On the fateful night of August 9, 2014, 18-year-old Michael Brown, unarmed, was shot 6 times and killed by Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson. The following day, hundreds of people march to Ferguson Police Department demanding answers with their hands up, as Michael Brown was reported doing, chanting, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.”
Initially peaceful protests, the protests began manifesting violence after the police department used tear gas and rubber bullets to restore order. Soon, the protestors began looting shops. However, the police responded shockingly – a staggering display of force, rolling military-style armoured cars onto streets, pointing rifles at protesters, and detaining more than 100 people, not only rioters but also peaceful demonstrators and journalists. On August 18th, President Obama publicly spoke about the police response to the demonstrators, “there is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement and we don’t want those lines blurred.”
Two months later, on October 9th, another 18-year-old African American, Vonderrit D, Myers Jr., was shot after what the authorities termed a ‘physical altercation’ with an off duty St. Louis officer. The officer pursued three men who began to run after the officer’s vehicle came into sight. After the pursuit, the police claimed that Mr. Myers fired three rounds with a stolen handgun before the gun malfunction; the officer responded with 17 shots. While the police reported that they recovered evidence that showered Mr. Myers had been armed and opened fire, his family members disputed that and said Mr. Myers had been unarmed, and, instead, he had been carrying a sandwich.
Whilst there is dispute on the detail of Mr. Myers firing 3 rounds at the police officer, I think it is most likely an understatement to say that the officer retaliating with 17 shots is excessive. Understandably, if Mr. Myers was posing a threat to the safety of the police officers, a shot can be fired, maybe two, as a means of self defense. Michael Brown, on the other hand, was shot 6 times point blanc for allegedly blocking traffic. Let me ask you this, when is it ever acceptable to shoot another human being 6 times, let alone 17?
Let me emphasise this: there have been two killings within two months of a black teenager by a white police officer in St. Louis. Both have controversies surrounding them concerning the details and motives of the actual event: the police department’s story of events, the family members’ story of events, and the witnesses’ story of events. Yet, the results of these shootings have sparked anger among the people of St. Louis, and the rest of the world, who are demanding justice for the families who have lost a loved one through excessive police force and what is believed to be racial discrimination. There have been many cases in American in recent years in which black teenagers have been shot and killed by the police merely for the colour of their skin. On average, in 2012, a black man was killed every 28 hours by a cop or private security officer in America. This staggering statistic blatantly states that the battle against racism is far from over. We must unite in changing the social construct where a black man is always guilty of something and white man is ‘innocent until proven guilty’.
On a final note, I’d like to bring to light and applaud the strength and the unity of the people of Ferguson and St. Louis for standing up against the mass discrimination. My heart is with all of the peaceful protestors on the streets of Ferguson and St. Louis, and anywhere else in the world where the people are constantly battling against racial oppression without receiving the media attention it deserves. I hope that through peaceful means and hopefully fewer loss of lives, we can mould our towns and cities into a less racist, less prejudiced, less segregated society.
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Written By: Mint Kovavisarach