No charges for officer Darren Wilson in the Michael Brown killing
A grand jury decision to not indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of unarmed African American teenager Michael Brown has touched off a new round of protests in the Saint Louis area and beyond. Leaks from the grand jury proceedings had already prepared many in Ferguson for Monday night’s announcement, but the official announcement still came as a blow to local residents who have been calling for police accountability since the August shooting. From Los Angeles, Lena Nozizwe reports.
St. Louis County Councilwoman Hazel Erby has represented the district which includes Ferguson for ten years. Watching the fires on television Monday night, she was also struck by what she did not see.
“I didn’t see any National Guards,” she said. “I didn’t see any fire fighters. I didn’t see anybody assisting those businesses. So that was extremely frustrating it was like everybody stepped back and said let it go. And I realize the firefighters said they heard shots and they have to be safe as well. I realize that as well. But to see nothing happening, no assistance is very upsetting.”
Arsonists torched at least a dozen buildings and cars after Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch announced the grand jury decision in a press conference.
The announcement came exactly 108 days after police officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown dead as he walked to his grandmother’s home.
Human rights attorney Nicole Lee listened to the decision as she stood shoulder to shoulder with a large group protesters outside of the Ferguson Police Department.
“People were streaming the decision on their phones and listening to Twitter and very quickly as the D.A. stated there would be no indictment that word spread very, very quickly,” Lee described. “There were many tears shed and there was a lot of anger and unfortunately what swept through the crowd was a lot of despair.”
Lee says community leaders were doing their best to prevent negative displays of anger, but that the situation escalated when police started firing tear gas at the assembled crowd – an element left out of most of the national media coverage.
“The dominant narrative now is about this burning car and burning buildings and that did happen,” said Lee. “But it is not representative of what this movement, this local grassroots movement, has done. I question greatly why the decision was made to announce it literally in the darkest of night. Why it was made in a way that was dehumanizing to the family? Those things made people very angry.”
The August shooting of Michael Brown led to massive local protests and put the issue of police accountability front and center on the national news radar. The case resonated in cities across the U.S. where police or security guards have killed young people of color without facing charges or losing their badges.
The grand jury’s decision not to indict prevents the possibility of criminal charges or a trial in what has become an emblematic case.
President Obama addressed the issue in a late night speech Monday. “There’s never an excuse for violence, particularly when there are a lot of people in goodwill out there who are willing to work on these issues.”
“There is no trial for Darren Wilson,” Councilwoman Erby said, adding that those in leadership roles at all levels of government and the justice system have let her constituents down. “This whole thing has not really been transparent. It’s been, I guess the evidence has been examined behind closed doors. There is no transparency and people are asked to trust the system but how can you when so many mistakes have been made from the very beginning. From the day that this happened from the body in the street for four and a half hours to Darren Wilson who jumped in the car in question and drove away he took evidence from the scene.
In spite of the grand jury decision, Councilwoman Erby says she will not let the case drop. It’s a sentiment shared by many local leaders who have turned the case into a national rallying cry for police accountability.