A group of Ferguson, Missouri, protestors found a nasty surprise when they woke this morning: a noose at their campsite. The protesters, part of Lost Voices, a youth-led community organization, were sleeping in a makeshift campsite in an empty parking lot in Ferguson, when they woke to the crude message.
Ferguson has been in a state of unrest, with protesters calling for justice and change, since Mike Brown was shot by a police officer on August 9, according to a USA Today timeline. He and a friend were walking in the street, and Officer Darren Wilson ordered them to move onto the sidewalk, using, according to witnesses, profane language and harsh commands.
From there, everything went downhill, by any account. While the police story is that Brown attacked the officer, his friend and other eyewitnesses state the officer was the aggressor. Since then, many pieces of misinformation have surfaced, then been dismissed (such as the claim that the Ferguson officer suffered an orbital socket fracture, quickly debunked by Little Green Footballs, who showed that the CT scan being circulated had been lifted from a textbook).
Though the exact series of events in Ferguson is still being investigated, the story highlights the discussion of racial disparity in police response to minor offenses, presumption of guilt, and general interaction. Stephen Colbert, among others, compared treatment of the unarmed Michael Brown to that of the armed people on Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Texas, who were not shot or arrested.
As for the Ferguson protesters who found a noose in their campsite this morning, the photo was taken and posted by Nyle Fort, a youth pastor and community organizer who is helping organize protests and seek justice in Ferguson. He’s also the author of an open letter to police Gawker published last week, calling for an end to what he refers to as “thuggish” practices that are aggressive and arrogant.
As might be expected, there were almost immediate accusations that the photo was a hoax, and that the Ferguson protest group had made the noose themselves in order to garner support.
However, it’s fair to recognize that the noose certainly reflects some of the verbal commentary the Ferguson protests have drawn, such as the comments on Officer Darren Wilson’s GoFundMe page, which called Michael Brown names from “thug” to more explicit racial epithets.
When I reached out to Pastor Fort for further information, he explained he’s an organizer with #blacklivesmatter. He’s from Newark, New Jersey, and is in Ferguson with others to seek justice. He would like to note that there were organizers on the ground in Ferguson and elsewhere seeking an end to police brutality and racist practices long before Michael Brown’s shooting.
Of the group of young men who found the noose, Pastor Fort says:
“Also, the Lost Voices counter the narrative that black youth do not care about our communities and collective future. They are brilliant and brave. And they are the real heroes of the struggle on the ground.”
It isn’t the first race-based attack that Ferguson protesters have received, and if the young men who found the noose in their campsite were supposed to be scared off, it instead only cements the reason they’re there.
[Photo: Nyle Fort]