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Police shooting leads to protests

It has been four days since Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was killed in Ferguson, Missouri.

Brown was shot in broad daylight by a yet unnamed member of the Ferguson Police Department, while he walked down the street with his friend Dorian Johnson.

Since then, a number of protests, riots, lootings, and arrests have taken place in the small community located just outside St. Louis.

The situation has gotten so bad since the shooting last Saturday, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has stripped the police department of their control and handed over the supervision of the town’s security to the State Highway Patrol.

This comes after media reports of rubber bullets being fired into crowds of unarmed civilians and tear gas canisters used to disperse crowds. Even members of the media are not immune to these tactics as reporters from the Washington Post and the Huffington Post were arrested by police Wednesday afternoon while filing their stories from a local McDonald’s.

Wesley Lowery and Ryan Reilly say they were sitting inside when officers in riot gear entered the restaurant and told them to leave. Evidently the two journalists did not gather their belongings quickly enough and were arrested and processed at the local police station.

Shortly after being placed in a holding cell, they were released without charges, while multiple requests for the arresting officer’s name or badge number apparently fell on deaf ears.

Each day it seems the situation becomes more dire. On Tuesday the Federal Aviation Administration barred aircraft from flying below 3,000 feet over the city, as police officials said their helicopters had been shot at.

At least 11 businesses have been looted in the aftermath of Brown’s death, and 50 people have officially been arrested since Sunday.

In the wake of this unrest, the question of race and police profiling has routinely come up. The population of Ferguson is predominantly black (67 per cent, according to the 2010 census), while 50 of the 53 commissioned police officers are white.

President Barack Obama has also weighed in on the crisis, calling for peace, calm and restraint by everyone involved. He avoided mentioning race, instead calling on people to “remember that we’re all part of one American family.”

On the day following the shooting, St. Louis County Police Chief Joe Belmar said Brown had physically assaulted the officer, and during a struggle reached for his gun. One shot was fired inside the police vehicle, followed by multiple shots outside. Numerous witnesses tell a different story.

That night, during a candlelight vigil, is when the looting and vandalism began.

School was cancelled Monday, and Ferguson police and city leaders said the police force had received a number of death threats in relation to the shooting.

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the police station, and the FBI announced they would be conducting a parallel investigation into the shooting. The name of the police officer involved in the shooting was supposed to be released on Tuesday, but never was; although the “hacktivist” group Anonymous say they have identified the officer.

Tactical police officers were dispatched to the scene late Monday night and began firing tear gas into the crowds of protesters, allegedly even hitting some news crews covering the scene. The protests, along with the ever increasing police presence has only increased in recent days until Governor Nixon arrived in Ferguson Thursday to finally address the situation.

The entire incident has also played out on social media, with trending hashtags of #HandsUpDontShoot and #IfTheyGunnedMeDown going viral, in addition to #Ferguson, #MikeBrown, and #FergusonRiot allowing Twitter users to follow the events as they unfold in real time.

It was also announced Thursday that The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri has filed a lawsuit against St. Louis County and the county police department to obtain details on the shooting, saying it had received an “inadequate response” to its original records request, which was made Tuesday. The ACLU has also filed a lawsuit to challenge the police policy of demanding and ordering members of the media and ordinary citizens to stop recording them in public. 

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