It’s been two weeks since Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African-American, was shot at least six times by police officers after being pulled over for jaywalking. According to eyewitnesses, he had his hands raised over his head and told the police, “Hands up, don’t shoot!” Precise details of the incident have been doled out sparingly and disputed widely, but two broader truths are undeniable. The killing marked a boiling point for the city’s African-American community, who took to the streets to protest what they say have been decades of injustice. Secondly, the police response – involving tear gas and firing rubber bullets into crowds – has been highly militarized in ways that have made every side of the political spectrum question the tactics. Journalists have been targeted. Clergy have called for calm. For the first time in history, Amnesty International has sent representatives to a U.S. city, calling the situation in Ferguson “a human rights crisis.” National Guard troops pulled out of the area on Friday as tensions subsided; it marked the first de-escalation of police presence since the shooting.
Tear gas has been used extensively against demonstrators in Ferguson (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)