Citizen reporter
3 minute read
12 Aug 2015
1:37 pm

TALKING POINT: Is the unrest in Ferguson racially fuelled?

Citizen reporter

The racial flashpoint city of Ferguson awoke under a state of emergency on Tuesday after a second night of clashes between police and protesters, a year after the shooting death of an unarmed black teen.

FILE PICTURE: A protestor retreats after being treated for tear gas as demonstrators protest the death of 18-year-old unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, who was shot to death by a white police officer, in Ferguson on November 24, 2014. Protesters set buildings ablaze and looted stores in the US town of Ferguson on November 24 after a grand jury chose not to press charges against a white officer who shot dead a black teen. Picture: AFP

In unrest that erupted Monday evening and stretched into the early hours of Tuesday, angry demonstrators beat drums and chanted as they threw stones and bottles. Police used pepper spray as they arrested numerous demonstrators.

On-going racially-charged protests and unrest plagued Ferguson, Missouri, following the fatal shooting of teenager Micheal Brown by a policeman in August 2014. The unrest escalated for a few weeks, after a grand jury decided not to charge the policeman, Darren Wilson, for the shooting.

Outrage over the killings of Brown and other unarmed African Americans has been channelled into a sustained nationwide movement, with the social media hashtag #BlackLivesMatter becoming its rallying cry.

Here are 6 incidents where lives were lost:

1. Andries Tatane

33-year-old community activist Andries Tatane was shot and killed by police officers during a service delivery protest at the Setsoto municipal offices in Ficksburg, Free State, in 2011. Tatane was allegedly beaten with batons and shot twice in the chest with rubber bullets after he tried to block a water cannon that was being used to disperse protestors.

His death shocked the nation when footage of the incident was broadcast by news channels including eNCA. In March last year, the Ficksburg Regional Court acquitted all seven police officers accused of Tatane’s death.

According to the magistrate, the state could not prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.

2. Amadou Diallo

In 1999, a 23-year-old immigrant from Guinea, Amadou Diallo, was shot and killed by four police officers outside his residence in New York. The officers fired a total of 41 shots, 19 of which hit Diallo. The four policemen were charged with second-degree murder and reckless endangerment but were later found not-guilty and acquitted of all charges.

Diallo’s parents filed a $61 million lawsuit against the City of New York in 2000, but settled for a $3 million payout four years later.

3. Trayvon Martin

2012 saw the shooting of 17-year-old American high-school pupil, Trayvon Martin. Martin was fatally shot by George Zimmerman, who was part of the neighbourhood watch in the gated community they both lived in. Zimmerman allegedly fired in self-defence, after a scuffle between the two.

Zimmerman was charged with second-degree manslaughter and after a five-week trial, found not guilty by a jury.

4. Sean Bell

In November 2006, Sean Bell was gunned down by undercover and ununiformed New York police officers a day before his wedding was to take place. The officers reportedly fired 51 shots, killing Bell and severely injuring two of his friends. One of the officers said he thought he saw Bell reaching for a gun.

Three of the five officers allegedly involved in the incident stood trail and faced charges of manslaughter, assault and reckless endangerment. They were found not guilty.

5. Oscar Grant

On New Year’s Day 2009, 22-year-old Oakland, California resident Oscar Grant was fatally wounded in a crowded train station by a Bay Area Rapid Transit Police officer who reportedly mistook his firearm for a Taser.

The shooting, which was captured on cellphone camera, led to protests in the Oakland area.

The officer, Johannes Mehserle, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and went on to serve less than eight months in prison. He later appealed his conviction but was denied by the California Supreme Court.

The case later became the source material for the critically acclaimed 2014 film, Fruitvale Station.

6. Sandra Bland

Bland was on her way to her new job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University, near Houston, when she was pulled over on July 10 at 4.30pm for changing lanes without signalling. She was found dead in her cell at 9am on July 13, according to the Waller County Sheriff’s Office.


TALKING POINT > What should be done in Ferguson to calm the people? Did Ferguson raise awareness around the world to #BlackLivesMatter?