On November 24, a grand jury in Missouri decided not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown. On August 9, 2014, Brown, an unarmed black 18-year old, was shot and killed by Wilson, who is white. Following the grand jury decision and release of transcripts, protesters started demonstrations all over the country, including New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Oakland, and St. Louis. Many of the post grand jury demonstrations were large and more violent than those following Brown’s killing.
Close to home, protests of the jury decision initially happened in Oakland and on Interstate 580. Some demonstrators were arrested for protest vandalism, assaulting officers, burglary, failure to disperse, resisting arrest, and public intoxication. Most recently, such protests have moved to Berkeley where that city has seen several days of growing demonstrations, some violent.
Even though the protests are, at times, violent, they are expressing the emotions tied to the underlying racism in the United States criminal justice system and they are expressing a sense of injustice, rage and incomprehension at their continuous unfair treatment.
There was a call for people to boycott Black Friday sales in response to the jury decision not to charge Wilson. According to the Nielsen research organization African-American people hold $1 trillion of U.S. spending power, and on Friday, November 28, large crowds gathered outside of stores like Walmart, urging, “not one dime” and “justice for Brown.”
Celebrities including Russell Simmons tweeted #not-one-dime and urged followers not to participate in Black Friday shopping. Grey’s Anatomy star Jesse Williams tweeted “recognize the stranglehold that corporate money has on the neck of public policy, including the levers of [in]justice. #BlackoutBlackFriday.”
Black Friday protests in New York were entirely peaceful, with little police interference — only seven people arrested with legitimate reasons given.
However, in areas like Oakland, people blocked the doors of BART cars, forcing them to shut down for several hours. Ultimately, however, these protests did not invoke violence, with large masses of people standing outside doors to shopping centers and urging people not to go in.
Things took a more violent turn after news of Eric Garner, who died in a police chokehold in Staten Island in Berkeley and Oakland. NBC reports that protesters threw projectiles and solid objects while some cases of vandalism and smashed windows also appeared.
Justified as their anger might have been, the violent turn in the protests is a both a dangerous and harmful road to go down.
The shooting in Ferguson isn’t an isolated incident: African-American people (and other people of color in the United States) have faced the blunt end of the justice system stick for a really long time. According to the New York Times, African-American men are jailed 11 times more than Caucasian males for marijuana possession. Racist policies like the Stop-and-Frisk Law, the New York Times continues, target people of color and allow for racism to continue in our justice system.
The lack of an indictment is only evidence of the racism still highly prevalent in a system that is supposed to protect people, a system which is so clearly failing. People are rightfully getting angry and protesting this miscarriage of justice because they know that the jury’s decision not to even put Darren Wilson on trial will have deeper implications and repercussions.
To add insult to injury, Wilson was given at least $500,000 through GoFundMe accounts, according to the Washington Post, and was paid an alleged six figure sum to conduct an interview with ABC News. This will likely make Wilson’s impending resignation less of a hardship than he deserves. He deserves to be put on trial for killing an eighteen-year-old boy — there are cops in this country who are killing kids and getting away with it and that is wrong.
From beginning to end, the entire grand jury process seems more like an elaborate fake than anything else — one that served, once again, only the white man’s justice. Protests varying in degrees of severity have been sparked here in Oakland, Berkeley and across the entire country with people speaking out about the anger over this injustice. Darren Wilson shot an innocent, unarmed black man and should be indicted and tried for his crime.