Activism, awareness takes social media in Mike Brown's death
The shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old Missouri man has taken over social media - and it's trickling into the mainstream consciousness. (Source: CNN)
FERGUSON, MO (RNN) - Outrage over the shooting death of 18-year-old Mike Brown, a young, African American male has taken over social media in the last few days, raising enough awareness to the point that the FBI will conduct an investigation.
Media outlets and citizens in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson have taken to Twitter and Instagram to keep informed with up-to-the-minute details of the happenings since the Aug. 8 shooting of Brown by an unnamed police officer.
Witnesses in the area took video and pictures of the incident, posting them online and leading local media to the story.
The first images of the Brown shooting that showed up on social media were of Brown's body, lying in a pool of his own blood in the middle of the street for approximately four hours before it was removed; police said before they could remove the body, several surrounding law enforcement agencies came to Ferguson to stop the swell of crowds and protesters against them to secure the area.
By Sunday, Brown's death became a trending topic on Twitter with the hashtags #Ferguson, #MikeBrown and others spreading throughout social media. Complaints of national media not giving it the attention it deserved fueled throughout the day.
Social media allowed the Ferguson, MO Police Chief Tom Jackson's press conference to get to the public faster, where he said Brown may have gotten into an altercation with the officer prior to his shooting.
By Sunday evening's vigil, roughly 24 hours after Brown's death, the protesters were vocal and not calm. The tension fueled violent looting of several local businesses and vandalism, including a KMOV news truck driven by journalist Brittney Nobel, one of the first local journalists to cover the story.
According to journalists in Ferguson, tensions were also fueled by tear gas and the presence of dogs keeping protesters at bay, drawing a clear line in the sand between law enforcement and an angry public.
As businesses and buildings were vandalized and one was set on fire, social media kept up with the damages and incidents. Thirty-two protesters and rioters had been arrested and two officers had been injured. News reports indicated that someone shot at Jackson.
But tweets and Instagram photos continued to follow the story, allowing witnesses and residents to keep their followers informed, allowing some to create social constructs within what they feel is national media's lack of care about black males dying has taken its toll.
In social media posts on Monday, the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown posed the questions by young black men of how the media would portray them by using their social media photos and photos if they were in Brown's shoes. NPR's On the Media brought the hashtag to the forefront after NBC news initially tweeted a picture of Brown straight-faced and making a peace sign.
The attention brought the internet hacktivist group Anonymous to take a stand. In a video published on YouTube late Sunday night, Anonymous demanded a full-scale investigation of Brown's death, calling for the Missouri Legislature to create laws combating violence against minorities and for police to not hinder protesters.
Using the hashtag #OPFerguson as well as a website, Anonymous said if their demands were not met, they would hack into the City of Ferguson's web infrastructure, and release private information on Ferguson police officers.
"The time has come for more than simple atrocities," Anonymous said in a statement. "The time has come to draw a line in the sand and say 'no more dead kids,' no more beatings. Police impunity ends with the death of Mike Brown."
According to a tweet form KMOV, Anonymous had already gone forth with its plan by hacking into the City of Ferguson website.
Hashtags and posts have brought the frustrations of the community to the forefront, even influencing opinion pieces and call for social change on the shooting.
"I am tired of seeing a hashtag in front of a victim's name on Twitter," wrote LZ Granderson on CNN.com. The piece brings covers a history of racial inequality but brings it into the 21st century by showing how the public discusses these events.
Moving from online to in person, community leaders and protesters will meet Monday evening. The FBI will pick up the investigation of Brown's shooting, and attorney Benjamin Crump, the lawyer who represented the family of Trayvon Martin, will represent Brown's family.
Jackson will reveal the identity of the officer, who is currently on paid administrative leave, at noon on Tuesday. The officer will first be moved to a safe location before his name is made public. More violence broke out in Ferguson on Monday night, centering around the QuikTrip gas station that was set on fire during Monday night's riots.
Jackson told CNN that riot police had been called to the scene.