Ferguson: A Rumpus Roundup


Early in August, unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer, Darren Wilson, in Ferguson Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis.

While protests broke out in the weeks following Brown’s death, Wilson remained free, awaiting a grand jury indictment. Grand juries decide whether or not a crime has been committed, not whether a person is guilty. The burden of proof is significantly lower, but an indictment allows prosecution to move forward with a formal trial.

After the initial series of protests, a calm settled over Ferguson while the grand jury deliberated. Darren Wilson married a fellow Ferguson police officer. Former New York City police officer and mayor Rudy Giuliani said some racist things, including, “White police officers won’t be there if you weren’t killing each other.” Two alleged Black Panther members were arrested after acquiring explosives.

Then, on Monday night, the grand jury announced that they would not indict Darren Wilson.

The reaction from protestors was swift. In Ferguson, militarized police met protestors who set 25 buildings on fire and looted local businesses, including Ferguson Market. (Michael Brown allegedly shoplifted a pack of cigarillos from Ferguson Market prior to getting shot by Darren Wilson, although an attorney for the store says they did not call 911 to report the theft.)

Tim Pool, an embedded reporter who broadcasts a Livestream of events, believes most of the looters are opportunists, not protestors. One masked looter smashed a Fox News camera. The cameraman was unharmed. Some protestors exercised their Second Amendment, firing at police, at least 150 times.

In Oakland and Los Angeles, protestors blocked freeways, as well as in Seattle. In Chicago, protestors marched along the Loop and Lake Shore Drive.

In New York City, protestors marched on Times Square and shut down three of five East River bridges between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Tension was especially high since earlier this week, unarmed Akai Gurley was fatally shot by an NYPD officer in the stairwell of an apartment building.

In response to the protesting, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat, deployed additional troops.

Part of the outrage stems from ongoing militarization of police. Part of the outrage stems from the seemingly endless police violence, especially against people of color, as in the case of Eric Garner, who was choked to death by the NYPD this summer. Officers involved in that case are still awaiting a grand jury decision of their own.

The New Republic breaks down just some of the problems with the decision not to bring charges against Wilson.

Of the 12 jurors serving on Wilson’s grand jury, 9 were white and 3 were black. Ferguson is 67% black, or, in other words, 8 out of 12 residents in Ferguson are black.

Also consider that grand juries overwhelmingly choose to indict suspects. Here’s that data visualized again, just in case it wasn’t clear enough the first time. Even the National Bar Association has a problem with the lack of indictment in this case.

Protesters are understandably upset. Or, as the President so delicately stated, “those who are only interested in focusing on the violence and just want the problem to go away need to recognize that we do have work to do here, and we shouldn’t try to paper it over.”

Ian MacAllen is the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022). His writing has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at IanMacAllen.com. More from this author →