For the past few weeks, the spot where Michael Brown was shot and killed by Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson has had a steady stream of visitors and mourners, many of whom leave mementos such as flowers, stuffed animals and signs. Just blocks from West Florissant Avenue, which became known for large protests and clashes with police, this memorial site has been an area of calm and remembrance.
But even this area, after the shooting, was fraught with the tensions that have come to the forefront between the overwhelmingly white police force in the area and the city's African-American majority.
The Aug. 9 shooting of Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, has brought national attention to the racial tensions in this St. Louis suburb, including the fact that black residents in Ferguson are disproportionately targeted in traffic stops.
This tension was on display at the memorial site on Aug. 9 after Brown's shooting. According to Mother Jones:
Soon, police vehicles reappeared, including from the St. Louis County Police Department, which had taken control of the investigation. Several officers emerged with dogs. What happened next, according to several sources, was emblematic of what has inflamed the city of Ferguson, Missouri, ever since the unarmed 18-year-old was gunned down: An officer on the street let the dog he was controlling urinate on the memorial site.
The incident was related to me separately by three state and local officials who worked with the community in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. One confirmed that he interviewed an eyewitness, a young woman, and pressed her on what exactly she saw. "She said that the officer just let the dog pee on it," that official told me. "She was very distraught about it." The identity of the officer who handled the dog and the agency he was with remain unclear.
Missouri state Rep. Sharon Pace (D) also told Mother Jones that police initially blocked all traffic from entering the street where Brown was shot, but their vehicles were still allowed. According to Pace, police drove over the rose petals that had been scattered at the site, leading some residents to try to block the police vehicles from driving in.
The nightly protests along West Florissant Avenue are no longer attracting the crowds they did initially, and many community members are now trying to translate the awareness and attention in Ferguson to larger reforms.
"This is bigger than Mike Brown," De Andrea Nichols, 26, a social entrepreneur in St. Louis, told The Huffington Post at the protests last week. "This is an issue that has been occurring regularly in our nation, and it took this death to make everyone go over the tipping point. In the future, we shouldn't have to wait for something to happen to have our measures, our strategies, our tactics in place to prevent it."
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