'There's no trust whatsoever': Two years after Michael Brown's death, little has changed

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October 09, 2016 10:26:21

In Ferguson the streets are quiet and the shops and houses are neat.

There’s a farmers’ market selling pastries, hot sauce and omelettes as a couple of local musicians belt out a tune.

It’s far removed from those dark nights in 2014 when anger boiled over and shops were smashed and burnt, after a policeman shot unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown after an altercation.

Local rap artist Pancho Rucker was on the streets when protestors clashed with police and the gas station went up in flames.

So what’s changed?

“Nothing’s changed except for there’s a blanketed sense of peace which makes it more dangerous because you never know when that veil is going to be uncovered again,” he said.

“Now these kids know that they can be killed by the police. So there’s no trust whatsoever.”

Tomorrow night, the second US presidential debate will be held in St Louis, where the Black Lives Matter movement really kicked off after the Ferguson riots.

Law and order and criminal justice remain key issues across America, where protests over police treatment of African Americans continue to break out.

In Ferguson there’s still simmering tension, and disappointment in the lack of progress under President Barack Obama and a deep sense of disillusionment about politics.

Brown’s father favours a community approach over politics to the issues affecting the neighbourhood.

“If they want to have a conversation with me, they have to talk about the community, and not use our lost souls as a ticket of getting into the White House,” Michael Brown Senior said.

And he’s not alone.

‘It’s the people that own this problem’

Former policeman at the St Louis Police Association Jeff Roorda took the side of officer Darren Wilson after Michael Brown’s death, fanning the anger, but he favours community engagement too.

“I think it’s the people that own this problem. We have a problem in the US,” he said.

“We have far too many encounters between police officers and citizens that end deadly and the people that are most invested in seeing that end are the people that care about those citizens and the people that care about those cops.”

Traditionally, African Americans vote for the Democrats but there’s a building sense of being taken for granted by a party that is not delivering enough.

It’s a challenge for Hillary Clinton to convince African Americans to get out and vote for her on election day.

After the riots, Ella Jones was the first African American woman elected to the Ferguson City Council.

She says people will vote for Mrs Clinton, but they expect results.

“She’ll get our vote but she’s only there for four years, and if she does not do some of the things we’ve asked her to do or requested her to do — she could be out in four years,” Ms Jones said.

Pancho Rucker, and others who witnessed the upheaval two years ago, will take some convincing.

There’s a sense of hopelessness that’s hard to shake.

‘We’re going to die either way — that’s how I feel’

“I wish there was a campaign to actually say anybody but those two,” he said.

“It’s like we’re picking death by fire or death by gunshot. We’re going to die either way — that’s how I feel.”

His frustration is reflected in his song lyrics:

“They call us thugs on the news just for standing up, not taking abuse, just for standing up and facing those blues they’re gonna mix us up and shoot us down too,” he raps.

“It don’t matter really how old you be, they’re gonna shoot us down like dogs in the street, but then they pretend like they’re gonna save us, make us believe that they do us favours.

“The jig is up.”

Topics:

law-crime-and-justice,

unrest-conflict-and-war,

race-relations,

community-and-society,

united-states



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