Ferguson protesters are charting a course of action ahead pending the Grand Jury decision following the shooting death of African-American teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer in Missouri in August. The incident triggered street protests that have ignited debate on how white policemen treat African-American suspects.
A group met recently in a church basement in Ferguson and decided that they would march to the county seat of Clayton to jam business locations if the Grand Jury decides not to indict Darren Wilson. Another group said it will boycott shopping on Thanks giving Day. Organizers are planning how their members will deal with law enforcement, planning supplies to be used during the demonstrations,and determining places of refuge from the cold as well as tear gas from the police.
The organizers are hoping that there will be no looting or damage to property so as to ensure that the message behind the demonstrations is not lost. Bud Cuzz, one of the organizers from a group called “Lost Voices,” said that the aim of the demonstrations is to raise awareness and to change laws without setting the city upside-down.
Montague Simmons, who heads the group “Organization for Black Struggle,” said some of the planners had a clear idea on how the protests should be conducted. He added that there are still angry people out there, and it would be difficult to control them. Charting a course of action for Ferguson protesters pending the decision by the Grand Jury will help organizers to deal with unexpected eventualities.
One group wrote on twitter that it had a reward for anyone who would locate Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Brown. It also wrote that it was restocking ammunitions. Brian Schulman from the St Louis County police department said they were aware that such groups existed, and that they were constantly monitoring them.
Michael Brown was shot on August 9. Officer Wilson was investigating a theft when he met Brown and a friend walking down a street. He asked them to leave the street. An audio recording released recently show that the interaction lasted 90 seconds. A day after the shooting, the police department released a video that showed Brown in a confrontation with a store clerk as he tried to steal cigarettes.
Protests followed in Ferguson soon after, with some turning to be violent. Even though the confrontations have stopped, the demonstrations have continued. More than 50 organizations have teamed together to form an umbrella organization called “Don’t Shoot Coalition.” Bringing different groups together for a common course has come with its challenges. A university student recently informed the St Louis police that he was beaten during one of the planning sessions. He was accused by some of the organizers of letting the details of the plans known to the public. The organizers denied the student’s allegations. They said he was not harmed.
Some of the coalition’s leaders met with President Obama Nov 5 when they discussed what changes should take place in Ferguson. Some of the groups in the coalition wanted the Ferguson police chief to be removed from office. Others wanted the entire police department that patrols Ferguson to be removed. Others said they wanted civilian review boards to be set up to investigate police shootings, and that there be a racial balance on the police force.
As Ferguson protesters chart a course of action pending the decision by Grand Jury on whether Darren Wilson will stand trial for Brown’s death,the police department has not decided whether Wilson will return to work if he is not indicted. However, an official of the police department informed the Wall Street Journal that the department would conduct an internal investigation before Wilson would be allowed to return to work. Chief Thomas Jackson said that Wilson would lose his job if indicted.
By Benedicto Ateku