Last night, a wave of protests broke out across the country in reaction to a grand jury’s decision in Ferguson, Missouri to not indict police officer Darren Wilson after he fatally shot teengaer Michael Brown. Ongoing protests peaked in Ferguson as violence broke out and flames engulfed over a dozen stores. Many protesters remained peaceful; others threw rocks and bottles at police. No one has died as a result of the protests, and predominantly peaceful protests occurred in front of the White House, at New York’s Union Square, and in cities such as Oakland and Seattle. Three people were arrested last night in Los Angeles during a protest. Today, over a hundred vigils throughout the nation are planned as a symbolic gesture towards Michael Brown and his family.
The question thus becomes, “what happens next?” From a legal perspective, there is not much that can be done on the local level where Officer Darren Wilson has been exonerated. Yet last night, Attorney General Eric Holder issued a statement about the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation into the matter, stating, “The federal inquiry has been independent of the local one from the start, and remains so now.” It is unclear what actions the Justice Department will take and whether or not they will charge the officer, the Ferguson Police Department, and/or any other entities with civil or criminal charges. Regardless of potential legal recourse in this case, however, leaders of the African American and other communities have called for broader structural reforms to the justice system, citing systematic discrimination throughout the justice system.
How should protesters and leaders throughout the country react to the grand jury’s decision?
Is Officer Darren Wilson’s exoneration emblematic of the justice in the legal system, or is it symbolic of a structural unfairness?
Steve Giegerich, reporter at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch who’s been following the case . Follow his coverage at @stevegiegerich
Reverend Willis Johnson, pastor, Wellspring Church in Ferguson, Mo
John Burris, civil rights attorney based in Oakland. He was one of the attorneys who represented Rodney King
Laurie Levenson, Professor of Law at Loyola Law School; former federal prosecutor
Joe Hicks, vice president, Community Advocates, Inc., a civil rights and human rights organization in Los Angeles
Jody Armour, Roy P. Crocker Professor of Law, USC Gould School of Law
Erika Aguilar, KPCC crime reporter, she was on the scene at the protests on 110 freeway Monday night
Robert Cristo, youth organizer with the Youth Justice Coalition, he was one of the peaceful protesters marching in Los Angeles on Monday night