In a rare, but anticipated move, a grand jury in St. Louis County, Missouri has decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown. After the decision was announced last night, some protesters in Ferguson responded peacefully — in silent vigil for the deceased — while others responded with anger and frustration. They were joined in solidarity by marchers and demonstrators in downtowns across the country.
Many were demanding that police be held more accountable for their actions, given the number of black lives cut short by police since Brown’s death. The decision was announced less than a week after an unarmed man, Akai Gurley, was accidentally shot to death by a NYC police officer and a 12-year-old with a toy gun, Tamir Rice, was shot and killed by a police officer in Cleveland. A common message on signs held by protesters last night was “Black Lives Matter.”
Around the same time that demonstrators were gathering in cities across the country, the U.S. Conference of Mayors President and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson issued a statement on behalf of the nation’s mayors.
“Once again, our hearts go out to the family of Michael Brown who tragically lost his life much too soon, as well as to the entire Ferguson community, which has endured the consequences of this event and its aftermath,” Johnson said in the statement released Monday night. “The nation’s mayors strongly believe that there should have been open-court proceedings in the case of the officer-involved shooting of Michael Brown so that the evidence could have been presented in a public forum, and a verdict could have been rendered by a jury.”
“As leaders of cities across the country, we are committed to working with our communities to ensure that this tragedy is never repeated,” he continued, urging demonstrators to make their discontent known without violence.
In Oakland, demonstrators blocked lanes of Interstate 580 in both directions and participated in a “die-in” at 14th and Broadway.
In New York, marchers gathered in Times Square, Union Square, and the Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Triborough Bridges. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton was sprayed with fake blood at the Times Sqare protest site.
Marchers congregated at the White House in Washington D.C. There were no reports of violence.
Seattle protesters blocked I-5 and held a “die-in.”
The shock of the decision lingers today. Especially as more and more disturbing evidence from the case has been released. In response, even more protests, demonstrations, and vigils are being planned in American cities large and small this afternoon and evening.
The Equity Factor is made possible with the support of the Surdna Foundation.
Alexis Stephens was Next City’s 2014-2015 equitable cities fellow. She’s written about housing, pop culture, global music subcultures, and more for publications like Shelterforce, Rolling Stone, SPIN, and MTV Iggy. She has a B.A. in urban studies from Barnard College and an M.S. in historic preservation from the University of Pennsylvania.