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Ferguson shooting called America’s ‘tipping point’ amid demands for officer’s arrest

olice officers face down protestors in Ferguson, Aug. 16. PHOTO COURTESY ST. LOUIS AMERICAN/Lawrence Bryant

Police officers face down protestors in Ferguson, Aug. 16. PHOTO COURTESY ST. LOUIS AMERICAN/Lawrence Bryant

By Hazel Trice Edney
Trice Edney Newswire

Arrest him. That is the outcry that continues among crowds in Ferguson, Missouri and across the nation this week, following the police killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

As the police officer Darren Wilson, who is white, remains protected on paid leave, one action appears to be the hope for calm. That action is what Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, described as justice: “Arresting this man and making him accountable for his actions,” she said.

“The shooters must be held accountable for killing our children,” says Brown family attorney Benjamin Crump, in an interview with the Trice Edney Newswire. “When you have a Michael Brown, we have to say it’s not right to execute our children in broad daylight whose hands and arms are up. Despite everything, once his hands are up, you don’t keep shooting… This is the universal sign of surrender,” Crump said.

“Hands up! Don’t shoot!” has been the clarion cry for protesters, many who walk with their hands raised to illustrate the ultimate injustice that has hit Black communities around the nation — mainly the killing of unarmed Black men. Some have worn t-shirts or carried signs saying, “I’m Michael Brown,” denoting that the shooting could happen to any Black man in America.

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson has claimed Brown was killed after a struggle over the officer’s gun and that Wilson was treated for a facial wound after the shooting. Jackson also released video showing a man appearing to be Brown shoving a store clerk as he leaves a story with a pack of cigars. Sparking even more outrage, Jackson conceded later that Wilson only drove up and confronted Brown and a friend “because they obstructing traffic by walking in the middle of the street.”

Preliminary autopsy reports by famed forensic pathologist Michael Baden — hired by Brown’s family — says he was shot at least six times with all bullets apparently entering into the front of his body, four in his right arm and two in his head, according to Baden speaking on a press conference aired live Aug.18. The fatal and what appears to be final shot entered the top of the head, indicating that Brown was leaning forward when he was hit, supporting eye witness testimony that he was trying to surrender or falling. Preliminary analysis also indicates Brown may have been at least eight feet away from the officer when he was shot multiple times, in what many have described as an “execution.”

Two additional autopsies are underway, one by the St. Louis County Police Department and the other by the U. S. Department of Justice.

From the protestors’ perspective, on any given day in a Black neighborhood, if someone is shot and the police knows who did it, the suspect is regularly arrested on the spot and an investigation follows.

Yet, in Ferguson, more than a week since the August 9 shooting in broad daylight, federal and city investigations are underway, but no arrest has been made and protestors are wondering how, when, and whether the teenager will ever get justice.

This is part of what’s fueling the rage that has continued to build. Their anger is exacerbated by the sight of the same police officers perceived to be protecting Brown’s killer and by the fact that they are being asked to suppress their rage in the face of a perceived injustice.

These ingredients have erupted into nightly chaos with a mixture of peaceful protests, Molotov cocktails (improvised fire bombs), gun fire, tear gas, looting, arrests, and police in riot gear and military vehicles.

But, the mass unrest in Ferguson — a predominately Black suburb under largely white political rule — has become what some believe is a “tipping point” that will ultimate lead to change in police-community relationships around the country.

In interviews with the Trice Edney Newswire, civil rights leaders say they believe only justice will bring calm.

“It is a tipping point as was the murder of Trayvon Martin,” says pioneer civil rights leader Julian Bond. “Will it stop the murders of black young men? No, but it will serve as a marker, as has other deaths. Emmett Till’s death is still with us; this one will be with us too.”

“I think it’s a tipping points that’s going to at least cause a conversation to ensue,” says the Rev. Markel Hutchins, 37, a civil rights activist who once headed the Atlanta-based National Youth Connection, described as a modern-day Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. “I think what we see in Ferguson today is a powder keg that has exploded.”

Also on Aug. 18, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon had deployed the Missouri National Guard to assist the Missouri State Highway Patrol amidst escalating tensions. The Highway patrol, under the command of Captain Ron Johnson, a Black man, was appointed by Gov. Nixon to oversee security in the city given the community distrust of the vastly white police force.

But even amidst weekend marches, rallies and church services with national civil rights leaders Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and Johnson giving moving speeches, the fact that an unarmed teenager was killed while apparently fleeing and then surrendering with his hands raised — is too much for many to bear. The nightly chaos and resistance to the midnight to 5 a.m. curfew has continued even amidst peaceful protests — all undergirded with the demand for an arrest.

“I think that the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri is a sign that the Black community has had enough and they are going to take matters into their own hands… I think that finally mothers and fathers are saying, ‘What about my son?’” says Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree, founding director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard. “I think that the protests that we’re seeing in Ferguson is just a tipping point of what we’re going to see — not just in Ferguson — but around the country.”

The only way to circumvent the escalation, Ogletree says, is to “Indict the police officer, have a jury decide what happened and I think that will tell a lot about what’s happening in America today. There really is no justification for what happened to Michael Brown.”

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