By Lyndsey Kelly Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
WASHINGTON D.C., United States of America – On the fourth night proceeding the fatal shooting of a Missouri teenager, Michael Brown, what community members considered mostly peaceful protests were met with extreme police violence. The protests began after Brown was shot and killed by a local police officer.
The police violence came in the form of tear gas, rubber bullets, heavily armed SWAT teams and mine-resistant vehicles. Reports indicate that the police force zeroed in on a mostly peaceful protest in Ferguson, Missouri, where protesters were seen symbolically holding their hands in the air, the same gesture Brown was believed to be doing when he was shot by an unidentified officer. In an effort to disperse the crowd of protestors, a group of at least 70 armed SWAT officers fired smoke bombs so regularly that it made it difficult to breath.
The racially charged protests in Ferguson, which have resulted in a military-style police crackdown, resulted in the arrests of numerous demonstrators and at least two journalists. A news crew from the TV network Al Jazeera America reported that tear gas and rubber bullets were fired in the proximity of the crew, and later released a statement expressing the incident’s impact on constitutional rights, “Al Jazeera is stunned by this egregious assault on freedom of the press that was clearly intended to have a chilling effect on our ability to cover this important story.”
President Barack Obama made his first statement regarding the protests on Thursday, 14 August, condemning the violent tactics used on both sides of the ongoing protests. Obama acknowledged the constitutional issues with the police crackdown, stating, “There’s…no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests or to throw protestors in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights,” he continued by stating, ”Here in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs and report to the American people on what they see….” The President also acknowledged that those demonstrators whom engaged in violence against the police, specifically those who were said to have thrown rocks and Molotov cocktails, and used this time of unrest as an excuse for violence, vandalism, and looting were equally as wrong as the police.
Obama concluded by calling for a calm in Ferguson, Missouri, saying that now is not the time for unrest, instead it is time for an, “open and transparent process to make sure that justice is done.”