On August 9th 2014, an unarmed eighteen year old black American was gunned down by white police officer Darren Wilson, aged 28.
There have been various accusations that Brown had participated in a robbery prior to the shooting, however at the time of the incident him and friend Dorian Johnson were approached by a police car asking them both to step onto the pavement. As the two young men struggled through the windows of the police car, Wilson is known to have fired his gun at Michael Brown six times and consequently killed him… importantly, witnesses have noted that it happened just as Michael was lifting his hands in attempt to surrender.
The shooting sparked mass protests due to long standing racial tensions between the majority-black Ferguson community and the majority-white city government and police. Protests, both peaceful and violent, as well as vandalism continued for more than a week, the response to the protests from police within the area was severely criticised by the media and politicians.
Incidents like this can be compared to that of the Martin Luther King era within the United States, showing that there has been minor development for over thirty years within southern regions regarding racial justice. This can be shown through events such as the Birmingham Campaign in 1963 led by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, promoting non violent direct action culminated in widely publicized confrontations between black youth and white civic authorities.
Similar to recent events in Ferguson, the campaign of 1963 oversaw police officer Bull Connor use high pressure jet washers and trained police dogs to intentionally attack the unarmed black youth protesters. Provoking mass media attention, Birmingham gained support and awareness from not just neighbouring southern states but that of the north as well, and additionally gained significant attention from the U.S government.
Moreover, subsequent to the Jury’s decision not to charge police officer Darren Wilson, 28, America has witnessed further protests including rioting and looting. Many in the African American community had called for Mr Wilson to be charged with murder, but following lengthy deliberations a grand jury made no recommendation of charges. One protester stated “You can’t just go shoot an 18-year-old who’s unarmed on the street, despite what the story may have been. He was unarmed and you are an armed law enforcement officer who’s been trained in combat. So I think people are rightfully upset.”. Thousands of people also protested in other US cities including Los Angeles, Philadelphia and New York.
Brown’s family are said to be “profoundly disappointed” with the Jury’s decision, however have encouraged Peaceful Protests from the protesters of the government.
Incidents such as the fatal killing of Michael Brown question the racial justice system within the United States, with the world significantly witnessing arrests for African American’s protesting for what’s arguably right and the ‘innocence’ of a police officer who seems to have committed a significantly unnecessary murder.