Reactions To The Ferguson Shooting Show Frustrated Protesters Who Say Nothing Has Changed
Mostly-peaceful protests became violent Sunday — exactly one year after Michael Brown's death — in Ferguson, Missouri, when police fired multiple shots at protesters who were allegedly throwing bricks and bottles at the officers and shooting at them, according to the St. Louis Police Department. On Sunday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that 18-year-old Tyrone Harris Jr., whose family said he was friends with Brown, was shot by police after allegedly opening fire on officers and was in critical condition at a nearby hospital. Social media users reacting to the Ferguson shooting say that not much has changed in the last year since Brown's death. They claim that the shooting, and police responses to peaceful protests in Ferguson, are indicative of a continuing climate of police brutality against black people.
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said the people doing the shooting and throwing things could not be called protesters and said protests up until that point had been peaceful, according to Politico. "There is a small group of people out there that are intent on making sure that we don’t have peace that prevails," Belmar said. "I don’t know how else to say that."
Social media users aren't believing police officers' stories about how the violence began and why Harris Jr. was shot. Some people have shared claims that the St. Louis County police officers have lied before, while others are pointing out just how tragic it is that another black man was shot by police. Although police say that Harris Jr. had a gun, they could only speculate that he was the one shooting at police. Belmar said the gunfire came from a number of origins, according to the Post-Dispatch. The lack of clarity surrounding the shooting has infuriated some Twitter users.
Although police have claimed that they were attacked by protesters who turned violent, other, peaceful protesters said they were still met with force even if they weren't a part of the violent group. When asked whether St. Louis County police had a strategy to avoid responding with excessive force on peaceful protesters, Sgt. Brian Schellman, public information coordinator for the department, emailed Bustle the following statement:
We had over 60 shell casings recovered last night, including two other persons shot on top of the officer involved shooting. We had three officers injured and two members of the media robbed and assaulted. We had several businesses either broken into or damaged. The protests last night turned from peaceful to violent and measures were taken to ensure the safety of the officers and those who were truly there to peacefully assemble.
Protesters in Ferguson have alleged that officers gave orders but wouldn't allow much much time for people to follow them; instead, social media users claim that the police immediately followed their orders with an offensive tactic, like the alleged use of tear gas. A number of protesters in Ferguson have claimed that police deployed the use of gas, even though protesters couldn't leave the area because of barriers, but that has not been confirmed. Schellman said that the St. Louis County police did not deploy tear gas on protesters.
Police arrested protesters whom they alleged were violent, but they also apparently arrested people who videotaped incidents of violence. According to a Twitter account that represents the hacking group Anonymous, the man who videotaped the aftermath of Harris Jr.'s shooting was arrested. (Warning: This video shows graphic images.) Some protesters claimed that police would deploy aggressive tactics on all protesters, even if some groups remained peaceful.
Overall, the sad, resounding theme of reactions on Twitter is that nothing has changed in the year since Brown's death.