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Tragedy and hope in Ferguson, Missouri

Protests erupted in the town of Ferguson, Missouri after police shot an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown. The police, for some time, refused to release the officer's name, as tensions rose and militarized forces squared off with protesters in the town. After the release of the name and a de-escalated police presence, the people of Ferguson have celebrated a cautious victory.

  • Kwame Opam

    Mar 3, 2015

    Kwame Opam

    Ferguson police showed patterns of racial bias for years, says Justice Department

    Joe Raedle/Getty Images

    The Ferguson Police Department violated the constitutional rights of the city's black residents for years, says a Department of Justice report expected to be released tomorrow. Federal investigators found that, well before the shooting death of Michael Brown last year, police activity in Ferguson, Missouri, was fueled by racial discrimination against the predominantly black population, resulting in unjustified traffic stops, arrests without probable cause, and the use of excessive force.

    Investigators in Ferguson conducted hundreds of interviews and reviewed 35,000 pages of police data to determine definitively if racial bias was at the root of the tensions between officers and the black community. The findings show that, despite comprising only 67 percent of the total population, black people account for 93 percent of all arrests between 2012 and 2014. In addition, 85 percent of all people stopped for a traffic violation and 90 percent of people given citations were black.

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  • Dec 14, 2014

    Vlad Savov

    Samuel L. Jackson calls on the stars of the Ice Bucket Challenge to sing against 'racist police'

    Andrew Burton/Getty Images

    On the day when thousands of Americans took to the streets to protest police brutality, Hollywood actor Samuel L. Jackson urged his fellow celebrities to contribute their voices to the popular movement. Calling out all the high-profile figures who poured buckets of ice over their heads for the Ice Bucket Challenge, Jackson sings:

    "I can hear my neighbor crying 'I can't breathe,' now I'm in the struggle and I can't leave, calling out the violence of the racist police. We ain't gonna stop till people are free."

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  • Adi Robertson

    Dec 4, 2014

    Adi Robertson

    St. Louis County police teach parents how to stop police from killing their children

    Earlier today, the official St. Louis County police department linked to one of its precinct's Facebook updates, a PSA about Tamir Rice titled "Kids will be Kids?" The rest of the piece is just as bad as its awkwardly casual title: it's a guide to making sure the police don't shoot your children to death. "This article is not about this, a boy losing his life, whether this was a justified shooting or, whether the cops acted too fast," says the piece. "This is about the Fenton Precinct making residents aware of a hot topic and learning from this incident."

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  • T.C. Sottek

    Nov 26, 2014

    T.C. Sottek

    Here's how to watch what's happening in Ferguson and across the United States tonight

    Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

    Protests that began in Ferguson, Missouri are sweeping the United States tonight, after a grand jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for shooting Michael Brown on August 9th. People in cities spanning both coasts are marching in protest of Brown's death, shutting down highways, and being confronted by police. And many are providing live accounts of the events in their area. Everyone can watch now.

    There are lots of ways to witness what's happening around the country now beyond cable news. Here's what you should be paying attention to.

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  • T.C. Sottek

    Nov 25, 2014

    T.C. Sottek

    Michael Brown's family: 'ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera'

    Scott Olson/Getty Images

    Ferguson, Missouri has been the center of a broad conversation about racially biased policing, police militarization, and the US justice system since August 9th, when Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson. Tonight, a grand jury responsible for investigating the evidence in the case decided to spare Wilson from criminal charges.

    In response to the grand jury's decision, Michael Brown's family said "we are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions:" In their statement, the Brown family asks everyone to "join with us in our campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera."

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  • Russell Brandom

    Nov 3, 2014

    Russell Brandom

    Ferguson's no-fly zone was about keeping media in the dark

    When protests erupted this summer in Ferguson, MO, they came with a strange caveat: in the name of public safety, no one was allowed to operate drones or helicopers within city limits. That made it effectively impossible to film aerial footage as the protests unfolded. But a new report from the Associated Press suggests public safety had little to do with the ban: keeping aerial footage off the news was the whole point. Police officers in Ferguson were worried about aircrafts operated by the media, and what they might see if they flew over the town. An FAA manager in Kansas City told the AP that the police "did not care if you ran commercial traffic through this TFR [no-fly zone] all day long. They didn't want media in there."

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  • Amar Toor

    Sep 22, 2014

    Amar Toor

    Here's how St. Louis police can 'win the media' after another Ferguson

    Scott Olson

    When protests erupted over the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown last month, police in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson responded with heavy force and tone deaf comments. Now, the St. Louis police academy is apparently looking to correct course with a "highly entertaining" class on how officers can "win the media" after shooting civilians.

    As Gawker reports, the St. Louis County and Municipal Police Academy recently posted a flyer outlining a new course called "Officer-Involved Shooting — You Can Win The Media." The one-day program will be led by former Chicago TV anchor Rick Rosenthal and promises to be a fun time for all, with "numerous video clips" and "NO PowerPoint!" Using the Michael Brown tragedy as a case study, attendees will learn about "feeding the animals," "managing media assault and battery," and "managing media when things get ugly (think Ferguson)." They'll also realize that "no comment is a comment," the flyer promises, while making the acquaintance of a "900-pound gorilla."

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  • Amar Toor

    Sep 2, 2014

    Amar Toor

    Ferguson police trial body cameras following mass protests

    Police in Ferugson, Missouri have begun wearing on-body cameras, following the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown last month. Police Chief Tom Jackson tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that his department received about 50 body cameras last week from two companies, Safety Visions and Digital Ally. Some officers wore them to a protest on Saturday, though Jackson says the department is "still playing with them."

    Supporters of on-body cameras say they could provide authorities with a clear and unfiltered record of police interactions with civilians. Brown's death, at the hands of Ferguson officer Darren Wilson, and the department's heavy-handed response to protesters have stoked a national debate over police aggression and brutality. Other police departments in the St. Louis area have adopted wearable cameras following Brown's killing, with advocates pushing for legislation that would make the devices mandatory.

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  • Dante D'Orazio

    Aug 24, 2014

    Dante D'Orazio

    Following Ferguson protests, Obama orders review of programs that arm police with military gear

    President Barack Obama has officially ordered a review of federal programs that dole out surplus military equipment to local police forces. The news comes two weeks after racial unrest sparked in Ferguson, Missouri in response to the death of a local African-American teen, Michael Brown. Brown, who was unarmed, was fatally shot six times by a police officer. Obama suggested this past Monday that it would be "probably useful" to review the programs.

    In the following days, onlookers across the country and the world were struck at the sight of heavily-armed police officers facing off against swarms of protestors. To many, the police forces resembled a military group, and as the situation escalated so did cries for a rethink of programs that have sent thousands of armored vehicles and high-powered weapons to small police departments across the country.

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  • T.C. Sottek

    Aug 20, 2014

    T.C. Sottek

    A private military company is now providing security in Ferguson, for just one person

    Scott Olson

    A menagerie of armed state and federal agents have filtered in and out of Ferguson, Missouri for more than a week as unrest has grown there, and now even a private military company is joining the mix. Asymmetric Solutions, a PMC that claims to be "capable of deploying highly qualified former special operations personnel" to "anywhere on the globe in a moments notice" will be providing a security detail to an unnamed individual visiting Ferguson.

    Asymmetric Solutions announced the job on Twitter, noting that the assignment is saddening and unexpected.

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  • T.C. Sottek

    Aug 19, 2014

    T.C. Sottek

    Ferguson will 'explore' putting cameras on its cops

    Scott Olson

    A suburb of St. Louis is still in turmoil after the August 9th killing of Michael Brown, and more than a week of an aggressive police presence that has been blamed for escalating tension. The community, and many in the country, have demanded transparency — and they may get some in the future. In a statement obtained by The Wire, the city of Ferguson said it will seek funding for dash and vest cameras for its officers.

    As The Verge previously reported, there's been a call by some observers for cops to wear cameras in the wake of Brown's killing. The idea is that on-body camera systems could have either caught something like Brown's killing, alleviating the kind of uncertainty that has stoked unrest, or prevent such tragedies in the first place by forcing police to think about public accountability at all times.

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  • Carl Franzen

    Aug 18, 2014

    Carl Franzen

    Obama says it is 'probably useful' for US to review police militarization after Ferguson

    President Obama delivers a statement from the White House on Monday, August 18th
    President Obama delivers a statement from the White House on Monday, August 18th
    Win McNamee

    President Obama today gave his longest and most detailed statements about the weeklong clashes between protesters and heavily armed police in Ferguson, Missouri, saying he was open to the idea of reviewing the collection of federal programs that supply local police departments with surplus military gear. "I think it's probably useful for us to review how the funding has gone, how local law enforcement has used grant dollars, to make sure that what they're purchasing is stuff they actually need," a visibly tired Obama said at a White House press conference this afternoon, after cutting his vacation short to return to Washington, DC.

    The president also sought to defend the police response to some extent, saying, "It’s clear that the vast majority of people are peacefully protesting. What’s also clear is that a small minority of individuals are not," in reference to looting of several stores in Ferguson and reports that Molotov cocktails were thrown at police.

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  • Amar Toor

    Aug 18, 2014

    Amar Toor

    Missouri governor calls in National Guard to calm Ferguson unrest

    Missouri Governor Jay Nixon today signed an executive order deploying the National Guard to Ferguson, in the hopes of quelling unrest that erupted following the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Protestors clashed with police once again Sunday night, as authorities looked to enforce a midnight curfew that Nixon imposed over the weekend. As they did last week, the heavily-armed St. Louis County police lobbed tear gas against a group of protestors that assembled Sunday night, intimidating some reporters and threatening them with arrest. Police accused protestors of shooting, looting, and attacking officers with Molotov cocktails, though those claims have been called into question and many have criticized the police response as grossly disproportionate.

    In a statement released early Monday morning, Nixon said he is ordering the Missouri National Guard to the St. Louis suburb to restore "peace and order," condemning the "violent criminal acts of an organized and growing number of individuals." Nixon's full statement is below.

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  • T.C. Sottek

    Aug 18, 2014

    T.C. Sottek

    Police are still playing with fire in Ferguson

    Unrest continues tonight in Missouri as various police departments have descended on the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson over the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown eight days ago. Although Thursday night showed promising signs of peace after Governor Jay Nixon recalled St. Louis County Police from security detail, live-stream footage from Sunday night shows growing tension and clashes with police.

    This is the second night of a midnight curfew imposed by Nixon when declaring a state of emergency on Saturday, and police appear determined to enforce the curfew — well before it even takes effect. As they did earlier this week, police claim that protests had turned violent when using force to disperse demonstrators. St. Louis County Police reported on Twitter tonight that Molotov cocktails had been lobbed at officers, but we have seen no media reports that corroborate the police's claims. To the contrary, some reporters noted that the police appeared to fire tear gas canisters on protesters without provocation. An eight-year-old boy is reportedly among those hit by tear gas tonight.

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  • T.C. Sottek

    Aug 15, 2014

    T.C. Sottek

    Protests and partiers: photos from a night in Ferguson

    The Verge was on the ground in Ferguson, Missouri on Thursday, August 14th -- the first day since the shooting of Michael Brown that did not see a heavy-handed police presence. The night was filled with spectacle: an endless parade of cars, honking horns, chants and songs, and few authorities. Here's what we saw.

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  • Aug 15, 2014

    Matt Stroud and T.C. Sottek

    We spent the night in Ferguson

    Around 1:30 in the morning last night, in front of the shuttered Celebrity Restaurant and a quarter mile from where Michael Brown was killed by a Ferguson police officer on Saturday, shots rang out. It was dark — a three-quarter moon above, scant street light — and people began to disperse. They walked toward the main drag, West Florissant Ave. Surprisingly calm, some walked right, some walked left. Some ran into the street. A man wearing all black yelled, "Someone got shot, time to go home!" at least twice. And it seemed like they were going to.

    This was one night, however, when such a thing seemed like it wouldn’t happen so quickly. This was one night after two reporters made national headlines when police arrested them in a nearby McDonald’s for unstated reasons. This was one night after Al Jazeera was publicly gassed and had their cameras disassembled by police. And this was just five days after a 18-year-old Michael Brown had been shot by police, sparking a wave of ongoing protests. Tonight, hundreds of people — the numbers were unclear — had been out on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri since at least 4PM, protesting Brown’s death. But when someone was allegedly shot outside the Celebrity, there was a change in mood. A car sped off (witnesses said it was headed to the hospital; St. Louis County Police public information officer Brian Schellman was not available to confirm or deny the witness reports). And people did start to go home. An hour later, the streets were all but clear. Road barriers had been set up. The honking cars and chanting protesters of hours ago were all but gone.

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  • T.C. Sottek

    Aug 15, 2014

    T.C. Sottek

    I'm in Ferguson and the police are taking selfies with people

    By T.C. Sottek and Matt Stroud

    The people of Ferguson, Missouri are still out on the streets. They're loud, and they're upset, but tonight they're not being intimidated by warrior cops. They're not being tear gassed. They're not being shot at with rubber bullets. They're simply doing what Americans do in hard times.

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  • Matt Stroud

    Aug 14, 2014

    Matt Stroud

    After Ferguson, police should be wearing on-body cameras

    UPDATED August 18 with quotes from Taser rep.

    After conflicts between protestors and police in Ferguson, Mo. yesterday — particularly in the wake of militarized police officers arresting Washington Post and Huffington Post reporters working in a nearby McDonald's — some have suggested that on-body cameras should be more widely used among on-duty police. The theory is that by recording every situation and every conflict that an officer encounters, law enforcement and citizens have an unquestionable account of what really happened. It might also stop an officer from crossing the line.

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  • Carl Franzen

    Aug 14, 2014

    Carl Franzen

    Is this how a dystopia starts?

    Police watch as demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
    Police watch as demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
    Scott Olson/Getty Images

    A police officer shoots an unarmed minority teenager dead in the streets. Mostly peaceful protests ensue, triggering an increasingly and disproportionately heavily armed police presence. As the days go by, the police impose a ban on certain types of media at certain hours. They refuse to release the name of the officer who killed the kid. They tell the peaceful protesters to go home or face arrest. They roll up in giant armored vehicles, train high-powered rifles on the protesters and fire tear gas at them They harass journalists, body slam them, and then arrest and inexplicably release them. They openly call the scene a "war zone." They say what they are doing is in the name of public safety and security, but to most of the public on the ground and witnessing the events online, things have never seemed more out of control.

    You'd be forgiven for thinking the above scenes are from Tehran or Cairo or Tunisia or some other place Americans by and large view as dangerous, conflict-prone, and totalitarian. But if you've been following along on Twitter or other online media outlets, you'd know the sad and horrible truth that these are the events that have taken place over the past few days in early August, 2014, in the small, predominantly black St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri.

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  • T.C. Sottek

    Aug 14, 2014

    T.C. Sottek

    You have a right to record the police

    Update 11/21/14: It's been more than three months since Michael Brown was shot and killed by officer Darren Wilson, and tension with police still presents a troubling reality for the residents of Ferguson, Missouri. As officer Wilson is widely expected to dodge a grand jury indictment for the killing, the state has mobilized police in anticipation of unrest. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon even took the controversial step of declaring a state of emergency in advance of the decision. The government's heavy-handed approach to controlling lawful protest appears not to have changed since St. Louis County Police donned body armor and aimed assault weapons at peaceful residents — but the rights of people in Ferguson haven't changed, either. Here's our original story in response to the troubling actions of police in Missouri immediately following Brown's death: you have a right to record the police.

    Original Story:

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