Few details are known about the case of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, aside from the fact that Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed the teenager on Saturday, August 9, 2014. According to St. Louis County Police Chief Joe Belmar, Brown was unarmed. Belmar also claims the fatal shots were fired after Brown pushed Wilson into his vehicle and allegedly reached for his gun. Those accusing Wilson of misconduct claim that Brown had surrendered in the confrontation, holding his hands in the air to signal his lack of a threat when he was shot.
There is no dash cam footage on police vehicles in Ferguson, and security footage from nearby buildings has yet to be obtained. It’s possible that the truth about Brown’s death will never emerge.
Despite a lack of concrete facts, the racial tension in Ferguson has exploded throughout the nation, and the St. Louis suburb and its tragic shooting are being used as an example for race relations in America.
The most surprising aspect of the whole ordeal is how split the issue has become. The initial flood of protesters in Ferguson were in support of Brown and his family, citizens angry that an officer would have the power and authority to murder an unarmed teen in broad daylight. Soon, however, support for Officer Wilson began pouring in. The issue has become divided, with clear distinction between black and white.
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According to the USA Today, online fundraising in support of Wilson surpassed the money that has been raised for Michael Brown’s family this week. Wilson supporters raised more than $300,000 over the course of a few days, while around $214,000 has been raised for the Michael Brown Memorial Fund.
Numerous national discussions and arguments — about race, about the militarization of the police force, and several other pertinent topics — have emerged following the death of Michael Brown. The main argument for those supporting Wilson, however, is that the officer was simply operating under the jurisdiction of the law. Police have the right to use deadly force, and Wilson supporters are allegedly supporting that right.
Again, this argument is nonsensical considering the utter lack of evidence in the trial. Those in support of Michael Brown may be somewhat silenced if evidence emerges that he was committing some violent crime or reaching for Wilson’s gun, but at least their point of view stresses the overwhelming inequality African-Americans face when dealing with the police force, especially in Ferguson.
It has been mentioned many times in the media that race representation on the police force in Ferguson is staggeringly unequal. The police department has 53 officers, three of whom are African-American. The town, however, is 67% African-American. 686 of the 5,384 police stops in Ferguson in 2013 targeted white residents, while 4,632 targeted black citizens.
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When it comes to the specific case of Michael Brown, however, judgement should be made only from the facts we know: that an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed by a white officer in a city with a racially unbalanced police force.