Activists organized actions nationwide yesterday to protest police brutality in cities across the country as part of ongoing Ferguson October events, while outrage grows in Missouri over the the grand jury proceeding on whether Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson should face criminal charges in the shooting death of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown.
As part of the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality and Mass Incarceration, on-the-ground organizers in Ferguson, Missouri and St. Louis County called on supporters and fellow activists from all over the nation to coordinate local, community-based vigils, sit-ins, marches, and other activities or civil disobedience actions that raise awareness and encourage meaningful response to excessive force and its disproportionate impact on people of color.
Families of victims of police brutality led protests in New York City, chanting “No More Stolen Lives!” Speakers at the demonstration stressed the impact that police brutality and mass incarceration has had on LGBT communities, people of color, women, and immigrants. Mothers Against Police Brutality gathered at City Hall in Baltimore, MD to call for police to wear body cameras and for more accountability for excessive use of force. “Every life counts. Nobody deserves to be brutally murdered. I’m sick of turning on the news and seeing another victim of police brutality,” said protester Tawanda Jones, whose brother died in police custody last year.
Protesters temporarily shut down Interstate-75 in Atlanta, GA as part of the nationwide action. Protester Will Mason told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he came in solidarity with those whose lives had been affected by police violence. “The police are becoming increasingly militarized, and there’s no real, sane explanation or justification for it from political leadership at any level,” said Mason. “People are getting tired of what essentially is looking more and more like fascism.” Activists, families, and victims took to the streets in Tallahassee, Fl, staging a die-in, and in cities in places like California, Michigan, Utah, Washington, and Washington, DC.
The October 22 day of action marked 75 days since the shooting death of Michael Brown by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. Activists have called for Wilson’s indictment, but to date, there has been no arrest, only growing speculation that Wilson could walk free.
Last week, the New York Times gave Wilson’s account of the shooting, in which, the officer claimed he reasonably believed his life was in danger following a struggle with Brown over the gun at Wilson’s car. Now, unidentified sources have allegedly provided details that appear to support Wilson’s account, and leaked documents have made their way into the press. The mounting amount of supposed information leaked from the grand jury – a confidential proceeding – suggest a non-indictment for Darren Wilson.
The US Department of Justice strongly condemned the leaks as “irresponsible and highly troubling.” The DOJ also expressed concern that the leaks appear to be a part of “an inappropriate effort to influence public opinion about this case.”
The grand jury leaks have also highlighted residents’ concern about the appropriateness of Prosecutor Bob McCulloch handling this case. A spokesman for the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office told the LA Times that the office wouldn’t investigate the leaks, offering the excuse that prosecutors cannot force journalists to reveal their sources. He also suggested that the leaks might be coming from federal officials in Washington. Earlier requests to replace Bob McCulloch with a special prosecutor were rejected by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon. Thousands of people from across the nation have also petitioned McCulloch to recuse himself. He has chosen not to.
The grand jury has been meeting since August 20. The St. Louis County Prosecutor’s office said they expect a decision by mid-November.
Media Resources: Democracy Now 10/23/14; WBAL-TV Baltimore 10/12/14; Atlanta Journal-Constitution 10/22/14; Los Angeles Times 10/22/14; The Root 10/21/14; New York Time 10/17/14; Newsweek 8/19/14; MoveOn; Ferguson October; Twitter