As you may have seen on the news (or more likely read on Twitter) by now, there is unrest going on. But I'm not talking about Gaza, Ukraine, Iraq or Afghanistan—I'm talking about Ferguson, Missouri.
Last Saturday, police gunned down unarmed teenaged boy, Michael Brown, 18, while he was reportedly raising his hands in surrender. Not that it should matter, Brown had no criminal record. Ferguson police then left the child’s body uncovered in the street for hours, in sight of his parents and others in the community who had come out to get answers from the police and to grieve. Almost a week later, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson is still refusing to release the name of the officer who reportedly shot Brown multiple times, or Brown’s autopsy. But that isn’t the worst of it.
Saturday night, when mourners in the community came out to hold a candle light vigil for Brown, they were met with Ferguson police dogs, tear gas, armored police cars and police dressed in full riot gear. After police agitation, the peaceful vigil descended into chaos as frustrated, angry, heartbroken and desperate citizens looted the Quik Trip gas station and other stores, and for the past six days, the local police have been at war with the residents they are supposed to be serving and protecting.
The police who have shown up and disrupted seemingly lawful and peaceful protests came fully equipped to do battle in a war zone, wearing every kind of camouflage available and pointing their automatic rifles at citizens. According to news reports, they’ve fired steel bullets coated in rubber into crowds as well as smoke bombs and tear gas at people who were simply standing in their own front yard. Witnesses say police have confiscated footage from the shooting of Mike Brown and cell phone footage of police brutality during the protests.
St. Louis Alderman Antonio French who has been live tweeting the police abuse since Saturday was arrested last night for “unlawful assembly” and is still being held. Several journalists have been arrested for filming and reporting what the police are doing in Ferguson, including the Washington Post’s Wesley Lowrey and Huffington Post’s Ryan Reilly. Al Jazeera reporters had to scramble and leave their equipment behind as police launched tear gas at them. One young woman, a St. Louis resident (known as @Nettaaaaaaaa on Twitter) who has been instrumental in reporting from the ground in Ferguson, has shared that she’s seen a drone flying around the area.
Needless to say, it is an unconstitutional disaster in Ferguson and Missouri Governor Jay Dixon, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles have failed to contain the militarized, disproportionately responding police force.
It is easy to feel completely helpless in times like these but we must remember those brave people who came before us and fought and died for the rights that are currently being violated in Ferguson and all over the country. Here are 5 easy things we can do to show solidarity with the people of Ferguson and to help ensure no more tragedies occur.
1) Attend Tonight’s National Moment of Silence event in your city. Activist Feminista Jones is heading up a National Moment of Silence for Mike Brown tonight at 7 p.m. Eastern. Find a NMOS event in your city here and follow the hashtag #NMOS14 on Twitter for live updates.
If you want to hold your own event or protest against police brutality or vigil for Mike Brown and all who have lost their lives to police brutality, check out the Dream Defenders’ great tips for organizing an action and protecting yourself and fellow protestors. If you have been personally impacted by the killing of Michael Brown or the events that have transpired in Ferguson since, St. Louis County is providing mental health support today from 3-7 p.m. in the Epworth CGM Building, 7520 Natural Bridge Road. You can also call the STL County Youth Connection Helpline 314-628-2929 to speak to a mental health professional 24/7.
2) Put pressure on the Ferguson and St. Louis County Police Departments. The Ad Hoc Committee for Justice on Michael Brown has a few simple demands for the Ferguson Police Department, the most immediate of which are to identify officer who killed Mike Brown, arrest him and charge him with murder. The Ferguson Police Department and St. Louis County Police are doing unspeakable and unconstitutional acts knowing that the world is watching them. Can you imagine what they might do if no one was watching? You can put pressure on them by calling the Ferguson Police Department at (314) 522-3100. Twitter has also been a tremendous asset in letting the world see and hear what’s been going on in Ferguson since Saturday, since members of the media has largely been shut out, harassed and arrested. Tweet the St. Louis County Police Department @STLCountyPD to demand #JusticeforMikeBrown.
3) Help those protestors who have been jailed. Organize Missouri has started a jail bail fund to help protestors and citizen journalists who have been jailed. They are asking lawyers and others who wish to volunteer to help these citizens to email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, and those who wish to donate to the bail fund can visit their secure webpage: https://secure.piryx.com/donate/mS25KFCe/MORE/mikebrown. If you have been arrested, you can call 314-862-2249 to get in touch with Organize Missouri’s jail support team who will advocate for you. The Missouri ACLU can also be reached at 314-652-3111.
4) Put pressure on national leaders to end state-sanctioned police violence. It's been reported that every 28 hours, a Black person is killed by a member of law enforcement. Mike Brown wasn't the first in August and wasn't even the last one this week. There is a Change.org petition being circulated calling on President Obama and Congress to enact federal laws that would make it a federal offense for police to kill an unarmed citizen with no arrest warrant for a violent offense. The petition also calls for a federal ban on police choke holds, like the officer who killed Eric Garner in New York used so recently. Finally, the petition calls for all police officers to wear forward-facing cameras while on duty, an unpaid suspension for any officer being investigated for these crimes and a mandatory minimum sentence for convictions. So far, the petition has garnered nearly 100,000 signatures, and you can help put pressure on national leaders to stop these out-of-control attacks on Black bodies.
5) Follow locals on Twitter for more. These are just some ways you can help locals in Ferguson from outside of the St. Louis area, but as their needs grow and change, follow locals who have been reporting on what’s going on in their community from the beginning, like @AntonioFrench, @Nettaaaaaaaa, @Vandalyzm, and @tefpoe, as well as the #Ferguson hashtag.
Brooke Obie is Editor-at-Large for EBONY.com. Follow her on Twitter @BrookeObie