Ferguson Activists Fear Police Shooting Clouds Message, Hinders Results

People take part in a candlelight vigil in Ferguson, Mo. (Photo: Jeff Roberson, AP)
People take part in a candlelight vigil in Ferguson, Mo. (Photo: Jeff Roberson, AP)

Protesters who have spent months agitating for an end to racial bias in policing, said they fear the shooting early Thursday of two police officers in Ferguson, Mo., could derail the overhaul of the city’s police department and judicial system, and threaten the movement elsewhere in the nation.

Demonstrations following the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer had brought national attention and a Justice Department probe to this St. Louis suburb. The Justice Department investigation found systemic racism in the police department, prompting the resignation of the city manager, a local judge and, on Wednesday, the city’s police chief.

“We were getting victories, the dominos were falling and they were toppling almost daily so we were almost out there celebrating more than protesting,” said Ferguson resident Tony Rice, a carpenter and activist who heard the shots that hit the officers.

While both officers survived the midnight shooting and will recover, Rice said he worried the incident would brand the movement as violent, discourage people from continuing the fight, and make the police jumpy and more apt to react aggressively to the protests.

Where for months, the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter had trended on Twitter, on Thursday social media sympathy abruptly switched to #BlueLivesMatter in support of the injured officers.

Rasheen Aldridge, director of Young Activists St. Louis, knew the moment he learned of the shooting that the movement would face a new challenge.

“For the last 215 days, we have been out here peacefully organizing and peacefully protesting and it’s starting to show off,” Aldridge, 20, of St. Louis, said. “The hard work that the young people have been doing, putting their lives and their jobs on the line is really starting to pay off. We really have an uphill battle and this is not something we needed.”

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SOURCE: USA Today – Yamiche Alcindor

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