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Protestors Gather at Alachua County Courthouse in Support of Michael Brown

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On Monday night a grand jury decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson. Over the next 24 hours, protests erupted in cities all across the country. Gainesville was among them.

“I think it’s an opportunity people have seized upon to peacefully bring attention to a national epidemic,” said Art Forgey, Public Information Officer of the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office.

Chimurenga Waller, President of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement, said his organization has been calling for demonstrations all across the United States. Earlier in the day, he was part of a demonstration in St. Petersburg. InPDUM’s platform demands “community control of the police.” They want to see the black community controlling the hiring, firing and disciplining of the people who work in their community.

On Aug. 9, Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man, was shot and killed in Ferguson, Mo. by a white police officer. Officer Wilson saw Brown and a friend walking down the street after hearing reports of a convenience store robbery by individuals with a similar appearance. The details following are inconsistent. Some witnesses say Brown had his hands up and was surrendering; others say Brown was charging Wilson. Wilson fired his gun and shot Brown six times, fatally. 

The following weeks saw protest after protest; some peaceful, many violent.

“There is a resounding sense of angst with everyone around the nation,” said Brittany King, a member of the Dream Defenders. “Everyone is waking up.”

Local police forces responded in Ferguson with tear gas and rubber bullets. Three months later, a grand jury made up of three black and nine white jurors decided not to charge Wilson with a crime after examining over 5,000 pages of evidence.

Protestors were prepared for this announcement. The International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement and the Black is Back coalition announced that they would hold a protest at the Alachua County Courthouse if Wilson was not indicted. They did.

Azaari Mason speaks to the crowd gathered in downtown Gainesville.
Azaari Mason speaks to the crowd gathered in downtown Gainesville.” credit=”Whitney Lavaux / WUFT

Azaari Mason, another member of the Dream Defenders, said he was at a watch party at the Civic Media Center when the decision was announced.

“I was heartbroken.” he said. “We are still trying to fight in 2014 to have an America that is reflective of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all people.”

Ben Tobis, spokesperson for the Gainesville Police Department, said that his department works hard to ensure they have the best possible relationship with the community. However he acknowledged, “we know we will never have 100% success and we understand that.”

Protestors gathered in the rain Tuesday night to demonstrate their support for Michael Brown.
Protestors gathered in the rain Tuesday night to demonstrate their support for Michael Brown.” credit=”Whitney Lavaux / WUFT

Protestors sang and chanted outside of the courthouse in downtown Gainesville. They held signs that read “With Justice Comes Peace,” “Black Lives Matter” and “Jail the Killer Cops.”

Dianne Tornay, the lead organizer of the event, said she was happy with the turnout, especially considering the weather. Rain fell on protestors throughout the hour long-event, but the group only seemed to grow larger.

“Enough is enough. That’s why we’re here tonight,” Mason said.

There was no visible police presence at the event and the protest remained peaceful.

A federal investigation into the incident is ongoing.

About Whitney Lavaux

Whitney is a reporter for WUFT News who may be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news @wuft.org

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