Ryan Hendrickson, Staff Writer
On August 9 in Ferguson, Missouri, eighteen-year-old Michael Brown was walking down the street with a friend when a police officer pulled up next to them. The driver, Officer Darren Wilson, yelled out his window at the two boys to get off of the street and to use the sidewalk, however they did not comply since they were almost at their destination. Frustrated, the officer reached out of his window and grabbed Brown by his neck. A struggle ensued. Michael Brown tried to break away from the officer, and the officer fired off a shot. Brown ran away but was shot in the back as he tried to flee, he then turned around with his arms raised to surrender. The officer continued to shoot, killing the unarmed teenager. That is how the altercation unfolded according Dorian Johnson, the man who was walking with Brown.
The officer’s story is very different. According to Officer Wilson, when he drove up to the boys, Brown resisted and tried to reach for his gun, leaving Wilson no choice but to open fire. Regardless of what happened that day, the eyes of the country, and the world, have been set on the events surrounding Brown’s death. For the town of Ferguson, Brown’s death proved to be the breaking point.
After years of alleged abuses by the police, residents took to the streets. Every day for several weeks, Ferguson witnessed peaceful demonstrations during the day, demanding justice for Brown’s death, while by night the protests turned violent. Rioting and looting were common, and the police responded with tear gas and heavy-handed tactics including the arrests and detainment of journalists.
For the country as a whole, Brown’s death has forced several controversial issues into the spotlight., one being the militarization of police. Their use of military-style vehicles, uniforms and weaponry has led many to criticize the apparent reality that the police are no longer protecting the people, but are instead treating the people as potential enemies. Another re-emerging issue is the growing divide between the black and white populations of the country. According to the Pew Research Center, seventy-two percent of white interviewees believe that police treat blacks and whites equally, while only thirty-eight percent of black interviewees agree.
All of these issues, due to the death of Brown, are now at the forefront of a national debate. Whether it is the actions and role of the police, or the still present racism and discriminatory practices of the country as a whole, it is now up to the people of the United States to correct the flawed systems that led to Brown’s death. Despite the relevance of these issues, and regardless of a person’s political affiliation, it is important to keep in mind that an eighteen-year-old boy was stopped, and eventually killed for walking down the street. Whether he resisted arrest or was a blameless victim, the fact remains that many aspects of American society need improvement if similar tragedies are to be avoided in the future.