by Dayo Laniyan
“We can’t even celebrate. We’ve got to plan a funeral. He didn’t deserve this.”
In several cities across the US, New York, Chicago, Atlanta and more, thousands of people have held moments of silence and protests in honour of a black teenager killed by a Missouri policeman.
Last Saturday afternoon, 18 year old Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, a mainly black suburb in the north of St Louis. According to the Missouri police, he was shot several times by an unidentified police officer after a struggle.
The day after his killing, unrest broke out after a candlelit vigil held for the teenager. Shops were looted, cars and stores vandalised, and a building was set on fire as police tried to block off access to certain areas of the city.
Police reported that 32 people were arrested, and will face charges including assault, larceny and burglary.
The Sunday riots gave way to more peaceful protests on Monday by the residents of Ferguson, as hundreds of protests rallied outside the Ferguson police station demanding that murder charges be brought against the officer who shot Brown to death.
Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden said in a press conference on Monday that her son had recently graduated from high school and was eager to start college classes.
“We can’t even celebrate. We’ve got to plan a funeral.” she said, still shaken as she shook her head in disbelief and quietly repeated “He didn’t deserve this.”
US attorney general Eric holder said in a statement on the same day that FBI agents from the St Louis field office would work together with attorneys from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and US Attorney’s Office to conduct a “fulsome review” of the incident.
President Obama himself offered his “deepest condolences” to Brown’s family on Tuesday, who are currently represented by the same attorney used by the family of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager gunned down by a Neighbourhood Watch volunteer in 2012.
Although Ferguson police had planned to give out the name of the officer who shot Brown, but the decision was reversed on Tuesday due to “threats being made against all Ferguson officers on social media sites”, said the city’s police spokesman, Timothy Zoll in an email.
Authorities in Ferguson prepared for another round of violence, as flights were banned from operating below 3,000 feet over the city, at the request of county police. A police spokesman said a helicopter had been shot at multiple times. And on Wednesday, tear gas had to be used to disperse protesters that night, with police being armed in military gear and armoured vehicles.
Calm finally returned to the streets, as on Thursday evening, state troopers and local police walked with protesters, shaking their hands. Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post described the change of atmosphere on the streets of Ferguson.
“At this time at night on Monday, residents were in real fear for their lives. Today they’re taking selfies with cops.”
One protester, Pedro Smith, said, “All they did was look at us and shoot tear gas. This is totally different. Now we’re being treated with respect.”