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10 Ferguson Unrest Facts - WMNews Ep. 8

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Angela Fafard This event made it clear that even in the twenty first century race is still an issue in the United-States. Welcome to WatchMojo News, the weekly series from that breaks down news stories that might be on your radar. In this instalment, we’re counting down 10 crucial facts you should know about the Ferguson Unrest.

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Script written by Angela Fafard

10 Ferguson Shooting Facts

#10: How Did It Start?

On August 9th, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri, Michael Brown – an un-armed African-American teenager – was shot and killed by white police officer, Darren Wilson. And, while these are considered facts, the context, circumstances and events surrounding the shooting are all in dispute. The confrontation between Brown and Wilson was the result of a supposed theft that took place earlier in day, with Brown as the culprit. According to video footage, Brown had stolen cigarillos from a local corner store with his friend and shoved the store clerk, after which the pair was seen walking down a main road by Office Wilson. As Wilson claimed to have just received the description of a suspect in a convenience store theft, he quickly ordered both gentlemen to move to the sidewalk. Chaos and confusion ensued, and when Brown died riots broke out in Ferguson.

#9: What Was the Altercation?
Final Moments

The final altercation between Michael Brown and Officer Darren Wilson occurred a little after 12pm. According to Wilson, Brown approached Wilson’s police cruiser and leaned into the car, punching Wilson and reaching for his gun. Two shots were fired, with one superficially striking Brown in the arm. Wilson then claims to have exited his vehicle to pursue Brown, and Brown charged him. In the ensuing melee, Wilson fired his gun, hitting Brown at least six times. Within 90 seconds of Brown and Wilson coming into contact with each other, Brown was dead. Witness testimony of the event has varied wildly, with some stating Brown was surrendering with his hands up at the time he was fatally shot, others saying his hands were at his sides, and others claiming he was running away.

#8: Who Was Involved?
Police & Civilians

The two main individuals in this situation are Michael Brown, the 18-year-old who was shot and killed, and Darren Wilson, the officer who fired the bullets. Unfortunately, this event sparked such public outrage in Ferguson because the city’s population is primarily black, while its government and police force is mainly white. The events that followed Brown’s death involved multiple forces, including those who attended and organized the Ferguson riots, the National Guard which was called in to subdue the protests and safeguard city property, Jay Nixon, the Missouri governor, as well as the FBI and the White House, which intervened with an ongoing investigation and state address from President Barack Obama. The Ferguson police force was instrumental in the early days of the unrest, with riot squads attempting to keep stability with curfews and – in some cases – tear gas. Some bystanders even claim the actions of the police force spurred the riots even further.

#7: Who Investigated?
FBI & Police Investigations

On August 12th, 2014 President Obama asked the Justice Department to open an investigation into the shooting. The Federal Bureau of Investigations also opened a separate investigation into the crime, as well as civil rights issues surrounding the events. By the end of 2014, these investigations were still ongoing.

#6: How Did the Community React?
Riots in the Streets

After a candlelight vigil for the Brown family, a series of riots in the streets of Ferguson began over the next few days, which got increasingly violent and saw looting and property damage. The police used force in the form of curfews, tear gas and rubber pellets to try and disperse the growing crowds. After several days of clashes between civilians and the heavily militarized police force, including one incident where a protester was shot and wounded by an unknown assailant. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder commented on the deployment of military vehicles and equipment in a suburban setting, saying it can do more harm than good if used with improper training or in response to largely peaceful demonstrations. The refrain of “Hands up, don’t shoot” became a popular slogan that spread outside the streets of Ferguson.

#5: How Did the City Handle the Issue?
State of Emergency

On August 16th, 2014 the governor of Missouri declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew on the city of Ferguson, promising it would not be enforced using strict tactics like tear gas. Unfortunately, that promise was broken and after two days of continued clashes, the National Guard was called in to restore order and the curfew was lifted. But that was far from the end of the battle, as the grand jury still had to decide whether Officer Darren Wilson would be indicted for Brown’s murder or not.

#4: Has This Happened Before?
Notable Cases

On February 26th, 2012 Trayvon Martin – an unarmed African American teenager – was walking home when he was shot and killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who claimed he was acting in self defense. In Florida, the “stand your ground” law entitles people to use any level of force to defend themselves if they believe they are in imminent danger. This law also prohibits law enforcement from making an arrest. On July 17th, 2014, African-American Eric Garner was killed by a New York police officer when he was put in a chokehold on the suspicion of selling cigarettes. The homicide was caught on video, where one can hear Garner say, “I can’t breathe” 11 times. He was pronounced dead from neck and chest compression an hour later.

#3: What Was America’s Reaction?
President Obama

President Obama addressed the nation on the Ferguson riots and how police handled the situation in their town on August 14th, 2014. In his message, he started that two separate investigations had been opened. He later also initiated a review of programs that help local law enforcement and police by and use military-grade gear. Ultimately, the President stated he wishes to discover the origins of why young men of color from various groups are more apt to wind up within the system or in jail than in school or a good job.

#2: What Was the Verdict?
The Aftermath

On August 20th, 2014 a grand jury began hearing evidence in Darren Brown’s trial, which included testimony from over 60 witnesses, investigators and even an extensive, over-four-hour-long testimony from Wilson himself. On November 24th, it was announced that the grand jury decided to not indict Officer Wilson in connection with the Michael Brown shooting. In order for an indictment, nine of the 12 jurors would’ve had to have agreed to indict. This result, announced at 10:59pm at the beginning of Thanksgiving week in the United States, triggered an outburst of anger from residents of Ferguson, as well as civil rights groups across America, leading to protests that night.

#1: Will This Create Change?
Racism in America
According to President Obama, sometimes a “country’s conscience has to be triggered by some inconvenience” – in this case, the “inconvenience” is the peaceful protest. Fully aware that some change is necessary in the wake of the Brown and Garner deaths, President Obama proposed spending $75 million for 50,000 body cameras to be distributed to police departments across the U.S. in the hopes that police attitudes and methods will change and similar events will be limited in the future.

Did these facts surprise you? To vote for which news story is covered next, head over to WatchMojo.comsuggest, and be sure to hit that subscribe button for more newsworthy top 10s every week.

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