A billboard mocking protesters planned to go up in Ferguson has been fully funded, highlighting escalating tensions in the St. Louis suburb still embattled after an 18-year-old black man was killed by a white police officer in August.
A Tennessee man raised enough money to put up a sign bearing the slogan #PantsUPDontLOOT, a play on the Ferguson protesters' rallying cry of "Hands Up, Don't Shoot," a reference to the fact that some witnesses say Michael Brown had his hands up in surrender when he was shot by officer Darren Wilson this summer.
Don Alexander started a crowdfunding initiative for the billboard on Indiegogo and needed $3,000 to fund it, according to a report from the Washington Times. The Indiegogo page says $3,576 was raised and the group is no longer accepting donations. The picture above is a rendering of what the sign could look like, not the actual billboard.
Calls to the Pants Up Don't Loot organization weren't returned on Wednesday, so it's not clear if, when, or where the billboard will be put up. Twitter users reacted with both praise and condemnation of the plans.
The billboard idea surfaced as Ferguson inches closer to another round of protests ahead of a grand jury decision on whether or not to charge Wilson for Brown's death. The possibility of renewed unrest prompted Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to declare a state of emergency on Monday and activate the National Guard.
Authorities say that Brown was acting aggressively and that Wilson handled the situation correctly, but Brown's family and some witnesses say the teenager was trying to surrender when he was shot and killed on August 9.
Protests — some of which turned into riots — have engulfed Ferguson since Brown's killing and they are expected to resume once the grand jury makes a decision. Nixon said declaring a state of emergency was a step he felt was necessary.
"As part of our ongoing efforts to plan and be prepared for any contingency, it is necessary to have these resources in place in advance of any announcement of the grand jury's decision," Nixon said in a statement. "These additional resources will support law enforcement's efforts to maintain peace and protect those exercising their right to free speech."
Police and authorities aren't alone in preparing for the possibility of protests, as reports have surfaced that gun sales have surged over the last month in the suburbs of St. Louis. One gun store owner told the Associated Press that he has sold more guns in the last month than in all of 2013.
Ferguson is a majority-black city served by a majority-white police force and years of racial tension came to a head when Brown was killed.
Nixon has formed a 16-person commission to study racial and economic inequality in Ferguson, hoping to prevent further unrest. The commission was introduced on Tuesday and comprises nine black and seven white members, including various community leaders.
More than 300 people applied for inclusion in the commission, which will make recommendations on how to improve inequality in a report scheduled to come out in September 2015.
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