Today’s Weekly News Roundup will focus primarily on what is happening in Ferguson, MO. The situation is important and I have encountered a lot of people who aren’t fully aware of what is happening. I’m refraining from sharing my personal opinions, but I hope the information below from my personal news reading will help you to understand the situation.
- What happened: A week and a half ago, an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown was approached by a police officer for jaywalking. Accounts conflict over what happened next, but it resulted in Brown being shot six times and his body was left in the street for hours. The backlash started immediately but escalated when the cops failed to release the officer’s name and protests began to pick up steam. When the officer’s name was finally revealed to be Darren Wilson, it was done so alongside video surveillance of a “strong arm robbery” that allegedly shows Brown stealing cigars, which many called a purposeful distraction. Following the release of the video, police acknowledged that Michael Brown was not approached as a robbery suspect, which added fuel to the fire that the video released was a distraction and an attempt to discredit the victim. Finally, two days ago, an independent autopsy was released and stated that Brown was shot 6 times and that, because he didn’t have gunpowder on him, it was likely not at close range, which would be expected during a struggle (it’s important to note that the U.S. Justice Department will conduct an autopsy, as well). The locations of the bullet wounds, particularly the head wound that is considered to be the fatal shot, has sparked fierce debate in the media over its implications (meaning – were his hands up?). For a full timeline, read this article from The Washington Post.
Why people are angry: There are a lot of reasons this particular incident is causing so much unrest, but it’s also because the shooting has opened a wound that most of America has tried to keep covered. Statistically, the majority of Ferguson is black, while almost the entire police force is white in an area that has a history of racial tensions, although its mayor denies it (I saw this in an MSNBC clip). Many have likened the situation to the riots in Alabama in 1963, cropping together photos from then alongside photos from present-day Ferguson. On the flip side, a growing number of supporters of Officer Wilson point to the fact that police work requires on-the-spot decision-making, the result of which makes first responders an easy target for blame in a difficult situation. For a history of the area, read this article from New Republic. To learn more about Officer Wilson’s supporters, read this article from USA Today.
- What people are doing: Since this first happened, protestors have taken to the streets in Ferguson. For the most part, the protestors are peaceful and march with their arms up in the air in the “don’t shoot” position. At one point, area-native and Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson marched with protestors. As tensions escalated and the story made national news, protestors from around the country have descended on Ferguson, including Amnesty International, who showed up to monitor a U.S. situation for the first time in history. Protests have become increasingly violent, especially in the nighttime hours and after the imposition of a temporary curfew (which has ended), and has prompted National Guard troops to move in. In the past week, tear gas, shootings, thrown bottles, and arrests (including journalists) have become commonplace. The police have begun asking peaceful protestors to assemble during the daytime so that they can weed out those that came to town simply to cause problems, pointing to a younger and more rowdy crowd during the nighttime. Capt. Johnson has also scolded the media for glamorizing the nighttime violence and placing themselves in danger, resulting in more work for officers trying to keep people safe. The situation is still ongoing and tensions are escalating as of the writing of this post (11 p.m. Tuesday night) as the public awaits the decision of a grand jury on charges against the officer, which is slated to begin today.
- Things to follow:
- #IfTheyGunnedMeDown – In an effort to address the photos the media chooses to use for black victims, Twitter users share two photos of themselves and ask which they media would pick.
- #Ferguson – All things #Ferguson.
- @STLAbuBadu – According to a comment made in passing on the news, resident Umar Lee is a good one to follow.
- Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) was indicted and booked on 2 felony counts for “coercion and official oppression” for publicly threatening to veto funding for a unit investigating corruption if a Democratic district attorney remained in office. Perry, for his part, is denying that he did anything wrong and that the indictment is politically motivated (he was indicted in Austin, which is a more liberal part of the state). Read more.
- American journalist, James Foley, was reportedly beheaded by ISIS (in a video that I will not be sharing) two years after disappearing in Syria. Foley, who was also detained in Libya in 2011, was working for the Boston-based GlobalPost at the time of his abduction. Read more.
- In Pakistan, roughly 50,000 protestors are demanding the “resignation of the government led by prime minister Nawaz Sharif.” Read more.
- Don Pardo, the man every comedian wants to announce his/her name, died. Best known for being the voice of Saturday Night Live, Pardo worked on classic shows such as The Price is Right and Jeopardy. He was 96. Read more. (Note: His death was believed to be a hoax but has reportedly since been confirmed)