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On August 9, Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was killed by a police officer named Darren Wilson in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Eyewitnesses to the shooting report that Brown was killed while attempting to surrender, but police say that Brown assaulted the officer before the shooting.
The incident provoked immediate anger and frustration in the community and around the country. The killing of Eric Garner, also an unarmed black man, by New York City police last month revived a public conversation about the history of police violence against black men, and the killing of Brown has inflamed it.
Protests began in the neighborhood immediately after Brown was shot, and continued throughout the weekend. On Sunday night, Ferguson erupted into civil unrest, with reports of looting, arson, and gunshots. Although the protests in the days that followed were largely nonviolent, an escalating and militarized police presence in the streets of Ferguson did nothing to ease the tension or soothe a concerned community, and local law enforcement's use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and dogs further eroded the trust between residents and police. On Thursday, the tide seemed to turn after Gov. Jay Nixon put the Missouri Highway Patrol in charge of security in Ferguson. But the next day, Ferguson police revealed details from the day of the shooting, and that night tensions escalated at protests.
Here's what's known, what's being disputed, and what happens next.
To skip to certain sections, click the links below:
1) What we know about Michael Brown
2) What we know about the shooting
3) What's in dispute about the shooting
4) What we know about the first weekend's protests
5) What's in dispute about the first weekend's protests
6) What we know about the unrest on Sunday, August 10
7) Continued protests — and police dispersals — on Monday, August 11
8) Continued tensions on Tuesday, August 12
9) Arrests and police aggression on Wednesday, August 13
10) "Reframing" the chain of command on Thursday, August 14
11) On Friday, August 15, police reveal details from the day of the shooting, tensions escalate after dark
12) On Saturday, August 16, the governor sets a curfew in Ferguson
13) On Sunday, August 17, chaos returns to Ferguson
14) On Monday, August 18, the National Guard goes to Ferguson
15) Relative quiet on Tuesday, August 19
16) The smoke clears in Ferguson
17) Some of the context for community anger in Ferguson
18) What we know about the investigation into Brown's shooting
19) Efforts to rebuild race and community relations in Ferguson
What we know about Michael Brown
— Brown was an 18-year-old student.
— He graduated from Normandy High School in St. Louis in the spring of 2014. He was scheduled to start classes at Vatterott College, a Missouri trade college, on Monday, August 11.
— On the day of his death, Brown was visiting his grandmother, Desuirea Harris, who lives in Ferguson, a working-class suburb of St. Louis.
What we know about the shooting
— Brown was shot multiple times and killed by a Ferguson police officer in the early afternoon of Saturday, August 9, outside an apartment complex. Autopsies have concluded that Brown was shot at least six times.
— Brown was unarmed. All shell casings found at the scene were from the police officer's gun.
— At least one shot was fired from the police car. Brown was killed while he was standing about 35 feet away from the car.
— The name of the police officer, Darren Wilson, was announced in a Friday, August 15, press conference by Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told reporters on Sunday morning that Wilson had been a police officer for six years, and that Belmar was not aware of any problems the officer had during that time.
What's in dispute about the shooting
What happened before Brown was shot
— Multiple eyewitness accounts say that Brown was killed while attempting to surrender.
— Brown's friend Dorian Johnson, who was with Brown at the time, says that the two of them were walking in the middle of the street when a police car approached, and the officer told them to get on the sidewalk.
— Eyewitness Piaget Crenshaw says that Johnson, Brown and the officer got into a verbal confrontation, and the officer attempted to put Brown in the police car. When Brown began to flee, with his hands in the air, she says, the officer got out of the car and started shooting at Brown. (Crenshaw has photos of the shooting, which have been turned over to the police.)
— Another eyewitness told the press that the officer was in his car when he started shooting at the boys. (At least one shot was fired from the police car.)
— Johnson says that he and Brown started running when they heard the first shot. He told local news station KMOV that Wilson "shot again, and once my friend felt that shot, he turned around and put his hands in the air. He started to get down and the officer still approached with his weapon drawn and fired several more shots."
— Meanwhile, St. Louis County police, who have been called in to investigate Brown's death, say that Brown assaulted Wilson before he was killed. St. Louis County police chief Jon Belmar told reporters on August 10 that Brown shoved the officer back into the police car, "physically assaulted" him, and attempted to grab the officer's gun. According to Belmar, the officer only began firing at Brown after the assault.
— According to Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson during a briefing on August 12, the officer who shot Johnson was injured during the encounter. One side of Wilson's face was swollen, Jackson said.
How many times Brown was shot
— On Sunday, Belmar told reporters that Brown was shot "more than just a couple [times], but I don't think it was many more than that."
— Johnson's eyewitness account indicates that four shots were fired. Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, says she was told that Brown was shot eight times.
What we know about the first weekend's protests
Saturday, August 9
— A crowd gathered at the scene soon after Brown was shot, and their protest extended through much of Saturday afternoon. A subsequent protest at the Ferguson Police Department headquarters happened Saturday evening. The number of demonstrators varied: a CNN report says that there were up to 1,000 protesters at the peak of the demonstrations, while other reports say there were about 200.
— Brown's body was left at the scene for several hours after the shooting. Police said that they needed the time to conduct "due diligence," saying that the crowd made it difficult for them to process evidence properly. Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson later told reporters that he was "uncomfortable" with the amount of time the body had been in the street.
— Protesters held their hands in the air and chanted "Don't shoot me," "We are Michael Brown," "No justice, no peace," and "Killer cops have got to go." Brown's stepfather, Louis Head, held a sign that read "Ferguson police just executed my unarmed son!!!"
— During Saturday's demonstration, around 2 p.m., a series of shots were fired in the area near the crime scene.
— More than 100 officers from 15 different police departments were called to the scene during Saturday's protests.
Sunday, August 10
— On Sunday, August 10, nonviolent protests continued, but with a heavy police presence.
— One CNN video report, flagged by Colorlines, shows a police officer saying to protesters, "Bring it, you fucking animals! Bring it!" (at the 00:15 mark):
What's in dispute about the first weekend's protests
— Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson told reporters that Saturday's protest at the crime scene "probably bordered on riot conditions." Police say that the shots that were heard in the area during the protest were "warning shots" fired by protesters, and that protesters were heard shouting, "Kill the police." According to the police, the purpose of the 60 reinforcements from other police departments was to protect public safety in a dangerous atmosphere.
— However, other accounts from Saturday's protest don't indicate that anyone shouted "kill the police," and several eyewitnesses say that the police misheard or misinterpreted what protesters were shouting: "Killer cops have got to go" and "No justice, no peace."
— There's no confirmation as to the context of the gunshots fired during Saturday's protest.
— Reports also differed about the tone of Sunday's protests prior to the rioting. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said that protesters were "taunting" the police officers, but did not quote any protesters engaging in taunts.
What we know about the unrest on Sunday, August 10
— As protests continued on Sunday night, others in Ferguson began to engage in looting and violence. St. Louis alderman Antonio French has said on Twitter that looting began at a local QuikTrip convenience store. The store was later set on fire:
— Looting spread to the nearby neighborhood of Dellwood and continued late into the night on Sunday.
— A staff photographer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that when the looting began, there were no police at or around the QuikTrip. As looting continued, police helicopters moved into the area. A SWAT team moved in and used tear gas to disperse the looters.
— As of Thursday morning, the total amount of damage caused Sunday night hadn't been calculated. The Ferguson Police Department told Los Angeles station KTLA that at least 20 police cars were damaged. Police did not tell the Washington Post how many people were arrested, but reports indicate "dozens" of arrests:
— Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson told reporters on Wednesday that 32 people were arrested during the looting on Sunday.
— Monday, August 11, was supposed to be the first day of school for Jennings School District, one of the four school districts that cover Ferguson. Administrators canceled school out of fear for student safety.
— On Monday, August 11, a group of Ferguson residents got together to clean up the QuikTrip.
Continued protests — and police dispersals — on Monday, August 11
— After Sunday night's unrest, a protest and rally scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday morning was canceled, and the mayor of Ferguson said that anyone who attempted to show up to the rally would be arrested.
— Regardless, people still turned up at police headquarters to protest. Police officers were there with riot gear.
— After about two hours, the police succeeded in getting the crowd to disperse and started making arrests.
— On Monday night, protests continued. Groups gathered in the street, raising their hands in surrender and chanting, "Hands up, don't shoot." It's become the unofficial motto of the Ferguson protests.
— Police also attempted to disperse these protests, moving down W. Florissant, the main street in the neighborhood. This time, they used tear gas and explosives to clear crowds and fired rubber bullets. One report indicates that police cocked their rifles at protesters. Police told protesters to "go home," but several residents protested that they were trapped in cul-de-sacs while the main road was closed off. Police also threatened press with arrest if they didn't leave the scene.
— One family was standing in their backyard, which borders W. Florissant, while holding their hands up in protest. Police fired a tear gas canister at them, into the backyard:
— One resident was challenged by police when he put his hands up after stepping out of his car.
— The evening ended with a standoff between police and about two dozen residents who were trying to get home. Wesley Lowery, a Washington Post reporter, was at the scene:
The final standoff came just before 11 p.m. Officers backed up their formation almost all the way to the housing complex where Brown was shot.
As they regrouped, the two dozen residents who remained outside approached with hands in the air.
"Can we go home? Do we need our hands up? Are you going to shoot us?"
The police, weapons at the ready, responded by telling them to stop asking questions and "just go home."
Moments later, the cops pressed forward and cleared the street for good. As they passed, some remaining protesters threw rocks, and residents shouted from their windows: "This is our home. Leave us alone."
— In all, police made several arrests on Monday. Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson told reporters on Wednesday that around eight people had been arrested for unlawful assembly over the course of the last several days of protests.
— Police said no injuries were reported, and on Wednesday, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said that "nobody got hurt" in the response to protests. However, pictures circulated on social media of protesters with bruises and injuries from rubber and wooden bullets, and of one resident being loaded into an ambulance.
Continued tensions on Tuesday, August 12
— On Tuesday, August 12, the FAA issued a no-fly zone over Ferguson through Monday, August 18. The purpose of the no-fly zone, the agency said, is "to provide a safe haven for law enforcement activities" — to clear the airspace for police helicopters. On Wednesday, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson told reporters that he did not know anything about the no-fly zone and had not requested it.
— On Tuesday evening, there was a brief standoff between protesters and police at the QuikTrip that had been looted on Sunday. Protesters became upset when police arrived in armored vehicles.
— Protesters amassed in downtown Ferguson again on Tuesday night. Police were again there in force, blocking streets to downtown, and reporters were again told they would be arrested if they didn't leave. On Wednesday, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said that he didn't know reporters had been threatened, and said, "No, I want free access."
— Most protesters, however, made their way down the other end of W. Florissant to a church for an evening service at which Al Sharpton was scheduled to speak. A group of young residents continued to protest nonviolently outside the church — even removing someone who they were worried would agitate the crowd.
— Tuesday night's protests were quiet and nonviolent for most of the evening.
— Around 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time, a crowd began to advance toward the bridge where police were holding a line to block traffic. Cops warned the crowd and told demonstrators to get off the street.
— Around 1 a.m. Central Time, St. Louis County police shot a man near Ferguson. Police say the man was pointing a gun at an officer. It is not clear whether the shooting was related to the protests. The man is in critical condition as of Wednesday morning.
Arrests and police aggression on Wednesday, August 13
— On Wednesday, August 13, the Ferguson Police Department released its first official statement since the shooting. The statement read, in part:
We only ask that any groups wishing to assemble in prayer or in protest do so only during daylight hours in an organized and respectful manner. We further ask all those wishing to demonstrate or assemble disperse well before the evening hours to ensure the safety of the participants and the safety of the community.
This statement didn't set an official curfew, which would have justified arresting residents who were out after a certain hour. Instead, the police appeared to be hoping to set an unofficial, voluntary curfew.
Asked about the statement on Wednesday, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said that there was no curfew, and that protesters who remained out after dark would not be arrested "as long as they're peaceful and not blocking the roads."
— Late Wednesday afternoon, protesters blocked both lanes of West Florissant again. Police began making arrests quickly. A large SWAT team arrived to clear the protesters, as well as a tactical vehicle. Cops continued to push protesters back for several blocks. Those who did not move were detained.
— The situation was then calm until around 8:30 p.m. Central Time, when cops began attempting to push protesters back another 25 feet. Protesters threw bottles and rocks; police and reporters say that one protester threw a Molotov cocktail, and police also say one officer was hit with a brick and broke his ankle. In response, police almost immediately started firing tear gas at the crowd. After telling them that this was no longer a peaceful protest and ordering them to leave the area, police used sound cannons to disperse the crowd and fired tear gas canisters into the area — including into neighborhood backyards.
— On Thursday, Antonio French posted an image of a woman who had been hit with a rubber bullet. (Warning: The image is graphic.)
— One news crew had tear gas fired at them while they were setting up for a shoot:
— Earlier in the evening, two reporters, Ryan J. Reilly of the Huffington Post and Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post, were arrested in a McDonald's after a SWAT team ordered residents to clear it out. Watch the arrest play out in this video:
— Late in the evening, protesters lined up outside the Ferguson Police Station.
"Reframing" the chain of command on Thursday, August 14
— On Thursday, August 14, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon told voters he would be "reframing" the chain of command among police in Ferguson. The office of Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri confirmed that the St. Louis County Police Department, which had been in charge during Wednesday night's protests, would be removed from Ferguson. The chief of the St. Louis city police department also announced that his department would not be participating in Ferguson on Thursday night.
— On Thursday afternoon, Governor Nixon formally announced that the Missouri Highway Patrol, headed by Captain Ron Johnson, would take over police response to protesters in Ferguson. However, he said, the St. Louis County Police Department would remain in charge of the criminal investigation into Brown's death.
— Protesters gathered again Thursday by the police station and along West Florissant. However, protesters did not block the road. Police were absent from afternoon protests.
— Missouri Highway Patrol captain Ron Johnson marched with the protesters and apologized to those who had been teargassed.
Highway patrol captain Ron Johnson is leading protesters on a march through Ferguson. A corner turned? pic.twitter.com/ewytjhz2uP— Jon Swaine (@jonswaine) August 14, 2014
— Later in the evening, Captain Johnson spoke — and held a picture of Michael Brown as he did so.
— In other parts of the country, people rallied in support of Ferguson's protesters and against police brutality.
On Friday, August 15, police reveal details from the day of the shooting, and tensions escalate after dark
— On Friday, August 15, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson announced the name of the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown: Darren Wilson, who has been on the force for six years.
— In the same press conference, Jackson said that Michael Brown was the primary suspect in a strong-arm robbery of a convenience store that took place immediately before he was killed. He distributed packets to reporters that included security camera stills from the convenience store. CBS News later released video footage of the alleged robbery.
— Officials noted a negative mood change in Ferguson after the release of the information. Many protesters view it as an attempt to wrongly attack Michael Brown's character and justify the shooting.
— Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, who's in charge of security in Ferguson, said he was not notified of the information prior to the news release. He added that he will have a "serious conversation" about better communications between police departments.
— In a second press conference later on Friday, Police Chief Jackson stated that "the initial contact with Brown was not related to the robbery," and clarified that Officer Wilson was not aware of the robbery at the time when he stopped Brown. Rather, Wilson stopped Brown because the teen was "walking in the middle of the street." Jackson later told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Wilson saw cigars in Brown's hand and realized Brown could be the robber.
— When asked why he released information about the robbery, if it had nothing to do with Wilson's shooting of Brown, Jackson said he had done so "because you asked for it," an apparent reference to the sunshine-law requests that had sought information about Brown's death.
— Although tensions were elevated by the Ferguson Police's news releases earlier in the day, the night's early marches continued peacefully. Hundreds of people reportedly turned out, despite the rain.
— It's not clear why or how the situation escalated so quickly. Reports indicate the protests intensified after heavily armed police returned and fired tear gas in response to protesters throwing rocks and other objects.
— A few protesters began looting stores, including the store Michael Brown is accused of robbing. Reporters said a majority of protesters tried to stop the looters, and the looters were mostly drunk kids.
— The looting appeared to stop after other protesters intervened to guard stores, even though police never moved in.
— After the looting dissipated, some people began peacefully protesting again. The protests dwindled as the night progressed.
— Looting began again after most protesters left.
— Police were apparently ordered to stand down when some officers tried to stop the looting.
— Later on, St. Louis alderman Antonio French provided a firsthand account of what happened throughout the night. Based on French's description, only a minority of protesters engaged in looting, and a majority of protesters tried to stop them. Police didn't intervene because they realized it could make the situation even more violent, since the protests are rooted in distrust toward law enforcement.
On Saturday, August 16, the governor sets a curfew in Ferguson
— Michael Brown's family, St. Louis alderman Antonio French and Senator Clarie McCaskill, among others, condemned the previous night's looting and said it didn't represent a majority of protesters. "America, please don't hold small group of looters against hundreds & hundreds of peaceful protesters," McCaskill wrote on Twitter. "Rather hold small group accountable."
— Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, who's in charge of security in Ferguson, said he didn't order the deployment of tear gas last night, but he did ask for the deployment of armored trucks to assist injured officers.
— Some residents hosted a cookout near the location of the Michael Brown shooting.
— Johnson hugged and shook hands with residents before an afternoon press conference.
— At the press conference, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced an order declaring a state of emergency and curfew in Ferguson. The curfew will run from midnight to 5 a.m. "This is not to silence the people of Ferguson or this region or others," Nixon said, "but to contain those who would endanger others."
— Johnson suggested security will resist a heavy-handed response while enforcing the curfew. "We won't enforce it with trucks, we won't enforce it with tear gas, we will communicate," he said.
— Nixon noted that the FBI's civil rights investigation into the Michael Brown shooting is "being beefed up" with investigators now on the ground in Ferguson.
— As the curfew approached, tensions remained high. Community leaders and the rain convinced most protesters to leave before midnight, but about 150 protesters remained after midnight. Some protesters built a barricade between police and the crowds to buy time, but tensions remained high.
— Police, after giving several warnings, fired smoke and tear gas at the protesters to enforce the curfew. Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Johnson said tear gas was used in response to reports of gunmen.
— Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Johnson said there were some gunshots fired throughout the night, but not by police. One gunshot hit a man who, according to the latest reports, was in critical condition.
— As for other violence, police said they were not aware of any looting.
— It was very difficult for journalists to report the evening's events, because they were confined to a small media zone during curfew hours that was out of sight of a majority of the action. Police threatened to arrest reporters who tried to leave the media zone.
On Sunday, August 17, chaos returns to Ferguson
— US Attorney General Eric Holder, under the request of Michael Brown's family, ordered another autopsy of Brown's body. "Due to the extraordinary circumstances involved in this case and at the request of the Brown family, Attorney General Holder has instructed Justice Department officials to arrange for an additional autopsy to be performed by a federal medical examiner," spokesperson Brian Fallon said. "This independent examination will take place as soon as possible. Even after it is complete, Justice Department officials still plan to take the state-performed autopsy into account in the course of their investigation."
— Later in the day, Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson gave a speech in which he apologized to Michael Brown's family and pledged solidarity with Ferguson. "We all ought to be thanking the Browns for Michael, because Michael's gonna make it better for our sons, so they can be better black men," he said.
— The night's protests began with what some reporters called a party atmosphere.
— After reports of gunshots, Molotov cocktails, and vandalism, police moved in to disperse protesters. Police used LRADs, which make piercing noises, and fired tear gas, some of which hit an eight-year-old boy.
— Police reported three injuries, none of which affected officers, and seven or eight arrests throughout the night.
— Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Johnson said security officials are planning additional steps to contain the violence in the future, but he would not elaborate what the steps will look like.
On Monday, August 18, the National Guard goes to Ferguson
— Early in the morning of August 18, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon ordered the state's National Guard to Ferguson in response to the previous night's violence. The National Guard troops were intended to protect police, who had claimed they were in danger from protesters — in the hopes that more protection might prevent police from panicking. "Tonight, a day of hope, prayers, and peaceful protests was marred by the violent criminal acts of an organized and growing number of individuals, many from outside the community and state, whose actions are putting the residents and businesses of Ferguson at risk," Nixon said in a statement.
— That afternoon, Nixon announced that the midnight curfew Ferguson residents had been under during the weekend would be lifted. However, law enforcement officials said that protesters would no longer be allowed to stand on or by West Florissant — only walking protesters, not "stationary protests," would be tolerated. Later reports said that protesters would be confined to an "authorized protest area" at one intersection,and West Florissant would be closed to traffic.
— Around 2:30 p.m. CDT, cops had already started arresting protesters outside the Ferguson McDonald's. The McDonald's closed before 5 p.m. CDT.
— The situation was largely peaceful throughout most of Monday night, with community leaders helping to keep the crowd calm. But that didn't prevent police officers from activating sound cannons and aiming rifles at protesters and journalists. It was so peaceful, in fact, that CNN's Jake Tapper sounded off on how ridiculous the police reaction looked in front of an overwhelmingly peaceful crowd. Later in the evening, however, Captain Ron Johnson appeared on CNN to defend the police's actions.
— Around 11 p.m. Ferguson time, the Washington Post's Wesley Lowery reported bangs near the QuikTrip convenience store that's become ground zero for the protests. Police rushed to the scene and deployed tear gas. Lowery also reported a fire in front of the store as armored trucks moved in.
— Some protesters reportedly started a fire in the street to block police, and prepared "homemade bombs" in case of a confrontation with police.
— Around 11:45 p.m. Ferguson time, police ordered protesters to disperse. People who didn't cooperate were arrested. Shortly after, journalists were also asked to move to a designated area at the police's command center. One journalist from VICE had his media credential ripped off by a police officer, who said, "This doesn't mean shit."
Reporter Ryan Devereaux of First Look was shot with rubber bullets and bean bags by police, and spent Monday night in jail. (He was released Tuesday morning.)
— As the night went on, the confrontation moved to the residential area of Canfield, where Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown. What happened in Canfield is disputed — and is the basis for a deeper dispute among journalists and local leaders about whether the police response on Monday was a step forward for Ferguson, or the worst aggression yet.
Police, along with local leaders like Antonio French and local journalists, say that local "Canfield kids" were "fighters," not protesters — that they were attacking police and egged on by outsiders from Chicago and other areas.
Journalists who were in the residential area, including Elon James, however, were part of a crowd of eight people who were fired on repeatedly with tear gas. James says that the group was teargassed simply for turning a corner onto the street.
— In all, 78 people were arrested in Ferguson on Monday night, 18 of whom were from outside Missouri. Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol said that some of those arrested were from as far away as New York and California. Police confiscated two guns and one Molotov cocktail. Two people were shot, and four officers were reportedly injured by rocks thrown by protesters.
Relative quiet on Tuesday, August 19
— On the evening of August 19, the mood seemed more like a demonstration than a protest — especially as protesters were focusing on county prosecutor Bob McCulloch and calling for him to be removed from Michael Brown's case. Police retained the "organized protest area" policy, but weren't as strict in forcing protesters to keep moving, and showed more patience in dealing with protesters for most of the evening — it was the first night without the use of tear gas since the day Michael Brown was killed. More importantly, community leaders were active in leading protests, and helped urge protesters to leave the area after midnight Central time.
— Later in the evening, when a protester threw a water bottle at police, officers called in the armored trucks.
Water bottle thrown. Chaos ensues. Not many protesters (more media than them). The few protesters left are just adamant and angry. #Ferguson— Ray Downs (@RayDowns) August 20, 2014
Riot police went after a few ppl hard after getting hit with water. Wasted no time Brought the armored trucks in. #Ferguson— Ray Downs (@RayDowns) August 20, 2014
— The de facto leaders of the protesters, for their part, attempted to defuse the situation. They stood in a line between demonstrators and the police.
— Police kept pushing. They aimed guns at protesters and media. They shot rubber bullets. They ordered people to go home. They made multiple arrests as protesters failed to disperse. Police told the media to leave. A photographer and other media personnel were arrested.
The smoke clears in Ferguson
— The protests on August 20 were the second night in a row that police didn't deploy any tear gas, perhaps the biggest sign yet that tensions are easing — at least for now — in the small town.
— In response, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon ordered the National Guard to begin pulling out of Ferguson.
— The protests seem to have calmed for the time being. Although some crowds still take to the streets on occasion, it's usually in relative peace and without heavy police interference.
Some of the context for community anger
— There's a history of police violence against young black men, and the shooting takes place at a time when this perennial topic was already being widely discussed. New Yorker Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, was killed in July after police put him in a chokehold by police. The incident, which was caught on video, caused an outcry against the New York Police Department — especially after Garner's death was officially ruled a homicide. Mayor Bill de Blasio eventually agreed to a review of the department's training procedures.
— The frustration and anger in Ferguson likely goes beyond the killing of Brown. Ferguson is like many cities in America: police disproportionately stop and arrest black residents. While 67 percent of Ferguson is black, 86 percent of all traffic stops and 92 percent of all arrests are of black residents, according to state report on racial profiling obtained by Buzzfeed. But black residents of Ferguson who are stopped by police are less likely to be carrying contraband than white residents are.
— The city's government is predominately white as well: there is one black person on the Ferguson city council and one Latino on the school board. Just three out of the city's 53 commissioned police officers are black.
— There's also a lot of anger around how the media portrays young men who are killed. Over the weekend, the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, which was trending on Twitter on Sunday night, captured the divide between how young black men see themselves and how the media sees them.
— Advocates around the country who have been outraged by the shooting organized National Moments of Silence on August 14 in several cities to protest police brutality.
What we know about the investigation into Brown's shooting
— The St. Louis County Police Department is conducting a criminal investigation to see if Darren Wilson was justified in shooting Michael Brown. Their findings will be used by St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch, who is responsible for filing charges against Wilson. On August 20, a grand jury convened to decide whether to charge Wilson in Brown's death.
— Protesters and local leaders have expressed serious concerns about whether county prosecutor McCulloch will be willing to prosecute Wilson effectively. In the past, McCulloch has failed to press charges in some similar cases, and has broken trial rules in others. There's a rising call for McCulloch to recuse himself from the case, or for Governor Jay Nixon to remove McCulloch from the case. Nixon has said he won't remove McCulloch, but allowed McCulloch to recuse himself. McCulloch, in response, dared Nixon to "make a decision."
— St. Louis County Police Chief Belmar has spoken favorably of the Ferguson police, telling reporters on August 10, "I would not think anybody would [ask for an investigation] if they had anything to hide." Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson is a former St. Louis County police officer, which also raises concerns about the investigation's objectivity. Jackson told reporters on August 13th that he had asked the St. Louis County police to keep him "out of the loop."
— Investigators have received photos from eyewitness Piaget Crenshaw, as well as a video that was recorded after the shooting.
— The Ferguson Police Department received a grant this year to purchase several dashboard cameras for police vehicles and two to three body cameras for officers, the Ferguson police chief told reporters Wednesday, but doesn't have the money to install them yet — so no known video of the shooting exists.
— Eyewitness Dorian Johnson, Brown's friend who was also stopped by the officer, testified to police on August 13, after several days during which he said he was not contacted to testify.
— On August 11, the FBI announced that it was also launching its own civil-rights investigation of Brown's death. The St. Louis NAACP had called on the FBI to take up the investigation to make sure it would be sufficiently independent. Ferguson police chief Jackson told the AP that the FBI would be taking over the St. Louis County investigation of the shooting. However, the FBI says that they're reviewing the incident for possible civil rights violations, not duplicating the criminal investigation.
— Wilson, the officer who shot Brown, has been put on paid administrative leave while the investigation is conducted. Wilson was not identified until six days after the shooting. Police originally planned to release his name on the morning of August 12, but changed their minds out of concern for his safety.
— On August 12, the St. Louis County prosecutor's office announced that they would not be releasing the results of the autopsy of Michael Brown's body. However, on August 18th, someone with the county medical examiner's office leaked some of the autopsy's findings to the Washington Post. The autopsy found that Brown was shot six to eight times in the head and chest, and that he had marijuana in his system at the time of his death.
— Brown's body was released to his family on August 13, and the family arranged for an independent autopsy. Results of that autopsy were reported by the New York Times on August 17. The independent autopsy showed at least six shots in the head and right arm, including one shot on the top of the head — indicating that Brown's head was down when at least one shot was fired.
— Attorney General Eric Holder announced on August 17 that the federal government would be conducting its own autopsy on Brown's body for its investigation.
— Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson told reporters on Wednesday, August 13, that the 911 tapes from witnesses to Brown's shooting would be released to the public but did not say when that would happen.
Efforts to rebuild race and community relations in Ferguson
— On Wednesday, August 13, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson told reporters that the police department has been working with the community relations division of the Department of Justice to improve race and community relations. "That's a top priority," he said.
— On Thursday, August 14, the Department of Justice is coordinating a meeting between Chief Jackson and community leaders, including the head of the local NAACP.