By Kelsey Mannix
Months after the death of Michael Brown, and less than two weeks after the verdict that Officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted, protests in Ferguson, Missouri continue and have spread to other areas of the United States.
Major cities and college campuses were hosts of protests after the verdict was announced, leaving citizens either satisfied or in complete disbelief. While not all of the protesters commit violent and dangerous acts, such as looting and arson, there is still a sense of community felt among those who choose to express their views peacefully.
One of the most discussed stories in recent weeks has been 12-year-old Devonte Hart, who gave Sgt. Bret Barnum a ‘free hug,’ as advertised on the sign he was wearing at a demonstration in Portland, Oregon.
According to Hart’s mother, Jennifer, her son has been having issues coping with the police brutality and racism occurring in the United States.
“My son has a heart of gold, compassion beyond anything I’ve ever experienced, yet struggles with living fearlessly when it comes to the police,” she explained. “He wonders if someday when he no longer wears a ‘Free Hugs’ sign around his neck, when he’s a full-grown black male, if his life will be in danger for simply being” (Associated Press).
Barnum noticed Hart in tears at the rally and asked him to approach his motorcycle. They shook hands and made small talk, at which point Hart stopped crying. The officer then noticed Hart’s sign and asked for a free hug, which he gladly received.
“Knowing how he struggled with police, his bravery and courage to catch my eye and approach me were impressive,” Barnum explained. “And it’s a blessing for me that I didn’t miss an opportunity to impact this child” (Associated Press).
Two other men recently made headlines when they completed their 540-mile run from their homes in Atlanta, Georgia to the memorial for Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Londrelle Hall and Ray Mills trained for about a month to prepare for their long journey. They ran for 10-12 hours at a time with little rest for over 20 days, overcoming all of the pain and obstacles that take a toll on people unaccustomed to running over 30 consecutive miles per day.
“We weren’t fearful,” Hall said. “In doing something like this you have to be fearless–you’re stepping away from your comfort zone and we knew this was a big risk” (Huffington Post).
Finally, on Sunday, November 23, they arrived at their destination.
“We pretty much traveled Michael Brown’s last steps, so we really had to put ourselves in his shoes,” said Hall, describing his emotions in the homestretch to the memorial. “I was re-living his last moments. I felt remorse. It was a very sad moment, one of the saddest moments of my life” (Huffington Post).
“We did this to show that we can be united and that we can stand for something we believe in,” Mills added (NBC News).
Hall is the founder of Run For Justice, an organization that raises awareness of police brutality and racial injustice. He and Mills have also been raising money for Brown’s family and many arrested protesters who have trouble covering their legal fees. They also aspire to organize a “Million Man March” in Missouri (Huffington Post).
Others in and around Ferguson have shown their support in disparate ways.
On Sunday, November 30, five players on the St. Louis Rams walked onto the field before their game against the Oakland Raiders with their hands in the air, as a sign of support for Michael Brown. Though it has caused controversy, debate, and threatening messages, one of the players, tight end Jared Cook, said that no disrespect towards the police was intended (CNN).
The NFL decided against fining the players for their actions (ESPN).
Another supporter, De Nichols, created various projects around Ferguson to express her views instead of partaking in violent protests. Some of her works include a coffin made out of mirrors and a series of notes near a vigil beginning with the phrase “One action I will take beyond today for justice is…” (NBC News).
“Protesting isn’t for everyone, but everyone can do something,” she said (NBC News).
For more information about these people and others who are showing their support peacefully, check out these links: