Hands-up gesture animates Ferguson protests

ST. LOUIS — Five St. Louis Rams players entered the football field with their hands raised. A day later, people walked out of work or school showing the same gesture of solidarity with Ferguson protesters.

The pose has come to symbolize a movement, even though witnesses offered conflicting accounts of whether 18-year-old Michael Brown had his hands up in surrender when he was killed by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson in August.

The power of the symbol was evident again Monday. Protesters across the country walked off the job or away from class in support of the Ferguson protesters. Walkouts took place in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and elsewhere.

At the University of Missouri-St. Louis, not far from Ferguson, sophomore Amber Whitaker was among about 30 students who chanted “Hands up. Don’t shoot!”

Whitaker, who is white, said the symbolism is what matters, not whether Brown literally had his hands in the air.

“There are black men and women who are shot with their hands up,” Whitaker said. “There are black men and women who are shot unarmed. It may not apply exactly to Mike Brown, but it still happens.”

The exact circumstances surrounding Brown’s death will forever be in dispute. Wilson, who is white, shot and killed Brown, who was black and unarmed, on Aug. 9. A grand jury’s decision last week not to indict Wilson set off renewed protests, some of which turned violent.

Wilson told the grand jury that he shot Brown in self-defense. But several witnesses said Brown had his hands up in surrender. Within hours, “Hands Up. Don’t Shoot!” became the rallying cry for protesters.

Witness accounts contained in thousands of pages of grand jury documents reviewed by The Associated Press showed many variations about whether Brown’s hands were actually raised — and if so, how high.

Some people were offended by the hands-up gesture.

The St. Louis Police Officers Association said the display by Rams players Tavon Austin, Kenny Britt, Stedman Bailey, Jared Cook and Chris Givens was “tasteless, offensive and inflammatory.”

In Springfield, Missouri, Rodney Shetler, watched the players’ action from his home. He said the move was “in pretty poor taste” and was divisive and disrespectful to law enforcement.

“It’s a gesture proven by the grand jury not to be appropriate or accurate,” said Shetler, the 44-year-old owner of a copying and printing business.

A similar episode unfolded more than four decades ago at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.

John Carlos, the American 200-meter bronze medalist, raised eyebrows on the medal stand when he and teammate Tommie Smith gave the black power salute. He stood by the Rams players.

“If they choose to come out and raise their hands in support of whatever their emotions are, they have the right to do that,” Carlos told The Associated Press. “I don’t think the whole story has been told about the Michael Brown tragedy, and the pros and cons on both sides. They can just go by their emotions. I don’t think anyone got injured or shot by expressing emotions.”

The White House on Monday announced the conclusion of a three-month review of the Ferguson situation. President Barack Obama wants more officers to wear cameras to promote trust, but he is not seeking to reduce federal programs that provide the type of military-style equipment used to dispel the unrest in Ferguson and elsewhere.

The Ferguson Commission appointed by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon met Monday for the first time. The 16-person panel will study the underlying social and economic conditions — from failing schools to high unemployment— that have gained attention since Brown’s death.

Nixon dropped plans Monday for a special legislative session to approve additional spending for the state’s public-safety response to protesters in the St. Louis area. The governor reversed course after lawmakers said he could tap into an existing budget for the State Emergency Management Agency to cover the costs of the National Guard and Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Lake Stevens in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Motorcyclist identified in fatal crash near Lake Stevens

Anthony Palko, 33, died Monday night after colliding with a passenger car. The juveniles in the car were taken to the hospital.

Marysville
Police: Marysville man shot sword-wielding roommate in self-defense

The roommates were arguing over eBay sales, according to police. Then one of them allegedly brandished a two-foot sword.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Lake Stevens in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Everett boy, 12, identified as Davies Beach drowning victim

Malachi Bell was one of three swimmers in distress Sunday in Lake Stevens. He did not survive.

Everett
Port of Everett hosting annual open house after pandemic hiatus

Also, Rustic Cork Wine Bar plans to open a second shop at Fisherman’s Harbor — the latest addition to the port’s “wine walk.”

People gather to watch the Thunder on the Bay Fireworks from Legion Memorial Park on Wednesday, July 4, 2018 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Festivities abound in Snohomish County this Fourth of July

Here’s where to find local parades, street fairs and fireworks shows.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, left, gets the first shot of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, Friday, Jan. 22, 2021, from Elizabeth Smalley, right, a medical assistant at a Sea Mar Community Health Center in Olympia, Wash. Inslee's wife Trudi also received the first dose of the vaccine. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Governor wants to make vaccine mandate permanent for new hires

Jay Inslee also wants to require current and future state employees keep up with their shots, if they want to keep their jobs.

Sandra Oleson, center, holds up a “Protect Our Rights” sign and shouts for support from passing vehicles during a protest against the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade on Friday, June 24, 2022, along Broadway in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Biden assures Inslee of federal support to preserve abortion access

In the wake of Roe v. Wade’s overturning, the president and nine Democrat governors swapped strategies Friday.

Tulalip council members and tribal members watch as Governor Jay Inslee signs bill HB 1571 into law at the Tulalip Resort on Thursday, March 31, 2022 in Tulalip, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Washington launches new Indigenous missing person alert system

It’s similar to an Amber Alert. Tulalip families of the missing have called the program a good first step.

Jenson Hankins address the court during his resentencing at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Thursday, June 30, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Man gets reduced sentence for 2003 Marysville ambush murder

“I’ve wanted to apologize for a long time,” said Jenson Hankins, who was 16 when he killed John Jasmer near Marysville.

Most Read