19 Aug 2014

Twitter and tear gas – why Ferguson won’t stop yet

The people need a win. That’s what the alderman, Antonio French, told me last night, as we huddled among the protesters, who were skittish and waiting for the tear gas to fly.

Interviewing Antonio is a weird experience, since he’s recording the scene on his phone and uploading to Vine even while you’re recording him for broadcast. But it’s not uncommon in the crowd to turn round at a moment when police are training their weapons on protesters, and see many of the protesters shooting right back with their mobile phones.

His use of social media to record and share events in Ferguson, since the black teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed 10 days ago, has inspired and informed the protests.

Antonio’s clear that social media is the reason the world now knows what’s happening in Ferguson, and why people are coming from all over to join the protests.

Demonstrators gesture with their hands up after protests in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown turned violent near Ferguson, Missouri

But while social media may be the vehicle and the reference point, police tactics have had their own part to play.  Overnight, we saw young men arrested for refusing to move, who were moving. We saw men stopped in cars, lights blasting them through their windscreens, pulled out dragged to their knees and cuffed at gunpoint.

And that’s without the tear gas, smoke bombs, and ear-splittingly loud sound cannon.

Both sides seem locked in a conflict which neither is winning. The police aren’t covering themselves in glory or endearing themselves to their community, nor are they making the protesters go away.

And the protesters aren’t getting the answers they want, or any sense of an investigation being handled expertly and speedily, to at least provide them the prospect of the answers they want.

The Attorney General Eric Holder is Ferguson bound tomorrow. Maybe he’ll have some answers. But in the meantime, sales of goggles and face masks are peaking all over St Louis.

The people need a win.

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One reader comment

  1. Alan says:

    People do not need a win as the editorial states. It’s time the police and it’s policy makers were held accountable for murder. The police behave as though they are in a war and can kill with impunity. The US is a deeply racist country, unfortunately the murder of another man is just an addition to the long history of genocide practised by US lawmakers. Reference ‘We charge genocide’ 1951, Robeson, Patterson.

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