[dropcap]O[/dropcap]n Aug. 14, hundreds gathered in downtown Chicago at Daley Plaza to join in a national moment of silence in honor of the late Michael Brown. The rally featured songs, chants and poetry from the Black Youth 100 Project.
One of the people at the vigil was 23-year-old Yuri, who lives on Chicago’s north side but is originally from Mexico. He asked that his last name be withheld because he’s an undocumented immigrant.
“Growing up in Mexico I’ve seen what the militarization of the police has done to people,” he said. “It’s something that I wouldn’t want anyone to live through.”
The violence in Ferguson has led to a national debate on the militarization of American police departments.
“At a time when we must seek to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the local community, I am deeply concerned that the deployment of military equipment and vehicles sends a conflicting message,” said Att. Gen. Eric Holder in a statement.
After the vigil, the crowd began a march through the streets in the Loop while they chanted “No justice! No peace! No racist police!” and “Black lives matter!”
Meanwhile in Ferguson, the weekend brought even more violent clashes between police, protestors and rioters. By Monday morning, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon had signed an executive order directing Missouri National Guard resources to quell the violence in Ferguson.
“I join the people of Ferguson, and all Missourians, in strongly condemning this criminal activity that included firing upon law enforcement officers, shooting a civilian, throwing Molotov cocktails, looting, and a coordinated attempt to block roads and overrun the Unified Command Center,” said Nixon in a statement. Nixon had also previously ordered Missouri state police to take control of operations in Ferguson after the suburb’s police, dressed in military combat armor, pointed sniper rifles at unarmed protestors.
The unrest can be traced back the shooting of an unarmed Brown by Darren Wilson, a 28-year-old white Ferguson police officer around noon on Aug. 9. Ferguson police allege Brown was involved in a “strong-arm” robbery of a $48.99 box of cigars from a convenience store shortly before he was killed. They also allege Wilson did not know Brown was a robbery suspect at the time of the shooting and that he stopped the teen “because [18-year-old Brown and 22-year-old Dorian Johnson] were walking down the middle of the street blocking traffic,” said Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson.
Police and eyewitness accounts of the shooting differ significantly.
Ferguson police allege Brown physically assaulted Wilson and got into a struggle over the officer’s weapon before the fatal shooting.
Meanwhile, Dorian Johnson has told news media an officer ordered him and Brown onto the sidewalk, then grabbed his friend’s neck and tried to pull him into the car before upholstering his weapon and firing. He said Brown started to run and the officer chased after him, firing multiple times.
At press time, preliminary results of an independent autopsy conducted by Dr. Michael M. Baden commissioned by Brown’s family show that he was shot at least six times from the front, including twice in the head. The FBI is also conducting an independent investigation of the shooting.
The shooting led to Brown’s family and the Ferguson community to demand justice for Brown’s death. Initially peaceful protests soon gave way to rioting in a suburb where about two-thirds of the city’s 21,100 residents are black and only three of the police force’s 53 members are black. Moreover, Ferguson’s mayor and police chief are white, as are most of the members of the Ferguson City Council. Last year, the state chapter of the NAACP filed a federal complaint against the St. Louis County police department, who have been assisting Ferguson police, over racial disparities in traffic stops, arrests and other actions.