Editors Note: On the two-year anniversary of his death, MERRY JANE takes a look at how the Black Lives Matter movement has progressed after Michael Brown was killed by police.
Two years ago today, in a suburban town outside of St. Louis, Missouri, an unfortunate and saddening incident sparked the beginning of major movement.
Back in 2014, an 18-year-old black teenager by the name of Michael Brown was fatally shot by local police officer Darren Wilson after reportedly stealing several packages of cigarillos, a crime certainly not punishable by a cold blooded death.
Almost immediately after news of the incident had infiltrated the media, protesters both in Ferguson and around the world hit the streets seeking justice for Brown.
Unfortunately, these calls for justice from the African-American community went unanswered, as Wilson was acquitted of the charges by the grand jury that following November.
Still, the Department of Justice found an extremely strong racial bias in the policing of Ferguson, showing that officers would target minorities in an attempt to generate revenue. This decision and undisclosed information led to even larger protesting, and eventually turned into a riot of sorts, leaving the town of Ferguson angry and in disarray.
This is also when the chants “Hands up, don’t shoot” and “No justice, no peace” rose in popularity. The gesture of raised hands has since become a symbol of outrage over mistreatment of unarmed black youth by police, the gesture symbolizing the Black Lives Matter movement.
Pioneered by Brown’s distraught family, the killing of Brown helped spark this much-needed movement, giving underserved African-American communities a platform to express their dismay at the racial inequality that has run rampant through both Ferguson and the overall criminal justice system for much too long.
But, although the relationship between the African-American community and police force hadn’t quite mended, this disenfranchised community finally had a notable platform to speak out against racial injustice and inequality.
Fast-forward a couple of years later, and now, Black Lives Matter protests are taking place around the world, with advocates even taking to the streets during the recent Democratic National Convention to voice their concerns. “If Mike wasn’t killed and people weren’t directly impacted, if we didn’t leave our homes, I don’t know where or what movement I would (have been in) two years ago,” said Johnetta Elzie, a prominent leader of Black Lives Matter and a protester at Ferguson.
After about three straight months of protesting, the movement that began in Ferguson started to catch on around the world, but that didn’t necessarily improve the way that the black community was treated by police and the criminal justice system.
After the fatal incident between Brown and Wilson, a number of other questionable deaths at the hands of police sparked even more protesting and calls for justice, most notably with killings of Eric Garner in New York, Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Alton Sterling in Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Minnesota. A majority of these cases left the various officers responsible for the killings unpunished, which only served to cause more unrest among the Black Lives Matter movement.
Even a number of celebrities have used their fame to voice their support of the movement, from our very own Snoop Dogg and The Game working with the LAPD and different local gangs to the heart-aching speech made by Jesse Williams at the BET Awards a few months back.
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Although the killing of Michael Brown hasn’t resulted in much justice over the last two years, it has at least helped to bring the prominent Black Lives Matter movement to life, and has also raised awareness of the struggles many members of the black community must go through on a daily basis.
Now, two years later in Ferguson, the community is still recuperating from the fatal incident, but with much more optimism than before.
This past weekend, Ferguson hosted a “Weekend to Remember”, a three-day memorial for Brown and others who have been killed at the hands of the police. The event featured art exhibits, community gatherings, and a “Justice Walk”, while tonight, on the two-year anniversary of his death, a vigil will be held at the site where Brown was killed.
“What we’re trying to do is just keep it in a positive atmosphere,” said Michael Brown, Sr when speaking on the memorial for his son.
“Some people do have their own agenda. We’re not part of their agenda, we have our own — to just have a nice peaceful weekend, for the families and for the other people around the world who are coming to fellowship or just hang out with our family.”