On Monday, the Ferguson grand jury chose not to indict police officer Darren Wilson on any of the five possible charges in the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. This news led to a wave of protests throughout the U.S., as well as celebrity responses, and calls to action from civil rights groups like the ACLU.
At the core of many of these calls to action is the belief that Darren Wilson got away with the murder because Michael Brown was a black teenager, and Wilson himself was a white police officer. A banner in New York’s Union Square protest read, “black lives matter,” and a tweet reading, “The fundamental danger of a non-indictment is not more riots, it is more Darren Wilsons,” was re-tweeted almost 16,000 times.
Wanting to express sadness, frustration, and even anger about the verdict is totally normal, and it can be the most empowering thing a person can do in this situation. But if you decide you’re going to get involved at home or go out on the street and protest, it's important to arm yourself with information and resources to keep yourself safe while making the biggest impact possible.
Make A Plan If You’re Going To Protest
Organizers all over the country are putting together peaceful protests. Chances are there's one in your neck of the woods.
If you decide to attend a peaceful protest, it's important you link up with friends. Protests can sometimes get hectic, and relying on the buddy system is never a bad idea.
Rules of the buddy-system include:
While the protests should be peaceful, you’re going to want to know your legal rights should you have an encounter with a police officer.
Inform And Arm Yourself With The Facts
The Michael Brown case has brought up a lot for everyone in this country, and people are going to want to talk about it. As Obama pointed out in his statement about the ruling, “It’s an outcome that either way was going to be subject to intense disagreement not only in Ferguson, but across America.”
If you find yourself disagreeing with people on your Facebook feed, or even your uncle at the Thanksgiving table, the best way to prove your point is by knowing the facts.
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
There are many ways to make an impact and express yourself regarding the Ferguson verdict, and one of the easiest yet most impactful ways is financial.
As many businesses and schools closed their doors, the Ferguson Library stayed open as a safe haven for children and families while the community waited to hear the decision.
They are accepting donations HERE.
In response to the disparate evidence in the case, Michael Brown’s family has called for all police officers to wear body cameras in the hopes of making them more accountable. The American Civil Liberties Union has also called on the Department of Justice to ban racial profiling.
You can sign the petition on racial profiling HERE.
And donate to the ACLU HERE.
After almost five months of unrest, the community of Ferguson needs our support.
You can donate to several Ferguson-area classroom projects HERE.
Don’t Let This Happen Again
In his statement on the grand jury decision, President Obama also pointed out that, “We need to recognize that the situation in Ferguson speaks to broader challenges that we still face as a nation.”
What he's referring to is that this outcome and the response to it is not an isolated incident. It has roots in the Civil Rights movement, and has culminated in much of the racial profiling you personally experience or hear about today.
The one thing you can do right now (and it’s totally free), is to think critically about your own life experience, and utilize the privileges you may have to improve the lives of others.
Show up when you’re asked to -- whether it’s to vote, to participate in jury duty, or to volunteer in your community. When we stay silent, other people make decisions that impact our lives and the lives of people we care about.
Ask yourself some hard questions -- we all have implicit or hidden biases which inform the ways we treat and respond to other people. MTV's anti-bias campaign, LookDifferent, has a quiz you can take to learn about your own implicit biases. If you want to take it one step further, they also have 7-day racial bias cleanse that can help you begin to de-bias yourself.
To learn more about what is going on in Ferguson and the Michael Brown verdict, check out: