Last night Ferguson, Mo., was the scene of tense protests for the fourth night in a row. The protests began following the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager who was fatally shot by police. Although this was not the first night protesters took to the streets, the story dominated social media after two journalists were detained.
Wesley Lowry of the “Washington Post” and Ryan Reilly of the “Huffington Post” were detained with no clear reason after being told to leave a McDonald’s. While packing up their gear, the police cuffed them and took them to the station. It was only after a phone call was made on their behalf to the Police Chief that they were released.
Soon, images and videos were pouring across social media as police began throwing tear gas and firing rubber bullets into the crowd. This was allegedly sparked by a protester throwing a bottle.
Police then began the use of flash bangs and LRAD, a sonic weapon designed to break up crowds using high pitched, painful noises. But protesters stood their ground, fleeing tear gas only to regroup. Protesters adopted the chant, “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” and “What do we want? Justice!”
Journalists appeared to be targets of some tear gas cannisters, including an Al Jazeera America crew forced to flee only to have their equipment taken down by officers when the gas cleared.
Antonio French, an Alderman, was tweeting Vines and images out of the protests until his arrest for unlawful assembly. Police had declared the assembly illegal shortly after dark, when they began calling for all cameras to be shut off and all satellite trucks to be removed form the area.
The death of Michael Brown was already the source of numerous questions regarding U.S. police brutality and racial inequality. But last night issues of freedom of the press and right to assemble, as well as the stark reality of police militarization, were brought to the foreground. The lack of mainstream media coverage also drove home the power of social media to spread news and connect people, as livestreams were shared and citizens in Gaza tweeted tips on dealing with tear gas to Ferguson residents.
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