By Dina Sayedahmed
It’s been one hundred days and then some since the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, the unarmed young adult from Ferguson, Missouri. On August 9th, at 12:01PM, the 18-year old resident of Ferguson, Missouri, was shot dead only a few meters away from his home.
Brown, according to eye witness testimonies, had raised his hands in resignation and explicitly stated that he was not armed. His killer, shockingly, was a police officer: Mr. Darren Wilson. Brown’s body remained, bleeding, on the warm street of Canfield Drive under the summer sun for four and a half hours and was not covered until 12:15PM. Homicide detectives were not called until approximately 40 minutes later. Brown’s body was finally checked into the morgue, a 15 minute drive from the scene, at 4:37PM, more than four and a half hours after he had fallen dead.
Since then, protests erupted throughout the streets of Missouri, most notably in front of the Ferguson Police Department on West Florissant. Protesters were met with rubber bullets and tear gas. Getty Images photographer and journalists from Aljazeera, The Huffington Post, Anadolu Agency, and The Washington Post were arrested along with civilian reporters, photographers, and protesters.
It took 4 days of relentless protest for the Justice Department to open a civil rights investigation. Soon after, on August 16th, Governor Jay Nixon declared an emergency state and imposed a curfew. On August 19th, military tanks began making their presence on civilian streets: the Governor ordered the deployment of the National Guard. Three months later, on November 17th, Governor Nixon would declare a state of emergency again.
Brown is not the first victim of police brutality, nor is he the last. Indeed, approximately two months after Brown’s shooting, VonDerrit Myers Jr. was shot in the Shaw neighborhood of St. Louis by a police officer. Myer’s killer, however, was an off-duty police officer and working his second job as a security guard at a private firm when he shot Myers. Nevertheless, it still raises the question of a militarized police force targeting young, unarmed black men, as both Brown and Myer were black and unarmed.
What makes Brown’s story unique is the way authorities have handled the situation and the fact that his body was left, uncovered and bleeding, in the middle of the street only a few meters from his doorstep. Brown’s story also awakened the St. Louis community to the challenge the inherent racism engraved on their streets.
100 days after Brown’s killing, protests and rallies continue to erupt throughout St. Louis County. Coffeehouse owners have begun declaring their properties a safe space for protesters and organizers to gather. St. Louis County finally began acknowledging and addressing its longstanding tradition of racism.
This event, though local to the St. Louis area, is an international tragedy and racism is an international crisis. Even as America is looked upon, by the world, as the ideal land of democracy and freedom, the United States justice system has first failed at protecting the life of its citizens.
As both students and reporters studying in Newark, a predominantly black city, The Observer felt inclined to delve deeper into the institutional racism and oppression rooted in the St. Louis County. Given the 1969 Conklin Hall takeover and the resulting diversity for which Rutgers University-Newark is celebrated, the St. Louis County events are directly correlated to the history of this campus and its current demographics.
Being the most diverse college campus nationwide does not give Rutgers University-Newark a simple marketing strategy, but a duty to educate and understand the factors that led to this 17-year distinction.
The unrest and the narratives of those in the St. Louis County drew the eyes of many, including The Observer. An investigation grounded in Missouri led The Observer’s reporters to discover unsung victories and narratives not yet heard.
Over the next several weeks, The Observer will feature a series of articles and narratives from St. Louis County. This series will feature a diverse range of personal profiles: the young to the old, the grassroots activists, narratives on the awakening of the black community in St. Louis, the impact of Brown’s shooting on businesses and St. Louis community, and the resonating Saint Louis University Occupation.