#Ferguson: Where Are We 6 Months Later?
It’s been six months since Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Michael Brown, the unarmed 18-year-old who has become a symbol of anti-police brutality protests around the nation. Since last August, activists around the country have been taking to the streets and tweets to declare, “Black lives matter,” and the message has spread around the world.
Everyone from athletes and entertainers to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, has spoken up in favor of the “Black lives matter” movement, but six months after Brown’s death, where is Ferguson now?
While many expected the fervor of the initial protests to die down once international news crews left Ferguson, the movement continues. Although folks are no longer flooding West Florissant Avenue, ground zero for last year’s passionate protests, large-scale organized marches and demonstrations have taken place in New York, Los Angeles, Oakland, and Washington D.C.
Despite the grand jury’s decision not to indict Wilson for killing Brown, a number of questions and concerns still remain and the Department of Justice continues to investigate.
Last month, a juror who sat on Wilson’s grand jury filed a lawsuit asking for permission to speak publicly about the proceedings. Apparently, the unnamed person hopes to dispel a few myths about the process and Prosecutor Bob McCulloch’s handling of the case.
“In the Plaintiff’s view, the current information available about the grand jurors’ views is not entirely accurate — especially the implication that all grand jurors believed that there was no support for any charges,” the lawsuit reads.
McCulloch opposes allowing the juror to speak, arguing, “Such information, especially as it relates to evidence and witnesses, is not plaintiff’s to disclose, and would pose a clear and present danger to the persons whose identities remain unknown to the public.”
Two other Ferguson-related lawsuit were recently filed by residents in St. Louis County alleging the court system operates “as modern-day debtors’ prisons, targeting poor African-Americans for arrest and incarceration.” After Brown’s death, longstanding concerns about racial profiling and biased policing came to light, laying the groundwork for the lawsuits.
“These suits are another step in making the public aware of the abuses which result from for-profit policing and illegal practices in many municipal courts,” said Brendan Roediger, a professor with St. Louis University School of Law. “When cities operate their police departments and municipal courts for profit, they ignore constitutional protections for defendants and jail them in squalid conditions in the hope those defendants will beg relatives and friends to pay their fines to obtain their release.”
The city of Ferguson released a statement criticizing the lawsuit, asserting the plaintiffs do not have enough facts to back of their claims.
“We believe this lawsuit is disturbing because it contains allegations that are not based on objective facts,” said Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III. “It is our hope that the suit will be handled according to the rule of law and the rules of procedure in the federal courts, and not through the media.”
While the city disputes the claims, researchers note that while Ferguson has just 21,000 residents, the city issued 33,000 arrest warrants and collected $2.3 million in fines for minor offenses in 2013, making it the second highest revenue source for the city.
From the push for body cameras for cops and greater oversight of local police forces, to confronting racial bias in the justice system, the events in Ferguson last summer were a catalyst for an important conversation that has continued across America. And though most people thought the movement would quickly die down, it’s clear that the push for more accountability, equality, and compassion continues.