Accessibility links

After Protests, Ferguson Looks for Answers

From VOA Learning English, this is In the News.

Violent protests have ended in Ferguson, Missouri. But blacks in the Midwestern city -- and in other places in the United States -- say they are still angry about how they are treated by police officers.

On Monday, a grand jury announced there was not enough evidence to send police officer Darren Wilson to trial. Officer Wilson -- who is white -- shot black teenager Michael Brown six times during an argument in early August. Officer Wilson said he feared for his life. Michael Brown died at the place where the shooting happened. Some witnesses said he was running from the officer when he was shot. But an examination found he may have been trying to take the police officer’s weapon from him.

County prosecutor Robert McCulloch said the grand jury was given five possible charges to consider, but decided against approving any of them. He said the jurors met for 25 days and heard 70 hours of testimony from 60 people. Some of them witnessed the shooting. Mr. McCulloch said some of the witnesses disagreed with other witnesses.

The announcement that the grand jury did not find a reason to believe that Officer Wilson might be guilty of a crime was followed by two days of unrest in Ferguson. They destroyed businesses and police cars. Police arrested at least 61 people. But after violence on Monday and Tuesday, protesters began to hold peaceful gatherings.

Other people unhappy with the decision gathered in cities across the United States to protest their belief that police did not treat black Americans fairly. Some protesters were arrested in Los Angeles and Oakland, California, but there was little violence. Protests also took place in New York City, Washington, D.C., Cleveland, St. Louis and Seattle.

President Barack Obama said those who rioted in Ferguson were criminals and should be punished. But America’s first black president said he understands why people are unhappy with the grand jury’s decision. He said the anger of the protestors has, in his words, “deep roots in many communities of color who have a sense that our laws are not always being enforced uniformly or fairly.”

Michael Brown’s family and supporters said they were disappointed by the decision. They called it “completely unfair.”

Officer Wilson told ABC News earlier in the week that he did his job right. He said he does not believe he could have done anything differently.

On Thursday, some people helped business owners in Ferguson repair their buildings.

Before the announcement, Michael Brown’s father asked people to react calmly to whatever the 12 members of the grand jury decided. He said hurting others or destroying property “is not the answer” to anger about what some believe is injustice. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon called for “peace, respect and restraint,” and deployed more than 2,000 National Guardsmen to the city to support state and local police. But they were unable to stop the violence.

The shooting of Michael Brown showed tensions between police and the mostly black residents of Ferguson. Almost all of the city’s police officers are white. Sam Fulwood III is with the Center for American Progress. He told VOA that, in 1980, 80 percent of the people who lived in Ferguson were white, but by 2010, 85 percent of the population was black. However, the police force and the town’s leaders remained mostly white. Few of the town’s black residents vote.

Some people in Ferguson are trying to improve relations between citizens and police officers. Tommie Pierson is the pastor, or leader, of the Greater St. Mark Family Church in St. Louis. The church is near a business that was destroyed in the rioting on Monday. Church officials trained people how to protest nonviolently.

On Thursday morning, Pastor Pierson spoke to a few people who attended a religious ceremony about a group that the state’s governor has asked to study police actions in Ferguson.

“And I hope that the commission that the governor has set up will understand that you cannot expect me to act the way you act when I have not been exposed to the level of education that you have been exposed to.”

Loretha Cain is a college student who attends religious services at the church every Sunday. She criticized those who reacted violently.

“I feel like some people like, they feel like they have to be negative in order to get attention, but I feel like if we do things that are positive, we can be able to show other people that we can learn from this situation in a healthy manner, and hopefully it allows our community to grow together instead of fall apart.”

Pastor Pierson believes the study group will help ease tensions in the city.

“I, I know a number of those people on the commission. They’re good people, men and women of faith. And I think that faith will rise to the occasion and will allow them to do what is in the best interest of the people.”

Protests continued in the Ferguson area on Friday, the day after the Thanksgiving holiday. Many Americans begin buying Christmas gifts on that day. Some protestors urged people to boycott stores to show their disagreement with the grand jury’s decision.

The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the shooting and the actions of the Ferguson police department. And President Obama has called on Americans to consider the difficulties faced by minorities in the United States. He said he knew that some people were, in his words, “deeply disappointed, even angry” about the grand jury’s decision. But he urged Americans to accept it.

The top Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives said she was disappointed by the grand jury’s decision. Nancy Pelosi said actions need to be taken to help blacks in America.

“The reaction, I think, obviously needs to be addressed. That is to say, there is an unhappiness, a, discontent in our communities about the relationship of everyone.”

And the top human rights official at the United Nations said the U.S. should examine how race relations affect law enforcement.

And that's In the News from VOA Learning English.

I’m Mario Ritter.

VOA correspondents in Washington, DC and Ferguson, Missouri reported this story. Christopher Cruise wrote this report for Learning English. Mario Ritter edited it. _______________________________________________________________

Words in This Story

treat v. to think of and act toward (someone or something) in a specified way

grand jury n. a group of people who look at the evidence against someone who has been accused of a crime in order to decide if there should be a trial

argument n. an angry disagreement

deploy v. to organize and send out (people or things) to be used for a particular purpose

discontent n. not pleased or satisfied

Now it’s your turn to use these Words in This Story. In the comments section, write a sentence using one of these words and we will provide feedback on your use of vocabulary and grammar.

Show comments