If the only messages about #Ferguson your mind is still receiving is focused around “black kid, white cop,” then perhaps this is an issue you’re not quite ready to manage intellectually. Yes, #Ferguson started as a result of a white police officer executing unarmed black teen, Michael Brown, but a movement has transcended tragedy — and it’s for the better.
Observing what I — and so many others — have over the last several days, it’s reasonable to state that we would have no idea where Ferguson was, who resided there, and what took place on the afternoon of August 9, 2014 if not for the presence of social media — primarily, Twitter.
It’s one thing to hear about a tragedy, yet it is another aspect to see it. Although we did not witness Michael Brown gunned down, many on Twitter did see the chilling visuals of his lifeless body laying in the middle of the road following his murder. And regardless of which angle one saw the image from, it was moving in the most unsettling way.
As details began to circulate across Twitter, many realized that the story behind this event was becoming particularly disturbing. The victim was not only unarmed, but also running — quite frankly — for his life when he was shot — ten times — by an officer who was not (and still has not been) arrested. And it is that reality which has led us as a collective race of people, not color, to the present-day aftermath.
Tensions were rightfully running high in Ferguson, Missouri in the initial hours following Michael Brown’s death. Protests and vigils turned into rioting and looting, as presence of militaristic police forces began to descend on the St. Louis suburb. Though let it be known that there was only one night of rioting and looting that transpired. I find it critical to detail that, because if one were to rely entirely on the national news media for coverage they would be led to believe such events have taken place continuously. There has been only one habitual antagonist throughout this entire ordeal: the police departments of Ferguson and St. Louis County.
Over the last several days the coalition of law enforcement terrorized peaceful protestors and members of the press; flagrantly violating constitutional rights along the way. But yesterday was the breaking point, when several heavily armed officers stormed into a local McDonald’s, ordered it to close, and unlawfully placed two journalists under arrest when they weren’t complying with instructions fast enough.
It was that event that shifted the narrative. Prior to the arrest of those journalists, major news stations broadcasted little to nothing aside from reporting that Michael Brown was killed by a police officer — but only because they reported on the looting, and needed to explain what it was in relation to. Make no mistake, it has been Twitter activism, from the beginning, that has united so many individuals on this specific issue of police brutality and the militarization of police.
Often times people brainlessly mock “twitter activism” — on Twitter, no less — believing that tweeting about a cause or injustice doesn’t make a difference. But that’s simply because those individuals don’t make a difference; they stand for nothing, so they’ll fall for anything. In the case of #Ferguson, it’s “just tweeting” that put the pressure on government leaders to step in and take control of the atrociously regulated matters local law enforcement failed in handling.
It’s “just tweeting” that spread news of #Ferguson overseas, and lead to Palestinians tweeting advice to #Ferguson protestors in combatting the tear gas law enforcement officials attacked them with. And it was that same twitter activism that allowed user @FeministaJones to organize #NMOS14; a national moment of silence for victims of police brutality — which resulted in a beautiful display of unison across the nation, as citizens peacefully protested in American cities. That is what twitter activism is, and that is what is does.
Queen Rania of Jordan once stated, “Social media are a catalyst for the advancement of everyone’s rights. It’s where we’re reminded that we’re all human and all equal. It’s where people can find and fight for a cause, global or local, popular or specialized, even when there are hundreds of miles between them.”