Images by Kynze Rogers
The backlash from the lack of indictment of officer Darren Wilson, after the August 9 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, rippled across the whole of the United States Monday November 24. After reviewing the breadth of evidence, a Saint Louis County Grand Jury decided not to bring charges against officer Wilson for any of the four possible charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, or involuntary manslaughter. This decision incited outrage. With posters and chants of “Black lives matter” people took to the streets in great numbers, with violent riots breaking out in Ferguson.
Students of the Black Student Union (BSU) quickly rallied and called for action over Facebook saying, “UWT Black Student Union will be holding a peaceful protest in response to the St. Louis County’s grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson for the MURDER of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager.” A crowd gathered in front of Union Station on Pacific Avenue at 11:11 am on Tuesday November 24, holding signs and their hands in the air, what has now become the trademark of protests for the Ferguson shooting.
Jalen O Calhoun, a sophomore studying Ethnic, Gender, and Labor Studies at UWT was present at the protest and explained his motivation for being there:
I was out in front of Union Station to protest two things. The first being police brutality and the flawed justice system that allows police to get away these violent acts,and the 2nd was the racial prejudice that still exist in America both systemically and in individual racism. This case made me very disappointed in our current justice system and as a young black male i feel as if i have to be twice as cautious when dealing with law enforcement. The protesters did a bit of hope. I don’t think those many voices can be ignored for much longer.
The evidence surrounding the case has been controversial to say the least, with few reliable witnesses and the key suspect unable to share his side of the story, Officer Wilson’s word is almost all the authorities have to go on. This event comes on the tail of a string of what have been named racially fueled wrongful deaths in the past couple of years, but that Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri calls “an alarming national trend of officers using excessive force against people of color, often during routine encounters.”
According to The Guardian, “The grand jury of seven men and five women [of which there were nine white and three black jurors] met on 25 days over three months and heard more than 70 hours of testimony” and nine of the twelve jurors would have had to come to the same consensus. According to NPR they concluded “there was no probable cause to indict police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Brown.”
St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch kept his promise to release a number of documents following the jury’s review of the case, which are now accessible at theguardian.com.
According to news outlet vox.com, the Missouri state law provides two circumstances in which an officer can shoot, “to protect their life or the life of another innocent party” and to “prevent a suspected violent felon from escaping” which according to Wilson’s report, one or both circumstances applied in this case.
David Klinger, a criminologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis said that on the flip side, whether the officer initially felt threatened, “The moment that you no longer present a threat, I need to stop shooting” he said to Vox, which is in line with what some witnesses argue, that Brown had his hands up and had surrendered.
Brown’s family spoke through their grief after hearing the grand jury ruling saying, “While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen” reported NPR. The civil unrest of Ferguson, Missouri is echoed around the country all the way to the UW Tacoma campus where students hope to make a change with the rallying cry “Black Lives Matter.”