Sunday, August 9 marked the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death, and I was optimistic that things might be getting better in the community. There had been sweeping changes among authority officials and protesters were still going strong, refusing to let Michael Brown’s memory and the anger people feel towards police fade away. But then this week happened.
On Sunday, August 9, Tyrone Harris Jr. was shot by police in Ferguson. Supposedly, he had opened fire on plains clothes police after an altercation with some other people. This sparked riots, looting, and property damage and compelled St. Louis County authorities to issue a state of emergency – though things have been quiet for the past few days.
On Monday, August 10, hundreds of people took part in Moral Monday, a large-scale civil disobedience protest throughout Ferguson and St. Louis. Protestors crossed police lines, shut down I-70, and preventing people from entering the Thomas Eagleton Federal Courthouse. Over 140 people were arrested. However, according to Charles Wade on Twitter, these arrests were expected and were a strategic move.
I am so conflicted about these events. On the one hand, I am so proud of these protestors for refusing to be cowed by authorities, for refusing to let the heavy-hand police actions of the past year scare them, and for refusing to accept the party line that things are getting better. I’ve also noticed minor changes, like authorities and media outlets stressing that Tyrone Harris and the rioters were not part of the peaceful protests. However, mainstream media is still not covering the full extent of police action, burying or outright neglecting stories like the 12-year-old girl being arrested, cops pepper spraying kids, police firing smoke grenades on the same street where Michael Brown died, and police refusing to wear name tags and be identified (which you won’t know about if you don’t follow people on Twitter and Tumblr). And now, in a horrifying turn of events, the “Oath Keepers,” a group of supposed anti-government patriots, have turned up in Ferguson with assault rifles and camouflage. It’s terrifying.
Maybe, if you want to continue to be optimistic, you can see the incremental changes that have been happening, but they’re clearly not enough. Something is wrong when peaceful protestors are arrested and illegally detained, when police are shooting off tear gas into residences, and when children are being arrested. That signals a clear problem. So while I’m so proud and grateful for the people willing to be on the ground and make the world notice, I’m also afraid for them. I sincerely fear for their safety, and it’s a bullshit world where I have to.