50 Photos Of The Ferguson Protests That Leave Us With More Questions Than Answers

Published November 26, 2014
Updated January 25, 2018

The Ferguson protests raise a number of important questions about what justice looks like in a broken system.

When trying to make sense of what often appears to be a senseless world, it often–and perhaps inexplicably–helps to look at satire. In the case of the recent protests in Ferguson, Missouri, journalist Josh Keating does just that when he examines what coverage of the clashes in the St. Louis suburb would look like if they happened outside of the US:

“The crisis began in August in Ferguson, a remote Missouri village that has been a hotbed of sectarian tension. State security forces shot and killed an unarmed man, which regional analysts say has angered the local population by surfacing deep-seated sectarian grievances. Regime security forces cracked down brutally on largely peaceful protests, worsening the crisis.

In response, ancient American tradition called for the gathering of a community tribal council known as a “grand jury” to weigh the case. On November 24, it announced there would be no charges against the responsible security forces. The stunning decision, which reflects the opaque and mysterious nature of the “grand jury” tradition, further outraged the already despondent local populace.”

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50 Photos Of The Ferguson Protests That Leave Us With More Questions Than Answers
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That, in a nutshell, is precisely what has happened in Ferguson this week. Missouri state officials anticipated such a response, establishing a state of emergency prior to the release of the decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson, who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown following what Wilson claimed to be a life-threatening physical altercation with Brown.

Coupled with Missouri state law that grants police officers considerable legal leeway when it comes to the use of lethal force, the evidence and (often conflicting) testimony presented failed to convince the grand jury that Wilson was not acting "reasonably" in shooting Brown and therefore had committed a crime.

Before St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch--who has been severely criticized for his handling of the case--finished the press conference in which he relayed the jury's decision to the masses, parts of Ferguson were already up in flames--with many other parts of the country taking to the streets in solidarity.

The images emerging from Ferguson are hard to make sense of: the majority of responses shown are incredibly glandular, and in terms of scale--over a dozen buildings were damaged or destroyed--seem to be responding to something much larger than a single jury decision.

Some, like Senator Rand Paul, link the dramatic events unfolding in Ferguson to the increasing powers of the police force and the War on Drugs. Others consider it to be a response to years of subjugation--and fear--of the big, black man on behalf of the (mainly white) state.

Still others see no difference between the two camps and describe the events unfolding in Ferguson as the results of years of institutionalized racism finally revealing its ugly, community-shattering face. As for the fiery riots, they are more symbolic: Martin Luther King Jr. considered riots to be the "voices of the unheard", and others have since argued that property destruction represents an attack on the property-owning class which has waged a longer, more damaging war against the landless and often darker poor.

Most taking part in Monday night's events claimed that they did so in pursuit of justice for the now deceased Michael Brown. And yet, as an already broken community begins to pick up its physical pieces, one cannot help but wonder if justice can ever be achieved through continued violence and destruction.

For context's sake, here's what the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney, Robert McCulloch, said (in full) before Ferguson descended into chaos on Monday night:

Be sure to check out the nation-wide response in this video:

And the cell phone video from the Michael Brown shooting. Please be warned that it is graphic:

Thanks to Yahoo, CNN and The Atlantic for the images featured in this post.