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Ruling in Michael Brown case reverberates in Calgary

By Chris Adams, November 25, 2014 —

Outrage over a Missouri grand jury’s decision to not indict Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown has reached Calgary.

Around 200 protesters, including U of C students, gathered outside City Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 25 at 6:00 p.m. to “stand in solidarity” with Ferguson, Missouri, the day after the grand jury decided not to press charges against Wilson.

People held signs reading “how to get away with murder? Be a cop,” and “black lives matter.”

Critics of the court proceedings say the grand jury’s decision not to indict Wilson is one of many examples of racial discrimination in the American legal system. The Brown family’s attorney called the system “broken.”

Riots broke out in Ferguson in response to the ruling immediately after it was announced.

Missouri governor Jay Nixon and U.S. President Barrack Obama called for calm leading up to the decision, but protests were marred by riots, looting, fires and gunshots. Nixon called in the National Guard and declared a state of emergency last week in anticipation of the decision.

St. Louis County police chief Jon Belmar said rioters fired 150 gunshots. The BBC reported Belmar saying Monday’s riot was “probably much worse” than any that preceded it.

Police arrested 61 people in Ferguson Monday night.

Calgary activist Saima Jamal organized the protest in Calgary. Jamal read a list of demands, calling for the immediate arrest of Darren Wilson, a U.S. Department of Justice investigation of civil rights violations by American police and the immediate release of protesters in Ferguson.

“[We demand] an acknowledgement and public apology from Stephen Harper and the federal government for their role in the continued over-policing and intentionally high incarceration rates of black and indigenous communities,” Jamal said.

Nyabuoy Gatbel, a South Sudanese activist based in Calgary, said her three brothers deal with racial profiling every day. She said racial profiling isn’t just an American issue, but one that affects the whole world.

While she hoped for a different result, she wasn’t surprised by the jury’s decision.

“We’re here in solidarity with Ferguson. The case of Mike Brown didn’t go as well as it should have. We’re here letting them know, as Canadians, we care,” Gatbel said.

At around 6:30 p.m., protesters stood silent for four-and-a-half  minutes, representing the four-and-a-half hours Brown’s body lay in the street.

The rally ended with chanting after the four-and-a-half minutes of silence.

Wilson, a white police officer, pursued Brown, who is black, after Brown robbed a convenience store on Aug. 9. According to Wilson’s testimony, the two fought at his police car. Wilson said Brown hit him in the face and tried to grab his gun.

Wilson fired two shots before Brown fled. He testified that Brown didn’t stop when he ordered him to, instead turning around to approach him.

Wilson shot Brown six times, killing him in the street.

Witness reports varied. Some said Brown stopped to face Wilson with his hands in the air before he was shot. Others say Brown approached Wilson when he was shot.

State prosecutor Robert McCulloch said physical evidence contradicted some eyewitness testimonies.

The majority white grand jury made their decision after three months of deliberation.

Belmar said Ferguson has been “torn apart” along racial lines. The community is two-thirds black, and is policed by a mainly white police force.

A speaker who identified herself as Susanna read an open letter written by people in Ferguson in response to the jury’s ruling.

“We will continue to struggle because without struggle there is no progress. If one of us is bound, we all are,” the letter said. “We will struggle. We will fight. We will protest.”

Thousands of people in Oakland, New York City and other cities around the world demonstrated following the decision. People in Oakland blocked traffic on major roadways.


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