Today marks a full week of national pop-up demonstrations protesting the Ferguson grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the officer responsible for the shooting death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.
Leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday in more than 120 cities inside and outside of the US, thousands of local activists and allies spilled onto major highways and thoroughfares to demand that charges be brought against Wilson. Thursday, at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, 50 protesters marched to call attention to the Ferguson decision as well as the deaths of Akai Gurley and Eric Garner at the hands of NYPD officers. Seven people were arrested at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on charges of disorderly conduct. Using the hashtag #StopTheParade, organizers associated with the demonstration released video of their encounter with police and their own account of the officers’ use of force against fellow protesters.
Ahead of calls to #BlackOutBlackFriday, a coalition of Hollywood actors and directors supported calls to force national attention to growing demands that Wilson face charges by “depriving the economy of the “$1 trillion-plus spending power” of African Americans. The group was led by “Fruitvale Station” director, Ryan Coogler, and was joined by actors including Jesse Williams of “Grey’s Anatomy,” Michael B. Jordan, and director Ava Duvernay of the upcoming “Selma.” Coogler’s debut film centered around the shooting death of Oscar Grant by BART police in Oakland, California. The group stated that their mission was to “make Black Friday a nationwide day of action and retail boycott.” Friday, more than 200 people participated in “die-ins” at major St. Louis County shopping malls, forcing stores to shut down temporarily. In New York City, nearly 100 people boycotted the Macy’s flagship store. In Dallas, Boston, Denver, and Washington, DC, local organizers reinforced Walmart worker strikes seeking a living wage. Most recent estimates of sales returns for this Black Friday evidence an 11 percent drop.
On Saturday, Wilson resigned from the Ferguson Police Department, citing “credible threats” he could bring to his colleagues and to the department. The chief of police said Wilson will not receive a severance package or pension. The same evening, organizers on the ground in Ferguson issued the latest draft of their action plan, which included the appointment of a special prosecutor in all cases of deadly force. The demands also reiterated calls for the immediate charge and arrest of Darren Wilson, and the implementation of state and federal law that establishes a clear standard operating procedure when an officer is implicated in a deadly-force situation.
During Sunday Night Football pre-game introductions, five St. Louis Rams players rushed the field with their hands raised in the air, the symbol of the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” movement. Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens, and Kenny Britt came under fire shortly after their act of solidarity, when the St. Louis Police Officers Association, led by business manager Jeff Roorda, issued a statement condemning the players and demanding that the National Football League take action to discipline them. Roorda vehemently criticized the players’ actions in the statement. Roorda is also a former Democrat in the Missouri House of Representatives, and he currently sits as Vice President of Shield of Hope, one of two organizations that received funding for Darren Wilson months before the grand jury decision was reached. Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch, who led the grand jury proceedings, serves as Board President of the other recipient organization, Backstoppers, Inc. Backstoppers denied any affiliation with the fundraisers in September. The NFL said it would not take action against the players.
Monday, unexpected protests continued to disrupt morning traffic. Monday afternoon, a national walkout action is planned to go forward as protesters continue to demand justice for the family of Michael Brown, and all victims of police brutality and excessive force.
“Ferguson has put the nation on edge because this is not simply about Ferguson,” said Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal in a statement released after the grand jury decision was announced, “but it is about a broader US experience of a culture of impunity surrounding members of law enforcement in dealing with African Americans and Latinos.”
Media Resources: Feminist Newswire 11/24/14, 11/26/14; Youngist.com, Open Letter From #StopTheParade 11/27/14; TheWrap.com 11/26/14; Forbes.com, 11/29/14; Huffington Post 11/21/11; KSDK-TV 11/28/14, 11/30/14; New York Times 12/1/14; NBC News 11/30/14; Scribd, FergusonAction.com & TheDemands.org 11/29/14; USA Today 12/1/14; Missouri Business Filings 8/16/14; Internet Archive, “Support Officer Darren Wilson” GoFundMe Page 8/27/14; Backstoppers, Inc; Washington Post 12/1/14; St. Louis American 9/23/14