Petra Schlømer
Writer and Editor, freelance

With the belief that it’s our right to protest against injustice, the documentary Whose Streets? details the 2014 Ferguson demonstrations that came in the wake of the Michael Brown killing.

The right to own and carry weapons has always been deeply rooted in traditional American culture. It’s also one of the reasons why American police, unlike their counterparts in Western Europe, are armed at all times. This has resulted in several hundred civilians being killed annually by US police; on average there are three dead civilians every day. Several surveys claim that unarmed African-Americans are more than twice as often subject to such police killings as whites.

The killing of Michael Brown. The documentary Whose Streets? details the rioting and demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri that came in the wake of the killing of Michael Brown. The eighteen-year-old Brown was shot by police officer Darren Wilson on August 9th, 2014. Wilson claimed he acted in self-defence after Brown had attempted to grab his weapon. However, a witness claimed that Brown had raised his hands in surrender but was shot anyway. The circumstances were unclear, but the citizens of Ferguson had enough: the shooting of Brown was not a unique case. All twelve shots hit Brown, the final two in his head. That the policeman immediately chose to shoot Brown instead of attempting to subdue him caused strong reactions. After the shooting, the dead boy was left on the asphalt for hours in the hot sun.

The start of a movement. This killing became the basis of several riots and demonstrations that were named the ‘Ferguson Uprising’, and it is here the documentary starts. As the demonstrations begin, the protesters use social media, enabling their struggle to develop into a national and international movement. As the activists demonstrated against repeated discrimination of black Americans by the police, they raised home-made placards and repeated slogans like “Black lives matter” and “Hands up, don’t shoot”. Black Lives Matter first appeared as a social media hash tag following the 2012 killing of an unarmed, African-American, seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin. After the events in Ferguson, it grew into a national movement.

Despite all the protests, in November 2014, three months after the shooting of Brown, police officer Darren Wilson was declared innocent by a Grand Jury. This led to further protests and demonstrations. In March 2015, the Ferguson Police Department was investigated by the FBI, and it was revealed the department was guilty of repeated large constitutional offenses.

«Several hundred civilians are killed by the US police annually; on average three dead every day.»

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