Though the fatal shooting of unarmed Michael Brown happened over a month ago, the ripple effects of the tragedy continue to be felt, both locally and across the nation. Not only was Brown the focus of Ferguson's first — and deeply heated — city council meeting since the teen's death, on Wednesday afternoon, St. Louis protesters are planning to shut down Interstate 70.
At 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, residents are planning to blockade I-70 in order to protest police brutality, as well as to demand that a special prosecutor be appointed to Brown's case. The demonstration is a throwback to a 1999 protest, when hundreds of protesters shut down that same interstate because of racial disparity in road-building projects. Said Eric Vickers, blockade organizer and member of the Justice for
Michael Brown Leadership Coalition, at a news conference:
We are taking this direct action on the 10th because we are using the means of civil disobedience that Dr. Martin Luther King used to effect change. It is going to cause people some discomfort. It is going to cause inconvenience to people. That is a small price to pay to change the conditions of African-American youth, and it’s a very small price to pay to bring justice to Michael Brown.
As it stands, St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch is handling the case against Darren Wilson, the police officer who allegedly shot and killed Brown on Aug. 9. But a great number of people haven't been too happy about this, accusing McCulloch of pro-cop bias and demanding that he recuse himself. Over 115,000 signatures have been gathered by an online petition demanding that a special prosecutor be appointed — in spite of this, Gov. Jay Nixon has refused to do so.
It's a complex situation with no easy answers. As the Washington Post points out, there's no legal reason for McCulloch to recuse himself, and doing so might encourage "prosecutor shopping" (the process of picking and choosing prosecutors). At the same time, the community's mistrust in the police department is at a boiling point, and not hearing them at this tense point in time might backfire.
At Ferguson's City Council meeting late Tuesday — the first since Brown's death — hundreds of people showed up to vent their frustration with the local authorities. Said one St. Louis activist at the meeting, as quoted by CBS News:
You’ve lost your authority to govern this community. You’re going to have to step aside peacefully if this community is going to heal.
According to KSDK, the Missouri Highway Patrol has called the I-70 shutdown "unsafe" and "unacceptable." But the St. Louis County police still have it under control. “There is a plan,” a St. Louis County police offer told the St.Louis Post-Dispatch. “We’re not going to discuss what the plan is, but we’re going to have a presence.”
In all likelihood, a police presence won't be much of a deterrence. As Vickers put it:
[Brown's] death has sparked a movement to change the oppressive conditions under which black youth live, including being targeted by the police. I think we all have an obligation to play a role in this movement.