By Zachary Toillion
Last Monday, thousands of mourners attended Michael Brown’s funeral held in Ferguson, Missouri. Many high profile African American entertainers were in attendance, including rappers Puff Daddy and Snoop Dogg, as well as filmmaker Spike Lee. Also in attendance were three White House officials and Reverend Jesse Jackson. The eulogy was given by MSNBC host and civil rights activist Al Sharpton who took the time to condemn the minority of the protesters who engaged in looting, stating “They’re heartbroken, their son taken, discarded and marginalized, and they have to stop mourning to get you to control your anger, like you’re more angry than they are.”
The death of Michael Brown served as the catalyst for two weeks of mass protest in Ferguson Missouri after he was killed by a police officer named Darren Wilson. Brown’s case galvanized the nation after nights of protests ultimately ended in looting, utilization of smoke grenades, the throwing of molotov cocktails, mass arrests, rubber bullets being fired, the deployment of tear gas, in a full blown confrontation between law enforcement and protesters.
Many have linked the case of Michael Brown to the trial of Rodney King and the LA riots took place after there was a verdict delivered in the case in 1992. In the case of Michael Brown, an indictment of the officer is pending and the County Prosecutor has stated the indictment proceedings won’t be over until around October. Presuming an indictment even occurs, the trial over Michael Brown will likely take place in 2015. Potentially, the incident could produce three different trials, a criminal trial against Darren Wilson, a civil suit against Wilson, and a prosecution of the Ferguson PD from the Justice Department. In the case of Trayvon Martin, another high profile case involving the death of an unarmed black teen, it took over a year to reach a verdict.
In the mean time, a series of high profile incidents have led to a broader discussion about excessive use of force by police departments and race in America. One example is Kajieme Powell, a 25 year old who was killed by police just three miles from the site of Brown’s death. In New York, a grand jury is hearing the case of Eric Gardner, a black youth who died after being choked by police after breaking up a fight. His death led to a massive protest on the streets of Manhattan on August 24th. In Los Angeles, multiple homicides by police are being investigated. Ezell Ford, a 25 year old autistic man was shot and killed while walking down a street, and 37 year old latino father of three Omar Abrego was beaten to death by LAPD on August 2nd. Police records indicate US law enforcement kills 400-600 yearly since 2009, but this only takes into account “justifiable homicides”, or homicides that are deemed legal due to extenuating circumstances.
The events of Ferguson has drawn new interest in police tactics from Washington D.C. Missouri senior Sen. Claire McCaskill is calling for Congressional hearings to address potential policy changes in regard to the militarization of the police. President Obama has also ordered a review of federal programs and their funding that allow local and state law enforcement agencies to secure military style weapons and vehicles. Tear gas cannisters like the ones fired in Ferguson were originally designed to be an instrument of chemical warfare, and since the War on Terror began, Police Departments have been given the option to request surplus military supplies including but not limited to heavily armored vehicles and assault weapons.
The protests in Ferguson Missouri have slowly tapered off, but the debate the protesters wanted to start seems to be an ongoing political discussion.