‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’: A National Moment of Silence for Mike Brown

Ethan Corey August 15, 2014

Protesters gathered in Chicago's Daley Plaza raise their hands in honor of those killed by police. (Kelly Hayes / National Moment of Silence Chicago)

Less than a week after the fatal shoot­ing of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown by Fer­gu­son, Mis­souri police, sup­port­ers across the coun­try took to the streets on Thurs­day night to hold a nation­al moment of silence and protest against state-fund­ed vio­lence.Orga­niz­ers in New York, Chica­go, Wash­ing­ton, Detroit, Bal­ti­more and about 90 oth­er cities brought togeth­er tens of thou­sands to demon­strate sol­i­dar­i­ty with the peo­ple of Fer­gu­son and demand jus­tice for cit­i­zens wrong­ly and extra­ju­di­cial­ly killed. Accord­ing to a 2012 study, a black per­son is killed by police, secu­ri­ty forces or indi­vid­ual vig­i­lantes every 28 hours.In Chica­go, hun­dreds gath­ered in Daley Plaza to par­tic­i­pate in sing-alongs, shout chants and hear poet­ry by the Black Youth 100 project before the 6:20pm moment of silence. 
Sev­er­al speak­ers addressed the crowd, includ­ing Rachel Jack­son, a teacher in the Chica­go Pub­lic Schools sys­tem.“I was here [protest­ing] for Trayvon [Mar­tin] two years ago. I am so mad that we are still here! This just con­tin­ues over and over again. I teach third grade, and I’m afraid for my stu­dents. I’m afraid for the world they’re grow­ing up in,” Jack­son said dur­ing her speech.At 6:20, the crowd fell silent for a coor­di­nat­ed nation­al moment of silence. Peo­ple held their hands in the air for four minutes—one minute for every hour Brown report­ed­ly lay dead in the street—mimicking the ges­ture Brown alleged­ly made to prove he was unarmed before the police shot him down.After the moment of silence and poet­ry read­ings fin­ished, an impromp­tu march took pro­test­ers into the streets, prompt­ing warn­ings from police present to return to the side­walks. How­ev­er, the offi­cers did not attempt to inter­fere with the march and made no arrests. The atten­dees even­tu­al­ly returned to Daley Plaza and dis­persed peace­ful­ly.The action came just a day after a vio­lent police crack­down in Fer­gu­son, in which St. Louis Coun­ty offi­cers con­front­ed pro­test­ers using rub­ber bul­lets and tear gas grenades; they also arrest­ed sev­er­al jour­nal­ists and at least one local politi­cian.While most of Thursday’s protests, like Chicago’s, saw min­i­mal inter­fer­ence, in some cities police arrest­ed pro­test­ers who alleged­ly refused to com­ply with their orders to dis­perse. Newsweek reports that four activists were detained in New York City after lead­ing a march from Union Square to Times Square. In Mia­mi, eight activists from Dream Defend­ers, a non­vi­o­lent civ­il dis­obe­di­ence group cre­at­ed in response to the 2012 shoot­ing of Trayvon Mar­tin, were arrest­ed after they occu­pied the James Lawrence King Fed­er­al Jus­tice Build­ing to demand jus­tice for Brown and Israel Her­nan­dez-Llach, a tat­too artist who died after a Mia­mi police offi­cer used a stun gun to sub­due him dur­ing an arrest.Mean­while, in Fer­gu­son, the sit­u­a­tion changed dra­mat­i­cal­ly on Thurs­day night after the Mis­souri State High­way Patrol took over crowd con­trol from the local police. The Wash­ing­ton Post reports that Mis­souri High­way Patrol Capt. Ronald S. John­son, a Fer­gu­son native who was tasked with over­see­ing the new response, even marched in sol­i­dar­i­ty with local res­i­dents, offer­ing his apolo­gies for the vio­lence of the night before and allow­ing those gath­ered to march through the streets unmo­lest­ed.Addi­tion­al­ly, on Fri­day morn­ing Fer­gu­son police released the name of the offi­cer, Dar­ren Wil­son, who fatal­ly shot Michael Brown, acced­ing to one of the key demands of pro­test­ers.More ral­lies are sched­uled nation­wide, includ­ing one on Sat­ur­day at 1 p.m. at the Daley Cen­ter in Chicago—exactly one week after Brown’s death.
Ethan Corey is a writer and researcher based in New York. His work has appeared in The Nation, Rolling Stone and MEL magazine.
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