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Justice denied

Ferguson, N.Y. cases expose injustices, spark change

Free Press wire reports | 12/5/2014, 6 a.m.
A national movement is underway to address police brutality against African-American men and the criminalization of communities of color.
Protesters of the shooting death of Michael Brown Jr. take the “hands up, don’t shoot” stance in Ferguson, Mo. as police point their weapons at them. Photo by Reuters

Groups galvanized by the Ferguson case also urged supporters to refrain from shopping on “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving and a kickoff to the U.S. holiday shopping season.

Analysts later reported an overall 11 percent decline in nationwide Black Friday retail sales, though most cited other reasons than protests over the Brown case.

There was some impact. Protesters in New York City blocked the main entrance to the Herald Square Macy’s store on Black Friday and then marched into the store and confronted holiday shoppers.

“Hands up, don’t shoot,” they shouted in unison while holding signs with slogans such as, “No justice, no peace.”

The crowd then marched up Broadway, blocking traffic as they clogged one of Manhattan’s main arteries. They paused for less than an hour in Times Square, where they continued holding up traffic as police declined to intervene.

Meanwhile, President Obama continued his push for an effective national response. He requested $263 million from Congress for law enforcement agencies to purchase 50,000 body cameras for officers and for improved training.

He also asked aides to prepare an executive order that would better track the military-grade weapons and gear flowing from the federal government to local police departments around the nation.

He said African-Americans do not feel they are treated fairly by the police. He said that creates a “simmering distrust” between law enforcement and African-Americans.

At the same time, calls are intensifying for federal action against Mr. Wilson, who resigned last Saturday from the Ferguson Police Department, citing safety concerns for himself and his former fellow officers.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder quickly announced after the grand jury decision Nov. 24 that the Justice Department’s investigation into the shooting remains “ongoing,” “thorough,” and “independent.”

His comments seemed to indicate the federal government might charge Mr. Wilson for criminally violating the teen’s civil rights, or could be preparing a civil case against the Ferguson department for a “pattern and practice” of discrimination.

Mr. Wilson quit without receiving any severance pay, according to Ferguson Mayor James Knowles. Mr. Wilson, 28, had been on paid administrative leave since he killed the teen in August.

The grand jury decision sparked often-violent protests and the looting and burning of some businesses in Ferguson and other nearby St. Louis suburbs, even though the governor had National Guard troops assisting police.

The church that the teen’s father, Michael Brown Sr., attended also was firebombed, with most ascribing the action to supporters of Mr. Wilson.

On Sunday morning, the Rev. Al Sharpton delivered a 50-minute address — part protest message, part sermon — to a congregation of several hundred at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis. Michael Brown Jr.’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, and his father sat in the front row with several other family members.

“We lost the round, but the fight ain’t over,” Rev. Sharpton said. “You won the first round, Mr. Prosecutor, but don’t cut your gloves off, because the fight is not over. Justice will come to Ferguson!”

That same sentiment was echoed in Richmond by the leader of the 200-member Baptist Ministers’ Conference of Richmond and Vicinity, which represents predominately black congregations.