It has been two weeks since Ferguson, Mo., 18 year old Michael Brown was gunned down on the street after a police officer stopped him and a friend for walking in the middle of the street, and those two weeks have been full of tears, protests, anger and disbelief from both the residents of the city and a watching public. Since the unarmed African American teen was killed by officer Darren Wilson, a white policeman, violence has escalated in the streets at times, often relating to key disclosures about the investigation or calming again depending on which police force is out patrolling the area at night.
As the situation continues to change day after day in Missouri, including autopsy report releases, the arrival of the attorney general in the city or the new allegations that Officer Wilson was beaten by Brown prior to the fatal shooting (allegations many find hard to swallow), much of the focus has been on protests, media suppression and danger on the streets at night. Lost in all of that are a few key stories you may not be aware of:
1) Local schools delayed their year, and that is hurting students. The Ferguson public school system hasn’t been able to hold classes yet due to the chaos in the town. Schools were supposed to begin Thursday, August 14, but were canceled because of the growing protests in the streets at night. Now, over a week later, schools still aren’t in session.
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This is a huge problem not just because of the fact that children are losing their opportunity for education, but the bigger effects it is having on families in poverty, which is about one in every four families in the area. Not being able to go to school also means missing out on federally subsidized school lunches and breakfasts, which were supposed to begin with the new school year. Instead, those children may be going hungry. Luckily, food banks are stepping in to try and feed those students and their families, and have raised about $135,000 to do that.
2) Ferguson residents are the ones cleaning their streets of protester and police debris each morning. One reason students haven’t been able to start school? Nightly protests, often ending in gas canisters, rubber bullets, broken glass and other debris littering the area by the time the sun comes up. But that debris is being cleaned up every morning, and by the same local team. “On Tuesday morning, volunteers lined the sidewalks, trash bags in hand picking up the mess left behind the night before,” reports Think Progress. “They headed toward Ferguson Avenue where just twelve hours earlier the intersection was being broadcasted like a war…[C]ome morning, the same volunteers can be seen walking up and down West Florissant cleaning their streets of the violence which plagued them the night before. If night is the time when Ferguson looks like a town divided, then the day is its opposite, when the people of Ferguson come together.”
3) Meanwhile, non-locals may be responsible for some of the strife. While night after night there is a battle over curfew, the right to assemble, and an ongoing mistrust of the police, not all of that mistrust or anger is homegrown. About 25 percent of those who are being arrested are from outside the St. Louis area, according to reports, and they may be trying to escalate the standoff. Many are pointing fingers at members of the Revolutionary Communist Party, calling them outside agitators. Still, a vast majority of those arrested in the streets are local, angry and not willing to stand down.
4) This may be going on for a long, LONG time. So when will the nightly protests, the school closures, and the rest of the unrest end so life in Ferguson can get back to normal? Unfortunately, that could still be a long way down the road. There is no sign of any move to potentially charge Wilson for murder, manslaughter or any other crime, and at this point that’s the main sticking point for those who claim that justice isn’t being done in the Brown case.
Pressing charges against Wilson can never happen until an investigation is complete, which appears to be a long and arduous affair as the local police are doing it. The St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney, Robert McCulloch, has said he doesn’t expect to be done presenting evidence to a grand jury until at least mid October, leaving the city with no sort of resolution possible prior to that.
The question is, can Ferguson handle two more months with no answers?