What started out as a protest against the shooting of an unarmed black teenager, 18-year-old Michael Brown, has now escalated into a violent altercation between the protesters and the state police in the US state of Missouri. The police have resorted to the use of extreme crowd control measures, including tear gas and rubber bullets, drawing severe criticism from the international community that has also started debates over the "millitarisation of the US police".
The police for a long time did not even release the shooter's name, citing security concerns and death threats, which further provoked the racially charged protests. Brown's family and supporters have demanded for days that the officer who shot Brown be held accountable. United States President Barack Obama has promised a full investigation by the US Department of Justice into the case, which has provoked outrage in the largely African-American town of Ferguson.
Michael Brown shooting incident
Eighteen-year-old Brown, who was black, was shot by white police officer Darren Wilson on August 9, 2014. According to reports, Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson were walking to Brown's grandmother's house, after having stolen a box of cigars. Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson drove up to them and ordered them to move off the street and onto the sidewalk. An altercation ensued and a shot was fired from within Wilson's police vehicle, after which Brown and Johnson began to flee. Wilson left his vehicle and pursued them, then fired an unspecified number of shots, fatally wounding Brown. Brown died approximately 35 feet (11 m) from the police cruiser in the 2900 block of Canfield Drive.
According to CNN correspondent Ana Cabrera, documents show that less than three minutes passed from the time that Wilson encountered Brown to the time of Brown's death. A preliminary autopsy performed at the request of Brown's family concluded that Brown had been shot at least six times. Four of the bullets entered his right arm from the front, one entered his right eye on a downward trajectory, and one entered the top of the skull. Brown was shot six times, four shots in the right arm and two shots in the head. All of the shots occurred in front, which disputed multiple witness accounts that Brown was shot in the back as he was running away.
Other law enforcement agencies have criticised the Ferguson police department for trying to make the alleged robbery an issue connected to the shooting, and for releasing a video from inside the store that shows Brown violently shoving a store clerk before he walks out the door.
The police version of Brown's shooting differs markedly from witness accounts, including that of the friend who was walking with Brown at the time, Dorian Johnson, 22. In the police version, after Wilson asked Brown to move out of the road onto a sidewalk, Brown reached into the patrol car and struggled with Wilson for the officer's service gun. Wilson, who sustained a facial injury, then shot Brown a number of times. Johnson and at least one other witness have said the officer reached out through his car window to grab at Brown and the teenager was trying to get away from the officer when he was shot. Brown held up his hands in a sign of surrender but the officer got out of his patrol car and shot Brown several times, they said.
The case has garnered international attention with the intense protests that have followed since the death of the teenager. For African American US citizens, this incidence highlights the ongoing plight of racial discrimination in the country.
Authorities have now imposed a midnight curfew for the second night a row in the tense St. Louis suburb. Police in Ferguson are also firing several rounds of tear gas to disperse protesters at demonstrations. Clouds of smoke lingered above an area hit with police tear gas police as the crowd of some 350 protesters scattered off into side streets and into cars. Two journalists, Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post and Ryan J Reilly of Huffington Post, were arrested on Wednesday, and then released, while working in the area, Reuters reports have suggested.
Evoking Trayvon Martin
The incidents has been compared to the shooting of another unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin that saw a strong response from many including President Obama, who went so far as to say that Martin could have been him. However, the accused George Zimmerman was acquitted in the Martin murder case.
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First published on August 18,2014