On Saturday, August 9, 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, by a local police officer whose identity has not been released. Brown was walking with a friend, 22-year-old Dorian Johnson, on his way to his grandmother’s residence. Johnson says the two were walking in the street when a police car approached and the officer instructed them to “get the fuck onto the sidewalk.” They told the officer they were almost at their destination. Johnson says at that point, the officer slammed his brake, backed up and asked, “What’d you say?”, while opening his car door and attempting to get out. The door hit Brown and then closed. Johnson says the officer then grabbed Brown by the neck.
“They’re not wrestling so much as [the policeman’s] arm went from [Brown’s] throat to now clenched on his shirt,” Johnson continues. “It’s like tug of war. [The cop’s] trying to pull him in. [Brown’s] pulling away. That’s when I heard, ‘I’m gonna shoot you.’”
According to Johnson, the first shot followed not long after. He and Brown both started running. The officer fired a second shot, this one hitting Brown in the back. Johnson says Brown then turned around with his hands in the air and said, “I don’t have a gun, stop shooting!” The officer ignored Brown’s words and fired several more shots.
Parts of Johnson’s story are backed up by another eyewitness, Piaget Crenshaw, who said: “They shot him, and he fell. He put his arms up to let them know he was compliant, and that he was unarmed. And they shot him twice more, and he fell to the ground and died.”
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The St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board wrote, “Michael Brown didn’t get due process.” It’s worse than that. Michael Brown was robbed of his humanity. His future was stolen. His parents’ pride was crushed. His nation’s contempt for black youth has been exposed. A whole generation of young black people are once again confronted with the reality that they are not safe. Black America is left searching for justice.
Michael Brown’s shooting is the latest link in a long chain of injustice. Justice for Renisha McBride, the 19-year-old black woman shot in 2013 while seeking help after a car accident, would have looked like Michael being alive to attend college in two days. Justice for Trayvon Martin would have looked like Renisha getting the help she needed. Justice for Oscar Grant would have looked like Trayvon making it home to finish watching the NBA All-Star game, Skittles and iced tea in hand. Justice should be the affirmation of our existence.
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Mychal Denzel Smith