As the nation keeps a watchful eye on protests in Ferguson, Missouri more questions arise. The shooting of an unarmed, black, 18-year-old by a white police officer has led to racial tensions within a predominantly black community.
In 2010, the black population reached 67 percent with 29 percent white, according to federal reports. Despite a higher black population, why are city officials overwhelmingly white? Police have announced the information released by Anonymous hackers Thursday morning identifying the officer who shot and killed Michael Brown as incorrect. Should this information be made public? When is a good time to release this information? Where is the line between freedom of the press and an officer’s safety?
Read highlights from the interview below.
Toluse Olorunnipa, Bloomberg reporter, on the overall mood in Ferguson following the previous day’s police activity:
"There are currently some protests right outside the Ferguson police department. Things have been mostly peaceful and calm, but there is an edge in the air, especially after last night. There were about 50 protestors around 2 a.m, mostly just singing and chanting. Then out of nowhere, three armored vehicles with about 60 police in military gear came out and told everyone to disperse. And that was a scene that left a lot of people with a bad taste in their mouths. A lot of those people out this morning. More came out this afternoon than were here yesterday, protesting what happened over the weekend to Michael Brown but also what happened with the police response to the protests."
Olorunnipa on the town’s response to activism by the group Anonymous:
"There’s been activism online from countries and cities far away from here, looking to hack into the systems of the city and county. They’ve been releasing names. … It’s not clear if the names they’ve released are correct, but that’s something that people here are talking about. It’s a very small community, so the police are known to the community members. There are some names that have been thrown out there. But right now it’s just speculation."
Olorunnipa on the police department’s stance on Michael Brown’s death:
"Police have said that there was a struggle within the police car during a stop in Michael Brown’s neighborhood. After the struggle, a shot went off inside the car, and the event proceeded outside the car, where Michael Brown was shot about 35 feet away. And yesterday we got some information saying that the officer’s face was swollen after the event — there was an altercation and the police officer was injured."
Olorunnipa on the contrasting take of these events by witnesses to the shooting:
"What we’re hearing from other witnesses is a completely different story. They believe that Michael Brown was running away, that he had his hands up after one shot was fired, that he was surrendering and that police continued to shoot him and killed him. We’ve seen much of that in the protests here, where people are raising their hands even in the face of militarized police. A lot of people are raising their hands, saying 'Don’t shoot me.' It’s kind of an act of civil disobedience that was been taken up as part of the protests."
Author and professor Terry Jones n the history of Ferguson and St. Louis in regards to changing racial demographics:
"St. Louis has been a segregated city residentially, first on the roots of slavery and going into the twentieth century with zoning and restrictive covenants. When some of those restrictions ended after World War II … African-Americans went from being a minority in north St. Louis County to a majority. In Ferguson and indeed St. Louis County, there tends to be a lat between the population’s racial profile and that of the civic leadership. Ferguson is roughly two-thirds African-American, but a large proportion is under 18 and therefore does not vote or they’re younger and less likely to participate in local elections. And so if you look at the electorate, you’ll find a majority of voters is still Caucasian."
Jones on why this situation is not unique to Ferguson:
"This type of coincident would have happened anywhere in St. Louis with this kind of reaction. This story is not so much about Ferguson as it is about the St. Louis metropolitan area, where racial injustice is still dramatic, where significant disparities exist between Caucasians and African-Americans, where nearly everybody is either Caucasian or African American, and incident like this can be a flashpoint and is a flashpoint for us."
Author and professor Cathy Lisa Schneider on this wisdom of bringing in a new agency to police Ferguson:
"As long as the department that comes in doesn’t treat the community as an enemy population and doesn’t act like an occupying army, having a police force that especially has experience with communities might be a better way of dealing with unrest than with a poise force that has a history of animosity."
Toluse Olorunnipa, Bloomberg reporter who has been reporting from Ferguson, MO.
Terry Jones, professor of political science and public policy administration at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He is the author of numerous books, including “Fragmented by Design: Why St. Louis Has So Many Governments” (Palmerston & Reed, 2000).
Cathy Lisa Schneider, Associate Professor in the School of International Service at American University where she teaches about social movements, collective violence, policing, criminal justice and immigration. She is also the author of the book, Police Power and Race Riots: Urban Unrest in Paris and New York (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014), which came out last month.
Frank Stoltze, Crime and Politics reporter at KPCC.