August Kissel and Julia Skeval
If you type Ferguson into Google, you will get 248 million results in .32 seconds. Mike Brown receives 542 million results in .35 seconds.
On Aug. 9, in Ferguson, Moi. an 18-year-old African-American named Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer, Darren Wilson. Immediately following, protesters flooded the streets of the town just outside of St. Louis. The ensuing protests and violence put a voice to the racial divides in America over 150 years after the Civil War. Evidence proves Michael Brown was unarmed with his hands raised over his head as he was shot. Darren Wilson had injuries from an altercation with Brown, which is what prompted him to fire.
In the aftermath of the killing, Ferguson errupted in a storm of violence and chaos and a wildfire spread through the forest of social media where rumors and theories mixed in with variations of the truth. The term “media blackout” was used to describe the scene as journalists flocking to cover the scene were denied information about what had happened, as the police department was unwilling to speak about it. Some reporters were even arrested as the days and silence went on.
The end of summer came and new breaking stories filled up much of the public’s attention, even as Ferguson was still a battle ground for racial tension. Then on Nov. 24, a grand jury’s verdict was released saying Officer Wilson would not be indicted for the murder of Brown.
Suddenly, within minutes of the news conference, all eyes were back on Ferguson. Students at Jamesville-DeWitt High School have been following the case as it unfolds and have their own thoughts about what happened, what it all means and where it goes from here.
Many students have voiced their opinions in disagreement with the grand jury’s decision. “There should have been a trial,” said junior Sarah Young. The jury would have needed nine out of 12 votes in order to indict Wilson. Senior Tal Friedan acknowledges that since he was not in the room along with the grand jury, he cannot know all evidence they were presented with but “due to the conflicting witness testimony and evidence, the case deserved to be seen in a fair trial and not just by a (grand) jury.” Fellow senior Ben Whipper agrees with Frieden, adding that with what he’s heard, there isn’t sufficient evidence to prove Wilson’s full innocence.
However, other students have taken a different view on the controversial decision. Sophomore Andrew Barklay believes that as witnesses have stated, Mike Brown was charging at Officer Wilson, meaning his self-defense actions are justified. “The easiest part to shoot on a body is a chest, unfortunately he was killed but it’s just what happened in the moment.” “If you’re going to wrestle with a cop, you should expect to get shot,” said junior Lucas Grannan who also sides with the decision not to put the police officer on trial.
Jessica Pace and Caroline Kolseski agree with Grannan and Barklay. Kolseski, a freshman, thinks it was unfair how Brown was shot multiple times, “but (Officer Wilson) was being violently attacked.”
Protesters in Ferguson and around the country took the streets in both peaceful and violent riots. In Missouri especially, local stores were vandalized, people were charging at cops. The governor of Missouri was forced to issue a police militarization in order to tame the protests. Tear gas was launched into disruptive crowds, photos of huge trucks carrying armed officers down the streets were popping up all over social media.
Once again, students are split on whether or not the backlash is justified. Junior Sebastian Phipps said it’s not because you can’t just violently riot over one kid. “This sort of thing happens every day in the world and you don’t see people rioting over all of them.” Grannan agrees, “(the protests) began to look like it was pre-shopping on Black Friday, like everything’s a free-for-all.” Young thinks that in the beginning, the peaceful marches were okay but said there’s no excuse to answer violence with violence. “(The protesters) are getting a bad name, they’re taking away from the cause they’re fighting for.”