Turmoil in Ferguson after Grand Jury decision

On Monday, Nov. 24, a grand jury of 12, consisting of 9 white jurors and 3 African-American jurors, reached the decision not to indict Ferguson, Mo. police officer Darren Wilson for the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

After the announcement, the Brown family released a statement through their lawyer expressing their disappointment with the decision. They urged protesters to remain peaceful, attempting to steer potentially violent anger to more constructive causes, such as their campaign to require police officers to wear body cameras at all times. 

The simmering tension and violence, so prevalent in the immediate aftermath of Brown’s death, boiled over, leading to additional incidents. However, a large number of peaceful #HandsUpDontShoot protests have swept the country, especially on college campuses. On Wednesday, Dec. 3, Wheaton joined the movement, as the Roosevelt Institute hosted a peaceful #HandsUpWalkOut protest to support the movement against police brutality.

In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that aired the day after the decision, Wilson maintained that he followed his protocol and training. “It’s always going to be something that happened.” said Wilson. “The reason I have a clean conscience is that I know I did my job right.” Wilson was also convinced that if Brown had been white, the result of the confrontation would have remained the same. In the recently-released transcript of Wilson’s testimony to the Grand Jury, Wilson stated that the incident with Michael Brown was the first time he had fired his gun on duty during his six years on the Ferguson police force. 

During an address in Atlanta on Monday, Dec. 1 by Attorney General Eric Holder, a number of protesters interrupted with chants of “no justice, no peace”. After the demonstrators had been cleared, Holder commented, “There will be a tendency on the part of some to condemn what we just saw, but we should not. What we saw there was a genuine expression of concern and involvement. And it is through that level of involvement, that level of concern and I hope a level of perserverance and committment, that change will ultimately come.”

Directly addressing the demonstrators, Holder continued, “Let me be clear, I ain’t mad at you, all right?” 

Due to a number of significant threats, a number of which have lead to separate arrests,  Wilson resigned five days after the decision. As Ferguson Mayor James Knowles announced the resignation, he added the fact that Wilson will not be granted severance pay.

Legally, the situation is far from concluded. The family still has the option to pursue a civil wrongful death lawsuit, which could find Wilson liable for damages in the death of Michael Brown. A civil case carries a significantly lower burden of proof than that of a criminal case; the grand jury had to be convinced “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Wilson was guilty, whereas in a civil trial, there must be a “preponderance of evidence” for Wilson to be found guilty.

The family could also pursue a suit against the Ferguson Police Department, the entity responsible for Wilson’s employment and supervision.