Mike Brown's mom: What was he defending himself from?

2014-11-25 13:10

11:57 - It started with silence as the crowd strained to listen to the prosecutor over the radio. Then tears gushed from the eyes of Michael Brown's mother.

No indictment. The white police officer who shot dead her unarmed 18-year-old son more than three months ago in the predominantly African American suburb of Ferguson outside St Louis, Missouri would not face trial.

Within minutes blind rage would take hold. Agitators went on the rampage, smashing windows, looting stores, attacking a police car and torching buildings.

But first supporters hugged mother Lesley McSpadden, taking her into their arms.

"We're with you. We love you, we support you," murmured the crowd watching her breakdown and scream out, wracked with pain.

"Defend himself from what? What was he defending himself from? Tell me that.

"Everybody want me to be calm. Do you know how them bullets hit my son? What they did to his body? Aint nobody had to live through what I had to live through," she said.

"Why, oh why? Why?" she cried.

Resignation, disappointment, shock and anger took hold. The protest attended by several hundred outside Ferguson police department degenerated into chaos.

"No justice, no peace," they shouted. "Hey, hey, ho, ho these killer cops have got to go."

The tension built quickly. Agitators wove through the crowd, aggressive and angry, taunting police, screaming at protesters being interviewed by TV cameras.

Widespread looting

Protesters lobbed glass bottles as police in full riot gear huddled behind their cordon at the police station, initially impervious to the chants.

Trouble came after protesters led a march down the street towards St Louis County police, seemingly hungry for a standoff. Rocks flew. A police car was smashed and set alight, shop windows reduced to shards.

A cellphone store was stripped of valuables.

"You need to stop throwing rocks immediately at our police or you will be subject to arrest," an officer shouted repeatedly through a loudspeaker.

Then came the teargas. Protesters fled. Others egged on the police. Journalists put on their gas masks. In a backstreet, a panicked young man came running from a car, yelling at police to call an ambulance.

Someone was having a heart attack, he said. Officers barred his way but muttered into their walkie-talkies. Help was on the way, they said.

Despite the chaos, peaceful protesters young and old stood on the pavement, determined to stand their ground.

It was about more than the death of an 18-year-old high school graduate who was preparing to go to technical college, they said.

"This is something they've always done. I'm 63 years old I have seen this back in the days with Martin Luther King. They never change and they ain't going to never change," one man, who refused to give his name, told AFP.

Some protesters engaged in a slanging match with police.

"You are allowed a peaceful protest on the sidewalk," shouted an officer. "Are you saying that so you can teargas us and violate our civil rights?" shouted back one woman. "We need our police to be peaceful," she said.

But there was little sign that protests would let up.

"I'm very disappointed. I'm very saddened. I'm very angry," Reverend Melissa Bennett told AFP. She accused police of using "excessive force" and vowed that peaceful protest would carry on until changes were wrought.

11:28 -
Police officer Darren Wilson just after allegedly being beaten by unarmed teenager Michael Brown:

11:04 - St Louis County Police have said on the Facebook page: "What we saw tonight was much worse than what we saw any night in August. Bricks were thrown at police officers, two St. Louis County police cars were set on fire and police seized an automatic weapon."

10:45 -
St Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar says, as far as he can tell, a shooting of a police officer in Ferguson early on Tuesday morning was unrelated to protests over Michael Brown, the Washington Post reports.
10:32 -

10:24 -
Protests around the US:

09:41 -
Buzzfeed reports - More National Guardsmen are to be deployed in Ferguson, a statement from Missouri Governor Jay Nixon said. This is to “provide security at the Ferguson police department” and to “allow additional law enforcement officers to protect the public”, says Nixon.

09:12 -
Reuters reports: A policeman was shot and wounded on Monday evening in University City, a St Louis suburb near Ferguson, Missouri, though it was unclear if the shooting was related to street protests over the grand jury's decision in the Michael Brown case, police said.

The officer was shot in the arm, and he is expected to recover, but the circumstances of the shooting were not immediately available, and a search for the suspect was under way, the St Louis County police department said in a message on Twitter.

08:42 -
A row of businesses are on fire on West Florissant Avenue, a major street in Ferguson, Missouri. There are so many fires in the city that firefighters haven't been able to reach all of them, CNN's Sara Sidner said.

Meanwhile, on the steps of the US Supreme Court:

- Buildings are on fire in Ferguson, Missouri as people reacted in anger to the decision not to indict a white US police officer in the death of unarmed, black teenager Michael Brown.

The Federal Aviation Administration is also restricting the path of some flights into Lambert-St Louis International Airport, AP reported.

According to an advisory posted late on Monday, planes were being rerouted. The reason cited was “to provide a safe environment for law enforcement activities”. An FAA spokesperson didn’t immediately return a call from The Associated Press.

The airport posted on Twitter that only inbound planes, not departures, are affected, though it wasn’t clear how many. The facility remains open. For two weeks after the August shooting, the FAA restricted flights on 37 square miles of airspace, including for news helicopters.

Earlier, US President Barack Obama and the family of Michael Brown asked for calm after St Louis County's top prosecutor announced a grand jury's decision not to indict a white police officer in the death of the unarmed, black 18-year-old, whose fatal shooting sparked weeks of demonstrations and exposed deep racial tension between African-Americans and police.

Angry crowds poured into the streets of Ferguson within minutes of the news. As Obama spoke live from the White House briefing room, television networks showed Obama on one side of the screen, and violent demonstrations in Ferguson on the other.

Protesters overran a barricade and taunted police. Some chanted "murderer" and others threw rocks, shattered windows and vandalised cars. Several gunshots were also heard. Officers in armoured vehicles lobbed canisters of irritants that made people's eyes and lungs burn.

Officer Darren Wilson's fatal shooting of Brown after a 9 August confrontation sparked a fierce debate over how police treat young African-American men and focused attention on long-simmering racial tensions in Ferguson and around the US, four decades after the 1960s civil rights movement. Police were criticised for responding to protests with armoured vehicles and tear gas.

'Deeply disappointed - even angered'

Obama said from the White House that Americans need to accept the grand jury's decision.

"We are a nation built on the rule of law, so we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury's to make," Obama said. He said it was understandable that some Americans would be "deeply disappointed - even angered", but echoed Brown's parents in calling for any protests to be peaceful.

Under Obama's attorney general, Eric Holder, the justice department is conducting a separate investigation into possible civil rights violations that could result in federal charges against Wilson. The department also has launched a broad probe into the Ferguson police department, looking for patterns of discrimination.

Police departments in several big US cities said they were bracing for large demonstrations with the potential for violence. Thousands of people protested from Los Angeles to New York, leading marches, waving signs and shouting chants of "Hands Up! Don't Shoot", the slogan that has become a rallying cry in protests over police killings across the country.


As St Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch was reading his statement, a crowd gathered around a car from which it was being broadcast on a stereo. When the decision was announced, Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, who was sitting atop the car, burst into tears and began screaming before being whisked away by supporters.

The crowd erupted in anger, converging on the barricade where police in riot gear were standing. They pushed down the barricade and began pelting police with items, including a bullhorn.

The windows of a police car were smashed and protesters tried to topple it before it was set on fire. Officers responded by firing what authorities said was smoke and pepper spray into the crowd. Protesters insisted it was teargas.

Some in the crowd reportedly tried to stop others from taking part in the violence.

Gunshots heard

Outside the Ferguson police department, St Louis County police used a bullhorn to order a crowd to disperse, saying it had become an unlawful assembly. Protesters defied the orders and some chanted "murderer." Minutes later, four gunshots were heard down the street.

McCulloch stressed that the grand jurors were "the only people who heard every witness ... and every piece of evidence." He said many witness presented conflicting statements that ultimately were inconsistent with the physical evidence.

"These grand jurors poured their hearts and soul into this process," he said.

Brown's family released a statement saying they were "profoundly disappointed" in the decision but asked that the public "channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen."

Grand jury

A grand jury of nine white and three black members had met weekly since 20 August to consider evidence, hearing from 60 witnesses, including three medical examiners and other experts on blood, toxicology and firearms. At least nine votes would have been required to indict Wilson. The panel met in secret, a standard practice for such proceedings.

Brown's shooting inflamed tensions in the predominantly black St Louis suburb that is patrolled by an overwhelmingly white police force.

McCulloch stressed that the grand jurors were "the only people who heard every witness ... and every piece of evidence." He said many witness presented conflicting statements that ultimately were inconsistent with the physical evidence.

McCulloch, speaking for nearly 45 minutes, was critical of the media, saying "the most significant challenge" for his office was a "24-hour news cycle and an insatiable appetite for something - for anything - to talk about."


Obama, who has faced repeated calls to visit Ferguson, said he would "take a look" at whether such a visit would now be wise.

Obama, the first black president, sought to dispel the notion that race relations in the US have deteriorated. Urging Americans not to deny recent progress, he called for attention on ways to unite police and their communities in the wake of Brown's death.

"That won't be done by throwing bottles. That won't be done by smashing car windows. That won't be done by using this as an excuse to vandalise property," Obama said. "It certainly won't be done by hurting anybody."

Read more on:    michael brown  |  us

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