On August 9, 2014, 18-year old Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, was fatally shot by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, in Ferguson, Missouri. Opposing viewpoints and testimony around the event claimed that Brown was surrendering, with his hands up, or that he was attacking Wilson when he was shot. Protests erupted in Ferguson and around the country in response to Brown’s death. In Ferguson, some protests were peaceful, while others included looting and violence. Police responded with curfews and riot squads. Media reported the use of militarization to disperse protestors. Wide perceptions of police brutality in the killing of Brown and in response to the protests led to the rallying cries of “Hands up!” and “Don’t shoot!” These phrases were also the hallmarks of social media activity around these events and in the continuing waves of protest when, in November, a grand jury chose not to indict Wilson for the killing of Brown. At the end of 2014, protests and discussion continue, including at MSU, bringing ongoing attention to issues of systemic racism, racial profiling and bias in police work, and the perception that white police officers are not held accountable for violence against black people.
To facilitate greater understanding of the events in Ferguson, related protests and the underlying issues, this guide is offered as a starting point for the MSU community. News, firsthand accounts, opinion pieces and social media are collected here, as well as academic resources to provide context or for instructors to incorporate into courses. These are still live issues and developing events, so this guide will be adapted to the extent possible.