Feature

Grand jury’s Ferguson decision raises controversy over American justice system
By Jessica Meza-Torres

The tragic death of 18-year-old Michael Brown has inspired controversy nationwide. Protests demanding justice for Brown, along with thousands of black lives lost to police brutality, continue to occur not only in Ferguson, but in cities around the country—including our very own Salem. In spite of so much demonstrated solidarity, the grand jury decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson with the murder of Michael Brown, concluding that “no probable cause exists to file any charge.” Here is a timeline highlighting some of the crucial events surrounding the case, along with some statistics that may challenge the notion that Brown’s death was simply an isolated incident.

Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014
12:03 p.m.: Michael Brown, 18, is shot dead by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

Eyewitnesses say Brown was walking in the street with friend Dorian Johnson when an officer drove up next to them. He demanded that the boys get on the sidewalk, to which Brown and Johnson replied that they were nearing their destination (Johnson’s house).

“His exact words were ‘Get the fuck on the sidewalk,’” Johnson says to MSNBC.

The officer then grabbed Brown, and Brown tried to pull away. Narratives diverge at this point, but almost all agree that Brown was killed after running, then turning back around to face the patrol car.

Brown’s body was left lying in the street uncovered for four and a half hours, then placed into an unidentified black SUV. Brown’s mother was not allowed to identify her son’s body.

Aug. 10 – Aug. 13, 2014
After several nights of protesting, community members are teargassed by police officers. Dozens of protesters are arrested.

Aug. 14, 2014
President Obama addresses the nation and calls for peaceful demonstrations, along with a “transparent” investigation of Brown’s death.

Ryan J. Reilly of the Huffington Post and Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post are arrested by police inside a McDonald’s restaurant. The hashtag #mediablackout begins trending on Twitter.

Aug. 15, 2014
A press conference names Darren Wilson as the officer who shot Michael Brown. The press conference also reveals that Wilson was responding to another call when he approached Brown. Wilson did not write his own incident report.

At this point, nearly 200 protesters have been arrested.

Aug. 16, 2014
Governor Jay Nixon declares a state of emergency and curfew in Ferguson.

Aug. 18, 2014
The National Guard is deployed to the St. Louis suburb.

A private autopsy performed at the request of his family reveals that Brown was shot six times, including a fatal shot to the top of his head. The autopsy suggests that Brown was not shot at close range, but critics in the press argue that the examiner did not have access to the crime scene or Brown’s clothing.

President Obama announces that Attorney General Eric Holder will be dispatched to Ferguson to monitor the situation there.

Aug. 20, 2014
A grand jury begins investigating Wilson’s actions.

Aug. 23, 2014
The Ferguson Police Department releases an incident report.

CNN reports on the accounts of two construction workers who witnessed Brown’s death. The workers say that Brown had his hands up.

Aug. 25, 2014
Brown’s memorial service is held in Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis.

Sept. 25, 2014
The Ferguson Police Chief publicly apologizes to Brown’s parents and to protesters.

Oct. 23, 2014
The official autopsy shows that Brown had a close range wound to his hand. Wilson claims Brown kept “charging” at him.

Renowned forensic pathologist, Dr. Cyril Wecht, said the autopsy showed that Brown was killed with his hands up.

Nov. 15, 2014
Two new videos and audio from Aug. 9 surface. It is revealed that officer Wilson waited two hours before going to the hospital. He appears uninjured in both videos.

Nov. 17, 2014
Governor Jay Nixon declares a state of emergency and re-activates the National Guard in anticipation of the grand jury decision.

Nov. 24, 2014
The grand jury determines that “no probable cause exists to file any charge against Officer Wilson and returned to a no true bill for each of the five indictments.”

“First and foremost we are a nation based on the rule of law. We need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make.” President Obama

Nov. 30, 2014
Mayor James Knowles accepts Wilson’s resignation. He is no longer a Ferguson police officer and will not receive further payment or benefits.

The White House announces that President Obama is to meet with young civil rights leaders, politicians and law enforcement to discuss possible solutions to ongoing tensions between protesters and police officers.

Dec. 1, 2014
The Federal Aviation Administration issues a no fly zone over Ferguson.

Dec. 2, 2014
Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) and Gene Green (D-Tex.) put their hands up during remarks on the House floor to express frustration with the grand jury’s decision.

Every 28 hours, a black person dies due to police brutality in the United States. -mxgm.org

They’re not wrestling so much as [Wilson’s] arm went from his throat to now clenched on his shirt. It’s like tug of war. He’s trying to pull him in. He’s pulling away, and that’s when I heard ‘I’m gonna shoot you.’
Dorian Johnson
Eyewitness

As of Dec. 1, 14 teens have been killed by police since the death of Michael Brown. -justiceformikebrown.tumblr.com

Recent events in Ferguson, Missouri and around the country have shone a spotlight on the importance of strong, collaborative relationships between local police and the communities they protect and serve.
The White House

In Ferguson police arrest black people at a rate nearly three times higher than people of other races. In Salem, for every 1,000 residents the arrest rate is 300.1 for blacks, and only 90.9 for non-blacks. -statesmanjournal.com

Only three out of the 53 police officers in Ferguson are black. -motherjones.com

According to the U.S. Census, in Ferguson, which is 60 percent black, there is only one black city council member and one black school board member. -motherjones.com

jmezator@willamette.edu