Live Blog: The World Reacts to the Ferguson Decision
We'll be keeping you updated as the town of Ferguson and the nation at large respond to the news that the cop who shot unarmed black teen Michael Brown this summer was not indicted.
A man stands with his hands up at a protest in LA. Photo by David McNew/Getty
This post will be updated periodically throughout the day as more information about the grand-jury verdict and any subsequent protests or responses comes in.
11:00 PM: Protests continue across America— Danielle Tcholakian (@danielleiat)November 26, 2014
8:00 PM: The first interview with Officer Darren Wilson is now online
The embattled cop, who just avoided a grand jury indictment, essentially repeated his testimony to ABC's George Stephanopoulos, saying there was "no way" Michael Brown put his hands up to surrender during their encounter:
7:10 PM: New Yorkers angry at the Ferguson non-indictment are apparently staking their claim to the Lincoln Tunnel
6:30 PM: NYC Mayor sticks up for fake-bloodied police commissioner
Sally Goldenberg reports for Capital New York that Mayor Bill de Blasio is not happy NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton got splattered with fake blood last night. He also doesn't think it's cool to compare Michael Brown's death with that of Staten Island man Eric Garner:
"Absolutely a cowardly and inappropriate act for anyone to assault a public servant, any public servant, but particularly a public servant who is doing so much good," [de Blasio] told reporters after serving food in a Bronx soup kitchen. "I found it fundamentally inappropriate. Again, if someone wants to express their opinions they can, but that was a very cowardly act."
6:10 PM: President Obama is speaking live in nationally-televised remarks in Chicago
He admonished people in Ferguson for violence, urging them to embrace the system instead of the "short-term easy route...[and] destructive behavior." The prez also ducked having too much agency in this mess:
It's not my job as president to comment on ongoing investigations and specific cases, but the frustrations people have generally—those are rooted in some hard truths that have to be addressed. Those who are prepared to work constructively, your president will work with you.
4:45 PM: Noisey's Eric Sundermann talks to Killer Mike of Run the Jewels about Ferguson
Among other things, the MC says we should have known for sure that Darren Wilson wasn't going to be indicted when Attorney General Eric Holder announced he was about to call it quits in September:
I knew this was going to happen when Eric Holder announced he was resigning. There's no attorney in the world that holds a more prestigious position than the United States Attorney—and for him to announce he was resigning towards the tail end of an investigation shows me something disgusting was going to happen. That said, when it was read and announced, I still cried like a baby in my wife's arms. Nothing I could do to control the hopelessness that I felt, and that seeps in.
The interview is worth reading all the way through.
4:25 PM: Russian state-owned media mocks the US
As usual, whenever the US government looks bad the state-owned Russian media is there to crow about how awful America is. From GlobalPost:
As the world watches the Midwestern suburb descend into chaos, Russia's powerful state media machine is exploiting the disorder to highlight what it's long argued to be America's penchant for double-standards, especially over the crisis in Ukraine.
Never mind deep-seated complexities of race relations and social identity. America beats its own citizens, and that's all that matters.
"You want to export that kind of democracy?" the political scientist Alexander Domrin declared during a state television appearance on Tuesday. "Thanks, but no thanks."
Zing, I guess. The Washington Post has more quotes from Russian outlets, much of them in the same vein:
"So the U.S. government, when talking about their own country, forgets about democracy, human rights, protection of 'peaceful protesters' and people's right to protest," Russian news outlet Pravda.ru proclaimed on its Web site Tuesday. "As they say, the United States—it's a completely different matter."
4:17 PM: The authorities are gearing up for more violence tonight
4:09 PM: This Natasha Lennard piece from August is still useful in explaining the violence in Ferguson right now:
Sunday night's rally may have begun calmly, but a context in which yet another young, unarmed black teen has been shot dead by police, and riot cops stand stationed to shutdown even a shadow of dissent, is not a context of peace. State violence prevails and sits heavily over Ferguson this week. Mourning residents have limited options: endure this savage status quo with quiet resignation, or, acknowledging that there is already a state of violence, they can fight back.
3:52 PM: VICE News recaps the protests from around the country
Minutes after the St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch released the 12-panel jury decision just after 8pm, demonstrations flared in cities from New York to California. Reports of looting, rock-throwing, buildings and cars being set on fire, and even reported gun shots, exposed widespread frustrations at the outcome of the case that has sparked national outrage and renewed scrutiny on racially biased policing in recent months.
3:35 PM: Darren Wilson "would not do anything differently that day"
That's according to a preview of the George Stephanopoulos interview. Stephanopoulos says that Wilson told him the officer "did what he was trained to do" and that he has a "clean conscience" though he is sorry Brown is dead.
3:25 PM: A group of St. Louis galleries memorialized the shooting and protests in art
See some of the work from the exhibit, Hands Up, Don't Shoot: Artists Respond, here.
3:09 PM: ABC's George Stephanopoulos scored an interview with Darren Wilson
3:00 PM: The New York Times piles on
Everyone is really getting their "the criminal justice system is unimaginably fucked up in Ferguson" licks in today. Now it's the Times editorial board's turn:
For the black community of Ferguson, the killing of Michael Brown was the last straw in a long train of abuses that they have suffered daily at the hands of the local police. News accounts have strongly suggested, for example, that the police in St. Louis County's many municipalities systematically target poor and minority citizens for street and traffic stops—partly to generate fines—which has the effect of both bankrupting and criminalizing whole communities.
In this context, the police are justifiably seen as an alien, occupying force that is synonymous with state-sponsored abuse.
2:40 PM: More on Wilson calling Brown a "Demon"
As a lot of people have noted by now, Darren Wilson called Michael Brown a "demon" when talking to the grand jury and described him as basically a cartoon monster who could run through gunfire. Could that be because whites view black people as magic? From the New York blog the Science of Us:
While Wilson was engaged in a physical confrontation with someone who outweighed him significantly, his characterization seems to fit a pattern outlined in a recent study led by Adam Waytz of Northwestern, which showed that white people associate black people with various mystical concepts — a so-called "superhumanization" bias that might help explain certain societal outcomes, like black patients in hospitals receiving less pain medication than white ones. The researchers showed that whites are quicker to associate blacks than whites with various superhuman words, and are more likely to think blacks have certain superhuman abilities and associate those abilities with a diminished capacity to feel pain.
2:10 PM: How cops kill and get away with it
VICE Columnist Molly Crabapple, who was in the streets of NYC last night as protests surged over the non-indictment of Darren Wilson, weighs in:
When the Ferguson grand jury declined to indict Darren Wilson, they were not saying Wilson was not guilty. It was something worse: The death of a black young man was so trivial that it was not even worth taking to trial.
1:45 PM: Dead body found near Ferguson protests
A man was found dead early Tuesday near the apartment complex where Michael Brown encountered Officer Darren Wilson in August:
1:30 PM: Video of Michael Brown's mother reacting to grand jury decision
We're a bit late to this one, but (with a hat tip to Caroline Bankoff at NYMag), here's how the mother of the deceased responded to the US legal system doing its thing:
1:20 PM: Medical examiners are just like us, or something
This is dark, and pretty much speaks for itself:
12:45 PM: Darren Wilson's bizarre testimony
VICE's Patrick McGuire dug into the testimony of the Ferguson cop who shot unarmed teenager Michael Brown. Among other things, this large man apparently has a strange fear of pro wrestling legend Hulk Hogan:
After explaining why he was unable to subdue his allegedly vicious attacker, Wilson begins to explain the relative puny-ness of himself compared to the 6'4", nearly 300 pound Michael Brown. While Brown was certainly a large man, Wilson is reportedly also 6'4" and weighs 210 pounds. It seems as if his comparison is somewhat hyperbolic.
When Wilson's description gave the questioner pause, he doubled down on his description: Mike Brown was like Hulk Hogan. Darren Wilson was like a child.
12:25 PM: New Yorkers are not down with the Ferguson grand jury decision
Hannah K. Gold and Aaron Miguel Cantu canvassed protesters in Union Square as they marched uptown Monday night, speaking to an activist named Elisa Teebles, among others:
VICE: Why'd you come out tonight?
Elisa: I've been hit by this since the beginning, [but] you have to come full circle with it I guess. I realized I didn't want to be alone, asking people to get together, but it turned out people were already together in Union Square.
What do you make of the non-indictment?
It felt like New Year's Eve. You know the ball's gonna drop, but somehow it's still a surprise. I was talking to someone in Ferguson a while back, we were all like, "You know we're 99 percent sure there's not gonna be an indictment, but there's always that .001 percent, right?" I was still holding to that.
What do you hope happens next?
I don't know. I would take a really intense look at our policing policies and practices and really ask why it's so hard to have some basic transparency, decent training. I mean, you know something has to change. but what I really want is if... if in the same way Occupy taught everyone about the 99 percent, if at the end of all this, "Black lives matter!" becomes as much of a cultural thing as the 99 percent did, as part of everyone's vocabulary. I could die tomorrow.
What do you think needs to happen for policing to change in America?
I guess a bunch of fucking laws man, I don't know. I wanna say we can just throw the whole thing over and burn the shit to the ground. But we're not gonna do that. And if all this is legal because of some bogus law that makes it impossible for a cop to get indicted for shooting an unarmed civilian, then we need to change that law.
Read the rest of their account here.
12:15 PM: Key autopsy report appears to have come in just yesterday
Of all the documents that have been unearthed so far, this might be the most outrageous: a partially-redacted autopsy report from an unnamed expert upset at the way the grand jury process has been carried out. It begins:
Enclosed is a copy of my initial autopsy report that you requested. My conclusions are based on my re-autopsy findings of August 16; on my review of Dr. autopsy report that I received on October 22; and on the police and medical examiner photographs, X-rays and microscopic slides from the first autopsy, and my examination of Mr. Brown?s clothing, all of which I saw for the first time on November 12, the day before my Grand Jury testimony, and which I continue to review.
The letter is dated yesterday, November 24, and strongly implies a lack of cooperation from the prosecutors in charge:
I have not yet been permitted to have access to requested police crime scene photographs and reports, to the results of the forensic examination of the patrol car, to the Christian Hospital EMS report of Mr. Brown and the emergency room examination of Officer Wilson, to the ballistics information, to the results of the autopsy hand swabs and fingernail clipping examinations, and to witness statements.
For 25 years as medical examiner, 25 years as forensic pathologist for the Police, and as the forensic pathologist member of the Correction Commission Medical Review Board, I have been involved with the investigation of deaths that occur in police encounters and all deaths that occur in jails and prisons in The above requested information is the usual information obtained to be able to correlate the autopsy findings with other information that is necessary to permit full medical evaluation of deaths such as that of Mr. Brown.
11:30 AM: A black youth group in Chicago is occupying City Hall
The Black Youth Project 100 is gathered outside Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office right now and they say they plan to stay in the building for 28 hours. The group says that every 28 hours a black person is killed by a law enforcement officer, a security guard, or an armed vigilante.
11:20 AM: Here's the entire grand jury testimony
If you aren't feeling angry and sick enough this morning, here's 286 pages of the grand jury making its way through the evidence surrounding the killing of Michael Brown and the aftermath:
11:05 AM: VICE's Dave Schilling on CNN host Don Lemon's coverage of Ferguson
Contemplating and analyzing the centuries-old wounds that created this mess takes a lot of time and context—cracking wise about how the protesters are "obviously" smoking pot is easy.
10:57 AM: Killer Mike got goddamn eloquent last night
At a concert in St. Louis last night, the Atlanta rapper gave a speech that was powerful, full of emotion, and to the point. "I have a 20-year-old son and I have a 12-year-old son and I'm so afraid for them," he said, choking back tears, before building to a climax: "It is not about race, it is now about color, it is about what they killed him for—it is about poverty, it is about greed, it is about a war machine!" Watch the whole thing below:
10:30 AM: A reminder that the police screwed this up from the very beginning
Many, many people have spoken out about how the systems of policing and control in Ferguson (and around the country, for that matter) are fundamentally racist and corrupt. That might be true, but, as the New Yorker's Jelani Cobb eloquently reminds us, the story of the Michael Brown shooting is also the story of a lot of fuckers being really, really shitty at their fucking jobs (OK she did not use those words exactly):
From the outset, the great difficulty has been discerning whether the authorities are driven by malevolence or incompetence. The Ferguson police let Brown's body lie in the street for four and a half hours, an act that either reflected callous disregard for him as a human being or an inability to manage the situation. [...] Last night, [prosecutor Robert] McCullough made the inscrutable call to announce the grand jury's decision after darkness had fallen and the crowds had amassed in the streets, factors that many felt could only increase the risk of violence. [...] This was either bad strategy or further confirmation of the unimportance of that community in the eyes of Ferguson's authorities.
10:16 AM: Black Democrats denounce grand jury decision
Marcia Fudge, the Ohio Congresswoman who is Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, just issued some strong, strong words about Ferguson:
The Ferguson Grand Jury's decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown is a miscarriage of justice. It is a slap in the face to Americans nationwide who continue to hope and believe that justice will prevail.
This decision seems to underscore an unwritten rule that Black lives hold no value; that you may kill Black men in this country without consequences or repercussions. This is a frightening narrative for every parent and guardian of Black and brown children, and another setback for race relations in America.
10:00 AM: How badly did the authorities screw up last night?
As everyone knows by now, last night Ferguson descended into other chaos. VICE News reports:
Following an initial period of calm, multiple gunshots rang out. A crowd of demonstrators rushed toward the area where the shots were fired, and police moved to block the street and push people back onto the sidewalks.
A second police vehicle later erupted in flames, with the ammunition inside popping as it burned. Multiple buildings in Ferguson—including a Little Caesars restaurant, a storage center, and a meat market—caught fire and burned. An AutoZone auto parts store was reduced to an enormous fireball spewing black smoke into the night.
But wasn't there supposed to be a big National Guard presence there? Didn't Governor Jay Nixon declare a state of emergency to stop exactly that kind of mayhem? Somehow, the cops seemed unprepared last night. The Daily Caller, which is hardly a liberal rag, wrote about "total police failure" this morning:
By 10:30 p.m., the strip of W. Ferguson Avenue from Chambers Road to Woodstock Avenue that had been the epicenter of the Aug. 9 protests had become a crazy, no-go zone for any peaceful protesters and — it certainly seemed — for police.
Police armed with rifles had set up a checkpoint at the south end of the anarchy-like conditions on W. Florissant. About two dozen police cars sat a few blocks north of the checkpoint in the small parking lot of Pawn Center.
For several blocks north beyond the pawn shop, though, there appeared to be no police presence whatsoever.
"There are hundreds of us and thousands of them," an officer brandishing a rifle explained to The Daily Caller.
Huh, who could have predicted there would be thousands of protesters?
12:55 AM: Three NYC bridges close amid protests
The Triboro, Brooklyn, and Manhattan bridges are all out of commission:— New York City Alerts (@NYCityAlerts)November 25, 2014
12:25 AM: Documents from grand jury proceedings begin to pour out
Go ahead and dig in:— Matt Porter (@mattyports)November 25, 2014 — Patrick McGuire (@patrickmcguire)November 25, 2014 — Patrick McGuire (@patrickmcguire)November 25, 2014
12:00 AM: A no-fly zone has been established over Ferguson
It's not exactly a surprise, but FWIW: Don't try flying a plane near Ferguson any time soon, as the FAA wouldn't like it.
11:58 PM: Ferguson auto parts store set to go up in flames— jg (@JustinGlawe)November 25, 2014
11:39 PM: More reports of gunfire in Ferguson— Antonio French (@AntonioFrench)November 25, 2014
11:30 PM: Protests continue around the country
11:00 PM: NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton got splattered with fake blood
While presumably surveying his cops' response to a #Ferguson solidarity march in Manhattan, the commish got punked:
10:57 PM: Attorney General says feds are still investigating
Outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder put out a statement as protests were intensifying late Monday, with reads in part:
Though we have shared information with local prosecutors during the course of our investigation, the federal inquiry has been independent of the local one from the start, and remains so now.
The problem, of course, is that Holder won't be around to see this one through, and the bar is awfully high for federal civil rights cases.
10:52 PM: Brown family calls for body cameras on cops
A lot of attention is being paid to burning police cars and broken windows at the moment, but it's also important to ask what activists in the short- and medium-term want to see accomplished. The answer from Michael Brown's family is pretty clear:
This has been something police reform advocates have been saying for some time—if Wilson's interaction with Brown had been recorded, there would be none of this questioning of basic facts, no arguments over what Brown's hands were doing when he was shot, and, very possibly, none of the unrest we're seeing.
10:33 PM: Cops say it's not smoke, it's tear gas
Either way, things look pretty scary out on the streets of Ferguson right now.
Highlights included the president asking protestors to avoid violence, as per the Brown family's wishes, and the incredible split-screen dissonance of asking for calm as tear gas is being deployed:
10:03 PM: More reports of gunshots as protests trend toward violence— Danny Gold (@DGisSERIOUS)November 25, 2014
10:00 PM: President Obama is expected to make remarks on the non-indictment any minute now
9:55 PM: Gunshots reported in Ferguson
9:45 PM: Protests continue in New York and Seattle
9:25 PM: No indictment for Darren Wilson, as expected
After ranting about the evils of social media—and decrying speculation ahead of the grand jury decision—St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch finally announced that the cop who shot unarmed teen Michael Brown this summer will not be indicted:— Julie Bosman (@juliebosman)November 25, 2014
Suffice it to say there will be protests aplenty tonight and tomorrow as people around the country grapple with the non-indictment.
9:05 PM: The grand jury decision will apparently be made public within an hour
You might say this is a sign that there will not be an indictment:
9:00 PM: USA TODAY is reporting that the grand jury declined to indict Officer Darren Wilson, citing a lawyer close to the Brown family
8:50 PM: Ten minutes away from announcement by prosecuting attorney, which won't be quick
8:35 PM: Tension is building as the minutes tick away before the verdict's announcement
National Guard vehicles are making their presence known:
But of course the courtroom itself remains relatively serene:
8:20 PM: Protests are picking up steam in Manhattan's Union SquareNot that there was ever a chance New York would stay out of this one:
8:15 PM: St. Louis County cops insist they're focused on safety of citizens
In case we had our doubts:
7:35 PM: New York Police bracing for protests
New Yorkers don't tend to shy away from activism, and a demonstration of some kind is expected if Wilson is not indicted tonight.— jeremy scahill (@jeremyscahill)November 25, 2014
7:15 PM: ABC's George Stephanopoulos lands first Wilson interview
People in Ferguson might not be thinking about this too much right now, but someone in the national press corps is going to talk to Officer Wilson if he is not indicted. Looks like former Bill Clinton aide George Stephanopoulos beat out the competition:
7:05 PM: National Guard troops spotted in Clayton, Brown family issues statement asking for moment of silence
We knew the military was on hand, and National Guard troops are apparently in the streets of Clayton, where the decision is set to be announced in less than two hours.
As if on cue, a plea for calm and a moment of silence after the grand-jury decision's publication was issued around the same time courtesy of Michael Brown's family.
7:00 PM: Governor Jay Nixon urges restraint in brief remarks
Appearing at a press conference with D epartment of Public Safety Director Dan Isolm, St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, Gov. Nixon said very little before taking questions from reporters.
6:45 PM: NYT reporting that Wilson has not been contacted by prosecutors
The New York Times' Julie Bosman, citing a person close to Officer Darren Wilson, reports that he has not received a phone call asking that he turn himself in, as had been the plan with prosecutors in the event of an indictment.
6:00 PM: Pentagon tells military to steer clear of Ferguson
VICE News' Jason Leopold is reporting that the US Defense Department has commanded its many personnel (and their families) to avoid the St. Louis metropolitan area due to "ongoing sensitivities" there:
The advisory from the Joint Chiefs is unusual. It says the Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Army should "limit all non mission essential military activities within 25 miles of St. Louis [excluding operations in the vicinity of Scott Air Force Base] and along Missouri interstates in proximity of St. Louis until further notice."
5:45 PM: Ferguson area schools canceling Tuesday classes
Reports are emerging that Tuesday classes have been cancelled in the Ferguson-Florissant School District, as well as at Riverview Gardens, another school serving the town. The closings are either a prudent step by local officials or an invitation for pretty much everyone to check out the response on the streets tonight.
5:30 PM: Ferguson grand jury has reached a decision
A grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, reached a decision Monday about whether to indict Officer Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in August. Word began to drip out early in the afternoon that the verdict will be announced at an 8 PM CST press conference, bringing an end to weeks of wild speculation about how the black community in the St. Louis area—and the country at large—will react if Wilson is cleared of wrongdoing as many expect.
The 90-second encounter between Wilson, a white cop on the Ferguson police force, and Brown, an 18-year-old who was shot six times, took the nation by storm this summer, unleashing weeks of protests. But for all the media scrutiny—some call it a circus—and attendant dialogue about race, policing, and criminal justice, Wilson has confidently been planning for his future. The officer, who's been on leave, apparently expressed optimism to allies in the local police union about his chances, and even got married—to another Ferguson cop—late last month. Wilson reportedly does not plan to return to his job even if he avoids indictment, however.
It won't exactly be a shocker if Wilson isn't charged, as (white) Americans tend to love them some cops. Nine of the 12 grand jurors are white, and Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has come under fire for failing to provide much in the way of guidance to locals (or anyone) about who, exactly, is calling the shots on the ground. At least he made the pilgrimage to Ferguson Monday afternoon, visiting a local burger joint.
The verdict had already claimed at least one life before it even came down: Residents in the greater St. Louis area have been arming themselves in anticipation of unrest, and one woman accidentally shot herself in the head on Friday after buying a gun. Nixon preemptively declared a state of emergency last week, with the national guard (and other federal law enforcement agents) on hand in case of violence, which the FBI says is "likely."
The question is whether all this talk of militarized police and brutality will have some staying power in the national consciousness. After all, we've seen plenty of horrific cases of abuse by law enforcement over the past few decades, and somehow they all seem to fade from the spotlight. Will Ferguson be different? Does it matter that the shooting was followed by a series of dramatic incidents involving unarmed black New Yorkers being mistreated by the NYPD, America's largest police force? Ferguson also has issues of its own beyond this one death, as was driven home by news last week of a lawsuit alleging that a local corrections officer raped a pregnant inmate. But are we so accustomed to police violence at this point that sustaining more than a few days' worth of outrage is out of the question?
Should jurors decide not to indict Wilson, the federal government could potentially get involved. The civil rights division of the Justice Department, which just got a new leader in ACLU lawyer Vanita Gupta, has been probing Brown's death for a while now. Gupta is best known for her focus on racial biases in the American justice system, and seems like the perfect pick to diffuse tensions in a place like Ferguson. But early reports have suggested the feds are loathe to touch this thing. Apparently what happens in Ferguson might stay in Ferguson, even if most of the country can't look away.
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