederate flag hung in the chief of police’s living room.
A petition to protest the recent police brutalities and a demand for change in federal laws has been made, with over 100,000 signatures so far. Protests will continue until justice has been served, with Anonymous and several other groups holding national rallies over this incident. The best way to help the cause is raising awareness and spreading the word of the injustice and violation of constitutional rights occurring in Ferguson. One can hope that this event will be enough to trigger a real change in the way police misconduct and brutality is handled.
Opinion by Obeydah Chavez